News & Politics

Bathroom Design Ideas: Compromising Between Husband and Wife

How to get what you each like in a master bath

She wants a bubbler tub. He wants a steam shower.

She wants a large vanity with lots of storage for makeup and toiletries. He needs one drawer.

She wants a window that frames beautiful views from the tub. He wants a built-in television so he can watch ESPN while he shaves.

She wants a gentle rain shower. He wants water pressure so strong it could peel paint.

A husband and wife often have different needs and desires they’d like accommodated when designing a master bathroom.

“One of the first things I do when I’m working with a couple on a master bathroom is ask them how many years they’ve been married,” says Peggy Card, a designer with Tabor Design Build in Rockville. “If they’ve been married for a long time, I’ll say to the husband: ‘It’s whatever she wants, right?’

“We women seem to have more needs in a bathroom. It’s ‘I want my own sink, and please leave me enough space for my stuff.’ “

Which is why, says bathroom designer Dee David, if the room doesn’t allow for two spacious sink vanities, you may see one smaller than the other. The smaller one is his.

Not that wives think only of themselves. “They’ll also say, ‘Please make sure the showerhead is high enough for him,’ ” Card says. “That’s where a sliding shower bar works well–he can slide the showerhead up and she can slide it down.”

If there’s room, designers suggest two separate heads–one customized for him, one for her. Men, more than women, tend to want multiple showerheads and body sprays.

“Men want all the bells and whistles,” says designer Carolyn Thomas of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath. “They want a forceful volume of water and as many water sources as possible coming down on them.”

For a shower with just one head but multiple users, companies such as Moen and Kohler offer digital systems to control water pressure and temperature individually.

“At the touch of a button, a user can hop in the shower without fiddling with any knobs or temperature controls and enjoy all their favorite settings such as water temperature, water-flow level, and which body sprays are running,” says Shannon Kadwell, a designer for Anthony Wilder Design/Build.

With all the choices in tile these days, the look of the bathroom isn’t much of an issue.

“So many materials can be used together now that it makes it very easy on couples,” says David Bartley of Bartley Tile Concepts in Bethesda. “Let’s say a fellow wants a master bath with a masculine stone look but she wants blue glass. You can mix the stone and the glass for a great look they’ll both love.”

See Also:

Adding More Storage Space

High-Tech Toilets and Steam Showers

How to Get Better Shower Pressure

The toilet is another area where couples often agree. “One thing they both want, if it works, is separate toilet rooms,” says Josh Baker, founder of Bowa, a builder with offices in Middleburg and McLean.

Which toilet to buy, though, is a decision many wives defer to their mates. “Toilets are a place men are more picky,” Card says.

One request Dee David hears a lot from her male clients: a bathroom mirror that doesn’t fog up, so they can shave while she showers. David’s solution? Using a good-quality exhaust fan and installing a heated mirror.

Where women want heat is underfoot.

“Out of ten bathrooms I do, nine have heated floors,” says Carolyn Thomas. “That’s the one thing every woman wants. It doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue for men. They want to tough it out, I guess. Or maybe they’re not in the bathroom as long as women are.”

The Complete Dream Bathrooms Package

This article appears in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.