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Preamble

Powder rooms & half baths are the same. The powder room—typically a main-floor half-bath with a sink, a toilet, and a mirror—is often the home’s smallest room. Yet, if you measure its worth by the amount of traffic a room gets per square foot, the powder room could be the most high-priced space in your house. The powder room, while small, makes a big statement about you and your home.

Consider Your Guests

No other room in the house is seen by guests more often, with the possible exception of the kitchen. Because the powder room is for house guests, we put our best face on.

With easy guest access and privacy in mind I placed the powder room centrally in the 1200 square foot generation suite.

Doorways

Strictly speaking, the door to a powder room should open outward (like a closet door), but in many cases the door actually opens into the room. I will sing the door into a powder room when there is a possibility of the door interfering with another object or person. A door is more likely to hit someone in a corridor, because there is less space to move away from it than in a room. A door that swings outward provides the necessary space to turn around without first closing the door.

Pocket doors (doors that slide into the wall) allow full access without taking up clearance room for the swing. However, they can be difficult to use, mostly for children and the elderly.

I make double sure that doors do not collide with the vanity doors or drawers.

Because of the tight layout of most powder rooms, it’s important to evaluate whether the door should swing to the right or left. The door should not swing into mirrors or windows and should not interfere with coming or going.

Door Material

While wood doors are popular for interior use, they can swell or warp due to excessive moisture and humidity changes in the bathroom. Choose a metal or fiberglass door to avoid these issues.

Vanity

Left over from the days of wash bowls that sat on a commode (small chest), the standard vanity and bathroom sink is 30″ high … too low for most people to comfortably use with a recessed sink. Because the design calls for a vessel sink I am keeping the vanity height at 31″ with a thickness of 4″ to allow 27″ from finished floor clearance under. See Accessibility notes below.
A bulkhead drops 12″ from the ceiling providing a stopping point for the mirror, home for recessed lighting and to carry on a line at 7′ around the room.

Toilet (Water Closet)

Carefully planned and placed on the common wall between the powder room and the mud room. Why? To reduce the sound of flushing the people who are in the dining and living room hear.

Comfort Height Toilets

Toilets come in a variety of heights from 10″ to 19 1/8″ (measured from the bottom to the top of the rim, not including the seat).
The standard toilet is 14 1/2″ – 15 3/8″ high, which most people find too low to be comfortable.
Comfort Height or Smart Height toilets, are 16 1/2″ – 17 1/8″ in height, making it easier to sit down without falling, and stand up without putting stress on the knees.
The new Comfort Height or Smart Height toilets, are becoming more and more popular for use in the bathrooms, but should for sure be deemed a standard for use in the powder room. See Accessibility standards below.

A standard toilet with a round bowl is approximately 2 inches (5.08cm) shorter and easier to clean around than an elongated bowl. A wall-hung toilet gives additional floor place and makes cleaning the bathroom a breeze.

Storage

Because this is a power room used for the most part by guests we also have a place for women to set their bags – an empty countertop built-in with two open towel storage shelves over and hidden storage for plungers and toilet bowl cleaners below. This built-in uses the hollow space in the wall to gain space in the powder room.

The back wall hosts toilet paper as art storage by using the hollow wall space. You don’t want any red-faced guests going through the cabinets or seeking you out mid-party for a TP re-fill.

Mirrors/Art Work

Mirrors expand space in every direction, making the room appear larger. I have placed the usual mirror over the vanity and added a full length mirror for guests. The full length mirror is located to reflect the art and not the toilet.

Lighting

Powder rooms tend to be found in the inner part of a house, lacking windows or other sources of natural light. Where it is hard to add a skylight, window, or glass block wall, enough man-made lighting is key to a great design.

We plan to use recessed spot lighting, which is both easy on the eyes and has a low profile fitting of a small space. An effort to use energy wise lighting is part of the building brief.

Guide the way

Under-cabinet lights perhaps on motion sensors are perfect as night lights or mood lighting when the room is not being used, and can help guide guests who are not used to your home’s layout.

Ventilation

Even though moisture and condensation are generally not a concern in a powder room, good ventilation is important.

Accessible Bathrooms

Although this is not a client need I want to mention that the power room can be made accessible without much change.

If you are physically disabled, or if you have ever had to use crutches, you know first-hand, just how difficult it is to move in and around the typical bathroom.

It can be a plus in the resale of your home, as well as a godsend in the event you or a family member should become disabled.

Here is a brief synopsis of some design points to consider:

  • Doorways must be a minimum of 32 inches wide to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. I show a 32′ door.
  • Doors should swing out rather than in, with clearance on both sides. This is in case someone falls in the bathroom and blocks the doorway. But it also makes it easier for the disabled (or even someone on crutches!) to move easily into the room and close the door. The door is swung out but there is minimum clearances.
  • The threshold of the doorway should be even with the adjacent floor. This is a given.
  • Provide for an area large enough to hold a five-foot circle to allow a wheelchair 360-degree turn. This is also shown on the drawing.
  • Make sure a wheelchair can roll up to the sink with knee room underneath. If you are in a wheelchair, you need room for your knees under the sink. For this reason, the ADA mandates that the clearance beneath the sink be at least 27 inches high, 30 inches wide and 19 inches deep. These specifications are also met in the design.
  • Avoid hard-to-open latches and door handles. Consider using lever handles. I specify lever handles on all my projects.
  • Add accessible faucets, such as single-handle or lever type that do not require a strong grip to operate.
  • Make sure that lighting is bright when needed, but provide for a low-level alternative so that someone isn’t blinded by it in the middle of the night.
  • Provide wall-mounted grab bars both in the toilet area and in the tub and/or shower. Use “L” shaped, horizontal and/or vertical bars.
  • Be certain that all flooring materials are non-slip, including throw rugs.
  • Use door locks that can be opened from outside in case of emergency.
  • Toilets should be a height of either 16 ½ inches (used in residential construction) or 18 inches (used in commercial construction) to make it easier for someone in a wheelchair. (Measurement is without toilet seat) Those without disabilities often prefer them to traditional units because they are easier on the knees. In fact, they’re starting to become commonplace in washrooms. (a small stool placed somewhere near the toilet will make it more comfortable to use by children and those of shorter stature.)

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