March 19, 2010
When I first started working as an architectural intern in Rockford, Illinois, Larry, the curmudgeonly head draftsman loved teasing me about my main job of drawing toilet rooms. He didn’t let me say ‘bathroom’, insisting that I say ‘toilet’. He was right – we were working on commercial toilet rooms and nobody was taking baths there…well, it’s been a lot of years, and now I’ve got a lot to say about toilets – Do you want your toilet in a separate room? Do you like an elongated bowl for comfort? What do you think of the water-saving dual-flush models? Do you have young sons? Discussing the toilet still isn’t my favorite part of the bath design process, but it’s important, because habits and details make all the difference in a successful bathroom. In the last greenbridge blog, we wrote about kitchen design and renovation. This month the focus is on bathrooms.
The Bathroom. What does yours mean to you? Often the first room you enter after waking, it can set the tone for the day. For many, their master bath is a calming, restorative place to get away, an oasis. A powder room can be a showplace for guests. The hall bath can be a flurry of kid activity, requiring organization and compartmentalization. For some of us, our bath is a frustration. Common problems are outdated or failing fixtures, inadequate lighting, old finishes that are difficult to keep clean, and poor layout and storage.
Although it is usually one of the smallest rooms in the home, the renovation of a bathroom can be surprisingly complex and costly. A bathroom renovation usually requires the several skilled trades during construction – carpenter, electrician, plumber and heating contractor. Some bath renovations will also include custom cabinetry and special tile or stone installations. To keep costs in line, we offer rough design and cost estimates prior to undertaking full design work on a bathroom. The earliest phase in the design process is the best time to scale back if budget requires. Why spend time effort and money on a design that will not be feasible for you and your family?
In order to create a cost estimate and design, we ask a lot of our clients early in the project. As we discussed in other blog posts, while we are measuring and drawing the existing conditions, we assign our clients the task of thinking about their personal goals for the rooms that are included in the project. We then meet with them to review their goals for the space. What follows is a summary of the items covered for a bathroom renovation:
Start tagging those favorite online bathroom images! Pull out all those clipping or copies of bathrooms you’ve been enjoying in the magazines and newspapers. (We have great magazines and books to lend if you haven’t been doing this yet.) Make a quick note on each describing what you like about that bathroom. (example – ‘great colors’ or ‘beautiful tub’ ) These notes are invaluable for the designer who will pull these items together for you.
Before our initial design meeting, we’ll ask that you give some thoughts to the items below – again, you don’t need to have an answer of even a strong feeling about each item, but if you do, we want to be sure we’re including those items that are important to you.
The ‘Yin-Yang Wading Pool’ sink by Kohler
Erin Adams mosaic tile by Ann Sacks
What words describe your dream bathroom? Soothing, tranquil, cool, cozy, a retreat, huge, modern, old-fashioned?
· How does your bath work for you now? If it doesn’t work so well for you, what have you thought about as a solution? Is there an opportunity to enlarge the room into part of an adjacent space?
· Are there any items in the existing bathroom that can be reused such as cabinetry, lighting or plumbing? For the items not being reused, we donate or recycle the items when possible.
· Do you have good natural light and ventilation in the room? Is there an opportunity to add more if necessary?
Fixtures and controls
· List the plumbing items: sink, toilet, tub and/or shower. Do you prefer separate sinks? Choose the basic style, for instance, pedestal sink or vanity, a freestanding tub or one that is mounted in a tub deck.
· Think about the shape and finish of the controls.
· Use low-flow faucets and low-flow or dual-flush toilets
· Consider a tankless hot water heater.
Floors and Walls
· What floor and wall materials will give you the look and feel you’re after? Can these materials be used to create patterns, and do you want to use them that way?
· Have you considered an in-floor heating system?
· Use low VOC paint and wood finishes.
· Consider eco-friendly finishes – wood flooring, recycled content ceramic tile, stone tile, or exposed concrete. Natural linoleum is made from natural materials can be finished in a range of colors, and can be installed without the use of adhesives.
· Will you have a vanity, and if so, what will be stored there?
· What other storage or display needs do you have in the room?
· What styles and finishes of cabinetry do you prefer?
· Make sure that cabinetry built with plywood (which often contains an urea formaldehyde glue which can cause a range of health issues) is properly sealed before entering your home. Better yet, use solid wood cabinetry and solid surface countertops to avoid the use of plywood.
· You’ll need lighting at the mirror(s) and some general light from overhead fixtures.
· Do you read or shave in the shower?
· While you are considering light, think about dimming and control options.
· Use halogen and LED lighting for light quality and energy efficiency.
Consider privacy needs, style, color and pattern (and contact lmk interiors ltd!)
Mirrors, towel bars, tissue holders, soap dishes, and robe hooks are useful items with decorative importance. Think about size, style, finish, practicality and ease of cleaning.
· Install an exhaust fan that properly vents to the exterior.
· Plants improve the air quality and are an attractive balance to the otherwise hard surfaces in the room.
Greening the Process
The early planning stage is the best time to consider opportunities to ‘green it up’, or to make selections or decisions that will improve the environmental impact and energy and water use for the space. In addition to some of the considerations noted above, the following are sustainable practices and detailing we include as standard in our renovation projects:
· A well-designed and ‘timeless’ space won’t need to be renovated again, saving energy and resources for the future.
· A bathroom renovation usually involves demolition of the wall surfaces – this is a great opportunity to not only improve the wall, ceiling and floor insulation, but to also better insulate all plumbing and heating pipes ductwork.
· Sealing leaks in doors, windows, plumbing, ducting, and electrical wire, and penetrations through exterior walls, floors, ceilings and soffits over cabinets will save additional energy.
A bathroom renovation involves a lot of planning and decision-making. At GreenBridge Architects and Riverview Builders, we work with you to ensure that the process is a smooth one and that it is ultimately rewarding for you and your family.
Please feel free to contact me to discuss your upcoming project, or to chat about what your bathroom means to you, I’ll even talk about your toilet! Next month’s blog will take on the home offices.