Make bathroom design your New Year’s resolution

By Andria Cowan Molyneaux

As we start a new and exciting year we turn our attention to achieving our New Year’s resolutions and with them our hopes for a safer easier and healthier way of life. Aside from the guilt induced exercise and dieting regimes there is indeed one area of our lives that would benefit greatly from these lofty goals and surprisingly that is bathroom design.

As a professional interior decorator and aging in place specialist I am passionate about helping my clients to achieve their goals and to help them realize the benefits of universal design when renovating their family bathroom. But what is universal design and how can it make your bathroom safer easier and more convenient for everyone in the family to use?

Having evolved from accessible design universal design is the principle of creating products and designing interior space so that everyone regardless of age ability or disability can use them. According to “universal design takes into account the full range of human diversity including physical perceptual and cognitive abilities as well as different body sizes and shapes.”

By embracing the principles of universal design you can ensure that all members of your family regardless of age size or ability can access and use the bathroom more conveniently and effectively. To highlight some of these principles I share with you my nine helpful tips for designing a universal family bathroom.

Tip # 1: Evaluate The Available Space

Does your current bathroom suffer from limited or poorly organized space? If the answer is yes and it’s only 7’ x 5’ in size you might have to accept that you’re not going to be able to create a spa-like bathroom with large walk in shower free standing bathtub and double vanity. Having said this don’t let space be a limiting factor.

Think outside of the bathroom footprint and see if you can take over space from a rarely used bedroom dysfunctional closet or hidden crawlspace behind the wall. If in doubt ask a professional decorator to help you determine the best approach for realizing space within your home.

Tip # 2: Set Your Budget Wisely

The cost of designing and renovating a bathroom can add up quickly. For example when planning a bathroom renovation for a 7’ x 5’ bathroom you could expect to spend anywhere between $15000 and $25000. Having said this there are many factors that play into the final costs of renovating a family bathroom. The most valuable tip that I can give is to not develop your budget in isolation but to reach out to a design professional and seek their help in creating a budget that takes into account the complete scope of the project as well as a contingency for any unforeseen issues found behind the wall or under the floor.

Tip # 3: Longevity Vs Immediate Needs

When undertaking any renovation you should always consider its future longevity. As you know everything in life has a lifespan whether it’s roofing shingles or design aesthetic. When planning your bathroom renovation consider how long you want the designed space to last. Should it last the duration of your home ownership or meet the needs of any person that may visit your home?

Universal design is a savvy way to lengthen the lifespan of your bathroom renovation. When considering the types of users of your bathroom which could be young children or aging parents why not view universal design as a prudent approach for the future helping you to save time and money with costly re-renovations down the road.

Tip # 4: Bathtub Or Shower?

This is a common question that I have been asked many times by my clients and my answer invariably depends upon on the available space and the homeowners’ current and future needs. As needs vary between families with young children and empty nesters it may also be prudent to consider the investment potential of renovating your bathroom using universal design.

When considering the resale value of your home Peter Brady broker and owner of Trophy Property advises his clients that buyers typically look for at least one bathtub in the home or cottage and that buyers always consider the needs of children and grandparents in their purchase decision. If in your decision making process you decide to install a shower only make sure to install a curbless shower so that there are not accessibility concerns.

Tip # 5: Lighting

Think of the bathroom as being one of the most intimate spaces in your home. From grooming to bathing and toileting lighting helps you to see what you are doing. When considering your bathroom needs ask yourself these types of questions. What do I need the light for? What type of lighting is best suited to these needs and what type of fixtures and finishes do I want to tie in with the overall design?

At the very least make sure that you put a water rated light(s) in the shower and bathtub area and do not under-light your vanity space. A simple trick to amplify your lighting in the bathroom is to mount your lighting fixtures (sconces) directly onto a mirrored wall so that light can be reflected around the room.

Tip # 6: Fixtures & Finishing

My favourite part! The fixtures and finishes are the jewelry of the bathroom. With so many beautiful products on the market it makes sense to seek the help of a professional interior decorator to help you explore the world of faucets vanities and tiles for your bathroom.

When deciding on faucets consider whether you like a single post faucet with the handle attached or a faucet where the handles are either side of the spigot. When choosing the type of handle I recommend a lever handle as it is more accessible to all users. In the shower and bathtub area I recommend the addition of a handheld fixture with a regular showerhead. This handheld fixture is handy for cleaning the bathing area perfect for washing children and pets without getting soaked and considerate of an aging parent who needs to sit down to bathe.

When considering the vanity for the bathroom remember that it serves two purposes: to hold the sink(s) and to provide much-needed storage. When shopping for a vanity for your bathroom an excellent long-term option is a wall-hung vanity. Available in many types different types of styles and finishes this type of vanity offers multiple benefits from space saving design and smart storage solutions.

Finally on the floor and walls I recommend tiles and in particular a mosaic tile for the floor. Using a mosaic tile on the floor increases the amount of grout that helps to prevent the risk of slipping. If you are cost conscious use ceramic or porcelain over natural stone. You can generally find the same pattern of tile in all options so here is a good place to cut costs without cutting back on your design.

Tip # 7: Toileting

Considered a must in any bathroom. Choosing the right toilet is very important and careful consideration should be given to the height comfort and functionality of your toilet. When buying a toilet there are many options to choose from such as sanigloss finishing in the bowl flush demands and seats that will rinse and then dry your privates! If space is a commodity in your bathroom I recommend choosing a rounded front instead of an elongated bowl. The best way to decide is to visit a showroom ask questions and sit on them.

Tip # 8: Accessorize

No space is final unless it has the proper accessories. Using flowers art and towels is a fantastic and relatively inexpensive way to bring colour into your bathroom. Choosing a neutral and timeless palette in your tiles can allow you to keep pace with changing trends.

Tip # 9: Tax Credits

Depending on your age and financial position make sure that you speak with your accountant and contractor to see if you are eligible to take advantage of any available tax credits. For example:

Home Accessibility Tax Credit (HTAC)

For 2016 and subsequent tax years the federal government has introduced a non-refundable home accessibility tax credit for eligible individuals with qualifying expenses and renovations.

Health Homes Renovation Tax Credit

The healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit is a permanent refundable personal income tax credit for seniors and family members who live with them. If you are a senior 65 years or older in Ontario you could qualify for a tax credit to help with the cost of making your home safer and more accessible.

As a professional interior decorator and aging in place specialist I love the opportunity to talk about universal bathroom design. I hope that my helpful tips have inspired you to fulfill your New Year’s resolution of renovating your family bathroom.

Andria Cowen Molyneaux County Life contributor interior decorator and aging in place specialist helps us to achieve our New Year’s resolutions by sharing with us her design tips for renovating a family bathroom. To contact Andria: or 1-844-414-LAKE.

Andria Cowan Molyneaux is an accredited interior decorator designer and certified aging in place specialist (CAPS) and has been accredited by the Canadian Decorators’ Association (CDECA) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Upholding a strict code of ethics Andria is uniquely familiar with the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically pleasing barrier-free living environments. For more information please contact Andria by calling toll free 1-844-414-lake or by visiting or emailing