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Bathroom Remodeling

Bathroom Design & Layout Tips

By September 21, 2022No Comments
bathroom after remodel with large walk in shower

As a local home remodeler who focuses on larger scale, design-thoughtful remodeling projects (think whole home remodels, kitchen remodels, basement remodels, etc.), we don’t work on Powder Rooms or Guest Bathrooms as standalone remodeling projects. However, many of the projects we undertake include bathroom remodeling  – sometimes all of the bathrooms in one home!  We know there are always lots of questions when it comes to bathroom design, trends and layouts so, with that in mind, here are a few pointers on some of the things you might want to consider when it comes time to update your bathroom.

Ditch the Pedestal Sink

This is a personal one for me. Having grown up in Europe where space is at a premium, it is baffling to me why so many homes there still persist with pedestal sinks in the primary bathroom. Why, oh why, oh why? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the look I take issue with, it’s the complete impracticality of it. There is simply nowhere to put your everyday bathroom essentials. Every property show I watch (looking at you, U.K.) seems to still have a pedestal sink in the main bathroom – and invariably to the right or left there are toothbrushes, makeup bags and toilet paper stacked along window ledges or on the floor.

bathroom with dark blue tiles

Case in point. Pedestal sinks in the primary bathroom ALWAYS result in everyday items ending up on the other surfaces including window ledges. Image Credit: Property News NI

Forget the pedestal sink. Go with a vanity that has at least one drawer or storage compartment instead. Got a small space or remodeling a powder room? It doesn’t matter. Vanities come in all shapes and sizes and can actually create the illusion of a bigger bathroom. The example below shows you how it’s done!

small bathroom before remodel


small remodeled bathroom


Tubs are optional

This is a trend we’ve talked about for some time: you don’t have to have a tub in the primary bathroom. A lot of the clients we work with want to put the space to better use and get rid of the tub to create a large shower enclosure instead. Many of the homes in this area were built around the same time and, as a result, we see a lot of large, oversized platform tubs in bathrooms. This is definitely a bathroom design trend that is dated. But! Got room for both? Then go for it and create a sanctuary with a free-standing soaking tub that just shouts “luxe”. 

The bathroom below was designed with universal design considerations in mind. The large oversized tub was removed and this gorgeous curbless shower enclosure now fills the same space.  See more of this home remodel here.

Reston, VA


Reston, VA


Tub Enclosure Considerations

From a resale standpoint, although tubs are no longer expected in primary bathrooms, there is still a place (and a need) for them somewhere in the home. If you are remodeling a bathroom that includes a shower/tub combo, a decision needs to be made about a shower curtain or shower doors. There is no right answer, but many of our clients decide to go with a clear glass shower door vs a shower curtain for a more updated look. Although it will cost more to add glass doors, it does have the added advantage it also creates an optical illusion of a bigger space.

guest bathroom before model


bathroom after remodel with modern countertops


I lived in Japan many years ago and there is one design style that really stood out to me in terms of practicality – the small, deep soaking tub. If space is tight, it’s a great idea to solve the shower/tub combo issue. Although this might be too “out there” for some homeowners in NOVA, it’s a great solution when you don’t have room for a regular sized tub but you really love a good soak.

bathroom after remodel with black and grey tiles

Image Credit: SchappacherWhite Architecture D.P.C

Bathroom Plumbing & Clearance 

Not happy with the layout of your bathroom? If you are planning to remodel, additional cost may be incurred if you want to reconfigure the location of any plumbing fixtures in your current space. The most common bathroom design (especially in smaller guest or kids bathrooms) is to have most of the fixtures along one wall. This is so they are located where they can all be served from the same source for water and drainage. Changing that configuration may require moving or adding plumbing lines and thus increase the cost.

When it comes to safety, don’t forget to check space recommendations and local code requirements. Many are silent on the issue of clearance, but the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recommends 21” of clear space in front of a toilet at a minimum but the preference is 30”. When it comes to universal design, the recommendation is 48” to allow room for wheelchairs and walkers. There are many different types of toilet to pick from these days, so another point of note is that elongated toilets add an additional 2” to 3” inches to your calculations.

When it comes to other clearance issues, here’s a helpful guide:

  • Minimum clearance to the side of the toilet (to nearest side wall, partition or fixture): Minimum of 15”, recommended 18”
  • Bathroom double basin placement: 36” apart
  • Bathroom counter placement from front obstruction: minimum of 21”, recommended 30”
  • Bathroom sink distance from the wall: minimum of 15”, recommended 20”

Recommendations have changed over the years, so you may own an older home with less than these recommended clearances, but keep this guidance in mind when you are remodeling.

In this beautiful primary bathroom remodel in Reston, there was lots of square footage to play with but the shower was cramped into a small corner by a partition wall and it was just too small for the tall homeowner (not to mention the shower door opened directly onto the toilet).  We reconfigured the space, moved the toilet and created a gorgeous large frameless shower with a built-in bench instead.

ceiling shot of master bathroom before remodel


bathroom with two sinks and walk in shower after remodel


Walls and Bulkheads 

This is another one we often see in homes: “fake” walls or bulkheads that don’t serve any purpose other than reducing space so a bathtub or shower fits (or, in the case of kitchens, bulkheads are created to make upper cabinets “fit”). There may be valuable square footage hiding behind them! Of course, walls or bulkheads may also be hiding ductwork or electrical wiring, so never take them down without undertaking a little “exploratory surgery” first to see what lies beneath. We do this before we start work on any home remodel so we are prepared for what we need to do if there is hidden ductwork. 

Unlike the reality TV shows, there should never be a “we opened up the walls and found ductwork/it’s load bearing/insert issue here and it’s going to cost you another $10,000 to fix.” Any reputable home remodeling company will take steps ahead of time to try to mitigate any “surprises” behind walls.

In this next example of another bathroom remodel in Reston, a bulkhead and load bearing wall had been added to fit around the shower. We removed the both and created a much larger space for this beautiful shower enclosure instead. These clients also elected to go tub-free, moved the location of the toilet and made space for a gorgeous double vanity instead.

image of dated walk in shower before remodel


bathroom sink and walk in shower after remodel


Looking for more bathroom remodeling tips? Read this! 

Learn more about our full service design-build home remodeling experience here!

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