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Midcoast Maine – May 2014


A tale of three bathrooms


When I was a kid, we – three boys, two girls, my parents, and a baby girl – lived in a three-bedroom house in Southern California. One standard-issue bathroom served the whole family, and no one ever thought this was a hardship. These days, “standard issue” means a well-appointed chamber (en suite, of course), and the idea of sharing a bathroom with someone else is a nonstarter. Not only do homes have more bathrooms these days, but when you’re building or renovating a bath, choosing from thousands of fixtures, materials, and design features can make your head spin.

My current project, Sea Cove Cottage, is a small Shingle-style Victorian cottage in a seaside village in Maine. The house is 1,300 square feet on two floors, built from kit parts in 1905. Originally, it had just one bathroom, a 5’ x 7.5’ chamber on the second floor with a sink, toilet, and claw-foot tub.

Design professionals I’ve worked with say the best projects use constraints of time space and money to their advantage. In an ideal world, we would have added a second bathroom on the second floor, but that would have meant more time and money and sacrificing the third bedroom. Instead, we took over a big closet and worked in a shower and small laundry. Compact, but functional.

A later owner removed the dangerously steep cellar stairs from the first floor to the basement and inserted a tiny powder room. We’re using the same maple flooring as elsewhere, painted wood paneled walls, and sparse but elegant fixtures.

The bath in the garden level suite we created out of the damp basement is small on a tight but adequate footprint. Our concession to the head-scraping ceilings was a claw foot slipper tub with a hand spray.

A bathroom is a workspace; you use it to perform necessary hygienic tasks. Accepting the constraints of time, space, and money will help you design the best bathroom possible in your home.