Restoring Peace to the Family Bathroom

Our guide shows some small steps you can take to remodel your bathroom into a more functional space.
By: Alicia Garceau


"Take a number." It's a sign that should be posted outside family bathrooms in homes across the country. Whether the whole family shares the bathroom or just the children are taking turns, if you're tired of tripping over one another, remodeling the family bath is in order.


Most family baths are workhorses designed to stand up to heavy use and don't much resemble the luxurious spalike bathrooms featured on the glossy pages of design magazines.

"To me, family bathrooms mean young kids and a busy household," says Sara Ann Busby, National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) president-elect and owner of Sara Busby Designs of Elk Rapids, Mich. "You're going for basic, easy-care materials."

That doesn't mean a family bath must lack style. Plan a family day and visit some beautiful bathrooms in person. Decorator show houses, kitchen and bath showrooms, and plumbing showrooms provide places to see bathrooms in 3-D, says Jessica Clock, a designer with Carmel Kitchen Specialists Inc. of Carmel, Ind.


Make a list of everything that's wrong with the current bathroom. Does it feel cramped? Is there not enough storage? Is counter space limited? Is a bigger mirror needed? Write it all down. The family bath must meet the needs all its users, from mom and dad to teenagers and toddlers, so make note of everyone who uses the bathroom and how they use it. This list will come in handy when meeting with a professional bath designer.


When it comes to a family bath, materials should be selected for durability and ease of cleaning, Sara Ann says. "I'm less inclined to put a beautiful wood floor in a family bath because kids are likely to leave wet towels on it."

But before you sacrifice style, consider similar-looking alternatives to more maintenance-intensive materials. For example, if you love the look of concrete countertops and wood floors but not the upkeep, consider composite granite countertops. "You don't have to worry about them scratching or staining," says Sara Ann. "You'll spend more on them than you would laminate, but they're low maintenance and will look good for a long time."


Adequate storage is the key to a successful family bathroom remodel, but with the number of people using the bathroom, that can be a tall order. Plan enough cabinets and drawers for toiletries, bulk items and plenty of towels. Don't forget to include space for a hamper, which will provide a convenient place — other than the floor — to stash wet towels and dirty laundry.

To get the most from a family bath, be creative with storage. For example, if the bathroom will be used by small children, build a stepstool into a cabinet toe-kick so the sink is easily reachable.


Though a family bath's focus is on function, a few carefully selected decorative accessories that do double duty can complete a remodel. For example, interesting jars add panache to the counter while holding essentials like cotton balls and cotton swabs. Fluffy towels displayed on a shelf are easily accessible to bathers and help to absorb some of the sound in a space filled with hard surfaces.

With good planning, smart storage and hard-working-yet-stylish materials, your family bath can keep the peace for a long time to come.

Sara Ann Busby
NKBA President-Elect, 2007
Sara Busby Design
Elk Rapids, Mich.

Jessica Clock
Carmel Kitchen Specialists Inc.

Suzie Williford
NKBA Vice President, 2007
Manager of Luxury Products
Kiva Kitchen & Bath
Houston, Texas

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