THE UNFILES: BATHROOM
Rachel Valentyne, who moved to Newstead two years ago, beams as she gives me a quick tour of her home, a dilapidated cottage attached to a spacious open plan living area made from rammed earth.
“When we looked at this house, I immediately fell in love with the bathroom, especially the paint (possibly lead) peeling from the ceiling. It’s a sort of textured effect, exposing more paint.”
“With a toddler, a fulltime job and a fiancé,” (she flashes her engagement ring) “I haven’t had a chance to clean the bathroom, which has done wonders for my state of mind as well as my personal hygiene. But I’ve learnt to enjoy living in squalor and the cobwebs draping these four walls give the room a haunted house vibe which entertains my child at bath time.”
She taps the wall adjacent to the bathroom entrance, where a fireplace used to be. “Whoever decided to board up the old fireplace is a legend. Who on earth would want to have a bath in front of a roaring fire on a frosty night? Not me!” The temperature gage on the wobbly shelf reads 9°C. There is no insulation, which allows Rachel and her family to pretend they are outdoors whilst undressing for a shower. “And all those little critters, popping out of the gaps between the walls and the floor of an evening! My daughter is a real investigator, wanting to know the names of all the creepy crawlies. It’s like the insect section at the Zoo, so educational.” Some of the bigger gaps have been filled with Chux, to keep the snakes out.
“The thing I love most about this room, though, is the fake tiling surrounding the bath. The job’s been done with decorative vinyl, which I believe is making a comeback.”
Another outstanding feature is the window overlooking the atrium, which joins the two houses together.
“It’s such a quirky feature I could cry with joy,” says Rachel, whose dance background means she often craves the attention of a captive audience. “When we first moved here, I travelled back to Melbourne as much as I could to perform. But now I just sit on the toilet, wait for the lounge room door to open and wave to guests as they walk from the cottage to the main dwelling. Visitors really enjoy the openness of this communal area, but some have refused to shower during their stay.”
Is this what she had in mind when she moved to the country? “Not exactly. We had considered renovating but this room has become such a talking point amongst friends, neighbours and extended family that we have decided to leave it as is.”