How to make smaller bathrooms feel larger

Published On: Jul 31 2012 09:28:43 AM EDT
Updated On: Aug 01 2012 10:29:58 AM EDT

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How much space does it really take to house the average American family of 2.61 people? For seniors, the question is how to make existing spaces feel large enough to accommodate equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, and rails.

Our definition of “enough space” is changing, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The year 2008 saw the first annual decrease in average new-home size since 1994. During the intervening 15 years, the average rose by 21 percent – from 2,050 square feet in 1994 to a peak of 2,507 square feet in 2007 – before slipping to 2,392 square feet in 2008. The 2008 decrease in home size was also the largest annual drop since 1980.

Similarly, remodelers report a falloff in the number of consumers asking for bigger kitchens and more opulent baths. Not surprisingly, the aftermarket is also witnessing more homeowners seeking to create more efficient spaces with more storage, less waste and more flexibility.

Style still in demand

As builders downsize the American dream home, consumers are saying that compromises on space do not automatically mean giving up conveniences. Currently, 60 percent of new homes have three or more bathrooms, and while the size of each may not be as expansive as in years past, that is no reason to compromise on style.

In fact, the trends shaping society today – smaller, smarter living spaces, value and efficiency over conspicuous consumption and the need for a greener lifestyle with a smaller environmental footprint – are having a profound impact on bath-product manufacturers. These trends are also making the job of creating more stylish statements in a smaller bathroom easier than ever.

“Our emphasis is on products scaled to the new space reality,” says Gray Uhl, director of design for American Standard Brands. “We look very carefully at bathroom fixture scale to design collections that fit the footprint of today’s homes.”

Maximum efficiency has become a critical driver, according to Uhl. “A good example is creating more counter deck space on pedestal lavatories, or more storage space in vanities even with a smaller footprint, such as our Brook Console Table with side drawers that open up. While this trend to efficiency cuts across all styles, it tends to require fixtures, faucets and furniture that take simpler forms and shapes.”

Try a little planning

Whether your preference is traditional, contemporary or the in-between transitional, creating stylish smaller bathrooms that work is simple, with a little planning. Here are two important areas to consider in your planning:

  • Storage: Vanities that offer ample storage space within a smaller footprint can hide hair dryers, towels, bath products and cleaning supplies, creating an uncluttered look to make a space seem larger. Vessel sinks that sit atop a vanity add a dramatic touch to a bath, while maximizing cabinet space and creating deck storage space. If a pedestal lavatory fits your floor plan better, look for models with generous deck space. Don’t forget a toilet with a flat tank top: The top of the toilet tank is valuable bathroom real estate.
  • Lifestyle: As we try to do more in the same number of hours, bathroom rituals necessarily change. Shifting from a bathtub to a shower fits our lifestyle and integrates better into the smaller overall footprint of today’s bath. Multiple showerheads and body sprays provide the same relaxation as soaking in a tub, but in far less time and with significantly less cleanup. Most modern showers also use substantially less water, which appeals to growing ecological awareness.

 Information provided by: Bath Fitter, Medical Care Alert, ARA content

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