Sidebar: The Bathroom

Some people find my bathroom design incongruous with the rest of my house. The living spaces are relatively compact and conservative, whereas the bathroom is almost huge by comparison. I've always felt that a bathroom is something of a "sacred space," more than just a utilitarian necessity. A bigger bathroom is especially important for us older folks: we need a little more room to get around, we like things in convenient locations, and certain "creature comforts" are essential. Indeed, as I developed the house plan, the bathroom grew in size and acquired more features over time. These three items became the "must-haves" for my bathroom:

1. Walk-in shower. No tub side to step over—a major help—and no door, so there's plenty of room to move stiff arms and legs. Plus, it has a second shower head to get more hot water on sore muscles. Also, the valve is thermostatic: set the temperature, and it will remain steady, regardless of water temperature or pressure. In this early view of the framing, the shower is shaped like the number 9:

Below left: The thermostatic valve, at top center, and the second shower head valve just below it. Below right: The second shower head posed in place, at lower right.

2. Soaking tub. This is a benefit for anyone with bad joints. In addition to its generous size, the tub is elevated to make it easier to get in and out. Here's an overhead view of the tub enclosure. Note that the valves and spout are out of the way—they'll go where you see the three black dots at the upper right corner of the diamond-shaped frame. Ordinarily they'd be mounted top dead center on the rim of the tub, right where one gets in and out:

Incidentally, the tub now has a skylight over it:

3. Toilet alcove. We all get old, naturally, and since this will be my last home, I've anticipated future needs. The toilet is located in a comfortably wide, relatively deep alcove, so that handrails can be mounted on both sides. Also, there will be a cabinet over the toilet to store supplies, placing them within easy reach—no stooping. The alcove is at the far left of this image:

A great deal of thought has gone into not only the layout of the bathroom, but the framing and infrastructure as well. For example, I've added horizontal studs to which towel bars, handrails and other wall-mounted objects can be firmly attached. This adds considerable strength, and eliminates the possibility of damaging the sheetrock. Some of the mounting studs can be seen here:

The water heater is located in the lower half of a linen closet right behind the shower. This means virtually instant hot water. Also, it's an on-demand unit that will deliver all the hot water I may need. Here's the water heater installed and ready to rock:

The sink is a little higher than normal so it's easier to reach. The wall-mounted faucet is likewise higher than normal, and is up and out of the way of the sink, with extra room beneath the spout. The sink is seen here posed on top of the built-in cabinet framing:

The medicine cabinet is integrated into the framing, so it's flush with the walls. It's a slightly unusual design in that the cabinet door is not a mirror, as is most often the case. I'm not especially fond of seeing myself, so the mirror is instead on the back of the cabinet door. The space is designed such that the door can open wide enough for the mirror to be at a comfortable angle when I need it. The medicine cabinet is visible dead-center in the image of the toilet alcove.

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