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Open It Up

Breathe easy: An open-plan bathroom emphasizes the beauty of bathroom fixtures and creates a sense of luxury.

When thinking of open-plan bathrooms, Europe or California might come to mind. But think again. The style is increasingly catching on throughout North America.

"Right now the concept of luxury isn't gold or fancy crystal, it's space," says San Diego-based interior designer Sandra Espinet. "Open-plan bathrooms create the illusion of space, and therefore luxury."

Beauty Matters

Why hide pretty? "Open-plan bathrooms are popular again in part because of the beauty of the fixtures available," says David Schneider, owner of Schneider Kennedy Design, Wildwood, Mo. "For instance, toilets are more aesthetically appealing and technically amazing, and freestanding tubs are works of art."

Since open-plan bathrooms sometimes include a dressing room, closet or even sitting area, Espinet says people are spending more time in the room. "So what's exposed is what's pretty, such as a beautiful tub, shower, ceiling treatments and anything else that's visible."

Privacy, Please

While the point of an open-plan bathroom is the wide-open feel and function, Schneider says people still want a bathroom that offers privacy. "Before you create an open-plan bathroom, think about whether you have another bathroom in your home that offers privacy because the open-plan bathroom requires the users to be comfortable sharing the space while they bathe and use the washroom."

This might hit home for those who have kids. "If you don't have another bathroom space, and your main bath is wide open to the master bedroom, the only way to get privacy is to close your bedroom. If you have kids constantly running in and out, it might not be a practical choice," says Espinet.

Give Me Space

Space plays a big part in an open-plan bathroom, according to Espinet. "You probably want a space that's 15 feet-by-15 feet," she says. "If you have two little closets, knock one out and make it one bigger space; if you have tiny half walls dividing the toilet, get rid of them; or if you have a dropped ceiling, get rid of the dry wall and take it to the top to create a larger sense of space," she says.

Cut Costs

Removing walls and room divisions is a cost-effective way of creating an open plan, says Schneider. "Sometimes it's just a matter of taking down partition walls or removing the private area for the toilet without removing the toilet," he notes.

Espinet suggests ripping out older, built-in vanities and installing freestanding ones. "This immediately gives the sense of more space, and many companies sell inexpensive vanities with the sink in it, which gives an updated look," she says.

To save money, skip glass doors, suggests Marlene Buckner, principal designer with the Urban Realm, Inc. "A single custom glass door installed runs $800 to $1,200. If you have panels or full glass enclosures, expect to pay quadruple, depending on size and complexity," she says. "Plus, the more glass you have, the more care and maintenance is required to reduce permanent water spotting."

Armed with this information about opening up the bathroom, dive right in. After all, a little luxury goes a long way.


(c) CTW Features