Yes, A Portable Bath Tub Really Is A Thing

26 May 2019
Design, Interiors, Living
Illustration: Michael Hoeweler
Rue Kothari on how the way we live and experience the world is changing our idea of ‘home’

I’ve never been a fan of labels. Or the need to categorise every microshift in subculture and try to turn it into a movement (veganism, anyone?). So when someone recently asked me how I’m enjoying my new nomadic lifestyle, I winced.

Nomadism is a term for that tribe of people who don’t put down permanent roots, but may live in one place, work in another, have homes in different cities, and spend long periods just travelling and experiencing the world.

While that all sounds peachy, my dependants inhibit any whims I may have to escape to the white shores of Costa Rica at the drop of a hat. Also, like most of us, I possess a career that requires me to be somewhere with wi-fi at all times. As much as I’d love to be canoeing down the Amazon on a Tuesday morning, the reality is more ‘coconut mocktail at a Maldivian island resort with a 24-hour kids club’. I know, it’s a hard life.

Currently I inhabit three cities simultaneously; Dubai, London and Hastings, the small bohemian enclave on the south coast of England. Of course, I can’t live in all places at once, but I have a permanent hat rack in all three.

My travels over the last ten years have meant that I am also fostering small communities in Paris, Barcelona, Milan, New York, Delhi, Singapore and wherever else I can connect on my travels, so that these become homes of a different nature – knitted together by the people and places I fall for.

This shift has meant I’ve had to reassess my notion of ‘home’, from the ’50s idealism of a white picket fence, the idea of permanence, the home as a status symbol or a ‘port in a storm’. Instead, like so many other gypsies, I’m freewheeling to whichever place is ‘right for right now’.

In Japan, they are way ahead of us. To them, space is defined, or made a home in four different ways. Wa is the space between people that can take on any feeling, from tense to harmonious. Ba is how you arrange the elements in a room to create new knowledge or experiences. Tokoro is the location of a place, its environment or, interestingly a ‘state of being’, while ma is negative space, the idea that we need absences between objects to imbue them and the space with greater significance.

It’s all very abstract for many of us, but translated to our new way of living, it gives credence to the whole Buddhist philosophy of impermanence. So, home is more about the people who inhabit it, spaces that are configured to enhance those feelings and locations that allow us to better connect with the world. We are free to create a ‘home’ anywhere.

With more of us working remotely around the globe, new co-living spaces are popping up everywhere from Bali to Berlin. These rotating house shares allow ‘digital nomads’ to come and go in well-styled abodes that reflect their needs and give them all the comforts of home with none of the hassle.

One step beyond the AirBnB model, it’s also about coalescing the knowledge and skillsets of disparate digital natives with the same mindset. Outsite, a business that offers upscale accommodation in locations across the US and Europe plugs this work-and-play angle; and with spectacular spots in places like Hawaii and Santiago, it’s easy to see the attraction. It’s a sneak peek of the future: a shifted approach to living that may take some getting used to, but one that’s liberating, educational and highly social.

As more people forgo owning property, prioritise travel and experiences over ‘stuff’, some clever young designers are responding to this call with products and solutions suited perfectly to temporary living.

Modular furniture that can be made portable and can be reconfigured to suit different spaces is beyond clever – cue Hannabi’s cushy Urban Nomad sofa. One designer, Povilas Danius, even mocked up a concept for a bedroom in a box, complete with twin bed, shelves, lighting, storage and wardrobe with a built-in shoe organiser – this one’s for me clearly.

You experienced travellers may already be acquainted with the inclement joys of a portable shower. Today, things have moved on. If you like a good soak while on the move, you can even pack your bathtub. Choose from the award-winning carbon fibre Extend by Carina Deuschl, or Tubbles’ inflatable option that costs less than dinner at Zuma. All of it is assembled with ease, and can be quickly packed to go.

If you don’t fancy lugging your carefully edited belongings across the globe with you, take advantage of one of the new services that allow you plot down and literally rent your lifestyle to order. Harth, a new platform launched in the UK offers furniture, interior design, art and sculpture, all on lease from high-end international brands, galleries and other people.

It’s all part of the revolutionary new sharing economy. While my only-child status makes sharing unintuitive, when it comes to the freedom and fascination of living life on your own terms, as and where you want it – well, that’s something I can fully get behind.