Whereas it used to be common practice for several members of the family to use the bathroom at once, today the norm is for mum, dad and their offspring to occupy it individually – especially at rush hour, when it’s even more in demand than usual. And yet they actually only end up making life difficult for one another, complaining about the others taking too long, the shortness of their own slot or the annoying signs of usage left behind by a previous user who was so rushed he didn’t have time to clean up after himself. Arguments are inevitable. In the end, the daily bathroom routine becomes an exchange of accusations rather than a gentle start to the day, and even in the evening, when the bathroom ought to be a place to relax, there’s more recrimination than regeneration going on.
Whether the desire for strict privacy is a side effect of affluence or merely the logical result of individualisation – the fact remains that anybody who can’t afford or doesn’t want a second bathroom ought to make sure he masters the art of getting all users processed according to schedule. But since such efficiency usually falls victim to reality, bottlenecks are virtually a law of nature. According to the GfK panel survey regularly commissioned by the VDS (German Sanitary Industry Association), the main reason for early-morning chaos is that the different members of the family all have to leave the house at the same time and there is only one bathroom. And for all their good intentions about sticking to agreements, most people seem to resign themselves to the chaos.
So is a bit of chaos really such a bad thing? Isn’t a family bathroom used by several people at the same time actually a bit of a luxury too, provided the risk of stepping on each other’s toes is kept to a minimum? At the end of the day, there are ever-fewer opportunities for family togetherness – surely planning for it makes more sense than abolishing it or turning it into a problem. A busy bathroom where a family can get together and talk about the day, enjoy a sense of closeness and give each other tips could prove to be a trend-setting model – especially in these hectic times of ours. Provided there is a separate toilet and enough space to give the bathroom a structured design, even the desire for a little privacy can be taken into account up to a point.
Mindlessly spreading the sanitaryware out along the wall has long since ceased to satisfy the demands of modern bathroom design. It’s even possible to implement level-access showers or position baths and basins in the middle of the room in most bathrooms nowadays. Which is why the analysis and planning of circulation paths should serve as a starting point. After that, it might for instance be possible to create a slightly separate zone for the bath and/or shower at the back of the space available. That makes particularly good sense where a long, narrow space can be assigned to the bathroom, allowing the individual zones to be arranged in succession like a string of beads. But a big, open space provides plenty of zoning options too. Half-height or full-height partitions can double as a shower wall, storage space or washing area.
And why should a washbasin always be mounted on the wall? After all, the kitchen hasn’t got a monopoly on the island principle – a water-carrying element that’s accessible from several sides is just as feasible in the bathroom. If the double basin (a must for any busy bathroom used by several people at once) is positioned so that it projects into the room or as a freestanding element, mum, dad, brother and sister can dance around each other as they clean their teeth. Let’s see who’s finished first!