Some myths about bathroom design just won’t seem to die – people subscribe to them out of custom more than anything else. But don’t let your bathroom project be hobbled by a lot of obsolete ideas. Like these:

  • Myth: Bathrooms should be planned back to back, so that they can share piping and therefore save on plumbing costs. Fact: Bathrooms should be planned to be good bathrooms. If they happen to end up being back to back, all the better, but there’s no sense constraining your design for the sake of a few extra yards of pipe. If it makes more sense to separate them, knock yourself out.

  • Myth: Bathroom counters should be 32 inches high. Fact: Thirty-two inches is the perfect height, all right – if Judy Garland just dropped into your village on a cyclone. For nearly everyone else, it’s much too low for comfortable washing, brushing, or anything else. Ignore this silly so-called standard, and feel free to make your counters any height that suits you. If you’re comfortable working at your kitchen counter, for example (typically about 36 inches high), there’s no law against using the same height for your bathroom vanity. There’ll be a lot less stooping and backaches if you do.

  • Myth: A ceiling-mounted exhaust fan is the best way to ventilate your bathroom. Fact: It may be the cheapest way, but it’s far from the best. The vast majority of exhaust fans on the market are droning, inefficient pieces of dreck that are barely better than no fan at all. If you want good ventilation without the ear-splitting whine, consider using a small rooftop-mounted unit that’s ducted down to the ceiling. It’ll be quieter, more accessible, and more powerful than the junky plastic variety.

  • Myth: A pedestal sink is the best choice for a small bathroom. Fact: Current design fads notwithstanding, a sink in a well-designed vanity cabinet will not only provide far more usable countertop area, but also a good bit of storage below–a feature that’s even more important in a small bathroom than in a large one.

  • Myth: The best time to figure out where toilet-paper holders and towel bars go is when you’re almost done, and you can see what you’ve got to work with. Fact: This is why the pencil was invented – to figure out such things ahead of time. You should know exactly where every towel bar, toilet-paper holder and robe hook is going to be installed long before you ever pick up a hammer. Fail to do so, and you may end up with your toilet-paper holder screwed to the side of your bathtub.

  • Myth: The best place for a bathroom lighting fixture is directly over the sink. Fact: This is another silly architectural custom that won’t die, though it sure deserves to. Having the light source over the sink guarantees that no matter how you turn your head, some part of your face will always be exasperatingly in shadow. Take a tip from what Hollywood makeup pros have done since the 1920s: Place the lighting on either side of the sink, roughly level with your face, and not above it. It’s the only way to get even, shadow-free lighting and banish the Boris Karloff look.


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