Bathrooms that are connected to and shared by more than one bedroom are called Jack-and-Jill bathrooms, and they can be a good way to make efficient use of space in a modest-size house
I enjoy the challenge of designing modest-size houses that flow well and feel spacious despite their limited square footage. One of the principles I follow in designing these houses is to double-up uses and functions whenever possible.
Bathrooms that can be shared by more than one bedroom—popularly known as Jack-and-Jill baths—represent a good opportunity to save on both space and costs. While the strict interpretation of this layout is usually taken to mean a bath situated between two bedrooms with a door opening to each, there are many options for access to a shared bath, including the addition of a hall door to make the bathroom accessible to all occupants of the house. I explored some of these options in “Drawing Board” several years ago (“Sharing a bathroom,” FHB #199), but here I want to focus more specifically on baths that, in some way or another, connect two bedrooms.
Sharing a bathroom presents some potential problems to be considered, but there are also some real benefits. To begin with, you can save a lot of money by forgoing an additional bathroom. You may be able to build a living room and bedrooms for $150 per sq. ft., but it’s not uncommon for a bathroom to cost $450 per sq. ft. when you add up the plumbing, fixtures, and tile. And it shouldn’t be overlooked that one less bathroom in the house means also one less bathroom to clean.
Privacy is the primary concern when designing a shared bath, but there are ways to manage it effectively. One is to include an indicator such as a small LED light connected to the bathroom switches that glows when someone is inside. Another is a translucent panel in the door or transom that makes it obvious when the room is in use.
Most important, all doors need to be able to be locked (and if the door is to a bedroom, locked from both sides). Users have to remember to lock multiple doors and then to unlock them after they are finished so that the next person is not locked out. This quickly becomes habit for regular users, although it can become an issue for guests. Sharing a bathroom can work well, given a good design and some understanding of ground rules by the users. And if you live with children, sharing a Jack-and-Jill bathroom can teach them responsibility, respect, and patience.
drawing by the author