Your bath: room for storage and luxuries - in the same space

Close to 6 million existing homes will get new or renovated bathrooms in 1984 . Of those, according to experts, 5 million will have done little more than perpetuate their problems. And that's after homeowners have spent from $1,000 to

The real problems in nearly all bathrooms today are storage and space: storage for towels, washcloths, linens, cleaning materials; space to eliminate bumping knees and elbows, to provide room for a hamper or maybe a sauna or such amenities as plants and decor items. The list can go on and on.

What many homeowners fail to realize is that the bathroom, like the kitchen, requires thoughtful and imaginative space planning. Even the ones who should know this, the professionals in the field, don't seem to have grasped it yet.

So what we get are new colored fixtures, maybe a new cabinet that fits between the studs, and perhaps a vanity cabinet that does little more than support the lavatory and hide the plumbing. But fine as these new products might be, they don't even begin to get at the real problems of storage and space.

So let's consider some of the things you might do to really remodel the bathroom.

First, consider the layout of the typical 6x8-foot bathroom. The builder will have framed the door about 6 inches from a corner so that its inward swing will allow room for either the toilet or washbasin near the other corner while the tub will be on the far wall. The door, only 6 inches from the corner, forbids any cabinetry along the empty wall, which is empty all the way to the tub because the cabinets would be 9 to 12 inches deep.

The solution: First, reframe the doorway, from a 30-inch door to 24 inches, making it 12 inches from the corner; then rehinge the door to swing out. Replace the 6-foot tub with a 5-foot tub at the far end, permitting a run of wall cabinets along the entire wall.

This gives you 62 cubic feet of storage space along that wall (allowing 2 cubic feet of dead space at the end of the tub where you also might put a planter with grow lights above.)

This wall of cabinets, of course, can be a cabinet system which is fashioned of standard kitchen wall cabinets, alternating with shelves.

Replace the recessed cabinet over the washbasin with a surface-mounted cabinet by Allibert (French), or the ultimate, Poggenpohl (German), for super space with multiple mirrors.

What you will have gained is a bathroom that is both functional and beautiful , with more storage space than you ever dreamed of - and in the same space! And, with all of that storage space in the wall system, you can afford the luxury of one of the newest bathroom fixtures, an old-fashioned pedestal washbasin, because you no longer will need a vanity cabinet.

But how can you add space to a room whose dimensions were predetermined by some unknown builder?

It's often easier than you think. Frequently, for example, an adjacent room will be a bedroom with a big walk-in closet next to the bathroom. The closet is great, but might you like all that space better in the bathroom? It usually can be made up by construction of closet space elsewhere in the room or by a wardrobe closet. So open your thought to ''borrowing'' space from adjacent rooms.

In the 1980s, with shrinking families, homeowners find themselves with entire bedrooms that are often unused. Some of them opt to change these over entirely to bathroom/fitness centers. It's an idea whose time is definitely here and is far better than a wasted empty room. It often requires only the removal of part of a wall.

For fine American bathroom cabinetry, look in the Yellow Pages for the dealers of Rutt, Wood-Mode, Quaker Maid, and Rich Maid. Such manufacturers will be among the most skilled at helping you design bathroom space, and they will be up to date with current products and materials.

Other products and materials to be aware of include cultured marble vanity tops and counters with integral basins (all one piece), which can be bought in stock sizes or ordered to fit your space. This material is much better than it was some years ago - and it's beautiful.

Corian is different in that it is workable with woodworking tools. It also can be bought to fit your space, with integral basin.

Fiber-glass for the tub/shower, instead of cast iron or steel, has the advantage of soap dishes, grab bars, and even seats that are molded in. Also, the matching covering for the walls can either be all one piece or three pieces. But get the best quality or you might be disappointed.

Tubs come in all sizes and shapes, with built-in whirlpools available even in the smaller tubs. You can also buy simple steam generators to convert your tub or shower into a steam bath, but you will have to add glass doors and furring above to close it in.

The finer kitchen dealerships carry foreign-made fixtures, basins, and faucets. These are not necessarily better, but they definitely are different. Some foreign accessories, such as mirrors, are almost like jewelry - and priced as if they were, too.

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