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How do I get the most from a small bathroom space?

First off, one persons idea of “small” may be different than the next. A lot of bathrooms can not be enlarged easily, or you simply may not want to go that route. Either way, there are a number of things that can be done to make better use of space, make the room appear larger and be more up to date.

Light colors and large mirrors make any small space appear larger. Many baths have a wall with a door separating the tub and toilet area from the vanity and removing the wall will open up the space a lot. Removing any soffits gives a similar effect. These two changes will make the room more current with todays trends, are not expensive to do and normally do not create any structural issues. Clear glass tub or shower doors will make the space feel larger as will the use of larger floor tiles. And, sometimes a pocket door can be just the answer for that door that is always in the way.

While a pedestal sink gives you a spacious look, you loose counter and storage space in the process. A nice vanity cabinet with drawers is usually a better option, especially if you use a cabinet with frameless construction, as you get almost 2″ more width in each drawer and drawers with full extension slides will make better use of space than just doors only. The possibility of recessing a tall cabinet between studs sometimes exists and can give you a lot of convenient storage. Usually a linen closet is not the best use of space, so possibly that could be improved upon as well. Of course, good lighting and ventilation are an important part of any bathroom.

The main thing in a small bath is to maximize every inch of space that you can!

I may be able to come up with more ideas, once I see the area you are planning to remodel.

Is a permit required to remodel a kitchen or bathroom?

While all municipalities vary to some degree, even though you are working inside your home and are not doing structural changes, a permit is usually called for. Building, plumbing or electrical permits, or some combination of those, are what is most often required. They are normally a few hundred dollars but getting caught with out one could be an unpleasant experience, causing delays and extra expenses and then who pays for those expenses. The home owner can certainly say they do not want permits and then everyone proceeds from there. The inspectors normally focus on the task at hand and do not go looking for other things that were done previously. If a code violation is pretty obvious, that could be a issue, however. Sometimes they involve a safety situation, so some good things can happen as result from having a permit as well. It is also good to be able to show that work was done to your home with the proper permits when it comes time to sell.

On our jobs that require a permit, I will secure the permit myself so the home owner doesn’t have to deal with any of that.

Should a whirlpool tub be a top priority?

If you have the space for a nice soaking tub, a whirlpool and/or air function can be a good idea, if for no other reason than resale value. These features are not that much more expensive but they do require a separate electric circuit, which may be a deciding factor. Usually I would suggest a 66″ or a 72″ long tub as a 60″ is rather short, but it may come down to space and there are many shapes available to choose from. A rectangular, oval shape or a corner tub work well and are usually done in a deck of some sort, using a drop-in or an under mount installation. Normally I would not suggest using a step.

I will certainly give you input on the type, shape and location for a tub when we discuss the ideas you have in mind.

How important are two sinks in a master bath?

While it’s usually the ideal approach, I find a lot of people would prefer more counter space over the second sink if a choice needs to be made.  If two people will be in the bath at the same time then the second sink becomes more important. If space is not a concern then I would normally go with two.

What is the most important element when planning a kitchen or bath?

In my opinion it is the function of the area that you are planning to remodel. You need to consider traffic patterns, work areas, storage, seating, lighting, dressing areas, etc. If there are certain things you are wanting then that needs to brought up so nothing is overlooked in the designing of the area. I’m not overlooking the appearance element because you can make a functional space (and a not so functional space for that matter) look the way you want it to appear but if it looks great but doesn’t work well you probably won’t be completely happy.

When designing a kitchen or bath, what basic strategy should be considered?

Keeping up with current trends (stone counter tops, stainless appliances, larger showers, large walk in closets, etc), expanding the room or creating a more open feel (maybe removing a wall) should be your goal. Older homes were usually segmented into seperate rooms where now the kitchen is open to the main living area because this is where everyone seems to gather and a large, nicer master bath is usually high on the “want to have” list. With creative planning maybe this can be accomplished, making for a more current use of space and updating for resale as well.

When remodeling, how much should resale value be considered?

Why are you renovating the kitchen or bathroom? If you plan to sell in the next year or so you should be concerned about cost and a more conservative approach is probably better so the project will have a broader appeal and better value. You won’t please everyone but resale should be part of the consevation. If, on the other hand, you plan to stay for a long time your approach could be differant in that you are doing this more for yourself so you may choose more upscale products and a more radical design and certainly put more thought towards your own long term needs and desires. Keep in mind that ultimately this  project is being done for you and you are the one that has to be pleased and comfortable with the final results.

Is an island kitchen better than a “U” shape?

Both plans work well. A U-shape usually involves a penninsula which divides the room so it may restrict the path to a table or exterior door but it gives a lot of continueous counter and a larger walking space between work areas. An island, however, usually creates better traffic flow but now you  have a seperate counter and normally a smaller walking space in the work area. The size of the island may be an issue and that we would discuss to see what the options are.

How important is it to have two ovens?

If two ovens are used daily or weekly they are much more important than if they are used three or four times a year for special events. The usual issue is space and the popular 30″ double oven range is one way to go but there are other possible solutions I can dicuss with you. If space is available, two ovens are probably a good idea if the only benefit is resale value.

How much space is needed around a kitchen island?

A 42″ space on all sides is a good place to start. Less than that is pretty tight and while more is fine you can create to much walking between work areas. On the other hand, 48″ is a minium if two appliances are opposite each other (sink at the window and an island cook top directly behind, as an example). Sometimes the driving factor is simply the space that is avaliable. If there is seating involved, we would need to discuss that as well.