Peek Behind the Shower Curtain – Our Own Family Bathroom Design
Please join Sally and me as we tackle our own family bathroom design. Take a peek behind the shower curtain with us as we share our design thinking and decisions. In follow up blog posts we’ll break down the contractor’s pricing for you and tell you the good, the bad and the ugly of our construction experiences.
As is typical in older New England homes, our family bathroom is small and we don’t have much flexibility to expand. Quite frankly, our budget won’t allow it either. So follow us to see how we tackled the challenges a small bathroom presents, not only to us, but often to our clients as well.
A designer’s home can often be likened to the cobbler’s children who have no shoes. Our family bathroom design was such the case. It had needed renovation for years! How do you get 2 designers in the family to agree on all the decisions? Well, finally the design, drawings, specs and schedules were completed this fall, the bathroom priced and Premier Builders started construction this week.
YIKES!!! No shower for 8 weeks!!! Thank heavens the health club is close by!!!
OUR OLD bathroom design: CAN YOU FEEL OUR PAIN?
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the design challenges we faced. We always start a project by asking, “Where’s the pain? Where does it hurt the most? What are your biggest problems and fears?” If you have a small bathroom, you may find our issues, questions, wants and needs to be remarkably similar to yours.
- Measuring 7’-6” x 6’-0”, our bathroom is small and poorly laid out, with fixtures on opposite walls. Can we improve the layout and circulation?
- The vestibule in front of the bath is wasted space, essentially a hall to a walk-in closet. Can we do something else with the hall? Access the closet differently?
- The bathroom has terrible lighting with one fixture in the “hall” and one light bar over the sink. How can we improve the lighting?
- There are NO electrical outlets in the bathroom!!! Can you believe it??? Bring the bathroom up to code at minimum.
- There is no exhaust fan. Where is the best location for a fan and its duct to the outside of the house? With stucco on the back of the house and a slate roof, this one makes us nervous.
- Storage is really bad. Inadequate and poorly planned. How can we improve this?
- The bathroom looks like it was in a train wreck. I won’t bore you with the details. How can we bring it into the 21st Century? What style, finishes, materials, and plumbing fixtures?
I’m reaching for the Advil…
OUR BATHROOM DESIGN SOLUTIONS: HOW WE TOOK THE PAIN AWAY
We always start with the plan, solving the functionality questions and issues first. This establishes basic design intent.
- We can make the bathroom larger and more efficient by moving the walk-in closet door so that it opens into the bedroom. I’ll bet we measured/checked this a dozen times.
- With the gained wall space on the wall between the bathroom and closet, the tub/shower, vanity and toilet can all be located on this wall. YEAH! 40” for circulation in front of ALL the plumbing fixtures instead of about 22”!
- Place GFI outlet(s) at the vanity. What luxury!!!
- Locating four recessed LED downlights in the ceiling solves our general lighting problem beautifully. Selecting a medicine cabinet with integrated lighting means I won’t nick myself shaving any more! (Solves some of the storage problems, too.)
- We found a path for the exhaust fan ductwork through the crawl space in the attic for an easy venting solution.
- Upgrade the storage capacity in the existing built-in over the toilet. Doors and drawers in the built-in on the right as you come into the bathroom need alignment and adjusting and they will be as good as new. (It’s interesting how we “get used to” irritating little things and finally ignore them, isn’t it?)
- We decided to keep a tub because this is the only bathroom in the house with bathing capacity. If you have small children, you know a tub is a must. Besides, a nice hot soak feels awfully good at the end of a long day.
With our bathroom design intent established, we moved on to the fun stuff. “What’s our bathroom going to look like?”
THE LOOK: A peek BEHIND THE SHOWER CURTAIN INTO A DESIGNER’S MIND…
Now that the nuts and bolts were out of the way, Sally and I could focus on the aesthetics of our bathroom design. What’s it going to be? Traditional? Modern? Transitional?
When we do a design that is a renovation, we first look to see if the house will offer us any clues or ideas. Our house quickly told us what to do – reuse existing trim profiles and do a modern spin on the original bead board in the kitchen. Shiplap perhaps?
It took us but a moment to settle on DXV for the tub, vanity, vanity faucet and shower fixtures. We decided to reuse the recently purchased Toto toilet.
We initially thought, “Let’s push the modern thing.” You know, the black and white look, subway tile, dark grout, etc. We thought, “Let’s start with carrying the wainscot through the bathroom and what about a nice full length mirror?” We knew we wanted to use DXV’s 33” Equilty wall hung vanity in black and tried pairing it with their Randall single handle faucet. Hudson Valley’s Islip sconces on either side of the vanity mirror/medicine cabinet. This bathroom design was not working for us. Subway tile too fussy. No chemistry between modern and traditional. Overall, the black and white scheme simply did not work in this house. Silver lining? We LOVED the 12” x 12” Daltile Fabrique porcelain floor tile. One keeper. A whole lot more to go.
On our next pass, we shifted to DXV’s 33” Equilty wall hung vanity in Natural Oak. Better… lighter, brighter. DXV’s REM single handle faucet is starting to work with the vanity. Larger subway tile in the tub surround – getting there. Don’t like the niche/accent tile front and center. Maybe it’s too big? (Plus you have to pay for an entire box of tile, just to get two pieces of tile.) Still considering wainscot throughout, but starting to think about budget. Liking the modernity of the Hudson Valley Amherst sconces, although they do seem a little ordinary. Close, but no cigar. Dig deeper. Simplify further is what we are “seeing and hearing”.Let’s step up to 12” x 24” tile in the tub surround. Make the niche smaller and use the same tile. Better, but I’m still not digging the “hole in the wall”. Finish the built in cabinet trim to match the adjacent wall color. Yes. What about a slightly darker tint or soft gray for the wainscot? It may break up such a small space by introducing a horizontal. (You see surface first as opposed to experience volume first.) Needs further thought… DXV’s Equilty vanity in Natural Oak is a keeper. Still looking at faucets, so we try their Equility facuet. BINGO! We let the sconces be more of a player by introducing Hudson Valley’s Tate sconce. Polished nickel or antique brass?? Nickel finish is more subtle. Brass says “Look at me!” We go for polished nickel. Look carefully and you’ll see we’ve changed the mirror to a medicine cabinet with integrated LED lighting. We’ve specified it on our last two jobs and the feedback has been amazing! Our clients LOVE them! Especially how they light your face for putting on makeup or shaving. We will look at two manufacturers, Kohler and Robern. ( We went with the Kohler unit.) The tile is getting so big we find ourselves wondering, “What about slabs of stone in the tub surround, which will eliminate grout lines?” With that thought, we start getting really nervous about budget and cost. Slabs are expensive!!!We’re almost there. We really love the design. But we’re missing some storage and a full length mirror and we’re thinking about slabs in the tub surround. We need to take a hard look at budget because we have a pretty good idea where this is going and it’s more than we want to invest. (Your design needs to keep your neighborhood in mind!) Can we make some reasonable compromises? We weigh pros/cons and compromises with clients every day. Do we have the self discipline? With some digging, we find Porcelanosa has a product called XLight. It’s a wonderful 1⁄4” x 48” x 96” faux marble slab with a very reasonable price tag. We swallow hard and take out the planned wainscot in the vestibule and eliminate the sconces by the medicine cabinet. (Our clients tell us the sconces are redundant.) The shower niche gets tucked into the wall facing the shower fixtures. Porcelanosa also has a thin and tall mirrored cabinet that will not only be our full length mirror, but add storage, too. It feels like we’re there. Floor tile, tub shower surround, wainscot, vanity, fixtures, lighting, mirror and storage! Paint colors, you ask? I’ll leave that up to Sally.
This is how it will all fit together. Simple, clean, and easy to maintain. Sally and I LOVE the balance between new and old. We’ve brought the family bath into the 21st century. (Without being trendy.)
Our Bathroom Design tips
- Identify the pain: Where are the challenges? Make a list! It will help you stay on task.
- Start with a floor plan: circulation, flow, organizational needs should be solved before moving on to the fun stuff.
- Have a vision that provides an organizational structure to test ideas against.
- Be patient – your first idea may not be the best solution.
- Be prepared to be open to what your eyes and instincts are telling you as you test your ideas.
- A tweak or adjustment here may affect a decision there. Revisit, review, reconfirm.
- Don’t be afraid to change midstream. (Remember our lighted mirror?)
- If budget is a concern, be prepared to compromise and let go.
- SMILE! This is supposed to be fun! You’re making your home more enjoyable. “Vision accomplished!”
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our website, here:
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