September 25, 2013

The open-plan bathroom-bedroom.

"Is having open-plan bathrooms just the natural extension of our open kitchens and a general global modern-day tendency to open up our living spaces and live in lofts or loftlike spaces?"
Is it an extension of the idea that bathrooms aren’t just functional necessities but spa-like focal points of our sanctuary-like homes? Or has the erosion of privacy in our public lives just made us all more comfortable being overexposed, even at home?
I like it. No mention at the link of where the toilet is, and I assume it goes in a small space behind a door. If I'm right about that then it's about how someone bathing or shaving wants to be interacting with someone who's reading in bed or watching TV or whatever. It's similar to wanting the walls removed from your kitchen, so you can cook while hanging out with (or keeping an eye on) people in the next room.

ADDED: I've seen so many TV real estate reality shows where everyone wants an open-plan kitchen/dining/living room area that I can't help thinking it won't be long before that starts to look like what all the boring, conventional people have and they'll start tsking about how it's "dated," and the reality show designer will be amazing the clients by building walls.

47 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

I'm sorry, what self-aggrandizing moron of an architect comes up with "new-fangled" shit like this?

The reason the bathroom is walled off & private is because not only do they stink multiple times a day, but they are sources of water, in liquid & vapor form.

Water ultimately destroys every household material it touches. This is why bathrooms are full of porcelain & tile -- it takes a while for water to rot them. But even such impermeable surfaces quickly become a PITA to clean as water vapor coats them with dust, hair, and mold.

So, sure, let's bring that water into contact with our clothes & bedding & personal possessions. Because who doesn't need some more fungi in their life, eh?

Irene said...

A walled bathroom keeps some of the humidity from creeping into the rest of the room. When we searched for a house, we saw many homes featured walk-in closets in the bathroom. That's bad for clothing (especially knitwear).

We also saw a few homes that had soaker tubs close to the bed. We dubbed those "Playboy houses."

The Godfather said...

This is probably not what the hi-fashion people are talking about, but when we bought our house in Fort Lauderdale 10 years ago, it had what I guess you'd call an open plan bathroom/bedroom. One end of the room was a normal bathroom, with a stall shower, sink, and toilet (no little enclosure around the potty). The other end of the room was a normal bedroom.

We were told by the real estate agent that the owners (we never met them) were an elderly gay couple, and one of them used a wheel chair. Having his bathroom in the same room as his bedroom was convenient.

We divided the room into a large bathroom and a smaller room that became my home office (thereby changing the house from a 3BR to a 2BR). That worked for us, but when we sold the house it hurt its marketability.

Although the young lady in the first photo has a very attractive back, I think it is enough of a strain on a couple to share a bathroom; to put that bathroom in the bedroom is a bridge too far. And you wonder why the divorce rate is so high! People need privacy!

Sam L. said...

It's Europe, and the article is from Slate. Why wouldn't they be enthused? It's so...moderne!

Popville said...

Heh, watching Property Brothers as I read this. On a recent Love It Or List It was an open concept "en suite" (ugh, horrible term) with everything out in the open. Expensive fixtures but all I could think was "how gross!"

kimsch said...

Rightmove, a real estate site in the UK had lots of good pics and floorplans. I've seen quite a few with the bath tub in the master bedroom. I'm kind of ambivalent about that, but I don't want the rest of the bathroom open to the bedroom. Hubby gets up and showers and shaves before I get up. Light and noise would be far too disturbing. It might work when both people get up at the same time, but not with differing schedules.

wildswan said...

My experience with Millenials in a small vacation house is that they have a very hard time dealing with sharing a room or keeping very quiet in the living room because babies are sleeping near-by. So I wonder if they really want open-plan. Maybe lots and lots of space as in a warehouse loft changes things somehow?

Christy said...

Don't know about you, but I love long hot showers and baths. Open spaces dissipate the heat more quickly. 'Sides, I've been seeing those open baths for nigh on to 20 years now. Nothing new.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

These are designed for luxury hotels where as a guest you may not want the prostitute doing things in the bathroom you can't see.

LTMG said...

If people want to live in a barracks-like environment, let them. I did my stint, and it was enough.

elkh1 said...

They want their dinky little rooms to "look" bigger. Frankly, there's no way to put a wall between that bed and the bathroom. The bed is about 6', meaning the width of the room is at most 8'. From the window to the sink is about 8'. An 8' X 8' room is a big walk-in closet, or a big bathroom with a bed.

Besides, old pipes smell. Toilets stink when they are in use. Yuck.

JohnG said...

You didn't mention that the article was on upscale hotels. There are different factors at play in the hotel space: the quest to provide (and for guests to experience) novelty; the fact that rooms will be redone long before the effects of humidity accrue; that fewer walls, doors, corners, and crevices means that hotel staff spend less time per room cleaning; walls, tile, and doors and their associated hardware all cost money; simplified heating and cooling; etc.

While there is a lot of "fashion" in home design, many features are also driven by enabling technologies and are less likely to swing back to older forms. One of the big enabling technologies for these big, open plan homes is that custom roof trusses with ridiculous shapes and spans are nearly as cheap as the simplest "classic" triangular truss. They come from a factory mechanically preassembled. Those kinds of designs just weren't feasible when roofs were built piece-by-piece on-site by one guy with a carpenter's square and a skill saw.

John Lynch said...

It's for people who live alone.

FleetUSA said...

The open plan doesn't accommodate different sleeping patterns and would fail in our house.

Bob R said...

Our house (built in 1988) has the double sink open to the master bedroom and the shower and toilet in a separate room. Keeps the mirror from getting fogged up when you are showering. Allows you to chat while doing the usual ablutions (abluting?) at the sink. My wife's closet is behind the sink area, so it's a pretty efficient use of space. Works for us. It would not work for light sleepers with very different sleep schedules.

I have this to say about the idea that there should be NO private area: hemorrhoids, menstruation, stomach virus, morning sickness, athletes foot, etc.....GET A ROOM!

Robert Cook said...

When I'm using the bathroom, whether for bathing, shaving, brushing teeth, or voiding waste, I have no desire to interact with others.

I've also never understood why people so highly value and covet acres of bathroom space. One needs only a sink, a toilet, and tub with shower or just a shower, plus a bit of storage for supplies. Anything more simply takes away square footage that could be given over to other, more useful or desirable spaces in the house or apartment.

sinz52 said...

I would really like to ask these architects what they do about condensation, given that exhaust fans don't make sense with an open-plan bedroom/bathroom. (I didn't even see an exhaust fan in those photos.)

All that steam and moisture from the shower will spread throughout the bedroom and condense on the windows and walls, especially on cold winter nights.

The result will be mold and mildew everywhere.

That's why whenever I shower, I keep the bathroom door closed and the exhaust fan running. In fact, I keep it running for a half hour AFTER I get out of the shower.

Matthew Sablan said...

Uh, no. No.

Private spaces should be private. I live alone, and I still lock my bedroom door when I go to sleep. This is a train I'll never get on.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

As one who in the past has earned his living as a carpenter and built several custom homes, I'd say the fundamental weakness of any open design is that it reduces functional space.

For example, an 8-foot wall between the kitchen and dining area will make available about an extra 6 feet of counter, cabinet, and cupboard space on one side, and plenty of room for a sideboard, china cabinet or credenza on the other.

I suspect most folks with open designs don't actually *do* much in, say, their kitchen. When people cook regularly in a kitchen, even with a good exhaust fan, they will create not only smoke, but a considerable amount of microfine oil mist which will eventually foul carpets, drapes, and even furniture if not somewhat isolated. Most notably, kitchens and bathrooms each produce immense volumes of water vapor which needs to be somewhat confined if it is to be exhausted effectively enough not to cause a lot of damage.

Mary Beth said...

Sometimes when you have children, the only peaceful, quiet moments you have are in the bathroom. I'll pick sanity over being trendy.

Larry J said...

I've seen so many TV real estate reality shows where everyone wants an open-plan kitchen/dining/living room area that I can't help thinking it won't be long before that starts to look like what all the boring, conventional people have and they'll start tsking about how it's "dated," and the reality show designer will be amazing the clients by building walls.

My wife watches a lot of those home improvement porn shows. Their purpose is similar to the fashion industry - artifically stimulate demand via planned obsolesence. Just as the fashion industry gets people to buy new clothes because their perfectly good old chothes are "out of style", the home improvement industry gets people to spend thousands on unnecessary home renovations. Notice who sponsors the shows (Home Depot, appliance manufacturers, designer plumbing fixture manufacturers, etc.)

mrs. e said...

Yeah...not really a fan because of light, noise and privacy concerns. From the pictures, it looks like it's coming from desire to small, urban footprints appear larger. I get that.

We spent the first half of this year taking out a kitchen/hallway/living room wall to open up that space. Natural lighting, flow and space use of this 1950's ranch are much improved. We've been looking to do this since we bought the place back in the 80's, so this wasn't a johnny-come-lately idea. It's turned out better than we had hoped.

Henry said...

We looked at an old bungalow years ago. 1-1/2 baths. It was one of those houses where you go two steps down form the kitchen to the backdooor landing. Then the stairs continue to the basement.

That's where someone put a toilet. Open-plan!

* * *

What I found most funny/awkward about the story was the effort by the hipster designer to avoid thinking about old person bodies.

“I think with age we look for ways to seduce by modest gestures and by covering ourselves up,” [ Morgane Rousseau] says. “I don’t see myself proposing an open bathroom to older people; they need much more privacy."

Uh huh. Do you know any old people?

halojones-fan said...

I don't think separate kitchens are coming back. People don't want to give up the feeling of space.

However, notice how many of these "open concept" places actually put a bar counter or an island in the kitchen area. So it's still partitioned off from the rest of the house--just not *visually* blocked.

prairie wind said...

I thought rising energy costs would bring back walls because being able to shut off rooms can be an energy saver. I was wrong, though. Entertainment would need to return to a more formal style--drinks in the living room, dinner in the dining room--for people to give up their open kitchens.

Hagar said...

I absolutely hate open-plan kitchen/dining/living room area layouts, especially the kitchen part that smells up the entire house whenevera meal is cooked, and also adding the bathrooms to the scheme is sheer lunacy that only an avant garde Frenchman would think of.

Carol said...

I remember Open Classrooms...our local vo-tech drank the koolaid 40 years ago and are lobbying like mad to scrap the whole bldg.

Graham Powell said...

Although our bathroom is not quite as open as this, there's a sort of archway between it and our bedroom instead of a door. As the husband of a teacher, who doesn't have to get up early during the summer, I can tell you it's a huge drawback if you want to bathe, shave, etc., without waking up your spouse.

carrie said...

We went to an open house in the Madison area 25 years ago that had an open plan bathroom in the master bedroom--the husband told us that he liked to talk to his wife while he sat on the toilet so they just put the bathroom fixtures out in the open along the wall in the master bedroom! It was odd to say the least, plus the bedroom smelled damp and I assume that was from the steam from the shower making the bedspread, area rugs, etc. perpetually damp.

CWJ said...

This assumes couples who have identical schedules.

"Reading in bed or watching TV or whatever..."

That "whatever" is most probably sleeping, and couples with different schedules always enjoy being woken up or kept awake by one or the other turning on the lights and doing their showering, brushing, etc. in the middle of the bedroom.

Oh yeah, this is a great idea!

Hagar said...

And that is for me living alone, so that privacy is not a problem. Family members should be able to sit in separate rooms doing separate things without being disturbed by others with different tastes and ideas.

Peter said...

It's not just moisture that escapes an wall-less bathroom, there's also fecal matter. When the toilet is flushed, a zillion small particles of it become suspended in the air for at least a few minutes.

Now, presumably a healthy person's immune system can deal with that. Then again, bathrooms are full of hard surfaces that are easily cleaned. And while it may not be a health issue, there's still the yuk factor.

Peter said...

"Open concept" has been in style for 40+ years (and even before, in residences designed by modernist architects). But how well does it actually work for day-to-day living?

I'd guess it works best for childless couples and singles, and worst for large families or separates sharing a house. Because, the more people there are, the more demand there will be for separate activities in separate, reasonably private rooms. Most of us want privacy for some activities (e.g., sex), and many activities can be noisy (TV, video games), and these will interfere with quiet activites (talking, reading).

Walls let one wall off different activities in different rooms, with little interaction. And if you want more, well, you can always open the door.

But open concept surely looks best for real estate sales showings. Even if the house is small (re, I mean "cozy"), it'll still offer impressively expansive interior vistas.

Lem said...

A walled bathroom keeps some of the humidity from creeping into the rest of the room.

And into the expensive high end gadgets.

Illuninati said...

I consider the open bathroom an entirely different concept from open kitchens. It is not practical for everyone to crowd into the kitchen during cooking so the open kitchen is important since it enables the cook to participate with the rest of the family and visitors while preparing the food. The open bathroom probably has many more disadvantages than advantages.

The room with the bathtub in front of a set of full length windows is a serious problem. If a child lives in an adjacent building the adult using the open bathroom, the adult could be charged for indecent exposure to a minor. If a child uses the open bathroom in front of the windows then any adult who looks in that direction is open to legal prosecution for violating the privacy of a minor.

Ann Althouse said...

These comments are making me think I should run the exhaust fan in my (non-open-plan) bathroom more often. I hate the sound of the fan.

lgv said...

FleetUSA said:

"The open plan doesn't accommodate different sleeping patterns and would fail in our house."

Exactly. We just designed our new house to accommodate this. It allows me to use the bathroom and master closet without a ray of light entering the bedroom which would disturb the late and light sleeper.

Megaera said...

Take all of this silliness to its logical extension and you know where you are? Back in a medieval fortress with the majority of the living functions being carried on in the "great room" -- eating, cooking, mending, sleeping, lesser forms of animal husbandry, all on straw covering the stone pavers which was replenished irregularly and then swept out in the spring and replaced to keep down fleas. The heads of the demesne may or may not have had a private room, depending on the establishment's wealth, but it was most certainly "open plan", with bathing (occasional, true) sleeping and excreting all going in in the same square footage. So much for progress. All some of these newer places need is a bit of straw, a few boarhounds and a churl or two at he hearth and it would be like having your own time machine, barring antibiotics and central heating. And running water.

R.A. Crankbait said...

I saw an attractive house for sale in Red Wing, MN and went on-line for more details. In the photos, the master bedroom had an open bath; I had to look at the photo three times to be sure of what I was seeing. The tub and toilet were out in the open in one corner, with only a small screen of glass blocks about 4' x 4' between the toilet and sleeping area. Not only that, the photo was from a loft over the room, looking down into bath/bed area.

MPorcius said...

My wife and I rent an old house with no exhaust fan in the bathroom and we are constantly arguing over when to open and close the bathroom window and the bathroom door. I want to keep the moisture and germs out of the rest of the house, and so want the bathroom door always closed and bathroom window always open, but my wife is more concerned about bathroom temperature, and of course my plan keeps the bathroom hot in the summer and cold in the winter. And of course then there are privacy issues.

Larry J said...

Ann Althouse said...
These comments are making me think I should run the exhaust fan in my (non-open-plan) bathroom more often. I hate the sound of the fan.


Perhaps you need to install a quieter fan. Many cheap exhaust fans are quite loud but you can buy significantly quieter ones. Not running the fan when taking a shower can cause real problems such as mold and even wood rot. Exhaust fan noise levels are rated in sones, with lower being better. A cheap fan might be rated at over 6 sones while a really quiet one comes in at 0.3 or better.

Some examples here. Many Home Depot or Lowes stores have working displays where you can hear the difference in noise levels.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

There was a reason we walled off our bathrooms. "Ancient" architects understood this... "Modern" architects think they can do it all better. My lovely wife is of the opinion that some architects should be subject to prosecution for architectural crimes-- sky-high ceilings in the foyer, impossible to clean windows in those same foyers, giant master bedrooms with "lots of light!" (Just what one wants in a bedroom, no?) And (drumroll, please) master bedrooms where the occupant must walk through a walk-through closet to get to the toilet... MMMMM! Just what one wants-- One's entire wardrobe marinating in essence of dukey. Have they all gone out of their minds?

SOJO said...


These pictured creep me out on a hygiene level. Oh, I'm sorry. I meant to say it is bad feng shui. Reminds me of my first tiny single apartment and being able to smell my kitchen from my bed.

If the tile is done really well, I like the showers that don't have glass doors, but wind in like a maze with high walls so water doesn't splatter everywhere and you still have basic privacy. Those are nice.


SOJO said...

I'm thinking jail cells are pretty trendy right now?

sojerofgod said...

This is absolutely a 'trend' that is designed to sell people on stuff that they don't need. Really if you think about it, it is a two-fer for the industry: They sell you the designer fixtures and layout, then get to sell you a second set once you realize how badly you hate it and have it all torn out and replaced with something sensible.

James Graham said...

The French have had one good idea for many years: they place the toilet in a separate closet-sized room adjacent to the bathroom.

Nothing, but nothing, can disguise the sights and smells associated with those body functions, but isolation behind a door helps.

JohnG said...

Ann, perhaps the message is really that you should go to your hardware store of choice and investigate quieter exhaust fans.