Did you grow up in a family that had to stand in line to use the bathroom? Have you ever wished that your nearest bathroom was closer to the door? Do you want to keep nosy guests out of your medicine cabinet?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should add a powder room to your home. Nearly every home has space for adding a powder room. Ingenious powder room designs not only make the most of available space, they can also accommodate the needs of family and guests alike.
What is a powder room? A powder room is a bathroom without the fixtures for a bath or shower. That’s the reason powder rooms are also known as half-baths.
Strictly speaking, a powder room only requires a sink and a toilet. It is place for a quick visit to the “facilities” or a place to “freshen up.” But powder rooms can also display refined interior design.
How can I know that I have room for a powder room?
There are a few basic requirements for the design of every powder room. These numbers come from the International Residential Code, but most building codes will be similar.
- The centerline of the toilet must be at least 15 inches from the nearest wall.
- There must be at least 21 inches of clearance in front of the toilet.
- The minimum headroom is 7 feet.
- The door must be at least 32 inches wide.
- The powder room should cover 25 square feet of floor space, although there are designs that fit into as little as 11 square feet.
- Every powder room must be ventilated by either a window that opens or a fan. The window must be at 3 square feet, of which 1-1/2 square feet can be opened to let fresh air in. If there is no window, a fan that provides at least 50 cubic feet per minute of ventilation is an acceptable substitute.
Most building codes don’t say anything about doors. Doors can swing either in or out. A door that swings in offers more privacy.
A door that swings out offers less privacy but the chances of an occupant’s falling to the floor and wedging the door shut is minimized. If fall-prone or very large people will be the main users of the powder room, then hanging the door so that it swings out is a must. But both problems can be minimized by installing a pocket door that slides from the side of the powder room opposite the commode.
When existing plumbing requires that the toilet be installed in the corner of the powder room, the narrower the tank, the closer it can be installed to the wall. Commodes with triangular tanks maximize space for occupant comfort in the corner of the powder room. Sometimes recessing the toilet into the wall can give you the space you need.
As interior designer Tim McKeough says, the powder room is the hummingbird of your home. Sometimes you wonder if it is there at all. But no matter how small a space your powder room requires, it is possible to make an outsize design statement.
Simple Single-Person Occupancy
A commode in the corner across from the door next to a wash basin on the same wall is the classic, simple layout for a powder room. But just because the configuration of this powder room is simple doesn’t mean the design has to be. Successful decoration of this powder room requires choosing one dominant element and designing the rest of the room around it.
Maybe you have a favorite mirror that clashes with the decor of the rest of your home. You can place this mirror in your bathroom and choose a wash basin and wall coverings to complement it. Or maybe you can choose a simple, geometric design for the storage space under the wash basin and mirror that draws your eye away from the commode.
Even a few beautiful towels, a candle, or a bold choice in wallpaper can make this tiny room an interesting addition to the design of your home. There is no reason that simple layout has to be matched with drab design.
The Ideal Powder Room for Families with Small Children
Sometimes a child has to “go” and has to go right now. That child may need some help with bathroom functions. Urgent need for a bathroom can occur with adults, too.
Sometimes having the commode just a step or two closer makes a big difference in avoiding an embarrassing situation. This design with the commode next to the outer wall and a door that opens in is ideal for dealing with “emergencies” and for occupants who need help with flushing, washing, or getting off the commode. Interior design choices for this layout should focus on the two blank walls or overhead lighting.
The first thing occupants will see when they open the door is the commode, which may be a welcome sight, but the beauty of the room can be enhanced with wall coverings or a skylight.
Here a door opens inward opposite a toilet next to a window, providing natural light. The washbasin and its stand or cabinet provide a little privacy, even though the commode is in direct line of sight from the door. This is a good layout for safety.
In the unfortunate event someone falls while trying to get on or off the commode, they will not fall so they block the door. Rescue will be possible. And the door opens in rather than out, so exiting occupants will not collide with passersby.
Natural light expands the possibilities for decorating the wall opposite the commode and washbasin. Your choices for this design may only be enjoyed by users of your powder room, but in some markets tasteful choices in interior decoration here may increase the value of your home by as much as $20,000 on resale.
Dual Sinks with Commode and Bidet
This European-inspired design features a commode and bidet on side and dual sinks on the other side of a sliding door that opens to face the commode and bidet. Natural light is provided by a window opposite the door. While many families would consider this arrangement to offer the potential for a little too much togetherness, even more families consider the bidet to be essential for personal hygiene.
Dual sinks do not necessarily imply dual occupancy, but families that have only one other bathroom may appreciate this arrangement when time is of the essence for using the facilities. A powder room in this style offers an opportunity to use colors that don’t work elsewhere in the home. Shutters on the windows can complement the design of the wash basins and mirror over them.
Commode, Bidet, and Dual Sinks Arranged for Easy Access
In this design the door opens inward from one side to the powder room to reveal a commode and bidet installed flush with one interior wall. The dual sinks are at the back of the powder room. Light comes from an overhead light fixture or a skylight.
The advantage of this design is that it offers quick access both to the commode and to the wash basins. Parents are a step or two closer for assisting children or elders either with getting on or off the toilet and with cleanup. Because this powder room lacks natural lighting, it is a good opportunity to try bright color schemes that might be “too much” for the rest of the home.
The unused wall could be the right place for narrow shelves to hold decorations or powder room essentials.
Powder Room for a Narrow Space
Sometimes space is at a premium for adding a powder room. This design allows the placement of a commode and wash basin in a space just wide enough to accommodate the user’s knees. The sliding door is recessed into the wall, so it is possible to get into the powder room to assist a disabled user or an occupant in distress.
The door is opposite the commode for easy access. In tight spaces it may be best to use a pedestal basin rather than a wash basin with storage space beneath it. A mirror opposite the wash basin may give the illusion of greater space.
Maximizing Both Light and Privacy
A powder room placed in the corner of a house can have considerable design advantages. Windows can be placed on the two outside walls, maximizing natural. Placing the commode in the corner and the wash basin across from it optimizes entry space.
And using a sliding door allows can make even a narrow space comfortable, while minimizing embarrassment when someone accidentally comes in while the powder room is in use. Design choices can capitalize on sunlight. This configuration is one of the few times plants make interior design sense in a powder room.
But a pocket, sliding door is a must for optimizing space.
Powder rooms do not have to be laid out in quadrilateral designs. A door placed on the diagonal of the interior wall can save space and minimize crashes with people walking by. But a door placed in a corner has to be recessed.
It should not open into the powder room, to prevent collisions with the occupant of the bidet. And it should not open outward, to prevent collisions with people passing by in the hall. This arrangement permits greater contrast of colors and textures around the corner door.
With a window perpendicular to the commode, bidet, and sink, design efforts can focus on the unoccupied section of wall nearest the door.
L-Shaped Powder Room Designs
L-shaped powder room designs (or, in this case, a reversed L-shaped powder room design) are a great way to combine two small spaces to make a powder room. The commode can be placed behind the door to maximize privacy, and a triangular wash basin cabinet can optimize corner space. There may not be enough space to accommodate a recessed door, but a door that swings in will not trap anyone falls off the commode.
Interior decoration in this design can direct the eye up to the ceiling or over toward the mirror over the skin. Wallpaper adds interest and can add the illusion of breadth and depth to this room.
Optimizing Corner Space
It isn’t always the commode that can be made to fit in a corner space. Sometimes the best use of a corner is to put in a sink. In this design, two sinks are ready for use at the side of the commode or just a few steps away.
The door opens inward for safety. Placing it across from the sink makes assisting someone on the commode easier. Having a sink within reach of the commode makes cleanup easier for the disabled.
Windows and mirrors add light to small spaces. This design can be enhanced by objects placed by the sinks or by careful choice of wallpaper.