Getting Your Bathroom in Order

No one wants to spend more time in the bathroom than they have to. So follow these steps for ordering and organizing your powder room, and you'll be out of there in no time.

By Heather J. Paper

Getting Your Bathroom in Order

Everyone has a morning bathroom routine, and with some strategic space planning, it can be streamlined to make you even more efficient each a.m. (and let you sleep a few extra minutes, too). So whether you're tackling a renovation or simply reorganizing, consider creating specific task zones that can you save some steps and help get you out the door on time.

If you have both the space and the money to spend, consider two separate master bathrooms instead of one shared space. The advantage is that you can plan the room precisely to suit your needs. "In the high-end market, two separate master baths are preferred by most clients, especially those over the age of 50," says Matthew Quinn, the principal of Design Galleria Kitchen & Bath Studio in Atlanta. "But if there's only enough space for one bathroom, two separate vanities and a private water closet are a must."

Getting Your Bathroom in Order

Whether you're working with one room or two, however, good space planning is paramount. Like a kitchen with an efficient work triangle, a well-planned bath relies on the smart placement of fixtures — an area for grooming (the vanity), an area for bathing (the shower and/or tub), as well as the toilet. Ideally, in a bathroom with two vanities, each should be equidistant from the shared shower/tub and toilet. Don't presume, either, that all the essentials need to line the perimeter of the room. "Bathrooms that have 'dance floors' in the middle of them are a waste of space," adds Quinn. "Float the vanities or a gorgeous tub in the middle of the room rather than sticking everything against the walls."

Getting Your Bathroom in Order

Once separate areas are established, it's important to have everything you need for each task close at hand. At the vanity, for instance, "I like to put everything I use on a daily basis in one place: the medicine cabinet," says Seattle designer Rick Baye. "That way, there's never any question where anything is." Quinn adds that, beyond organization, there's a "neatness" factor to be considered as well. "A space will always look larger when the clutter on countertops is removed. I like to put old wooden boxes, or decorative mirrored and metal boxes, on the countertop. They're a great way to conveniently hide the clutter, especially if a client doesn't have a medicine cabinet or ample drawer space."

Instead of keeping towels and washcloths down the hall in a linen closet, add storage right in the bathing zone. Even a sliver of space can be devoted to built-in floor-to-ceiling shelves, allowing easy access to linens. But furniture is moving into the bathroom, too, so look for a handsome cabinet or, says Quinn, use an old armoire. Behind the closed doors of these storage pieces you can organize not only thick, thirsty towels, but also all kinds of soaps, bath salts and sponges.

Even the water closet can benefit from some careful planning. A wall-hung cabinet over the toilet, for instance, can discreetly conceal extra toilet paper. "If the space is 48 inches or wider, a low run of cabinets parallel with the toilet is perfect for essentials as well as reading materials," offers Quinn. "Top it off with a lamp and the area becomes almost lounge-like."

Even if your bathroom isn't arranged into the ideal task zones, there are ways you can make it work more efficiently:

Use a two-tiered mobile cart, putting your favorite oils and soaps on the top level and towels down below. Then, at bath time, simply roll it over next to the tub. "There are many mobile pieces that can provide that little bit of extra storage in a bathroom and not take up too much space," says Quinn.

In a shared or family bath, boxes and bins are a great way to give each person his or her own space and keep them organized as well. Put the family member's name of the front of the basket or bin and there's never a question as to whose stuff is where. Most importantly, though, keep them close to the task at hand.

Another way to use containers, says Baye, is to devote each one to a specific purpose. "I like to use plastic, hinged-top boxes that you can see through," he says. "One box might be devoted to 'cutting,' including things like bandages, gauze, nail clippers and cuticle scissors, while another might be for 'dental care,' including floss, extra toothpaste and things like that."

Quinn also has a smart solution for small appliances. "I like to install plugs at the back of lined drawers," he says, "so curling irons and blow dryers can be plugged in, used and stored again without ever messing with the cords."