In this episode, we discuss bathroom storage options! I referenced another episode by Kati Richardson about the ease of doing daily tasks in a bathroom, as well as a design completed by our organization.
Here are a few pictures of a bathroom completed by Brooke Thabit. Read more about the project here.
[00:00:27] Welcome to episode number 21. We are sharing about how the design of the storage in a bathroom impacts the ability of people to do their daily tasks. This will help you understand how individual needs and the design of the environment results in either a good fit or a poor fit. It’s the little things that make a big difference.
[00:00:51] We moved into a bigger apartment last summer. After having a baby and needing more room, we were delighted to upgrade to an apartment with a porch, an extra bedroom for the kiddo, and lots of storage. You see, in our previous apartment, it had a great open layout but storage was minimal, especially in the bathrooms. We had to purchase quite a few dressers, shelving units, and storage caddies to go around the bathroom and on top of the counters just to keep things organized and out of sight. Especially with Scott having a disability, he has quite a few extra supplies that need to be organized and done so discreetly. This is important to us from just a personal standpoint, but also nice if you have a guest drop by and needs to use the bathroom.
[00:01:37] Anyway, we looked at quite a few different floor plans in the apartment complex that had three bedrooms and we actually ended up choosing a three-bedroom accessible unit, which was the only three-bedroom accessible unit in the building. And it had a few more accessible features within the apartment that would make it easier for Scott to do laundry and help with the kitchen. It also had many storage options that were behind closed doors. This meant that we could get rid of those storage bins and keep things less cluttered. Plus we have a kid who was really exploring the environment, walking around, opening up our cabinets, and we were really grateful for the added childproofing with things behind closed doors and closets.
[00:02:20] So that brings me to the topic of bathroom storage. I’m sure you’ve felt the struggle too with how to organize the products that are used in the bathroom from big plastic bottles to little bandaids, tweezers, nail clippers. Not to mention, where do you keep medicines out of reach for kids, but in reach for you as well?
[00:02:40] We have chatted with our friends and design advisors about the topic of bathroom storage in the past and I was excited to hear some of the things they really felt were important for keeping the bathroom organized and keeping things within reach. Plus, it’s not like you just have one person using a bathroom. Most often, there are many people ranging in a variety of ages needing to use the same space to wash up, get their makeup on, do their hair, shave, brush teeth, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:03:08] Folks, there’s a lot of stuff to store in the bathroom. So let’s talk about what you typically find storage wise in a bathroom. Most often there is limited space in the room in the first place and storage is either high on a wall or low to the ground. A typical bathroom would most likely have a sink on top of a big cabinet. Usually, that big cabinet has a large area on the bottom to store things with a few drawers on top. That large open space does require someone to bend down and hunt for whatever is stored in there, which isn’t very convenient. Plus it’s dark under that sink which makes it more difficult to find things in general, even more difficult if you have trouble with your vision.
[00:03:51] I’ve seen people get racks to create their own shelves underneath as well as get some smaller plastic storage containers to keep things organized and contained. Sometimes you’ll find a medicine cabinet or storage on the sidewall near the sink. This is great to keep things out of reach for little kids, but not so great for those who are seated or shorter in stature.
[00:04:13] Sometimes you’ll find a linen closet in the bathroom, or maybe just outside the bathroom, but not always. Usually they’re tucked into a tight area with a small door to access. Some people may store bath products in there, or even toilet paper and tissues, but that can easily get overcrowded.
[00:04:32] And then you find the need to put items into smaller bins so they don’t fall over and create that domino effect where everything spills over into a pile. I’m sure you’ve been there. That tends to happen with me with wire shelving versus a solid plastic or wooden shelving. Oftentimes I’ve even put cardboard on the wire shelving so things don’t fall over.
[00:04:55] Then there’s the counter. Counter clutter is really frustrating for me no matter if there’s a lot of counter space or a small amount of counter space. I’ve purchased caddies to keep things organized and standing up. Finding a place for the toothbrush and toothpaste to keep in reach is great, but they don’t always land back in that area. Then you have your lotions and face washes as well. Where does the hairdryer and other styling equipment go? Does it tend to stay on the counter or is there a place for it to live when it’s not being used? What about the mirror? Is there an extra mirror because you can’t see yourself in the mirror behind the sink? I’ve even seen some people create shelving along the side wall to get things off the counter when they don’t have other storage options like drawers.
[00:05:45] Can you tell I like to keep things in their place? I think you get the point. So the challenge with all of this is having the organization in place to keep the things you need within reach and finding a place for everything for all the needs of your family. It’s nice to have the items you use in the bathroom stored in the bathroom. But oftentimes we find that because of the lack of space, we have to move these items to another area of the home, making some of these tasks more inconvenient.
[00:06:15] Last summer within our organization we did a pilot project to test out our design process with student designers, OTs, student OTs, and other volunteer design advisors. I’ve put a picture of the bathroom in our show notes for you to see what we came up with regarding storage around the sink and next to the bathroom.
[00:06:35] One of the big things that people wanted in their bathroom was storage. And this came from our design advisors. Many of these individuals have lived with the disability and are finding that their current space doesn’t accommodate all the extra equipment and supplies they have. Plus, if you have a guest come into your home and use that same bathroom, like I talked about before, you might not want them to see your shower chair or extra toilet seat or catheter bags sitting around. They wanted an out of sight closet that was large that they could put all of this stuff in and shut the door.
[00:07:10] So we decided to create a large closet with the intent for homeowners to be able to adjust the shelving for whatever they needed. And we actually put the shelving from floor to ceiling. So if they wanted to hang things up there, they could. If they needed a big open space to put a shower chair or a wheelchair, they could. If they just loved having their towels, extra toilet paper from Costco, and bubble bath in reach on shelving, they could do that too. By keeping this room flexible with the storage options already present it was really exciting to them because they could just move those shelves and racks wherever they needed them.
[00:07:49] We also talked in-depth about the storage around the sink. It seemed as though I wasn’t the only one that dislikes counter clutter. The solution we came up with was a sliding drawer system that was above the counter and below the counter to meet the needs of all people living in the home. This was placed on the wall side of the double sinks and pulled out toward the people at the sink, whether they were seated or standing while using the sink. The sides to these drawers were open so someone could easily reach in the side and grab what they needed.
[00:08:23] We also talked about keeping hand towels and electrical outlets within reach. So we decided to put an outlet in the back of the cabinet so somebody can keep their cords contained as well as putting outlets on either the back of the mirror or on the outside of the cabinetry so it was within easier reach. Towel hardware could also be installed at multiple heights to keep those off the counter and accessible for people of different heights.
[00:08:50] The biggest thing for us was flexibility and that you didn’t have to use this sink space one way. And there were options for people to choose how they wanted to store their items. Installing either pull out trays or drawers helps brings the items out to you and into the light for easier viewing versus having you go back into the cabinetry to retrieve something.
[00:09:13] When thinking about other ways to help with bathroom storage, I’ve also seen individuals actually use their wall space as well. Like I mentioned before, shelving could be installed in the walls but if you didn’t want that shelving protruding into the room, you could also utilize the space between the studs in the wall to create some unique shelving that was sort of recessed into the wall.
[00:09:35] I’ve seen this done before in a wall and the designer put a door on the front of this storage area that was actually a full-length mirror. The mirror was accessible in the bathroom and when you opened it you had storage from a high to a low area making use of the space between those studs.
[00:09:56]It’s also important to think about storage within the shower and around the tub. Placing little nooks with tile as well as small shelves can do wonders for increasing the functionality of that area. This also goes for storing towels. Hooks may be easier for some to put a towel up while bars are easier for others and be creative! This towel hardware doesn’t have to be all at the same height around the entire bathroom. Mounting them lower is great for kids, people of shorter stature, or those who are seated. Mounting them higher is great for those who can reach it up high. Having multiple hanging locations allows you to have more storage options for hanging wet towels, especially if you have multiple people using the bathroom. Remember that being flexible with this placement is okay.
[00:10:45] Another thing that I’ve heard as a need for storage within the bathroom is where to put the dirty laundry. Of course, putting it in another room is completely fine, but that’s where the large closet comes in handy that I discussed earlier. Having a place to sort the laundry out of sight is really nice. Plus, I’ve heard of some people actually putting a washer and dryer in their master bathroom or bedroom closet. I’d love to hear what you think about that.
[00:11:13] So today’s episode was a lot about storage options in the bathroom, but I know there’s more I missed. If you have figured out some creative storage options in your bathroom, I’d love to hear about them. I also hope you get a chance to look at the bathroom we created. The designer was our student at the time. She is now graduated with her degree in interior design, but I wanted to give Brooke Thabit a big thank you for the time she spent collaborating with us and designing the bathroom with some really beautiful renders for us to share how functional a bathroom can be when you have the voices of designers, people who have experience with disabilities, as well as healthcare professionals speaking into the design. We also had two OT students, Brittany Drews and Sandy Welfare, who participated in the project as well. They are now graduated too.
[00:12:02] If you are interested in learning more about this bathroom, I’ve included links to additional materials in the show notes. One is another podcast recorded by one of our previous OT students, Kati, as well as an article, I wrote about the pilot project home, which includes a lot of different pictures as well. I’m so glad you tuned into another episode with us and I can’t wait to share more with you in the future. Bye.