The Bathroom Chronicles

100 Women. 100 Images. 100 Stories.


Edited by Friederike Schilbach

Formats and Prices




$17.99 CAD




ebook $13.99 $17.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 16, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

One hundred creative, intelligent, and interesting women–some well-known, some not–reveal their inner selves through candid, tender, and often humorous snapshots–both visual and textual–of a single object or corner of their bathroom.

For many women, the bathroom is the most intimate of spaces. It is the place where we encounter ourselves in the mirror each morning and every night-brushing our teeth, applying make-up, fixing our hair, getting ready to face the day, or recede from it. The Bathroom Chronicles is a beautiful, chic, touching, and deeply feminine collection of photos and accompanying short stories (sometimes no more than a sentence or two) by women about their private spaces and most cherished possessions. Lena Dunham reveals the corner by the sink where she keeps her favorite pieces of jewelry, as well as her birth control. Erica Jong snaps her poodles and insists that they love her powder room and to “fluff up their hair” in front of the mirrors. Roz Chast reflects on a shelf in the corner that she purchased from a second-hand store. It’s decorated with birds, because she loves birds, and a tiny emu that was given to her by a friend when she was in Australia. Like the bathrooms themselves each of these stories and images is unique–open, private, minimalistic, messy, and beautiful.



The idea for this book first occurred to me when I was staying with a friend in Italy. Over the summer months she decamps to Monopoli, a little seaside town where she has an apartment that once belonged to a ship’s captain. My friend renovated it herself, taking great care over the details. The spot where there used to be fireplace with a chimney is now the bathroom. When you step into the shower, you can look up a three-foot-long shaft to see a slice of clear sky at the top, high above your head, like a James Turrell light installation.

This bathroom resembles my friend’s very character: cool, open, minimalistic, and beautiful. And so that summer, just before I left, I asked her to send me a picture of it as a souvenir. She did just that, and added a couple of vivid sentences about it. Back in Berlin I asked a few more of my friends—only four or five at first—whether they, too, would mind sending me a photo of their bathrooms. Almost all of those friends put me in touch with other friends of theirs, whose bathrooms they felt simply had to feature in my growing collection. And so, day after day, emails flooded in with photos and little stories about yucca plants, souvenirs from around the world, and glamorous grandmothers. In no time, I had over a hundred photos and notes telling me all about the women who had taken them. In November of last year, I gathered the images together and put them on display at Melanie dal Canton’s shop MDC in Knaackstraße, Berlin, in an exhibition that we called The Bathroom Chronicles. And now they’ve been reunited in this book.

I have always found bathrooms more interesting than kitchens or bedrooms. It’s a place where you come face-to-face with yourself, reflected in the mirror, as you brush your teeth, massage in creams, or fix your hair as you prepare for the day ahead or get ready to turn in for the night. Of all places, it is here that many of my girlfriends keep things that are dear or precious to them—small objects that hold emotional resonance for them: photos, flowers, jewelry, family keepsakes, vintage finds, books, postcards, vials, perfumes, old towels, little mermaids, rubber whales, hourglasses, creams, vases, plants, ceramic pots, magazines, and lipsticks. This is an intimate space—perhaps the most intimate in the whole home. It’s where they shake out their lives, take a good look at themselves after getting up or before going out, construct their identity, and fashion a sense of self. Maybe that’s why I like hanging out in their bathrooms so much: because I feel that something of their magic, their daily rituals, lingers there, just within reach.

One friend who now lives in Tokyo sends me a small bottle of Johnson’s Baby Cologne every year. She gets it from the drugstore; it’s scented water for babies, no more sophisticated than that. She knows how much I love these simple fragrances and how much they remind me of our childhood together and of her mother, who used to always bring along this scent when she came to see us. Another friend loves to look around my bathroom, trying out this perfume or that new lipstick. When I’m at her place I do exactly the same thing and invariably want to take everything in her bathroom cabinets away with me—as though these items might allow me to always have a bit of her with me, no matter how far apart we might be.

Not all of the women in this book are my friends, but we’re all connected, as friends of friends. They range in age from twenty to seventy-five. Some live in the countryside, while many others dwell in cities like New York, London, Tokyo, Johannesburg, or Berlin. Some of their pictures are snapshots of their day-to-day lives, while others are carefully staged. All of them explain in their own words what these scenes mean to them. The result is an array of insights into the secret chambers of their lives—one hundred everyday portraits distilled down to the details.

—Friederike Schilbach



I like showering almost as much as I like sleeping—it’s one of the few instances where the body seems to override the worries of the mind. Unsurprisingly, then, the bathroom is one of my favorite places in the house. It has so many primal gifts to offer: warmth, solitude, a space of one’s own. I get stressed if it starts to feel too cluttered, and limit myself to the basics: shampoo, conditioner, and maybe a luxury face peel that promises to turn back the years. Alongside those sit my handmade pineapple (a wedding present) and my favorite toothbrush, which you can see and judge me for here. My husband’s first nickname for me was “Pineapple” because of the way I wear my hair.


New York City

This is a picture of my petite but beloved sink. The sink is for me at its most beautiful when it is uncluttered and clear. The soap in the shell and the flowers change regularly throughout the year and the change in seasons.



In my bathroom there’s a casket with lion’s feet, which I bought at a flea market in southern Italy. It was originally intended for our holiday apartment in Monopoli, Puglia, but it ended up coming back with us to Hamburg, where we live most of the time. The casket contains nothing but a few rusty hair clips, safety pins, stray buttons, and a stub of kohl, but it still reminds me of hanging washing on the roof every day, the sound of the neighbors yakking away, and drinking wine with lunch—there’s nowhere quite like Italy.


Berlin/Tel Aviv

I love my bathroom. I love getting ready in there for the day ahead but also making myself up for an evening out. Every night I take off the rings that I inherited from my grandmother: one with pearls, one with a diamond, and one with a ruby. I bought the postcard that is propped up beneath the mirror at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It shows my great-grandmother Lola Leder. Max Liebermann painted her portrait quite a few times, and there are several of his paintings in the museum. Both women—my grandmother and my great-grandmother—are very important to me. They shaped my sense of what it is to be a woman and continue to do so to this day.


Bearsted, Kent

My friend sent me the postcard. It’s by an artist named Alfred Wallis. I sometimes think it will be the last postcard I’ll receive in the post. Wallis worked on a ship as a child. He mostly painted boats with sails, maybe because they were being replaced by steamships. The postcard happens to be one of the steamships he dreaded.

My bathroom reminds me of a bathroom on an old boat—except maybe for the wallpaper. That looks like the garden in summer outside the window of the bathroom.



The lady in the photo is my French grandmother. As far as I was concerned, she was always the very image of a movie star. In fact, as a young woman she dreamed of becoming an actress. Some people from Paris once came all the way to her little fishing village in Brittany to do a screen test with her. In the end, her parents were against it and refused to let her move to Paris on her own. But she remained a coquettish woman her whole life and attached great importance to her appearance and her “toilette.” Much to the chagrin of my grandfather, this meant spending the requisite amount of time in the bathroom. Every holiday I went to stay with her in Brittany and would always get up early to watch her make herself up: lipstick, powder, eyeliner, eyelash curlers—the whole old-style glamour look. The plethora of beauty products that now stand in front of her picture in my bathroom would certainly have made her happy. Most of them were gifts. One of my best friends from Munich was a beauty editor for a while and was always presenting me with bags of products. Another dear friend from Paris is a writer but works for Chanel during the day and brings me a little bottle of Chanel No 5 almost every time I have a party. The bottle of Grey Flannel in the corner is the one thing that belongs to my husband.



The markings on the bathroom wall show how my son, who is now thirteen, has grown over the years. Ever since he could stand up, we’ve measured him against the wall, at completely random intervals. It tends to happen on the spur of the moment, after he’s had a bath, so we use whatever we have on hand in the bathroom—eyeliner, lip liner, that sort of thing. Everyone is forbidden from wiping this section of the wall. If we ever move out, we plan to pull the tiles out and take them with us.


New York City

This is a little shelf that lives in our bathroom upstairs. The shelf came from a secondhand store and is bird-themed, because I like birds. It holds a tiny emu that was given to me by a friend when I was in Australia, also because he knew I liked birds. The painting was done by my kid. He said that it symbolized him as a child, being supported by my husband and me, as he was learning to stand by himself. He may have been pulling my leg—I’m not sure. There are no birds in it.



At some point my boyfriend decreed that we needed “lots of houseplants around the place.” This plant has stood beside the toilet ever since. It was a matter of some dispute between us from the very beginning, and there came a time when it folded over on itself and then died altogether. Maybe the bathroom was too warm for it? I always have to have my bathroom warm—it makes getting up so much easier in winter. Aside from that, I’m against houseplants as a matter of principle.

I like my bathroom best when my kids are having a bath in there. I sit on the floor beside the bathtub and watch the two of them playing. More and more water splashes out onto the floor. At first I protest, but it’s not long before I end up joining in with the giggling and splashing.


Los Angeles


On Sale
Oct 16, 2018
Page Count
216 pages