How to fall in love (with your bathroom)?

Hi, I’m Rita Wilkins, also known as the downsizing designer. Do you have a love-hate relationship with your bathroom? And would you like to fall in love with your bathroom all over again? As an interior designer for over 35 years, we’ve done bathrooms and kitchens and other spaces all over the country and one of the things I frequently hear is, “I hate my bathroom!” This is kind of an interesting statistic, we spend, on average, 30 minutes a day in our bathroom. On an annual basis, that’s 182 hours in the bathroom.  Then if you live to be the age of 85, that’s 15,000 hours!

That’s a lot of time. Now, if you spend more time in there, if you like long showers, long baths, obviously, that number will go up. But regardless, it’s a lot of time, and especially if you hate your bathroom. So, have you ever thought about how a bathroom impacts the quality of your life, the happiness you have every morning?

Let’s just say that the bathroom space is tight. There are two of you in there. At the same time, he’s messy, she’s not, or maybe vice versa. One leaves towels on the floor, the other one has to pick them up. You know, so it causes stress and aggravation. Sometimes the bathroom actually becomes a battleground. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Some of the funny stories I’ve heard over the years is where people have to actually skinny past each other just to get to the toilet, or they have to actually get wet, just to get into the shower. Sometimes they have lighting that makes them look like a ghost, and who wants to have that first thing in the morning, it’s not a good way to start your day, but many of the stories that I hear, or the complaints that I hear are about how they impact their overall quality of life, their happiness, and their mood. So, as an example, not enough storage, not the right kind of storage, or no storage at all. So as pretty as pedestal sinks are they don’t provide any storage, the vanity is too high, it’s too low, the toilets too high, so it’s too low, or the shower is not big enough, or the bathtub is too high to get in and out of. So yes, as a designer, part of my role is to actually listen to many of these complaints. And as you can imagine, I have been in the middle of a lot of battles over my lifetime. You know, being right in the middle of he said she wants to she wants that. She does this, he does that, towels on the floor, makeup on the sink, whatever it is, I’m right in the middle of that. But also, one of the roles that I relish is to actually listen to what those battles are and listen more deeply. So and hopefully defuse them.

By listening, observing, and asking, as my boys would say, my mother will ask you 1,000 questions. That’s how I get to know what you really want, what you don’t want, and what would make them both happy, and fall in love with that bathroom all over again, and hopefully, each other all over again. So today, I want to share with you a very useful design tool that I developed somewhere along the way. And I’m not sure exactly when but it was probably in the middle of one of those battles. I’ve got to figure this out. I created what I call the wants, needs and wish list. What do you want? What do you need? What do you wish for, and in this case in your bathroom, so I actually have a printout that I hand to them.

Let’s just say at home, take a piece of paper, put it into three columns, your wants, your needs and your wish list. Then I asked them to fill it out independent of each other, that there’s also methodology there and that’s what they both heard, that he wants to she wants that. When we take these lists and we review them together, frequently we found we find a lot of common ground and we also see where they differ. Then we talked about what and how can we compromise and of course, then I can design accordingly trying to incorporate all of their wants, their needs and their wishlist into  the designs that I present.

I first encourage them to think about function, and then aesthetics. So here’s an example of a client that I had recently, they were in their early 60s, knowing that they were aging, wanting to stay in this home for quite a long time, as long as they could, they wanted to age in place. So, as they created their wants, needs and wish list, the needs were very, very important. As we age, as they were aging, there were certain things that they said,  they absolutely wanted and had to have one a curb less shower, in the event that one of them, or both of them were in walkers or wheelchairs, they could actually roll in a seat in the shower, which is logical, grab bars, of course, handheld shower, comfort, high toilet, easy to get in and out of, and touchless faucets. Now, that’s not an extensive list. But, those are the things that they absolutely had to have, and we talked about more than that.

But that was the combined effort of the wants needs and wish lists. On the one side, they both agreed they both wanted a soaking tub, which worked into their project, better linen storage, so they didn’t have to go outside of the bathroom to get the linens that they needed. They both wanted heated floors. And then they both said, adamantly they were opposed to sharing vanities. So, we had his and her vanities. That was a way that we could solve issues that they might have argued about in the past, they no longer have to argue about it. And we were able to accommodate, of course, all the needs as they age, as it came to the wish list. And none of this was out of sorts. They agreed on they wanted, a washer dryer close by with all of that to make their life easier, they both wanted to TV, and then a remote control self cleaning toilet with a nightlight. Now, that was on the higher budget side of what they wanted, but we were able to fit into their budget.

So that’s an example of how a once needs and wish list does really help to combine all of the things they wanted for this dream bathroom that they ultimately got. Then we went to the aesthetic. This is the same couple, they both wanted something timeless, they knew that ultimately when the house sold, they didn’t want it to be dated. They want to be peaceful, serene and spa-like.  Okay, so that’s part of the look, they both wanted the lighter woods, lighter countertops, and lots of natural light. Then on the wish list side, they wanted a skylight which we were actually able to get in there. They wanted a view of the outside which was pretty easy to do in their particular case. They also want a fireplace, we were able to get something in there and then also a coffee, juice and wine bar.

So these are examples of the kind of things that I see in here every single day. Honestly, the ones who need some wish list items have been a little bit of a miracle for my design business because it helps me get to what they really want and also help solve their disagreements. So, if you want to fall in love with your bathroom and each other all over again, try using the wants, needs and wish lists. It helps you design that dream bathroom that you can both love for many years to come. So, hopefully, this has been helpful.

You can go to my website, and I just enjoy getting the word out about some of the funny things I hear every day and some of the very meaningful things that can change people’s lives through design. Then there’s also something else in how to design your dream bathroom. Those are both free downloads, just go to my website, and download them. If you have questions, please reach out to me or comment. I’d love to hear from you.