This luxurious master bath is constructed with a separate vanity table and sink.

Specialty Bathrooms

In addition to more baths, today's homes often sport more specialized baths than in the past. Easiest to create in newly constructed homes or additions, specialty baths can also be carved out of unused guest bedrooms, hallways, the space over the garage, or other existing areas. Here are a few of the most-wanted specialty baths.

Master Suite

While many homes can accommodate a master bath adjacent to the master bedroom, a master suite has the bathroom actually incorporated into a section of the overall bedroom area, both enclosed behind a door that leads to the common hallway.

Large or small, a master suite looks especially spacious and elegant when both the bedroom and the bathroom share a design scheme.

Although the bedroom is largely soft furnishings and the bathroom is mostly hard-surface installed fixtures, you can incorporate the same motifs (neoclassical, English country, Early American, soft contemporary, etc.) in both, using the same color scheme.

You may elect to alter the proportions of each color to create variations on a theme. For example, an opulent European-inspired bedroom in wine with accents of hunter green, gold, and ivory may lead nicely into a master bath with hunter green fixtures, brass-gold fittings, and ivory ceramic tiles, sparked with towels and accessories in wine.

When designing the suite, you may want to avoid putting fixtures on the wall shared with the bedroom to minimize noise from a pressure-assist toilet, shower, and so on. You can further buffer sound by putting bath cabinets and bedroom closets on opposite sides of a shared wall, with the bed on the far wall.

If possible, locate the bath on an outside wall to make a window possible, and make sure the walkway between the bedroom and the bath is easily accessible, wide enough, and free of obstructions, to be safe for users in the dark or when ill.

Private Toilet Compartment

With both halves of a couple rushing to get ready for work at the same time these days, a shared bathroom is under more demands. Even the closest pair often prefer a private toilet compartment, and bigger baths are beginning to reflect this desire.

Where your waste stack is (or can be) located will have a lot to do with where the toilet is located. If it's on a far wall and in a corner, a separate compartment is feasible. The compartment wall will run the full height of the room and should extend at least 3 feet in front of the toilet and a foot on each side; wider for universal accessibility.

The compartment should be equipped with an easily accessible artificial light source plus a skylight or small window if at all possible. If there's no operable window, be sure to install an exhaust fan to keep the space fresh. You'll also want to make sure that there's enough space for a hanging cabinet above the toilet tank to house commonly needed supplies and that there's room for a small wastebasket on the floor.

A pocket door makes privacy easier without sacrificing precious floor space.

If a totally private compartment isn't possible, look into designs that include a half-high partition that can be tiled the same as adjoining walls or a tall, hinged screen covered in fabric that coordinates with your room scheme. If the toilet is located in or near a corner, these solutions may be an acceptable compromise.

Exercise Room

You're going to jump into the shower right after you exercise anyway, right? So why not bring the exercise equipment to the bath area? That's the philosophy behind today's new exercise room baths.

If your space is big enough, it may be right for you. Plan to put all bathroom fixtures on perimeter walls, and offset the door to allow space for one or two pieces of exercise equipment in the free area. Make sure you're not blocking the door or access to bathroom fixtures: Measure the space required for normal use of all equipment, and give them plenty of berth. Specify nonslip floor tiles to guard against slipping due to perspiration and bathing, and plan systems for ample ventilation, too.

This half bath includes only the bare necessities -- perfect for showering quickly after exercising.

Laundry Room

While many laundry appliances have come out of the basement and up to the mud room or kitchen, others are being located near where dirty clothes first accumulate: the bedroom or bathroom. If you and your mate are alone in the house, you may want to put the laundry equipment in your master suite; if you share the house with children, you may prefer to house it in the kids' bathroom or a nearby guest bath.

A combination bathroom and laundry room is extremely functional and conserves space.

Laundry appliances can tie into the same water supplies as the bathrooms, and preferred flooring -- nonporous, nonslip tile -- can be extended for both to create a neater look. If space is scanty, you may opt for a stacked washer/dryer unit, although these handle smaller loads than a typical family creates.

Allow for plenty of overhead storage, preferably enclosed, for laundry supplies as well as hampers or other storage for sorting clothes. A pocket or folding door easily conceals the whole works from the rest of the bath, but you may want access on both ends of the laundry space so that laundry facilities can be used without going through the main bathroom area.

Adjacent Closet

Closets between a bedroom and a bath make sense, and a dressing room area lined with roomy closets, all located next to a bath, is an even greater luxury you may want to consider. You might find part of the necessary space in a hallway closet, an unused area of the bedroom, or even a corner of the bath, provided they're contiguous.

This is one place where telling your architect, contractor, or designer what you want can really pay off. They'll be on the lookout for ways to shoehorn extra closets into even a tiny space for you. Once the basic space is in, consult a professional closet design firm, or explore the closet fittings section of your local home store for ways to maximize the closet space you have. You'll surely find ideas that work in the rest of your closets, too!

There are a few tried and true configurations for bathrooms. On the next page, find out more about basic bathroom layouts.

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