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Bathroom of the Week: Master Bath Remade for Aging in Place

Wednesday, October 28, 2020   /   by Frank Hornstein

Bathroom of the Week: Master Bath Remade for Aging in Place

The first decision this San Diego-area couple made regarding their forever home was to buy a one-story house next door to their daughter and her family. The second was to hire interior designer Danielle Perkins to help them renovate the house in a way that would allow them to age in place gracefully.

In their master bathroom, Perkins came up with strategies to accommodate declining physical abilities, keeping walkers, wheelchairs and a home health aide in mind. The result is a space with timeless style that will allow them to live here comfortably for many years.

Before Photo

Becky Harris

“After” photos by Taylor Abeel Photography

Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple
Location: El Cajon, California
Size: 82 square feet (7.6 square meters)
Designer: Danielle Perkins of Danielle Interior Design & Decor

Before: When the couple bought the 1990s tract house, it had basic finishes from that era. The master bathroom wasn’t large enough to incorporate all the aging-in-place elements. The bathroom entry was too narrow for a wheelchair, and there wasn’t enough open floor space to turn a wheelchair around inside the room.

While neither of the homeowners required a walker or wheelchair at the time of the renovation, they wanted to be able to age in place here. To gain more space for a wheelchair turning radius, Perkins borrowed from the bathroom located behind this one, which was also part of the whole-house remodel. She planned that bathroom for overnight visits from the couple’s grandchildren. (See it here.) Borrowing those few square feet gave her a working space of 9 feet, 11 inches by 8 feet, 4 inches, which included a 5-foot wheelchair turning radius.

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DANIELLE Interior Design & Decor

After: The remodel was down to the studs, which was important. “We needed to make sure that there was sufficient support behind the walls for the grab bars,” Perkins says. She carefully planned the locations of the bars to assist with moving from one area to the next. And she considered what else someone might grab onto. For example, the toilet paper roll has support behind it to make it weight-bearing. “It could be used to help someone push themselves up,” she says. The grab bar above it eases the way from the toilet to the counter for hand-washing.

Perkins sourced an attractive resin grab bar that fades into the wall behind it. And she chose matte black for the other bars to match the towel rings and mirrored medicine cabinets.

Another aging-in-place element is the ADA-compliant toilet. The Americans With Disabilities Act recommends installing toilets that are 17 to 19 inches high.

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DANIELLE Interior Design & Decor

Open space underneath a countertop is important for accommodating a wheelchair. This countertop is 34 inches high. “My clients really only needed storage for the basics — toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes. They didn’t have a lot they needed to store,” Perkins says.

To make up for the lack of vanity storage, she installed his-and-her medicine cabinets, a freestanding shelf under the counter and a niche above the toilet. There’s also plenty of counter space for leaving out daily items should either of them be a wheelchair user in the future.

“It was important to use single-handled faucets so that they could get the temperature right with just one hand and support themselves with the other,” she says. There are wall sconces for facial light, as well as recessed lighting in the ceiling and a fan light in the shower.

As for style, it was important to give the room a warm look that would last. “We knew we wanted to make the room timeless,” Perkins says. “So for longevity, we didn’t do anything that was too edgy or on trend. We kept it clean, simple and neutral.”

She chose a penny tile in warm neutral hues for the flooring. Then she extended it up to create an accent wall that also serves as a backsplash. The countertop is granite and the faucets are oil-rubbed bronze. The rounded edges of the sconces and mirrors play off the circles of the penny tiles.

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Before Photo

Becky Harris

Before: The shower had a curb and would have been a tight squeeze for one person and a home health aide.

DANIELLE Interior Design & Decor

After: Perkins created a curbless shower in the space measuring 5 feet, 8 inches by 2 feet, 8 inches. The floor tile continues seamlessly into the stall. The floor slants slightly toward a linear drain in the back. This placement will prevent wheels from getting stuck on the drain.

“Home health nurses recommended the vertical grab bar because it’s helpful for pivoting from the toilet into the shower,” Perkins says. “And the grab bar at the back helps when turning around.” She placed the shampoo niche on the wall across from the shower heads so that someone assisting with showering would have easy access to it.

Another aging-in-place element is the nonslip floor. The amount of grout between the small penny tiles helps with grip. Perkins also added a nonslip sealant.

Style-wise, she chose a porcelain tile that looks like stone and placed it around the base of the shower and up the two side walls. “The dark herringbone tile adds interest and contrast,” she says.

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Before Photo

Becky Harris

Before: The existing bathroom entrance was too narrow for wheelchair access, and it had a pocket door.

DANIELLE Interior Design & Decor

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After: Perkins widened the opening to 36 inches. The clients liked the idea of a sliding barn door, so she sourced a light aluminum door that’s easy to open and close. It’s 37 inches wide and has translucent glass inserts that add style to the bathroom and bedroom.

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Frank Hornstein
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