With smaller homes predicted to be built in the future, maximum square footage is being devoted to the master bedroom/bathroom. Additionally, in renovation work, entire sections of current bedroom/bathroom areas are being reconfigured.
Within these bedroom zones, in both renovation work and custom-built new construction, there’s a shift being seen in the relationship between the master bathroom, bedroom and closet (dressing room), and the square footage allocations for each of these spaces. Therefore, when designers are challenged by a master bathroom undertaking, it’s smart to dimension the entire area currently occupied by a master bedroom/bathroom/closet … and all the adjacent spaces.
Questioning the clients about how they would like their master area to “work for them” is also important. For example, designers should ask:
- What are the priorities for the new “adults only” area? What are they willing to trade – a bigger bathroom for a smaller sleeping area, a more luxurious dressing room in-place of a rarely used chaise lounge corner?
- How would they like new areas to relate to one another? Do they need a place to sit down in the closet or can they walk into the bedroom zone and sit on the bed or in a chair to put their shoes on?
- Just how much “togetherness” is desirable? If they share a bathroom, do they use the space concurrently or sequentially?
The relationship of various spaces created for specific activities needs to be “mapped out.” In the past, a person walked into a master bedroom which was the sleeping zone. This space typically housed the television in an armoire, a dresser for clothing and a chair or lounge for relaxing, and had several doors leading into closet(s) and into a bathroom. Therefore, the sleeping zone was the central area of activity.
This is changing. The master bedroom sleeping zone in many master suites is a separate oasis of peace and calm placed with the closets now tied directly to the bathroom zone. This seems to be occurring because busy adults sharing the space may be on very different sleep cycles or work schedules. The current idea is that one can arise in the morning and not bother one’s slumbering mate while preparing for the day.
A third approach to space planning is to separate the sleeping area from the other activity zones by relocating the closets/dressing room to the entrance of the space, or creating a foyer to serve as an entry point to various centers.
In the master suite pictured (above?), the entrance can lead to a separate area for a small private office, a meditation center or an exercise space may be highly desirable. It is almost as though our clients are interested in creating their own private mini apartment – a place they can escape from a busy activity-filled family life assaulted with all kinds of electronic entertainment media.
A fourth is to create an entrance foyer in the adult retreat which accesses all areas of the suite. That’s why understanding how the adults would like to use the space, how much square footage you have to work with and what their “vision” is of their ideal closet space and bathroom space needs to be detailed as you develop the “program” (gathering all the information and dimensional details before you start your planning process).
A Case Study
I recently had an opportunity to work on such a space in a lovely townhouse outside of Philadelphia. Because of the second floor location in this attached home community, no major changes could be made in interior walls or spaces. However, the homeowners wanted to dramatically improve the organization and appearance of the space.
I learned quite a lot from this project, and thought I would share some of the details with you.
The adult suite in this townhouse comprised two separate bathrooms and attached closets planned for each adult. The wife’s bathroom had an awkward tub attached to an impossibly small shower with a sink jammed in the corner of the vanity. The toilet was accompanied by a bidet that the woman did not use.
His bathroom was a standard fixture arrangement with hard-to-access closets attached.
Although construction changes were not possible, both bathrooms were personalized for the users. Her bathroom had a much more efficient shower and better planned vanity. The two closets were separated into a shoe closet and a clothing closet. His bathroom and closets were carefully sized to suit his 6′-6″ height, and the space organized to handle his oversized clothing.
The entry into the bedroom suite features inviting double doors that are repeated into her bathroom. No doors close off the opening to the sleeping quarters.
A key part of the solution was appreciating the woman of the house wanted a very elegant, monochromatic bathroom space that served her grooming needs, but gave her an area to retreat to when she wanted to enjoy some quiet time. Important to her was the inclusion of at least one – if not two – elegant chairs or an antique sleigh chair she had in her collection of treasures.
She also wanted a comfortably sized tub and was considering a freestanding fixture. While it has been well-documented that freestanding tubs with freestanding fillers are very popular in modern bathrooms today, we needed to search for a more elegant solution: a tub that could be a backdrop for the furniture.
Lesson No. 1: Creating a freestanding tub does not limit one to selecting from freestanding fixtures. In that the client did not bathe very often, we used a one-person soaking tub encased in a narrow limestone surround. It was pulled away from the window to create the sense of a “freestanding” sculpted element.
Lesson No. 2: Maximizing floor space functionality may take a backseat to creating a dreamy, tranquil, peaceful environment. Planning a bathroom whose environment is as important as its functionality means you must prioritize. In this bathroom, we needed to settle the tub configuration before we could plan the vanity or the shower. Whereas the typical solution of attaching the tub to the wall under a window would have made perfect sense in this space, it would not have created the airy, open feeling she hoped for. The space behind the window is just deep enough to walk around – and that pleased the client immensely. Sizing the furniture was key to making this work.
Lesson No. 3: Creating a sense of space around other bathroom fixtures can lessen the “fixture” sensibility aspect of a bathroom space. We designers are accustomed to floating a furniture-like vanity against the wall or using an open toe kick to minimize the visual space of the vanity. I found we could accomplish a furniture feeling in the toilet area as well by using a wall-mounted fixture. Although oftentimes reserved only for modern environments, specifying a wall-mounted toilet dramatically increases the openness of a bathroom space.
Her Closet Area
Adjacent to her bathroom were the all-important closets. The client collected purses and shoes, and wanted a very well-organized closet. In February, 2007 I wrote a column for KBDN entitled “Dressing Rooms.” I encourage you to review this article for the details of closet planning by visiting http://www.forresidentialpros.com/contact/10373872/ellen-cheever.
For this particular project, I had to focus on clarifying what was going to be stored in the two closets and encouraging the client to edit her belongings.
Lesson No. 4: In any clothing closet, the keys are:
1. The clients must evaluate what they are going to keep in the new closet. A good rule of thumb: if they have not worn something for one year, they should think about giving it away.
2. The clients should be encouraged to discard clothes that do not fit or are out of style, no matter how good of shape they are in.
3. Before measuring shelf space, determining the type of clothes hangers the clients wish to use is critical. Simple ones “from the cleaners” might not be appropriate in the new space. Wooden or padded hangers require more pole space.
4. Of critical importance is to know what the clients’ hanging and folding preferences are. The overall length of hung coats, skirts and slacks must be identified before considering double-pole storage. For example, in either a man’s or woman’s closet – are pants hung folded over a pant hanger, or clipped and hung long to eliminate a crease? In a woman’s closet, does she prefer to keep matching slacks and jackets together, or is she comfortable with keeping all slacks together and all jackets together?
The clients (or the designer) must count and measure everything that is going to be folded and/or hung on a shelf.
5. When it comes to shoes, do the clients prefer to keep all of their shoes in the original boxes for safety and cleanliness purposes, or do they prefer to have shoes out and organized by season, configuration or color? Where does the person sit down to put shoes on or perform home pedicure activities?
His Bathroom & Closet
The husband’s bathroom was dramatically different in appearance from his wife’s. Additionally, everything was sized for this tall man’s convenience.
The husband’s closet was a particularly challenging space, as was his need for a high lighting level. (An interesting difference between the two people who occupy this space: she preferred low levels of light – even in her closet space – while he wanted very high levels of light.)
Every inch was used in both his and her closets – so we were very careful about the hazards of heat in an enclosed closet design. We are familiar with code requirements prohibiting any type of exposed bulbs in a room identified as a closet.
We accomplished this lighting requirement in his space by using large surface-mounted fluorescent fixtures with color-corrected tubes. In her closet, we used one decorative light and a series of recessed lights that did have lenses. This was a compromise – these lights do not deliver as many lumens of light as exposed lamps, but they were the best solution for this project because of the client’s comfort with lower light levels and her request to avoid fluorescent fixtures (of any kind) in her closet spaces. In all closets, the fixtures are motion-activated so the light goes on when someone enters the space, and automatically turns off when no motion is detected.
Of particular importance in his closet was honoring his wish to not be forced to edit his wardrobe. As a basketball player, his sporting clothes needed to be housed so he could find the proper shirt and shorts, while his sweaters and other types of clothing could be more easily color-coded.
Rather than any enclosed cabinet storage, for his space we used wire pull-out baskets, some with linings and some without. We found that it was much easier for him to find the t-shirt he wanted when he could see the various colors through the uncovered wire rack. This maximized the usable space in this very cramped area, and suited his sorting preferences, so everyone was happy!
So often we see beautiful, large dressing rooms that are separate spaces with elegant cabinetry. For many clients, that’s a lovely dream – but one that is unattainable because of the square footage they have available for their closet space. These real-life closet solutions may give you an idea or two that will help you overcome difficult space management issues.
Planning a master bathroom space is no longer a simple matter of organizing top-functioning, attractive fixtures and fittings. The planning process really starts at the adult area entrance door.
After a careful appraisal of all the adjacent spaces that might be incorporated into the newly designed master retreat, the planning can begin. The very relationship of sleeping area to closet/dressing room storage, to bathroom grooming area to bathroom spa-like centers is a top priority at the beginning of the planning process so that you, the designer and your client can explore all options before the detailing begins.