Rethinking Bathrooms

Large bath with vintage upholstered seating and an antique vanity and clockBathrooms are the new home frontier growing larger, more comfortable and more room-like.

Looking back a century to the very formal homes of the early 20th century, it’s no surprise another shift is taking place right now. Current renovations are removing walls so kitchens can expand into social living centers serving a multitude of family needs. Dining rooms (albeit more gradually) are becoming loft-like while the living room is busting out into a much “greater” space. Still, bathrooms have yet to benefit from the degree of expansion these other rooms  enjoy. We all know why. True, showers are larger and sometimes have steam. Spa tubs, double sink vanities, fancier tile and perhaps more built-in cabinetry are common. Yet even in the most current version of early 21st century homes, the historical “water closet” is basically intact.

Yes, the bath is an intimate place. Most Americans don’t go for the communal, public bath experience that exists in other parts of the world. At the same time we are starting to see that some features can be successfully and stylishly combined — with hotels often leading the way. That’s why I believe it’s time to rethink bathrooms in a major way.

Right now, “spa” continues to be the bathroom ideal even it’s only expressed in terms of color or fixture style. Owners of many homes will say they have “limited” bathroom space. To that I say: rethink it. There are many ways to give a bath the same integrity as any other important room plus there are logical ways to fold in features that are usually kept separate, as we saw in the Master Bedroom Bath Merger and the Chapel Dwelling bath.

Upholstered seating is hardly a bathroom staple. True, a Hollywood bathroom [top] boasts a custom vanity, Waterworks mosaic floor and is super spacious. However, the vintage English leather chair (hey, it’s beat up already so why worry about a little water on it) and a clock that once graced a wire service newsroom add unusual  layers of comfort, hominess and room-y-ness. And when you’re tired, it’s nice to be able to get undressed sitting down.

wet room section of a large Hollywood bathroomAnother section of the same bath consists of a circular wet room with a double shower, elegant brass Barber Wilsons shower fixtures, and a large slipper tub (the same Waterworks mosaic tile). A rain shower head, suspended from the center of the ceiling, is the wet room version of a chandelier with benefits.

master bath with space for workout equipmentWhere is the first place you go after a workout? But even huge homes, with ample space for an exercise room, don’t have it close to a major bath. Because home gyms are usually considered bonus or luxury features, they tend to occupy extra spaces like basements, garage annexes or bonus rooms. It is nearly impossible to find a photo of a bathroom with exercise equipment (this one is an exception) even though it’s a logical combination. The reason, I suspect, is that allocating that kind of space near any bath often means sacrificing a bedroom. At best, that’s an inefficient attitude. With everyone so health conscious, there’s a more modern way to arrange the house.

bedroom with fireplace converted into a bathroom with glass-enclosed showerThe couple who transformed this former bedroom into a spa complete with a fireplace, arranged their priorities economically. Floorboards were painted white to help make them more water resistant and metal boxes provide storage on the simple shelf units. A glassed-in shower (front, right) also has the aspect of a room-within-a-room.

bathroom with antique table as sink vanity, Caucasian rug and antique bamboo chairRepurposing an antique table as a sink vanity, then combining it with antiques – the armchair and Caucasian rug, raises the bathroom from utilitarian to living room class.

cottage bathroom with large white storage armoireEven a vintage, cottage bath can have a major piece of furniture. The whitewashed armoire provides massive storage along with the informality of chicken-wire doors.

bathroom with built in vanity, upholstered side chair, and glass and grass occasional tableSome soft pieces are needed in a bathroom where a tub sits on a “rug” that’s integral with the marble floor. The pretty, upholstered side chair for the built-in dressing table offers a place to perch (lounging may be reserved for the tub) and there is handy storage in a skinny cabinet that just fits under the slanted roof line. What I love most is the glass-topped campaign style drum table that offers a great place to put down a cup of coffee without fear of knocking it over while you’re brushing your teeth.

Bohemian style Ikea bath with living plant wallA fashionable emerald-green mosaic wall makes this staged Ikea bath feel very up-to-date. But nothing could be greener (or more logical in a way) than a living wall of plants. Think about it. I love this idea!

Japanese style bath with outdoor garden visible from the showerThe next best thing to an indoor bathroom garden is one outdoors that creates an ambiance for the shower. While more modest than the spectacular Indoor-Outdoor Bathroom it has a similar effect.

bathroom mirror with integral tvI’m a huge fan of High Tech Bath Storage though we’ve hardly begun to imagine how that could change in the next 50 years. But Mr. AM always teases that I will “go for the gizmo” no matter what it does, which is probably true. It’s also why I think having an integral TV in a bathroom mirror is so cool – at least right now – even though the electrical and audio wiring requirements likely double the cost. Smart money should look forward to a mirror-mount for an ipad mini if there isn’t already such a gizmo available.

contemporary bathroom with large scale photo muralNothing has more power than paint to transform a room – except for a large-scale photo mural. In a place where shower steam can fog up glass and degrade frames over time, integral wall art can redefine wallpaper as a practical way to create a mood for the bathroom as a major space.

(Source: elledecor, houzz, desiretoinspire, ad, 58cherries, houseofturquoise, tagesanzeiger, pinterest, printedspace)


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3 Responses to Rethinking Bathrooms

  1. Cindy February 18, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Such gorgeous inspiration! Love free standing tubs and armoires in the bath!


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