For the littlest members of the household, the bathroom is a place for learning good habits that will serve them for a lifetime.
The impulse in these baths is to accommodate the age of the child today, perhaps designing by the child’s artistic whims as one might do in a bedroom. But as much as these rooms are an opportunity for designers to flex their imaginations, so, too, do these spaces need to have a ‘growing’ quality, a sense that the space will fit the child as he or she continues on the way to maturity. These rooms are cumbersome to change out, something that is not the case for a bedroom.
So, what are the keys to creating the perfect spot for kids to learn their bath rituals? “Safety, comfort, economy, ease of use, ease of cleaning, plus visual appeal,” says Clare Donohue, president of One Two One Studio in Brooklyn, NY.
“Children are much less able to clean up after themselves, or to be conscious of making a mess in the first place. Materials need to be much more practical in a child’s bath; wipe-clean, able to tolerate disinfecting cleansers, fewer fussy/sculpted surfaces that will collect dirt. And, if you have young boys, well – how to put this delicately – you will want stain resistant materials surrounding the toilet.”
“I think parents want their children to have a nice bathroom, but never as nice as theirs. That’s how I think we get involved with them because we are doing mom and dad’s bathroom and since we’re there, we can do the kids’ bathroom,” says Lori Jo Krengel, CMKBD, president of Kitchens by Krengel in St. Paul, MN.
No bath could be further in purpose from a master bath than a child’s bath. “The master suite is often one of the most extravagantly designed rooms in a home. It isn’t uncommon for some elements in a master suite to go unused, such as a whirlpool bath. Rarely can a children’s bathroom afford to be so liberal with such features,” says Nikki Trivisonno, AKBD, a designer at Somrak Kitchens in Bedford Heights, OH.
And, in considering the utility of the bath comes the biggest challenge: expanding that utility to grow as the child does, says Susan Serra, CKD, of Susan Serra Associates in Huntington, NY. “Think of long-term use and also multiple use: Will it serve various ages? Will it serve as a powder room/guest bath also? Think in terms of the longevity of materials, which increases value with every passing year.”
In creating baths for children’s use, “safety first” is the order of the day, according to designers surveyed by KBDN. Anti-scald and thermostatic controls are widely agreed to be a good place to start in addressing parents’ safety concerns in their children’s baths. Kid-friendly surfaces, says Krengel, are another easy consideration in the early stages of planning such a bath.
“Slip-resistant flooring is key, as is making sure you have maintenance-friendly surfaces – ones that can stand the mess that can happen when children try to brush teeth, wash hair or decide to have a water party on a Saturday night,” adds Krengel. She notes that another sometimes overlooked topic is that of adequate places to put teenage-necessary electrical grooming items such as curling irons and electric shavers.
“There should be spaces to put these things while they are plugged in so that they don’t have the potential to fall into water,” she says. “I’m not a huge fan of vessel sinks because they are not easy to clean from a maintenance standpoint, but things have less of a tendency to fall into a vessel sink as opposed to an undermount sink, where things can sort of slip off the counter and right into the sink.”
Materials loved by designers from that important maintenance standpoint include solid surfaces, says Donohue.
“Corian is a great material for kids’ bathrooms – soft and hygienic,” says Donohue. “I once designed a display for a trade show that is still my ideal kids’ bathroom: Corian ‘tiled’ walls – no grout, no seams – and a drain in the middle of the floor. Everything could be hosed down!”