Ensuite – Part 2

  • Meg

    My favourite configuration today was the one which had a seperate wet zone and a seperate toilet zone (attached). The long wall on the wet zone would give plenty of room for hanging towels to dry, the vanity floor area wouldn’t be wet after a shower or bath, someone can use the loo seperately etc. May if not all of the points on my checklist could be accommodated with this configuration.

    If there was room I would bring the wall with the entrance down making the room wider and have storage in the vanity and toilet zone and a bench in the wet zone.


  • Brad W

    Why do you need a tub in the master ensuite? I would much rather have a large shower.

    In Meg’s design above, an improvement would be extend the shower across the entire left wall.

    A builtin bench or seat in the shower is a nice option and I agree with Meg that adequate wall space is required for towels. Finally, natural light is another nice to have option whether thru a normal window or a skylight. A venting skylight above the shower can be a particularly nice option.

  • Brad W

    The master bath is also the area where, if cost permits, to go luxe with the tile and hardware.

    To appeal to the green movement, install a water efficient toilet and shower system. Multiple shower heads are not necessary and use alot of water. Solar powered water heating or tankless water heating systems can be retrofit. Instead of a custom vanity, consider reusing a vintage cabinet or mid-century sideboard.

  • Brad W

    One last thing, if possible, arrange the plumbing to GUARANTEE water pressure and temperature control. When multiple people are using the bathrooms in the morning, that truly is a luxury.

  • Paul C

    Placing vanities adjacent to bath tubs is something I would try to steer away from. In my opinion, it tends to visually narrow the access into the tub and potentially subjects the side of the vanity cabinet to moisture concerns. If it’s a must, I would suggest leaving a space between the vanity and the tub and/or consider an open below the sink type of vanity. Also, proper ventilation is an absolute must especially when closets are in close proximity to areas which can create a lot of airborne moisture.

    In the smaller spaces I would suggest employing techniques that help emphasize the overall space by emphasizing the outer elements if you will(the floor, walls and ceiling) For example, having a wall hung vanity as opposed to floor mounted provides a more open feel to a smaller space.

  • Terri

    I for one must have a tub in the ensuite. I believe that if more people soaked themselves once in a while they wouldn’t have any need for massage therapy or those wasteful multiple nozzles in the shower. That said though, I don’t think it’s necessary to have a soaker tub, only a six-foot long one with a slanted end such as was the case with the original bathtub–the clawfoot.
    Huge tiled platforms around a tub are usually wasted space. A couple of well-placed built-in shelves in the tilework (tilers hate them, mind you!) are sufficient and use the internal wall space, providing more space generally.

    I agree with all of your other points, however.
    -Multiple shower nozzles do waste water. I’ve only used a couple of showers with such features, and both didn’t offer the option of turning off any of the extra nozzles. (Perhaps there are sophisticated set-ups where one can do this?)
    -Hanging out towels is important (and having those racks near the bathing/showering area is too).
    -Also important are GOOD ventilation and natural light. I’ve had an opening skylight in one of my ensuites and it was very nice. I don’t know if it eventually had leakage issues, though.

    I agree with John that double sinks are less necessary than double the cabinet space. Separating the three zones would be ideal, but when space is limited the combo shower/bathtub is sufficient whereas the 30-inch vanity is most definitely not.

  • Terri

    Paul- I saw your posting after putting up mine. I agree that the woodwork shouldn’t be placed near the tub. I think that’s why the original 5 x 8 bathroom that John displayed shows the toilet next to the tub.

  • Grace

    I’m with you on the tub, Terri. And I’d much rather have one sink and two sets of drawers than vice versa.

    Basically, it seems that rectangles rule over squares, when it comes to efficient bathrooms.

  • Doug Roberts

    It was only a few years ago that I discovered the benefits of handheld showerheads when it comes to rinsing tubs after than have been used or cleaned and showers after they have been cleaned (and I apologize if I seem more fixated on design issues associated with cleaning ensuite bathrooms than with using them). I never had the benefit of a handheld showerhead until we renovated a master bathroom a few years ago and bought one for both the clawfoot tub and the separate shower, and now I could not imagine how I managed without one. Having said that, if your bathroom has a built-in tub that is not also a shower, then I am not sure what you would do with the hose, as I wouldn’t want it to hang inside the tub when you are bathing, but there wouldn’t really be anywhere else to put it. For that reason, I think that a well-designed ensuite bathroom should either have a free-standing tub with its own handheld showerhead or a built-in tub that is within reach of the shower’s handheld showerhead.

  • Grace

    Doug Roberts–Yes! those handhelds are great. I splurged on one for my tub and wouldn’t be without it. You can get one with the hose that pulls out from the top of the tub, so there’s no dangling problem. It’s perfect for cleaning the tub, but also for tub shampoos, etc.

  • Terri

    I agree with the handheld shower nozzle. Our ensuite shower has one. In the past I found that using one in a bathtub could eliminate the need for whirlpool jets too.

    Now I’m going to have to install one of those units in my tub, Grace, so I can stop kneeling so much!

  • CL

    I agree with Brad. No tub unless it’s going to be used. John, I’m curious to know if when designing a “slow home” one needs to be concerned with what the next owners of the home might want in mind… eg. a tub that will not be used by existing home owners? Or do we just design for the existing home owners needs?

  • Tina

    In a multi-generational household, it’s nice to have the soaking tub in bathroom other than the master ensuite. This gives all members of the household access without feeling that they’re invading personal space. I wish my tub was insulated or heated – so I could soak longer without the water getting cold!

  • MichaelG

    Regarding wet rooms, I live in Japan and the standard design in almost all bathrooms is a shower/bath wetroom. Generally there is only one of them per house, only really high end apartments will have more than one bathroom. But they have the wetroom concept nailed down, and its an ideal concept to borrow for a western ensuite. I’ve attached an example of floorplan and pictures. This a basic example, obviously it would be nicer with some windows for light and ventilation.

    As a bit of background info, baths are a daily routine here. The shower area of the wetroom usually has a little stool that you sit on to use the handheld shower to wash yourself, and then jump into the bath for a soak. Its a routine from the communal bath/onsen times.
    Because you are clean before jumping into the bath, the whole family can use the same bath water. Modern tubs have a hot water system that can cycle the water out of the bath, heat it up again to your set temperature, and pump the heated water back into the tub. Imagine the possibilities if that is integrated with a solar hot water system. I’m sure people here are doing it. That way you can use the same water for 2 or three days, and to take the reuse concept even further, we can then pull that water out into the washing machine for the first wash cycle…


  • Terri

    MichaelG–The recycling setup you describe is the epitome of a slow home, IMHO.

  • MichaelG

    Terri- Absolutely, its why I felt like I needed to mention it on this site.

  • Tim

    John, this is my first time contributing to your site. I have been a long time follower and like the way it is evolving. Great work!

    My partner and I purchased a 3 bedroom 1965 bungalow in Calgary about a year and a half ago. As an alternative to an apartment style condo, we wanted the convenience of single level living with the benefits of a yard, garage and storage that a house affords.

    We converted the standard 3 bedrooms and boring 5×9 bath into a luxurious master, en suite and sun room along the south side of the home. Have a look at our result.


  • James Scott

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned was the comparison between lets say a younger family with a few kids to that of seniors or retirees. We all tended to our children as they took baths but now that they are growing and becoming more independent they take showers. For the rest of us it’s rare that we take the time for a bath.

    Many of my friends have pools and/or spas. I’d love a Japanese soaking tub, ofuru I think they are called.

    And what about seniors, what are our bathing habits as we age? Do we need a bath or is a shower adequate or preferred?

    I think the debate on to have a bath or not is important.

  • MichaelG

    I think I remember John saying that the family bath will be another week?
    For ensuites, I guess its personal preference of the owners. My wife is Japanese, and has a bath every day so I’d definitely like one in my ensuite. If it was just me though, I’d prefer a large shower as I don’t often have bath.
    And Ofuro is the Japanese equivalent of bath. Not just the soaking tubs branded as ofuro in the west, but bath in general.

  • James Scott

    MichaelG – thanks for the insights. I learned something today.

    And as always a great discussion everyone.

    Interesting thought as my wife and I were watching the movie ‘Outsourced’ last night. We feel there definitely is room for more Asian influence in North American home design. Taking that a bit farther it would interesting to read what others feel the contributing culture(s) would be to their ideal home.

  • Anonymous

    One consideration that has not come up is that a family with a new baby also has a different requirement. My last house had a double sink but there was about 3′ between the two sinks. With a few towels for padding, it made a perfect baby changing spot. The drawers with supplies and daipers were directly below it so everything was convenient.

    As the children aged, there was a neutral spot for shared items. Unfortunately this was mostly a towel laid flat for hand drying but at least it stopped the usual childrens hand shaking spray all over the mirrors as the towel racks were poorly placed.

    Towel racks are another common screwup in bathrooms. They never seem to be in a place where you can use them after washing without dripping water all over. Kids would rather not wash their hands than get yelled at for spraying/dripping water all over. Not what we want to encourage.