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Kitchen and Bath Solutions

By Barbara Schmidt

As a designer, I am frequently asked for advice or tips on updating residential interiors. The rooms people want to update most often are their kitchens and bathrooms. This makes sense because kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms that everyone in the family uses … every day. These high-traffic rooms often become run-down and dated quicker than other rooms in the house.

A Bathroom Built For Two

Most of us can imagine our own glorious bathroom if space and cost were no object. We’d have our own private sanctuary where we could escape from the rest of the harried world. In reality, however, many of us have a small bathroom that we share with a spouse or other family members. Nothing shatters the dream of respite faster than toothpaste globs at the bottom of the sink, crusty medicine cabinets and collections of scummy shampoo bottles.

Creating a comfortable, functional bath that accommodates two isn't as difficult as you might think. All it takes is some smart planning and a little creativity. Here are some tips for designing or remodeling your shared bathroom space to make it work for both of you. While some of these ideas require building or remodeling, which often involves significant time and expense, others can be implemented easily and inexpensively.

Double Up

The key to keeping the peace in a shared bathroom is to offer each user individual space and features whenever possible. If space and budget permit, double up on the following:

* Sinks -- Installing two sinks is a simple way to keep the peace, allowing you to brush your teeth while your partner shaves. For added comfort, install the sinks at different elevations to accommodate your individual heights. If installing two sinks is not an option, make sure the height of the fixture is comfortable for both of you. Many manufacturers now make sinks and toilets in various heights to meet the needs of different users. American Standard, for example, offers many sinks in their exclusive Right Height design. The sinks are a little taller, so bending over to brush your teeth or wash your face is more comfortable.

* Toiletries -- We all like our brand of shampoo and toothpaste. Don’t force a compromise, just buy two of the things you find frustrating to share and make sure you have enough storage space to keep everything tidy. Keep only the items you use daily in the medicine chest and store occasional-use items in the linen closet or bedroom. Compartmentalized plastic caddies make it easy to quickly retrieve these items and transport them to the bath.

* Showerheads -- Add a second showerhead opposite the original to transform a simple shower into a spa experience. A second showerhead adds a more rejuvenating steam and can keep you both warm in a shared shower.

Share and Share Alike

Of course, you can’t have two of everything in a shared bath. So add some luxuries to make sharing easier and more comfortable.

* Whirlpool à Deux -- Install a whirlpool tub that’s big enough for both of you to enjoy … alone or together.

* Multi-media -- Add a built-in stereo with auto settings for both. Separate CDs into your own private collections. Install a television with picture-in-picture so you can both keep an eye your favorite programs while getting ready for the day.

* Refreshers -- Consider installing a small refrigerator to keep juices on hand or wine chilled for a relaxing bath. Also, add a double-carafe coffee maker for brewing both your favorite blends in the morning.

Separate Spaces

If space permits, include separate areas for privacy in a shared bath including:

* Separate rooms for the toilet or bidet to provide privacy while allowing both to use the bathroom at the same time.

* A private steam room or sauna for absolute privacy and relaxation.

Two Styles … One Bathroom

Make sure that both of your tastes are represented in the design and décor of the room.

* Create a board of the colors and fabrics of your design ahead of time so you can both visualize and agree on the direction.

*Compromise on the little things, but make sure that you are both happy with the major features of the room, like fixtures and tile.

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