Universal Appeal: A Roll-in Bathroom that Rockscomments (1) March 15th, 2013 in Blogs
Universal design, simply put, tries to create habitable spaces and architectural features that are accessible to and usable by people of all ages, sizes and physical conditions. Although the concept is often associated with the needs of disabled people, a superior design is easier to use by everyone. As this wet-room bath in an in-law suite shows, universal design can be beautiful as well.
It's all in the details.
Architects Fred Hyer and Patricia Fontana-Narell first attended to the mandatories of a special-needs bathroom: a door at least 36 in. wide, room inside for the 5-ft. turning radius a wheelchair needs to maneuver, plenty of grab bars, countertops no higher than 32 in. and deep enough (20 in). to admit a wheelchair user's legs beneath, and textured floor surfaces that won't become slick when wet.
Then Hyer and Fotnana-Narell finessed every detail to make the room easier to use and nicer to look at. Wide doors are desirable, but they can be too heavy for someone in a wheelchair to operate; hinged doors eat up a lot of space as they swing. Solution: a sliding barn door mounted to a recycled fir beam, but with ball-bearing mechanisms so smooth that you can slide the door with two fingers. (The Real Carriage Door Company has a nice selection of such mechanisms.)
To ease coming and going, the doorway has no threshold, which required pitching the bathroom floor slightly towards a slot drain roughly in the middle of the room. The slot drain's greater size better accommodates the flow from two shower heads set across from each other. Two shower heads enable a bather to lather and rinse without turning; they also do a superior job of cleaning two grandchildren muddy from playing in the garden. Sometimes, grandma suspects, the kids get extra dirty just so they can play in her shower.
Kudos to Canivet Construction of Berkeley for nicely executing the design!
This bathroom was first published in In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House into Two Homes (Taunton Press), which was named one of the Top Ten Design Books for 2011. If you are thinking of creating an in-law suite--as many people are doing these days--you may find In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats helpful. This clever in-law was also blogged at greater length in "Grandma's Glorious Garage" when In-laws, Outlaws was newly out.
Fred Hyer and Patricia Fontana-Narell are typical of the talented designers and master builders who have shared their knowledge with me over the years. My most recent book, Renovation 4th Edition, contains thousand of field-tested tips and techniques, 250+ illustrations and roughly 1,000 of the 40,000 photos I have taken on job sites. I hope you find Renovation 4 useful. --Mike
© Michael Litchfield 2013
posted in: Blogs, home office, accessory dwelling unit, in-law suite, adu, second dwelling unit
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About the Author
Mike Litchfield was a founding editor of Fine Homebuilding and has been renovating homes or writing about them for more than 30 years.
He was one of the first technical journalists to go to job sites to gather information from tradespeople and his great work, Renovation: A Complete Guide is in its 3rd Edition.
Mike’s tenth book, In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats: Turning one house into two homes will be published by Taunton Press in March, 2011. To preview the book and learn more about its contributors, please visit www.cozydigz.com