Last time we looked at the basics of designing an ideal bathroom. This time, we’ll get down to the fine points of fixtures, hardware and lighting. All of these aspects need to be planned out in detail ahead of time, including the exact placement of bath hardware and lighting fixtures, which many people treat as an afterthought.
If space is at a premium, a cabinet-mounted lavatory sink is preferable to a pedestal sink, since it provides both counter space and storage. Either way, though, each lavatory bowl should have a towel bar or ring for face towels and a GFI-protected electrical outlet within arm’s reach.
The so-called "standard" lavatory sink height of 32 inches dates back to a time when people were much shorter, and nowadays this height is usually too low for comfort. Since this is your bathroom and not Napoleon’s, make the lavatory sink high enough to use without having to stoop. If you’re using a ready-made lavatory cabinet, consider using a base to raise it to a comfortable height.
As for lighting, don’t fall prey to another antiquated standard — having a single lamp centered above the sink — because that’s just about the worst possible location. Instead, provide two separate light sources flanking the lavatory mirror, located roughly at the height of your ears, and perhaps 2 or 3 feet apart. If you’re using a large sheet mirror, have it drilled to accommodate this arrangement if necessary.
Steer clear of recessed lighting fixtures, as well as pendant fixtures that hang in front of the mirror. Regardless of how trendy they look in the showroom, they’ll do a lousy job of lighting your face.
Don’t forget to find a spot for the toilet paper dispenser (a common oversight), and for heaven’s sake, make it within easy reach. Consider including an additional 8-inch-deep cabinet for storing bulky bath sundries (the wall behind the toilet, about 3 feet above the tank, is often a good spot — it’s much more convenient than storing things under the sink). If space allows, provide yet another cabinet to accommodate underwear as well as a hamper for dirty clothes. Regardless of what moisture-fearing naysayers may tell you, having these things right at hand after a bath or shower is a real luxury.
Don’t even bother to include a separate shower unless you can make it really generous — a stall shower smaller than 3 feet by 4 feet has very little advantage over the typical tub-shower. If you’re lucky enough to have room for a good-sized shower, don’t forget to include a soap dish at a convenient height, a hook or two for washcloths, a niche for holding bath sundries, and a bench or at least a ledge you can put your feet on. Also, position the towel bars so you can reach the bath towels without stepping out of the shower.
Lastly, invest in a top-quality, ultra-quiet exhaust fan with about twice the capacity recommended for your bathroom. If your budget allows, consider a remote-mounted axial-flow fan, which is quieter and more powerful (and, yes, more expensive) than the ceiling-mounted type. The few bucks you’ll save on a cheap fan simply aren’t worth the earsplitting assault on your senses every morning.
Whether your bathroom is 30 square feet or 300, it’s the little conveniences that spell the difference between daily enjoyment and daily irritation.