Some myths about bathroom design just don’t seem to die. People subscribe to them out of habit, if nothing else. But don’t let your bathroom project be hobbled by a lot of obsolete thinking. Like this:
• Myth: Bathrooms should be planned back to back, so that they can share piping and therefore save on plumbing costs. Fact: Bathrooms should be planned to produce good bathrooms. If they happen to end up being back-to-back, all the better, but there’s no sense constraining your design for the sake of a few extra feet of pipe. If it makes more functional sense to separate your bathrooms, then go ahead, knock yourself out.
• Myth: Bathroom counters should be 32 inches high. Fact: Thirty-two inches is the perfect height if you’re the mayor of Munchkinland. For nearly everybody else, it’s much too low for comfortable washing, brushing, or anything else. Ignore this silly so-called standard, and feel free to make your counters any height that suits you. If you’re comfortable working at your kitchen counter, for example (typically 36 about inches high), there’s no law against using the same height for your bathroom vanity. You’ll eliminate a lot of stooping and backaches if you do.
• Myth: A ceiling-mounted exhaust fan is the best way to ventilate your bathroom. Fact: It may be the cheapest way, but it’s far from the best. The vast majority of exhaust fans on the market are droning, incefficient pieces of dreck that are just barely better than no fan at all. If you want good ventilation without the ear-splitting whine, consider using a small remote-mounted axial unit that installs in the attic or on the rooftop and is ducted down to the ceiling. It’ll be quieter, more accessible, and more powerful than the cruddy plastic variety.
• Myth: A pedestal sink is the best choice for a small bathroom. Fact: Current design fads notwithstanding, a sink in a well-designed vanity cabinet will not only provide far more usable countertop area, but also a good bit of storage below--a feature that’s even more important in a small bathroom than in a large one.
• Myth: The best time to figure out where toilet paper holders and towel bars go is when you’re almost done, and you can see what you’ve got to work with. Fact: This is why pencil and paper were invented--to figure out such things ahead of time. You should know exactly where every towel bar, toilet paper holder, and robe hook is going to be installed long before you ever pick up a hammer. Fail to do so, and you may end up with a toilet paper holder screwed to the side of your bathtub.
• Myth: The best place for a bathroom lighting fixture is directly over the sink. Fact: This is another silly architectural custom that simply won’t die, though it sure deserves to. Having a single light source centered over the sink guarantees that no matter how you turn your head, some part of your face will always be exasperatingly in shadow. Take a tip from from the arrangement Hollywood makeup pros have used since the 1920s--place the lighting on either side of the sink, roughly level with your face, and not above it. It’s the only way to get even, shadow-free lighting and banish the Boris Karloff effect.