Just add water
How to design the best bathrooms for your new home
If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the bath is the private getaway. Making your bath a dream destination requires thoughtful planning. During the design phase, you need to consider factors such as location, space constraints, types of fixtures and finishes, and any special needs your family might have.
Every home layout will be different, but in general, when placing a powder room, you want to balance the need for easy access to the half bath from any public space in the home.
“I don’t like a powder room right off the dining room or living room,” says Cheryl Kees Clendenon of In Detail Interiors in Pensacola, Florida, “but perhaps down a short hall.”
If you enjoy outdoor activities like gardening or have children at home, consider placing the powder room close to an outdoor entrance to limit the amount of mud and dirt tracked indoors.
For full bathrooms, locations near
bedrooms is a given, but consider where the bath will be in relation to the beds. (You may not want to hear water whooshing through the pipes in the wall behind your headboard.)
Although it may be impossible to avoid, place large clothing closets away from the steamy atmosphere of the bath, advises Mary Fischer Knott, author of Kitchen and Bath Design: A Guide to Planning Basics. The moist air can be damaging to clothes.
Keep in mind that, in a two-story home, stacking bathrooms above each other will help reduce the cost of plumbing installation.
At a very minimum, a powder room requires about 30 square feet, Knott says. A space that measures 5 by 9 feet is sufficient for a full bath. Having more space will allow for larger fixtures such as a double vanity or oversized shower, but beware of supersizing your bathroom.
“Do it well, have great products and ‘wow’ factor, and don’t worry about having a dance floor in the middle of the room,” Clendenon says.
Your local building code will dictate certain minimum clearances. For instance, it may call for 21 inches of clear space in front of the toilet or 4 inches between a sink basin and the wall. Your local codes may differ from national codes, so be sure you or your designer is aware of your municipality’s requirements at the start of the design process.
To select fixtures and amenities for your baths, think about how you use your current bath. Do you prefer long tub soaks or a shower? Will more than one person use the bathroom at the same time? Knott suggests asking yourself a host of questions and sharing the answers with your bathroom designer: Are you right- or left-handed? Do you like to have toiletries and grooming appliances out in the open or tucked away? Would you like a seat in your shower? How long do you plan to live in the home? How tall would you like your vanities to be?
Your budget will play a role in your selection of fixtures. The best way to get an understanding of what’s available is to hire a good designer who specializes in baths, Clendenon says. The next best alternative is to talk to people who’ve recently outfitted new bathrooms, and discuss their likes and dislikes. Showrooms and online
searches will help you define what styles and features you like.
LIGHTING & ELECTRICAL
Baths require attention to safety, which means that lighting is key. “You need light to get in the room, light for grooming, and then you need light that can create a particular mood,” Knott explains.
Lighting fixtures can be as ornate or streamlined as you like, as long as they provide adequate illumination and, if they are installed near the tub or the shower, follow code for wet conditions. Installing lights on a dimmer is a good way to provide for a relaxed or romantic mood.
Multiple electrical outlets make a bath efficient and functional. Any locations near water must be grounded. Your local codes may put additional restrictions on placement of outlets in terms of distance off the floor and proximity to the tub or shower.
Special appliances, such as heated towel racks or bidet toilets, may require electrical wiring, so be sure to tell your designer or architect if you’d like to include these in your dream bathroom.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of designing your bath will be choosing its finishes. Tile, flooring, wallcoverings and accessories can all speak to your style. The choices are virtually limitless, so let your budget help you narrow your selections.
If a low-maintenance bath is high on your list of priorities, choose easy-to-clean finishes and fixtures, such as under-mounted sinks, flat-front cabinet doors that won’t collect dust and vanities that mount to the wall, leaving the floor accessible underneath for easy sweeping and mopping.
Choosing traditional colors for your fixtures will keep your bathroom from looking dated too quickly. If you want to add some pop, Clendenon suggests focusing color on the walls and in other decorative accessories.
“Just think how big of a canvas the shower curtain is in a bathroom,” she says. “Do an inexpensive but nice tile in a shower/tub, and spend the budget on a fantastic shower curtain.”
Even the strictest adherent to simple living needs soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste. To be livable, your new bathroom must accommodate a host of items you use every day. Take a look
at what you store in your bath now to make an honest assessment of the types of storage you’ll need.
Knott suggests placing shallow cabinets between the studs or your bathroom walls. “That 8 inches of storage can be used for toilet paper rolls, or washcloths or toiletries,” she says.
By planning your bath from scratch, you can make it fulfill your needs completely. Do you hope to stay in your home well into your golden years? Look for universal design features for your bath. Knott recommends to all of her clients, no matter their age, to add the blocking necessary to support grab bars when framing the walls of their baths. Don’t worry that your bathroom will look like a clinic, she says. “Handrails are getting better looking.”
Pedestal sinks, or vanities that “float” allow floor space for someone using a wheelchair. Curbless showers are easier to get in and out of. The AARP also recommends 36-inch-wide doorways, anti-scald faucets, rockerstyle light switches and other accommodations.
Is energy conservation important to you? Green features may be high on your list of priorities. Building codes may require some of these features, such as low-flow toilets. Although they may come with a higher price tag upfront, green features save you money month after month by lowering the amount of water and electricity you use. Talk to your builder or designer about the options that are available for other resource-saving fixtures such as water heaters or gray-water capturing systems. Another way to design an eco-friendly bath is to choose local or salvaged materials for your tiles or bathroom cabinetry.