Bathroom for the ages

By Francie Healy

No question about it ‒ we’re on the cusp of a new era, when even bathrooms take on new meaning.

John Manzo, co-founder of Tego Design Centre, says when the global pandemic caught most of us by surprise last year, homeowners began looking for better, more comfortable, more functional ways to live and work at home.

“Better” often means a new bathroom, especially when it’s incorporated into home office space, added on for a growing at-home family, customized for seniors, and absolutely stunning…all at the same time.

John says the ideal bathroom is planned with universal design. It suits all sizes, ages and abilities: children, teenagers, adults, grandparents, and visitors. It is as elegant and contemporary as it is functional, an investment in the value of your home.

“Planning,” says John, “is key”. Plan for the people who are going to be using it, right now and in the future. And also plan, he says, for older relatives who might come to live with you someday, or for friends or family you might like to visit you.

“You’d be surprised how many people tell me they haven’t gone somewhere because they don’t feel they can gain access or feel comfortable,” John says. But a universal bathroom can function for every person of every age and situation, yet with the classic, modern feeling you expect with high-end design.

He explains one good example of universal design is a shower without threshold or curtain, with a single slab of stone cut for the shower base, flush with the floor. Or, he adds, in the case of soapstone, “floor and shower base are one ‒ a soapstone floor for the entire room.”

The bonus of soapstone is that it is not at all slippery when it’s wet, so it becomes a safety feature. “It’s smooth, not rough-textured, and really easy to walk on, with excellent traction,” he says. Soapstone also lasts for generations, won’t stain, and only needs soap and water for cleaning.

He sometimes suggests removing a large deck-mount bathtub, which takes up space, and adding a free-standing tub with a larger shower. The larger shower can have a bench or seat, with tasteful, strategically-placed bars easily in reach.

“We do a lot of shower seating, not just for older people but for people who want to shave their legs and that type of thing,” he says, “just something to put your foot on and, with bars, something to hold on to as well.”

The bars can be beautiful and artfully designed. Tego uses elegant grab bars such as those by Invisia Design, an Ottawa company, which look more like sculpture than safety features ‒ even bars that double as shelves for shampoo, for example.

Another possibility, he adds, is to keep the deck-mounted bathtub, but under-mount the tub. This way an older or ability-challenged person can transfer on the deck without the ledge of the tub in the way.

“We also have clients who ask us to add a lowering seat for those who need it, but it can be removed for those who do not,” he says.

An important element of bathroom design and planning is ventilation, especially if you want to have wood cabinets or ‒ becoming trendy again these days, says John ‒ wallpaper.

“We’re seeing a resurgence of wallpaper patterns, and they’re nice,” he says. A recent client had “really high quality” wallpaper supplied by Randall’s. Tego designers helped the client choose the pattern. But wallpaper, even the best quality, should be installed in a bathroom with good ventilation. That goes for wooden cabinets, too, and their finishes.

Some people like the contemporary look of custom wall-hung cabinets and counters, but they can also be a good idea if a wheelchair needs to slide underneath. Showers can be customized for people who are unsteady on their feet or who rely on caregivers to help them.

With planning, each bathroom can be specifically and spectacularly designed for anyone.

It makes life at home just a little bit sweeter.