Recently, my husband and I traveled to Florida to visit our son. We splurged on a nice hotel, with a room overlooking the beautiful Atlantic ocean. The view was indeed beautiful, but the bathroom, however, while attractive to look at, was very poorly designed. I design bathrooms for a living, and have certainly learned a few things along the way about the battle between form and function. In my opinion, this bath was a glaring example of what happens when form wins out over function. The result was a bathroom that was very impractical, awkward, and uncomfortable to use.
If you’re embarking on a bath remodel this year, here are some things to consider so you don’t make the same mistakes as the designer of this hotel bathroom.
THE TUB/SHOWER PROBLEM:
Our hotel bathroom featured a huge soaking tub that was also the shower. At first glance, it looked very inviting. But as I tried to use it, there were some issues. Soaking tubs are very deep— about 20” in height on average, and some are even taller. This makes getting in and out of them difficult for some people (especially for someone like me, who is only 5 feet tall.) For many people, lifting a leg this high off the ground to get in and out is tough. This tub had a ledge to sit on, but it was very wide (about 9”), and tall, and there were nothing to hold on to, like a grab bar, for example, to help lift myself over and into the tub. I am able-bodied and physically fit, but for anyone with any physical limitations at all (like my height), this would be a very difficult situation. My husband’s assessment: “If you are comfortable stepping over a saw-horse and into a deep hole, then this kind of tub is for you.”
If you’re considering a deep soaking tub, please be aware of this height issue, and think about how you will be getting in and out of it. At the very least, install a grab bar nearby— everyone will benefit from that at some point. Ideally, a soaking tub separate from the shower is the best scenario, but many bathrooms are not large enough to accommodate both. In many bathrooms I work on, people are forgoing the tub altogether, preferring a large walk-in shower instead.
Another design element that made this bathroom awkward (even for a married couple like us) was that the wall separating the tub and vanity area from the bedroom area was made entirely of clear glass. There was no privacy at all. Anyone in the shower was on full display on the bedroom side. This might not bother some people, but I’m guessing that most folks prefer a bit of privacy.
While this wall of glass was indeed attractive-looking, a simple solution would be to install a window covering on the bedroom side, which could be lowered when privacy is desired.
THE SINK PROBLEM:
The designer of that bath thought a tall vessel sink would look nice, and I agree that it did. However, the vessel sink was installed on a standard height vanity cabinet, so the sink was much too high off the ground. The edge of the sink was literally up to my chest, which made for a very awkward experience brushing my teeth.
To accommodate a vessel sink, the cabinet must be made shorter to make up for the height of the sink. If your vessel sink is four inches tall, for example, the vanity should be no more than 32” in height. Unless you are very tall, aim for a finished height of no more than 36” for the sink and the cabinet. If you are short like me, a finished height of 34” might be more comfortable.
There were other issues also, such as no towel bars at all near the shower or the sink, terrible lighting, and glossy, slippery tiles on the floor. But on the upside, this bathroom provided the topic for this month’s column!