When planning a bathroom remodel, homeowners should remember that form must follow function. “Function is critical,” says Diane Quintin, Certified Kitchen Designer and founder of Studio Q Interiors in San Diego, Calif. “You can have a beautifully designed bathroom but if it’s not functional you won’t want to spend any time in it.” The first consideration should be the intended use of the bathroom. A full master bathroom will see more functional use than the downstairs half-bath, for example. Keep in mind storage, vanity choice and configuration and accessories will be important in these scenarios.
Accounting for available space is crucial to a functional bathroom. “Bathrooms can be a tight space where a lot of things happen,” says Ji Kim, design manager for Moen. “People are spending more time thinking the space through, thinking about workflow.” Spatial restrictions (or lack thereof) and bathroom configuration will influence many of the necessary choices, including sink number, size and configuration; storage decisions and even the toilet selection. A master bathroom may need to accommodate two occupants at once, so fixture and accessory size and placement should account for this.
Although it may seem purely functional, toilet selection can also reflect the values of the homeowner.
Bowl shape is one decision that must be made. Remodelers can choose a smaller round bowl shape or the larger elongated bowl. The former is good for smaller rooms while the latter is built for greater comfort and larger spaces.
The flushing mechanics of a toilet will vary, too. There are the more common gravity-fed variety, the pressure-assisted models and even dual-flush toilets available. Pressure-assisted toilets can have a tendency to be noisy, so a homeowner will want to inquire into this before selecting, particularly if peace and quiet are two desired attributes of the made-over bathroom. Dual-flush models have two flushing modes—one for solid wastes and one for liquid waste.
Toilet flushing consumes about one-third of all domestic water used, so investigating eco-friendly options is wise. Water-efficient toilets are required in some states but are optional in others. Homeowners concerned about conservation can choose from a widening selection of high-efficiency toilets (HETs) that consume fewer gallons per flush (gpf). An HET is a toilet that uses 1.28 gpf or less. Dual-flush toilets are also water-savers; the liquid waste flush typically uses 1.1 gpf or less. Gerber’s line of pressure-assisted toilets, for instance, recently introduced the Ultra Flush 1.1 gpf high performance toilet (HET). It is certified by WaterSense and can cut a homeowner’s yearly water expenditure by 40 percent.
In bathroom designer parlance, the vanity is the bathroom piece that can includes the sink, cabinet/storage space and the mirror. These items can be installed as one combined set or they can be purchased and installed separately. Sink configuration and design should be chosen with an eye on storage. A cabinet/sink combination can have the sink mounted on, within or underneath the cabinet, much like a kitchen sink can be installed a number of ways into the kitchen counter. Solid surface sinks are essentially one-piece countertops that have the sink integrated into the design; these are easy to clean and come in stock and customized options. Multiple sinks are popular in bigger master baths and can make the functional usage of the bathroom a more comfortable experience.
A traditional sink can also be called a pedestal sink. Smaller bathrooms that might not accommodate a large vanity can be best suited for a pedestal sink, but storage space may still need to be considered.
Vanity height must not be neglected. “The bathrooms I do have at least 36-inch vanities,” says Quintin. The higher counter/sink serves a functional purpose, requiring less bend from the user to access the faucet and perform routine bathroom tasks like shaving and washing. “A lot of older bathrooms have 30 to 31-inch countertop levels,” Quintin adds.
Storage—whether in a cabinet below the sink, behind a mirror or in a separate piece of furniture—must be included in the remodel. “When you plan for organization, organization can happen,” says Quintin. With all the activities that can take place in the bathroom, there must be storage for the items needed for those activities. When designing the new bathroom space, homeowners should consider all the functions that the bathroom will serve, list the items used in this functions and plan on ample storage to accommodate those items.
Faucets and Finishes
Faucets serve a function, but they can also serve as aesthetic focal points of the vanity and the bathroom at large. Faucet manufacturers emerge with new designs every year, so the list of options is extensive. It is wise to choose a finish option that will match or complement the finishes in the rest of the bathroom. “The finishes don’t necessarily have to match,” says Quintin. “You can choose complementary finishes, like a brushed and a polished.” Finish options are abundant and will vary by manufacturer but can include white, chrome, bronze, polished and brushed. The stainless finish look is timeless, and can be found in many of the modern faucet designs. Homeowners can also choose single- or double-handled design.
Faucets can also be chosen based on their water-efficient attributes. Flow limiters and newer designs account for water-efficient standards put forth by legislature, like in the state of California, and by federal programs like the EPA’s WaterSense program. Moen’s Destiny and Vivid lines of faucets are designed to use a scant 1.0 gallons per minute (gpm), more than half the 2.2 gpm common in older designs, and even less than the 1.5 gpm standard required for WaterSense certification. “The Vivid line is a waterfall design, so even though it looks like it is using a lot of water, it’s actually using a lot less,” says Kim.
Electronic faucets, or motion-activated faucets, are a good solution for households with children, the disabled or conservation-minded homeowners. The hands-free e-Flow line of electronic faucets from Delta Faucets also features an adjustable high temperature limiter to prevent scalding and heat-related accidents.
Accessorizing the new bathroom space can be fun, but remodelers should always be mindful again of the space and the big picture. Artwork, tiling, accent pieces and additional furniture can be brought in to add to the spa feel or customized look but never at the expense of a unified look or sufficient space to perform bathroom tasks.
Incorporating technology into the bathroom continues to be a growing trend. Aromatherapy, chromatherapy and entertainment features like plasma televisions all add to the luxuriousness of the bathroom space. Introducing a television is a great way for the working homeowner to catch up on the happenings of the world while getting ready for the day.
Homeowners can’t go wrong by consulting or hiring a professional designer. When hiring a pro, consider going with a certified bathroom designers (CBD). Whether going with a pro or not, it is important to remember that the bathroom serves a function first and any makeover to the space should be done with the overall flow of the house in mind.
Credit: Renovate with Tommy Mac