Planning the simplest 5'x7' bathroom so that it reflects the client’s lifestyle can be a challenge. Despite the limited space, the prospective client hopes for a great bath packed with convenience, safety and grace. Likewise, clients planning a master suite have visions of a spa retreat that may not fit either their available square footage or their budget.
As we planners work with the “dream bath” wish list, we need to be ever vigilant about making the bath a good fit for the user while being thoughtful regarding the space and storage requirements.
So let’s talk about the basics of bathroom design before we focus on the special details the clients hope you can fit in – all while staying within the available space and investment figure reserved for the project.
Successful bathroom designers begin planning any bathroom space with a careful information gathering program. That means finding out who will use the space, how it will be used, what fixtures are required, what look pleases the client, what construction constraints exist…and what budget or investment figure is available.
In small spaces, designers sometimes make the mistake of seeing the space as an impossible design challenge. They simply suggest retaining the three fixtures in their existing locations and adding a little “pizzazz” along the vanity wall.
Another mistake designers make is assuming that their prospective client uses the bathroom just as they do. By mistake, the bathroom planner transfers his/her preferences and value systems to the prospective client as they sit at the drafting board or in front of the computer and begin the conceptual space-planning process.
For NKBA members, there is a great tool: an information gathering form that is part of the Business Management Form System. Accessible at www.nkba.org, this “member only service” is available for download at no charge.
Another great resource for designers who are attempting to really personalize the space for the intended user is Human Figure Ergonomic information based on the American Form published by Architectural Graphics Standards.
We have included this dynamic dimensional information for review.
Clearly, as a designer begins the planning process, focusing on “average” is not the best approach. However, being familiar with this information is a good starting point, allowing the design professional to note the client’s human form dimensional considerations.
Available information covers everything from the appropriate depth for a shower bench to typical users’ eye levels calculated when locating wall-mounted light fixtures – and even how much clear space is needed for one to “towel off.”
Knowing the user’s physical form dimensions is just a beginning. Knowing who will use the space you are designing and how it will be used is next.
Who's Using the Space?
Identifying who will use the space is the planner’s first job. It may be a family bathroom, a child’s bathroom, an adult retreat/master suite or a guest bathroom.
If the space is used by the entire family or exclusively by children, find out what the schedule is. Does the family use the bathroom individually, following a staggered schedule, or is the space shared by several people as they prepare for the day each morning? For adults, do the owners prefer privacy or company while grooming? Would they like the bathroom open to the bedroom or set apart and private?
In addition to such comfort questions, the planner should keenly observe any physical limitations of the user. A whole other topic: Special attention must be given to a space planned for an aging or physically handicapped individual.
How the space will be used is a good question to ask. Planning an “adequate” bathroom is just not enough for today’s consumer. Just as the chef’s personal cooking style affects the kitchen cabinet plan, the intended plan – or dream – for the new bathroom guides the planning process. To create a personalized space: Identify how the bathroom will be used. Prospective clients seem to fall into several lifestyle categories: