Step 6 – Bathrooms

Step 6 – Bathrooms (PDF)
Step 6 – Bathrooms (Page 1)
Step 6 – Bathrooms (Page 2)
Step 6 – Bathrooms (Page 3)
Step 6 – Bathrooms (Page 4)

  • Meg

    A break from the editting gets my vote. Got any more ‘In Detail’ segments up your sleeve? I really enjoy them. Jamie’s a clever guy. If people are passing on his recipes his books are going to sell like hot cakes. His recipes work and I believe he is passionate and works hard to persuade people into their kitchens. I wonder what other examples of worthy campaigns dove-tailing with a hint of commercialism there are? I think it’s the way forward.

  • Grace

    Good morning, John. This section is as straight forward as was the bedroom checklist. I like the consideration of storage and counter space. Having double sinks often has no function beyond marketing.

    I was disappointed that the tub/shower issue was not raised. I think potential homeowners should think about whether they want a tub at all. Many people (my hunch is that men, teenagers, guests, and many women) never use a tub and would be better off with just showers. If a tub is used, it should be separate from the shower (who wants to take a bath on what serves as the floor of someone’s shower?). Like so much else in the fast home, the tub/shower combination is just expected to be there. But the tub and shower function differently and ought to be separate.

  • James Scott

    Great examples of not so great bathrooms. One thought, is there any attention being applied to accessibility.

    Or the idea of the bathroom being multi-function by including laundry? If we really want to be green, why not plan for the future when our mobility is hampered or by reducing the need for separate spaces such as laundry rooms.

  • David P


    Lots of detail in this section. I think the subject warrants the extra page required to cover all the examples. I would once again like to see some examples of good design as I think the contrast would help to drive home the point.

    On that note I have designed the main bathroom in my house where the sink area is separated from the toilet and tub/shower area. This only requires a little more space than a conventional family bathroom, but allows 2 people to access different parts of the room at the same time. I am thinking teenagers here.

    I would vote for the Thursday Friday off from the editing. There seems to be a natural break as we will complete the rooms section and I would also enjoy to get back to a regular session for a day or two.

  • Meg

    Just a quick thought on the icons. I remember that the icon for indoor / outdoor living made me think of moving indoors to outdoors or vice versa rather than being still indoors or outdoors. The bathroom icon just reminds me of doing the washing up. How about a shower faucet for an icon – although I can see that might not be fit to represent the downstairs loo. Maybe a collection of bath, sink, toilet would be good?

  • Dan


    I had the best intentions of commenting on most of these sections, but got caught behind last week, then kind of felt overwhelmed. Overall, I think that I like the general layout and content of each section. I would like to speak directly to two comments on this section.
    1) David P: I would also like to see good design examples.
    2) Meg: Totally agree on the icon, it reminds of an H1N1 poster. I know it would have been designed prior, but that is what it connotes for me now…


  • Jane

    John, I liked the examples in this section, again I can’t believe that a builder would not use space appropriately!!
    Is there ‘rules of thumb’ for spacing (leg space for toilets, standing room in front of sinks) that could be added in an appendix. Something along the line of comments made in the kitchen section and could also be included for stairs and hallways and doors (colliding geometry).
    Also regarding the comment about not having a tub in a house – are we not required in Canada to have 1 tub in a house? that is what I was told when we built 5 years ago – the dog uses it more than we do!!and for that reason only I would put one in the next house!!

  • John Brown


    I have also had a couple of emails suggesting a break in the editing over Thanksgiving. This seems to make sense.

  • John Brown

    Your post reminded me of the conversation we had several months ago (could it have been that long !) about the problems with sitting down in a bathtub that other people stand up in. I think Terri was also involved if my memory serves me.

    I think it is a consideration that is often overlooked and I am going to consider how to add it into the section – perhaps as a sentence or two in the narrative.

  • John Brown


    ACCESSIBILITY – ACCESSIBILITY – How could we have missed talking about that !

    Thank you so much.

    Laundry is tomorrow’s discussion and there is a pitfall about having too many laundry rooms. However, the idea of reducing environmental impact by combining it into a bathroom is also worth mentioning.

  • John Brown


    We are working on a strategy to bring good examples into the book as we speak.This is a critical piece that is missing. I think bathrooms would benefit greatly from a discussion of good design.

    I think you are right about taking a break from the editing and returning to the regular programming for a bit.

  • John Brown

    The first comment on the icons – thank you. In looking at the living icon I see your point and the bathroom one is certainly too limited.

  • John Brown

    I appreciate comments whenever they come. I fully appreciate how big a commitment this is for everyone participating and I can’t believe how many responses we are getting. Your help is very much valued and please don’t feel bad if you need to take a break for a few days. We will still be here when you get back.

  • John Brown


    You are right in observing that bathrooms, perhaps more than any other room in the house, is subject to strict ergonomic guidelines about distances, heights, etc. Including them in an appendix is a very good idea.

    I have not heard about the bathtub being a code issue in Canada. Perhaps one of the other people on the site know for sure. I will check into it and get back to you.

    However, I do know that conventional real estate resale wisdom calls for at least 1 bathtub – because of children and the fact that a significant number of people do like to take baths.

    A bathtub with shower is also less expensive to build than a stand alone shower because of the reduced cost for tile and the fact that you don’t need a glass enclosure or even a door.

  • Murray


    I am not convinced that this section needs the extra two pages. To me it puts an unnecessary focus on the bathroom at the expense of other rooms in the house – I’d rather see the extra pages devoted to a living room/great room section.

    You are dealing with the guest bath, the family bath, and the en-suite bath. I think that two examples of each are sufficient, and a number of your common pitfalls could be combined, either in the illustration or with the accompanying text. For example, re: the guest too small/guest too large examples (5 & 6) – pick one or the other; then in the text state something as simple as “The opposite case is also possible – the guest bathroom can be too large/small ….

    I think the main concerns for the guest bath are privacy and accessibility as you have stated – for the two examples, one could focus on the size issue, the other on the location issue. If the size issue is illustrated by a too large room then the location issue could use a too small room, or vice versa for the two examples.

    I may be wrong, but the too small family bath (7) is such an unusual example that I think it is unnecessary to state the obvious. As you write in your introduction there is a common family bathroom layout that is very effective.

    Similarly I think the example of too many bathrooms (9) is unnecessary because of its extreme nature. Facetiously, anyone who is interested in buying this house is not going to be interested in living slow.

    I would not include the special counter argument ;-). Rather I would use examples throughout that show too little surface area with the vanity and/or lack of storage and comment on this fact in the text.

    I would rather read a focused discussion on the assumed need for an en-suite bath and guest bath at the expense of good design, livability and the environmental footprint. Your examples (1 & 10) present issues well worth considering.

    A propos of the environment; I live in a rural setting and have a well and septic system. I am much more aware of my water usage and the vulnerability of my supply and services than I was when I lived in a city – maybe there could be space to discuss low-flo toilets, water heaters, etc.

  • Li-Na

    Jamie Oliver! Awesome! He’s the only chef whose shows I watch. He has the same passion for food and good cooking that you (John) have for slow homes. This enthusiasm is really infectious (Jamie got me interested in learning more about food when before I would just eat without really thinking much about it)! For those interested, Matt James is another person who demonstrates this energy, but in gardening and garden design.

    I don’t have much to say about this section, a good sign perhaps. I think the sample floorplans you’ve put together here are quite good and illustrate your points very well.

    John, there are a bunch of hyphens missing in certain words (e.g. well-designed) throughout your text so far. I don’t want to point them all out, perhaps you could just make a note to add them in at some point?

    I agree with the comments about the handwashing icon. Perhaps a side view of a simple showerhead with water sprinkling out of it might be a better representation of “bathroom”?

    A break at the end of the week sounds like a good idea to me. Do you have any new case studies up your sleeve? I always look forward to those. :-)

    Oh and John, since you mentioned your trip to Toronto, is there any chance of you making an appearance for a talk or something in Ottawa?

  • John Brown

    Very insightful commentary. Given what you have said about some of the specific examples I think I can now see how we can eliminate the extra page – particularly we eliminate the vanity inset. You are right it can probably be dealt with sufficiently as one common pitfall.

    Very useful and I really appreciate the time you have spent on the review.

  • John Brown

    Seeing Jamie was a real inspiration – as was the fact that about 2,000 people(rough estimate) showed up to see him on a Sunday afternoon in Roy Thomson Hall. It was almost entirely sold out.

    Thanks for the tip on Matt James. I had not come across him before. I think there is as strong a connection between gardening and homes as there is between food and homes.

    Since reading the comments today about the vote for a return to “regular” programming I have an idea about how to put a twist into the “What’s Wrong With This House” segment.

    We are preparing it for a Thursday launch!

    Once the book is launched I hope to have some sort of speaking tour. This would be exciting chance for me to meet some of the loyal slow home participants in person. Not exactly sure where and how yet but it would be great to go to Ottawa as part of it.

    I will obviously keep everyone informed as things progress.

  • jim baer



    why an extra page for this one, but not the other big, dense topics?

    thanks for recognizing u.s. thanksgiving. i have already stated to gear down.

    i am also for taking thursday and friday off from editing. it seems a natural place in the section to break and will give us a chance to refocus next week.

    when you mentioned a possible wwwth segment, it reminded me that as a young person my mother and i would go out on sunday afternoons and visit the open houses for new developments in the area. ( we lived in a suburb outside pittsburgh) often we would walk out of expensive new homes shaking our heads and commenting on all things that did not work or did not make sense! i guess i have been doing it for a lot longer than i realized!

  • John Brown

    What a lovely anecdote. Would you mind if I tried to incorporate it into the book somewhere (appropriately referenced of course).

    The reason for the extra page is, as usually happens, a result of circumstance. We originally had three separate sections (guest, family and ensuite). When we combined them into one we couldn’t bring ourselves to make the last round of cuts. Looking back you are correct that this seems odd – particularly in light of the comments today in which it is obvious that we have some overlap and extraneous information.

    As always, thanks for taking the time to do the markups.

  • Terri

    I like the idea of going back to an old favourite like WWWTH for a few days.

    On the topic of bathtubs, which Grace raised, I’m not really in agreement with her. I don’t feel grossed out by bathing on what she calls someone’s shower floor. Cleaning is cleaning, and I’d rather have to do just one fixture than two! (Obviously, it’s my job around here.) Combining the two seems efficient to me, though I’m sure there are lots of shower-only souls who would much rather have a space with a bench and so forth. There are trade-offs between cost and functionality, which pretty much sums up this section in general.

    As for the environmental argument, I find it’s not explained that well in your section. In the Introduction I wasn’t sure if you meant too many bathrooms was the environmental problem or the supersizing of the fixtures, or what. If we design a more functional bathroom with separate toilet, separate shower and tub, and a large vanity with two sinks, we haven’t really cut down on the number of fixtures, except the toilet.
    So I think we need to explain more the efficiency of those fixtures. For example, are soaker tubs necessary? I’m a bather, and I find them useless. If you’ve got a couple of low-flush toilets, maybe that’s okay. But if you’ve got one of those showers with multiple showerheads blasting away for more than five minutes…then you’re obviously not caring much about water consumption or the electricity needed to heat it. I’m getting into a bit of a rant here. Enough said.

    As an editorial note, Li-Na said that well designed needs a hyphen in all cases. This isn’t exactly correct. If the noun follows the term, then the hypen is needed; if not, it is not needed. For example, you can say that a bathroom is well designed, but if you say the house has a well-designed bathroom, the hyphen is inserted. (Someone–was it Elizabeth?– earlier explained the the insertion of hyphens in adjectives modifying a noun, so I’m probably just repeating information that you’ve already digested. Sorry!)

  • Terri

    Did my earlier jpg files not come through? They seem to have become lost, as I posted them before the comment above.

  • jim baer


    i would be tickled and honored if you included my anecdote. my mom would get a kick out of it too!

  • Terri


    Okay, I went away and came back and I see that the earlier post is missing, so I’ll try again. I haven’t posted pp126/7 as there were only a couple of corrections suggested on them.

    Like Jim, I’ve lived a version of WWWTH for a lot of my life too. I moved frequently for a decade, sometimes changing cities, but no matter where I went I seemed to find myself mentally re-desigining the space to function better. Unfortunately this habit hasn’t entirely been quenched by home ownership either. Slow Home’s WWWTH feeds my addiction and was the first segment I discovered here.

  • Jim X

    Hi John

    I have a couple of comments about size. Of course supersizing is bad because it leads to space in awkward places and space where it is not really needed. However it can lead to a kind of Scrooge-like use of space, where only the bare minimum is provided. I want to promote a bit more generous use of space. Rather than the minimum space around a bed for example, a bit more space is a sign of generosity.
    Another comment on size: Some people are over six feet tall and a king-size bed means the ability to stretch out. Small bathtubs also mean folding up like an accordian to take a bath.
    The bad examples of bathrooms are really good.
    Finally, I think there should be some mention of a bathroom on the first floor of a two storey house. There is an example in common pitfalls on p127, but I think some attention should be given to the special problems of these pocket bathrooms. For example finding a spot not exposed to other people or embarassing views from the buffet table for example..
    I vote for Thursday and Friday off. It seems like a natural place to pause, and think about how Thanksgiving is related to generosity.

    Jim X

  • Murray

    Hi Terri,

    I hope you get this. You must be printing off the pages to write on them, right? If so, you could cut the double page spread in two and scan each page separately so that we can read them upright. Jim Baer’s submissions made me think of this.I would like to read all your valuable comments and edits – with my head turned sideways they can just fall in one ear and out the other!

    In no way is this a criticism – just a suggestion, if it helps.

  • Terri


    Hi Murray,

    That’s all I need to do? I thought maybe you guys had better scanner software or something. I’ll repost the very last two pages, then, as they’re the ones where I put the most comments.(Hope they’re worth it!) The comment on the top of the Where Have All The Counters Gone? was just suggesting an intro to those plans, so you can ignore it anyway.

  • John Brown

    I appreciate the suggestion to increase the environmental content in the section. It is interesting because bathrooms are actually one of the most environmentally wasteful of rooms. Perhaps I just took too much for granted.

    If I ever thought architecture was complicated all I needed to do was read the explanation about hyphens. I have obviously never given them enough consideration. Thanks to all those contributed for the lesson.

  • John Brown

    As someone who is 6’3″ I completely understand and appreciate where you are coming from with the size question. Bathtubs and beds can be as frustrating as airplane seats. Super sizing is a bit different but it should not naturally lead to only minimal standards. Slow food talks about Tempo Giusto (the “right speed”). Sometimes things should be fast when they need to be fast and slow when they should be slow. I think we could say the same thing about size – sometimes big sometimes small – depending on what is appropriate.

    This is beginning to sound like something I should probably include somewhere in the book – right?

  • John Brown

    Murray and Jim,

    Thanks for the technical advice and innovation. I was also wondering how that was being done.

  • Elizabeth


    Hiya John,

    There’s alot more to say about bathrooms than bedrooms!

    Cranky scanner, so here are comments for page 1:

    Standard bathrm layout: Great! Let’s see it!
    Stand up shower: isn’t that the norm? Have I been doing it wrong?
    Master bath: consider whether you need one. GREAT POINT!

    Point 1: The family bathroom is close to bedrooms IN A PRIVATE AREA.

    ROT in general: parallel structure in bullets needs to be reviewed in all.

    Again, I’ve looked at the Intro section, and there’s a lot of repetition here about fast houses being wasteful in each of family, master and guest bathrooms. Also, vague phrases like “not well designed” need more explanation.

    I’d suggest covering the fast house issues up front, then adding more meat to the discussion of the 3 types of bathrooms, and I think you’ll have more room for that once the repetition is gone. Something like:

    The number of bathrooms in a house is a traditional real-estate metric. In a fast house, the more bathrooms there are, the better. But a fast-house bathroom is wasteful: it wastes floor space by being too large or by creating unusable areas; it wastes natural resources by using supersized fixtures and too much water; and it wastes our time and energy by being inefficient.

    Most family bathrooms use a standard layout that is usually efficient and acceptable. Replacing a standard layout or adding features like a separate shower, extended vanity, or enclosed toilet room can elevate the functionality of the family bathroom, if it’s designed well.

    Not all houses require master bathrooms. In fact in a smaller house they can, proportionally, take up too much valuable space. In a small home, it is often much better to have one larger really functional bathroom and concentrate the budget and space to other areas of the house.

    Similarly, a house may not require a guest bathroom. If it does, an ideal guest bathroom is compact and located in an area that has a good balance of privacy and accessibility.

    re: soaker tubs. A friend had one and said that often, by the time the dang thing filled up, she’d fallen asleep!

    Thanks again for this opportunity!

  • John Brown

    Great comments. I particularly like the observation about “stand up showers” – you are right – it makes absolutely no sense but we use it every day with our clients in the office and in 15 years not one person has ever pointed out how absurd it is. There is something in here about emperors and clothes.

    I really appreciate the specificity of your observations. They are most helpful.

  • MichaelG

    I do think it would be beneficial to comment on combined laundry/family bathroom. Perhaps in the next section? There are a lot of plumbing redundancies with separate rooms, and of course the opportunity costs with that space.
    Bathrooms in general are a great place to focus on improving environmental impact. I do hope there will be more on that in another section.

  • John Brown

    It is good to hear from you.

    Unfortunately the idea of including something about a combined laundry/family bathroom had not emerged before today. As you say the plumbing redundancies are important as well as the opportunity to either reapportion space or reduce the overall size of the home.

  • Elizabeth

    Don’t worry John, you always have clothes on in your videos! Just a little industry jargon slipped under the radar!

  • BradW


    Does the scope of your book include design build issues like the aforementioned shared plumbing, standard dimensions to reduce construction waste, materials, green technologies, etc.? These are some of many enivronment factors which could be considered in a new build or a renovation but may well be beyond the scope of your book.

  • MichaelG

    BradW, I was thinking that too. Perhaps this is outside the scope.

    John, if its ready, maybe it will help to share your introduction to the book??

  • John Brown

    To maintain some kind of focus and limit size, it is currently not planned that the book will engage construction issues. For the most part these are already being done by other books, tv shows, websites, etc. We want to really focus on design issues. With that said, however, the consolidation of plumbing and functions is a design detail and I hope that we are able to find a place for it in the book. We are still trying to decide how to talk about new build versus renovation without things getting too out of control.

  • John Brown

    At this point the introduction is still in too rough a stage for me to release it. I wanted to leave it open until after the group had had a chance to see, discuss, criticize, etc. the checklist that is at the core of the book.

    I hope to have the intro. firmed up by Christmas, however.

  • Li-Na

    Terri, thanks for pinning me down on my rambling regarding the blasted hyphens! :-) You are right of course, and I had not meant to imply that all occurrences of “well(-)designed” needed a hyphen. I just grabbed at the first example I could think of. ;-) Apologies.