It’s important to realize there are two distinctly different areas in any bathroom: the wet area and the dry area. These two segments of the space could also be identified as the functional part of the bathroom and the spa part of the bathroom.
I consider the toilet, bidet, urinal and shower as primary elements in the functional part of the bathroom. A bathing pool, and the vanity counter/make-up area are far less susceptible to water damage, mildew development or the other problems associated with the fixtures in a “one-space” bathroom.
Thinking of these two different categories of space frees your creativity when placing fixtures or selecting materials. It might give you a new outlook on walls, as well.
At the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach, great use of a flexible wall system dramatically enhances the design of the entire suite.
Based on your client’s preferences for the bathing experience (solitary escapism, social gathering place for adults, etc.), you might consider opening up the bathroom area to the bedroom in a residential project. Once again, this approach works very well if the shower and toilet are separated. In one example (see photo [a,b]), you see the bathtub in a traditional marble platform and a vanity sharing a corridor shape. The bathtub area becomes part of the bedroom sleeping zone when two sets of three Shoji screen-type doors are stacked against two end walls. The track for the doors is hidden behind a wood valance encompassing the dropped bathroom ceiling. A grooved Corian plate at the floor line provides a rail system for the lower door track to slide along. The bathtub sits in a pedestal platform that is surrounded by a stripe of pebble stone tile. This same pebble stone tile is used as a comfortable – and safe – non-skid shower base in the adjacent compartment.
The bathtub can be cozy and enclosed or part of the bedroom space. The overhead LED chromatherapy light strips can be reserved just for the bather – or can add drama to the entire sleeping area.
Tubs and Showers
Details are also critical when designing the bathtub and shower spaces. Following are some suggestions for maximizing both functional and aesthetic appeal.
Curbless showers with a trough drain make a difference. New trough drain systems make curbless showers much more functional. A recent product I found is a low-profile linear drain (www.quickdrainusa.com). These types of drains allow you to slope the floor in one direction only; they can be installed along one edge of the shower, rather than centered. This is an excellent drain to use if you are planning an overhead shower system. Overhead shower systems that incorporate chromatherapy lighting or simple white light can add great drama to these special showers. Designers sometimes mistakenly center a showerhead, and then center the drain as well. The user then stands on the drain and impedes water flow out of the shower. This won’t work in a curbless shower – the drain water will run out of the shower.
Select the floor carefully. When considering a curbless shower, carefully think through the flooring selected for the dry area of the bathroom and the wet area encompassing the shower. Avoid any smooth, shiny and therefore slippery materials. Avoid large, over-scaled tiles which may not be suitable for the slanted floor profile needed to insure proper water drainage.
Keep the air dry and fresh. Recognize the importance of good ventilation in any shower area. Broan-NuTone has a great light/fan combination fixture that looks like a simple recessed light. This is an excellent low-profile fixture for a Zen-like shower.
Keep the space safe. Please, do not overlook the need for a foot rest or bench in the shower. This is something that is all too often overlooked in hotel bathrooms. A freestanding teak bench, a floating stone ledge or a triangle raised corner niche for a foot is important. It is also a good idea to install a solid backer system in the shower, allowing flexible placement of grab bars at the time of installation, or at a later date in the family’s life.