Kitchen/Bath Education Series: Niche the Bathroom


Compartmentalized bathrooms allow multiple people to share the bathroom at the same time while providing privacy for individual tasks within the space. This is more consistent with kitchen design than with bathroom design. Much like the standard kitchen work triangle, we have begun to establish separate tasks or zones within bathrooms.

Most bathroom tasks can be broken into individual elements: the vanity area; the shower and tub area; the toilet and bidet area; an exercise area; and walk-in closets. The designer must think about these specific areas with an emphasis on aesthetics second. Remember that not all areas of the bathroom need to be sanctuaries.

Compartmentalized doesn’t mean physically partitioned. We can create work areas without introducing walls. The limitations of square footage should not prevent the designer from coming up with good solutions. Simply think in terms of point of use, the space around each fixture and how each fixture will be accessed.

Toilet space

The toilet area is the one most commonly compartmentalized. For a busy family, partitioning the toilet area, which may include a bidet, can create form and function. If designing a compartmentalized area for the toilet, follow simple standards recommended by the National Kitchen and Bath Association. In all instances remember that your local codes will always take precedence.

Finding room for and creating a compartment is the first priority. The minimum code requirement for a compartmentalized bath is 30 in. by 60 in. The NKBA recommends a minimum of 36 in. by 66 in. I challenge the designer to create an even wider area of about 42 in. Regardless of the width of the compartment, a minimum centerline distance from the wall to the center of the toilet is 15 in. (this is code). Remember that during planning and rough-in stages, wall thickness including interior coverings is considered to establish this centerline measurement.

When this compartment is shared by a bidet, there must be a minimum of 15 in. from the side of the toilet to the centerline of the bidet. Again the NKBA recommends a minimum of 18 in. here. If a bidet is installed it should have a towel ring along with a soap dish located within reach.

Once the width is determined, consider the compartment’s length. The minimum code requirement is 60 in. The toilet usually runs parallel to the length of the compartment, and the minimum code requirement from the leading edge of it to another obstruction (typically a wall or vanity) is 21 in. We’ve used the 21-in. measurement successfully, but it is tight. The NKBA’s 66-in. recommendation for the length of the compartment works better. Their minimum recommendation of 30 in. off the leading edge of one fixture to another is also a little more realistic. Remember most toilets set 30 in. off the back wall of the compartment. With this standard the designer is left with 30 in. in front of the toilet in the 60-in. long compartment and 36 in. in the 66-in. long compartment.

If planning for wheelchair accessibility, the compartment’s minimum dimensions should be 60 in. in width and 59 in. in length. There must be a 30-in. by 48-in. area parallel to the side of the toilet in this space so an individual can transfer from the wheelchair to the toilet.

The challenge to incorporate all of these minimum requirements into a toilet compartment can be overwhelming, so be patient. A designer must understand available fixtures and be confident to specify them.

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