By Craig Middleton
The bathroom, along with the kitchen, is the most frequently used room in many homes and the basic necessities – bathtub, toilet, sink, medicine cabinet and shower – determine how most of the space will be used. Bathrooms also require room for stashing towels, paper products, grooming appliances, soaps and shampoos, so maximizing storage is crucial in a well-appointed and well-planned bathroom. Much activity goes on in this small space and the design and decoration should emphasize function, comfort and style equally.
Utilize Extra Space
Use the space between wall studs to make shallow storage for small items such as bars of soap and nail polish bottles. Cut away the dry wall between two studs and install narrow shelves that are just the depth of the stud, usually about four inches. Possible finishes for the opening include paint, tile board, mirror tiles or wallpaper designed for bathrooms. Leave the space open or hang a door; indoor shutters work well in this application.
Buying and installing bathroom fixtures represents major commitments of money, time and labor. Keep permanent features such as the tub, sink and tile neutral in tone. Classic white is always popular, easy to find, and provides a versatile background for any decorating scheme. Inject color and style into the room with paint or wallpaper, linens and accessories that are easy and inexpensive to redo when a change is desired.
If you have swimmers or beach-goers in the family, a place to hang wet bathing suits and towels is a must. Look for hooks or retractable clotheslines that can be installed in a shower or tub enclosure to keep water and sand off floors and furniture.
Adequate light is needed in a bathroom where grooming tasks such as shaving, hair styling or applying makeup take place. Many bathrooms do not have windows, which means artificial lighting is even more crucial. One fixture over the vanity is not sufficient. Install decorative sconces on both sides of each mirror and add recessed or surface-mounted lighting fixtures in the ceiling, being sure to follow building code regulations.
Shower designs should meet the needs of all family members. A built-in bench in a shower is a good choice for small children, the elderly or anyone with limited mobility. A detachable shower head brings the water to the bather. It has the further advantage of making the shower stall much easier to clean, as the water can be directed into corners to rinse away grime, soap residue and cleaning products.
Heated Towel Racks
For a real touch of luxury, especially in colder climates, install heated towel racks. They are available in many sizes and styles and not only supply toasty towels but will also help to warm the air in the bathroom. Towel warmers can be plugged into a nearby outlet or hardwired into the bathroom’s existing electrical system.
For a very small bathroom with limited wall space for swinging doors, consider a pocket door that slides neatly between walls. They are available in styles and finishes that will complement any décor and are easy to install. It is even possible to mount a full-length mirror panel on the pocket door, solving two problems at once.
Because the bathroom is a relatively small and mostly utilitarian space, it can be overlooked when remodeling, redecorating or in a new build. However, this is not the place to pinch pennies. A comfortable, functional and attractive bath makes a home more livable and increases resale value if the home is placed on the market. Plan carefully and shop wisely to create an appealing, usable space for your family and guests without going over budget.