Baths for Two

Designing a bath to be used by both sexes requires consideration of routines, habits and physical attributes. Begin by identifying all the activities the individuals will perform in the space. Today’s master bath serves many activities beyond those of previous generations. These previous activities typically were limited to bathing, showering, using the toilet, grooming and some dressing. Today’s master bath may require space for relaxation, health and wellness, growing plants and other hobbies, pet maintenance or doing laundry. The increased use of electronics and monitoring systems adds the dimension of power consumption beyond lighting controls; master baths may also include a flat-screen TV, mini-refrigerator or coffee maker.

Gather information specific to the couple at hand. Record the anthropometric data for the standing and seated positions of each client. Identify their reach and grasping abilities and mobility. Determine whether each is left- or right-handed and whether the bath will enjoy shared use or needs and accommodate privacy preferences.

Stations for grooming should reflect a client’s stature, whether tasks will be accomplished in a standing or seated position, and if privacy is a concern. Perhaps a 5-foot 2-inch woman enjoys chatting with her 6-foot 2-inch husband while each completes their grooming. This criterion allows side-by-side placement with her station at 32- to 34-inch counter height where his might be at a 38- to 40-inch height with a taller mirror. Mirror heights should be several inches taller than the end user. A continuous counter between stations can maximize the allotted counter space if the couple is similar in stature.

Central, deep storage between the stations introduces an element of privacy. Storage for grooming supplies can be a challenge when working with both genders. Always try to maximize point-of-use storage to minimize steps and avoid traffic-flow problems.

Install multiple forms of lighting, including wall sconces, to maintain continuity in the overall design while aiding user needs.

Selecting a shower’s water source or sources and their placement requires a trip to the plumbing showroom. Each needs to experience the options available to ensure the showering experience meets or exceeds his or her expectations. If the shower is used simultaneously, the footprint needs to increase from a minimum of 36 by 36 inches to approximately 42 by 60 inches or larger.

Location, height and size of shower interior shelving and/or benches needs to be determined based on both users’ needs and statures. Benches should be a minimum of 17-inches above the finish floor and 15-inches deep. Check bench locations so they don’t interfere with standing space under the showerhead. Inclusion of multiple showerheads with differing sprays gives users more flexibility, but the anthropometric data identifies a stationary head height if that’s the route your client has chosen. Water should be directed toward the body, not the face or hair. This could range between 70 and 80 inches off the floor but should be identified for your specific clients.

The best solution when dealing with clients with significant height differences is including a hand-held shower on an adjustable bar. Multiple choices in spray options might be available. Thermostatic control valves make wise investments. Multiple showerheads should have separate controls adjacent to those areas for ease of use. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends controls are located 6 inches from the outside of the shower so reaching or bending is minimized. Adjust the height off the floor according to the elbow height of the end users.

Once you understand both clients’ needs and the principles behind designing one area for two people, the possibilities are endless.


Carolyn Deardorff has operated her own interior design firm, Design Adventures, Brighton, Colo., since 1988. She has served on chapter boards of IIDA, NARI and NKBA, as well as appeared in industry publications and presented at events.