Story by Meredith Coopman
Something must be in the water. Recently, there seems to be a lot of bathroom remodels happening. These small spaces have all of the same elements but they can be configured in so many different ways that it can be quite daunting. There are general rules I tend to go by to make sure they’re comfortable, functional and good-looking. Understanding standard bathroom dimensions and knowing a few key measurements, like the size of a typical bathtub and how much space is needed for a toilet, will help you plan your bathroom more efficiently.

Below are a few tips and industry standards to get you started.

Universal Design
I try to incorporate elements of universal design into almost all of my projects, and especially in bathroom design. This approach, intended to accommodate people of all ages and abilities, includes wider doorways, showers with no raised lip around the bottom, larger shower doors and more room around fixtures. Universal elements such as grab bars now blend in seamlessly as they are becoming more common and the design keeps getting better.

Shower or Bathtub
The master bath has undergone some changes in recent years. Giant tubs, once madly popular, have fallen out of indulgence. Instead, people are choosing custom showers, including overhead showerheads, wall-mounted showerheads, hand-held showerheads, shower tiles, rain bars, body sprays and steam showers. If you are replacing the tub with a shower, a good size to start with is 3 feet by 5 feet. There is even enough room to add a bench.

For a lot of people, however, bathtubs are more than a place to bathe. They offer a soothing reward, a meditative reprieve. There are a lot of choices to make when choosing a tub. Not only do they come in all sorts of styles (clawfoot, drop-in, slipper tub, etc.) they come in different materials, such as acrylic and fiberglass, cast iron, copper and steel. Jets, bubbles or soakers are other options. Standard tubs with apron fronts are 60 inches long and 30 to 32 inches wide. The depth can be as little as 14 inches and as much as 20 inches. I recommend having at least one bathtub somewhere in the house. If it’s not in the master bath, put it in a guest bathroom.

There is no standard size for a bathroom sink. As a very general rule, most round sinks are 16 to 20 inches in diameter, and most rectangular sinks are roughly 19 to 24 inches wide by 23 inches. Most bathroom sinks are 5 to 8 inches deep. Some of today’s popular types are:

Self-Rimming or Drop-In Sinks are the easiest to install and are typically the least expensive.
Undermount Sinks are installed below a solid countertop. This style is becoming more and more popular as it maximizes counter space and is easy to clean.
Vessel Sinks are typically bowl-shaped elements that sit on top of the counter surface.
Pedestal Sinks are a stand-alone style that take up little floor space and are a great choice for small bathrooms where storage isn’t a priority.
Vanities The vanity serves a number of purposes. It holds the sink(s) as well as serves as a storage station for toiletries, hairdryers, towels, garbage bins, and other items you want hidden. The cabinetry in a bathroom can be any shape, size, style or color. There are many different options in the actual cabinetry, from simple to ornate, functional to artistic – there is literally something for everyone’s taste.
Countertops Typical countertops are 32 to 34 inches off the floor. What material to use? It’s more about personal taste as there are some very good options to choose from:
Laminate countertops (think Formica) are affordable, durable and available in almost any color or pattern you can imagine. It’s also easy to clean and maintain.
Solid surface is a form of plastic and makes a good bath countertop because, like laminate, it’s impervious to moisture and easy to keep clean. Another neat benefit is that you can get an integral solid surface sink so that there’s no seam or delineation between the edges of the countertop and the sink.
Natural stone countertops, such as granite, offer a natural beauty and are very durable.
Engineered stone/quartz is non-absorbent (unlike some natural stone), so it doesn’t require any sealing or ongoing maintenance. There are plenty of colors and patterns available, too, many that mimic the look of natural stone.

Bathroom2 Many people prefer overhead showerheads, wall-mounted showerheads, hand-held showerheads, shower tiles, rain bars, body sprays and steam showers.

You need a minimum of 30 inches of clear width for toilets, but 32 to 36 inches is much better for most people. Thirty-six inches is most comfortable and ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant. You will also want the toilet 18 inches away from the wall. Again, ADA compliant.

Don’t make the toilet the first thing you see when you open the door! I like to position the door to the bathroom in such a way that when you open the door you are looking at the “scene” of the vanity, mirror and decorative lighting. This element of the room is most definitive of style or taste. The last thing you want to do is make the toilet the first thing you see. Yuck! And what happens if someone forgets to close the door?

The best approach to any well-lit space is to incorporate layers of task, accent, ambient and decorative lighting. In a bathroom, this is particularly important. We commonly use our bathrooms in different ways. You don’t want the same light when relaxing in the tub as when applying makeup, shaving, putting in contacts, etc. While overhead lighting is necessary in the bathroom, so are good vanity lights over or beside the mirror. They help keep a shadow off of the face.

Go for porcelain or glazed tiles, and avoid porous natural stone tiles like limestone for an easy-maintenance floor. For a non-slip floor, choose tiles with textured surfaces, matte finishes, or sand-containing glazes – or small tiles with lots of grout lines, which offer better grip than larger tiles. Use these on the floor in the shower for sure!

If possible, have more than one way of drying out your bathroom. Reducing mold and mildew begins with removing moisture. To do that, it’s best to have a really good fan that vents to the outside (not into an attic) and an operable window.

Splurge on a few high-end materials. A little designer secret is that because bathrooms are usually smaller spaces, splurging on a few higher-end materials and finishes can be a good investment that can make your space seem luxurious. Go after the fancy door hardware or add in-floor heat or towel warmers. Sometimes extravagance can come in the form of a little extra added warmth.

Meredith Coopman of Meredith Coopman Design Studio has a background in architecture and interior design. You can reach her at