His and hers bathrooms

Whenever faced with designing a small space like a master bath that will be utilized by both sexes, it’s a challenge. Begin by identifying all the activities both individuals will perform in the space. Today’s master bath serves many activities beyond those of previous generations, which included bathing, showering, using the toilet, grooming and dressing. Today’s master bath may require space for relaxation, health and wellness, pet maintenance or doing laundry. The increased use of electronics and monitoring systems adds the dimension of power consumption beyond lighting controls, which includes a flat screen TV, a mini-refrigerator or coffee maker.

Designing “his and hers” bathrooms requires research into who the end users are and how they want this new or renovated space to function. There is no such thing as an average-sized person. We must begin by assimilating 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, any mobility and/or physical limitations including strengths or weaknesses in their five senses. Determine whether each is left- or right-handed and whether the bath will enjoy shared use or needs to be compartmentalized to accommodate privacy preferences.

Once the activity wish list and the personal data are collected, the information must be condensed into a single document for client review. This is when square footage, timing and/or budget constraints pare down the wish list into the must-have list. You are now well-equipped to generate space planning options that work.

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-ft. 2-in. woman enjoys chatting with her 6-ft. 2-in. husband while each completes grooming. This criterion allows side-by-side placement with her station at a 32- to 34-in. counter height where his might be at 38- to 40-in. height with a taller mirror. Some clients may want to see their waistline while others may prefer from the shoulders up. Install multiple forms of lighting, including wall sconces, to maintain continuity in the overall design while aiding user needs. A continuous counter between stations can maximize the space if the couple is similar in stature. Central, deep storage between stations introduces privacy.

Storage for grooming supplies can be a challenge when working with both genders. Should it be exposed or hidden behind doors? Are there regularly used tall bottles to store in a rollout under the sink or refillable attractive containers that need counter or open shelf space? How many electrical appliances are used on a regular basis? Are linens close at hand and where are they stored after use? Is dirty laundry accumulated here or another location? I find reviewing current conditions beneficial in terms of these decisions. Always try to maximize point-of-use storage to minimize steps and avoid traffic flow problems.

Selecting a shower’s water source or sources and their placement requires a trip to the plumbing showroom, especially when working with a couple. Each needs to experience the options available to assure 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 in. by 36 in. to approximately 42 in. by 60 in. or larger.

Location, height and size of interior shelving and/or benches need to be determined based on both users’ needs and statures. Benches should be a minimum of 17 in. above the finished floor and 15 in. 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 in. high.

The best solution when dealing with clients of different heights is including a hand-held shower on an adjustable bar. This also works well for the occasional dog bath and shower cleaning. Multiple choices in spray options might be available. Thermostatic control valves make wise investments that save energy and prove to be convenient. Multiple showerheads should have separate controls adjacent to those areas for ease of use. NKBA recommends controls be located 6-in. from the outside of the shower to minimize reaching and bending. Adjust the height off the floor according to the elbow height of the end users.

Carolyn Deardorff, M.A., IIDA, CKD, CAPS has operated Design Adventures since 1988 with clients in the U.S. and Australia. She focused on the kitchen and bath industry in the early 1990’s, when in graduate school she wrote her master’s thesis on universal design. Carolyn’s entered higher education for seven years where she served as adjunct and full time faculty at Arapahoe Community College and Colorado State University.