Value of half-bath? Terrible design, but only one on first floor.
Restoring our 1890 Victorian
March 12, 2013 in Design Dilemma
We’re planning our old-house kitchen remodel… The kitchen has an addition tacked on to the back. The addition itself is a poor design: a box, but with one corner cut on an angle. Then they took it one step further and boxed in a corner of it to add a (very small) bathroom.

Photos and layout of the current (homemade) kitchen: http://victoriaelizabethbarnes.com/our-old-house-kitchen-design/

Photos and layout of addition and half-bath: http://victoriaelizabethbarnes.com/remodeling-our-kitchen-addition/

There are a couple of issues with the half bath… It’s close to the kitchen. It looks terrible. It also limits our options with what we can do with the addition… we had planned to make the addition more of a sunroom. To add larger windows and emphasize the French doors.

But I’ve been surprised at the number of people who feel like getting rid of the bath would be a mistake. On one hand, yes a bath on the first floor is convenient, or even necessary in some cases. But on the other hand, I think this is an old house, and people understand that not all modern amenities come with that… FYI- we have two full baths on the second and third floors.

Yes, we can make it look better. A lot better… obviously, just paint will make a huge difference! But it will never be as nice as a row of windows, and it limits our layout options. We’re still undecided about the final kitchen design, but we do want to make it feel like one coherent space.

There is no other place to put a bath on the first floor. So my question is: is a half-bath in a location you dislike, worth more than the aesthetic value of not having it?

I appreciate your input!
Victoria • Restoring our Victorian

More Photos: http://victoriaelizabethbarnes.com/remodeling-our-kitchen-addition/
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0825sam
What is it with people attaching a weird bathroom to the back of a victorian. We had the same problem. Prior owners tacked a bathroom to the back of the kitchen and then a laudry room behind that. So it cut off the back of the house, no light, etc. We blew everything out to the backyard when we redid the kitchen, however we were able to relocate the bath into a closet that abutted the backstaircase which we took out due to lack of use and needing the space for the bathroom.
If you have nowhere else to put the bathroom, my vote would be to sacrifice the downstairs bath. I see that it is preventing you from working with that back room.
Here is a suggestion for possibly keeping it though - can you change it's layout so you enter it from what is now the point of the triangle (like a built in corner china closet). Our master bath is like that. Then at least maybe it would look more intentional. and you could get a frosted glass door in the style of the other door in the room? it would let some light in but still be private?
0 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 8:58AM
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libradesigneye
Sadly, yes.
Value more.
Must keep bath but perhaps can move it a bit without huge expense. Don't think of this separate from the kitchen or you have missed the opportunity to incorporate with layout / have this replumbed with any plumbing for the kitchen, shifted up the side wall.

That is what needs to happen to let you have everything you want here - ask a plumber to come and price what it takes to shift the vent pipe and plumbing for the bath up the side wall 7' or so (between your two large windows that match). If this can be done, you can turn the "closet" sideways there - just 3' wide and 5' long with a pocket door and voila, your powder room is out of the way of your sunroom and the function in your kitchen remains. Your cabinet wall just appears to extend a bit further on first sight - you can do some open shelves under the kitchen side window that appear to have been there all along, and start a window seat under the one on the other side that you can carry around the newly open corner. You can add windows all along the back to the french doors (though windows may be the most expensive items in this scheme). The cool beam left from where your fancy brick chimney was removed can run right through that new bathroom, and you can fake in a support on the new side / face wall of the bath so the archway to the next room remains visible and appropriately victorian addition- like.

If it can't be moved at all, here's the best fix I can see. Shorten the whole space by extending the interior bathroom wall all the way to the french doors and relocate the door into the bath onto the new wall nearer the french door end. Turn the french doors back to 90 degrees off side wall to line up with the new "bathroom" interior wall. In the bath, put short 5' wide high windows on the outside wall and the inside bath wall, so you are borrowing light from what you hoped to look out on. Put more windows in the side window wall where you hoped to move the bath. If you don't have a laundry room, make this a combo with the added space and a stacked unit.

If you hate the fixes that are available, then of course, it is your house, take it out.

Bless you for loving and recovering this home from its earlier terrors. And have a painting party for all your local readers to bring snacks and primer to white the orange out before it drives you mad. You will twirl with delight every day.
2 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 9:36AM
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PRO
Marie Hebson's interiorsBYDESIGN Inc.
With value put in the eye of the beholder, how possible would it be for you to hire a local interior designer to come out, draw up an existing floor plan and see how a main floor powder can be incorporated properly into what obviously needs renovating - which means tearing out walls, repairing floors and ceiling etc.
Get maximum bang for your buck, plan on paper first, get the floor plan done then renovate after all avenues have been discussed on paper.
What blows me away is people that start demolishing things without having a plan - then wonder why the project looks like crap - PLAN, PLAN, then PLAN some more.

Once you've got plans in place, budget numbers for the cost of things you won't have any surprises and you will know that your renovation was worth it - powder room or not.
I vote for the powder room on the main floor - not where it currently is, but somewhere on the main floor.
3 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 9:42AM
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PRO
Stone Mountain Surfaces
Very important to maintain a bath on 1st floor. I agree with Marie, a little tweaking of the location would be optimal. Bringing in a plumber or builder to determine feasibility would be a good first step. Are you on a subfloor?
2 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 10:37AM
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sophiakh
I say remove it, I have lived in old houses most of my life. Unless you can l maintain a nice powder room, then it really is not worth it. I feel most believe more is better, but with old houses, unless it works wit the flow, it is not a good addition. If it is ugly and awkward it does not add value to the house. I use to frequent a very nice coffee house, in an old Edwardian house, the bath was upstairs. Good friends of mine live in a Edwardian craftsman house, they have a family of 6 with one bath and it is upstairs. Using the upstairs bath is not a problem unless you have mobility issues, then that is a whole different set of questions. But it is not uncommon to have no bath on the lower floor, or no bath on the upper floor. If it cannot be kept and create a nice flow, it will never make add or maintain value.
3 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 11:17AM
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showergel
I lived in an old victorian and didnt have a powder room on main floor ...we also couldnt put one in without adding an addition. The area didnt warrant the cost to build. We were not getting any younger and our elderly parents could not visit for very long...if you know what I mean. So sadly we moved (I loved that house). All that being said ...have a third party take a look and come up with a plan to possibly move it to a new location on main floor...DO NOT GET RID OF IT!!! because if you love your house you may live to regret it.
3 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 11:36AM
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shelleyuk
Here in England we are not allowed to have a toilet opening directly onto a kitchen and so I can see that the layout isn't ideal. Having said that a downstairs toilet is a big advantage and will add value to your home. I would think carefully about removing it.
2 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 11:42AM
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0825sam
Another consideration in addition to elderly family members would be if you have or intend to have children. It is convenient to have a downstairs bath when your little one is running to the potty on a moment's notice.
0 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 11:45AM
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Chris Warren
I have been in many turn of the century houses with a powder room installed under the staircase to the second floor. Has that already been considered unfeasible?
3 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 12:01PM
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Carolyn Albert-Kincl, ASID
I'm in the "keep the powder room" camp, but as an interior designer I also am in the "plan ahead" group. So explore your options. Call the plumber and then a designer or architect.
1 Like   March 12, 2013 at 12:20PM
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alicebenck
It's hard to give a good advice on this one. I would suggest you look around for some design inspiration and you might find something to fit your case. Personally, I use http://unioncy.com to discover cool items. I know I don't help much, but I'm with you :) Alice
0 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 12:25PM
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Judy M
I vote keep it, somehow, anyhow, make it work.
1 Like   March 12, 2013 at 12:30PM
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Restoring our 1890 Victorian
Thank you so much for all your ideas and commiseration… I really appreciate it.

There isn’t another place on the first floor to relocate it. We don’t have an under-stair area—the stairwell leads to the basement, and there isn’t another closet or out-of-the-way space to put it.

The only other place we could move it would put it IN the kitchen. Next to the refrigerator area. It would require bumping out that wall, and I’m not sure that arrangement is an improvement, except aligning it in an area that isn’t quite as wildly noticeable… and moving all the plumbing to still be in the kitchen (actually IN the kitchen,) doesn’t seem any better… the door would still be in the kitchen, there’s no way to access it from the other side of the wall.

I do know that just painting what is there will make a big difference. And the room isn’t at all “decorated.” We just have junk in there without any regard for appeal or layout. Also, we plan to get a new sofa, and the coffee table is in another room… so theoretically that would improve it.

I could imagine redesigning the visible bath wall… extending it as suggested. Or redesigning the entrance. If we made the wall longer, we could fancy it up by adding some built-in-bookcases or something. But at the same time, it’s still a bathroom in an odd spot. Plus, the idea of going to all the trouble to remodel the kitchen and not carry the best design out to the attached room…

I really don’t know what I want to do… we’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I don’t feel any closer to knowing what will be best for us!!
0 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 4:44PM
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libradesigneye
Doing some built ins on a full end wall there might be the ticket - and less expensive than lots of new windows.
1 Like   March 12, 2013 at 5:06PM
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honeapathsc
Remove the half bath and be true to the house. You are correct that in most older homes there was no bath on the first floor. While this may be inconvenient in todays world you purchased this victorian house for a reason. Just tell guest they can use the bath upstairs or the one in the little house out back, wouldn't that be fun to see the expression on their face. I am sure your house will turn out great in the end.
1 Like   March 12, 2013 at 5:31PM
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Carolyn Albert-Kincl, ASID
I like the idea of bookshelves between the powder room and the rest of the space.
1 Like   March 12, 2013 at 5:39PM
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Bickhaus Homes
How about leveling off the ceiling of the bathroom so that the exterior creates a ledge to put plants on and perhaps some up lighting. Shelving on the outer wall would be great. Now, all of the sudden, it's turns an eyesore into an architectural attraction.
0 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Mary Poulos Interior and Exterior Design
Just because you do not know what to do, does not mean a good designer will not know what to do. Designers come with answers you would never have suspected existed, would never have occurred to you. You need to find a good designer in your area, to help you correct this, because no bathroom available on the first floor is a majorly functionally obselecent factor in your home and will definitely affect it's future value, as well as it's functionality here in the present. Speaking as one who is a designer and has been a realtor for a considerable length of time.
5 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 5:49PM
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Interiors International, Inc.
You really should keep a bath on the main level.
0 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 5:54PM
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Jesse Kelley
it's really not as bad as you think . odd yes but once you paint and decorate it will hopefully blend right in :-)
0 Likes   March 12, 2013 at 11:54PM
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Restoring our 1890 Victorian
As much as I want to take it out— I do hear the suggestions that a main-level bath is valuable… that’s the entire reason I hesitate to simply rip it out.

On the other hand, doesn’t it make just as much sense to think of the room itself as having value without the bath? Meaning, windows are maybe just as valuable? It’s hard to do anything in this house without also thinking—what will the next owner think? We’ve had dilemmas before… like, we had a window in our shower (very large!) and we chose to keep it, which I’m not sure everyone would have…

Like I said, I really can argue both sides of the bath... I like the idea of evening out the ceiling somehow. Or maybe even using crown molding around the lower walls, and then continuing it across the bath and peaks at the same level, and painting above it ceiling-white, and below it the pale yellow we’ve used in the rest of the house.

I’m planning to spend some time this weekend looking at shelving inspiration. That wall could be very pretty with some nice built-ins. Although I don’t know how it would balance out. One side of the room having tall shelves, just ending abruptly in mid-room, and the door being cut on the diagonal, and the ceiling/wall triangles. Might be just more weird angles…
0 Likes   March 13, 2013 at 10:07AM
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tsudhonimh
I'm also in the "keep the powder room" camp, for convenience and for those people who can't climb stairs.

Step 1 - Add a faux beam across the opening between kitchen and sun room - make it a real divider, not just the sudden end of a surface. This will fool your mind into thinking the kitchen "ends" there and that new rules apply to the room beyond.

Step 2 - Paint the room something besides Hare Krishna yellow!
3 Likes   March 13, 2013 at 11:09AM
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apple_pie_order
I'd keep it. Visitors who cannot easily manage stairs will appreciate it, as will any family members who sprain their ankles or break their legs. These things happen in real life.
4 Likes   March 13, 2013 at 11:13AM
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tsudhonimh
Add a column, corbel, and beam right at the junction, deep enough to conceal that odd triangle of the other room's framing.

I can't tell if you have already done that or not, but it's the easiest way to conceal an awkward transition.
1 Like   March 13, 2013 at 11:25AM
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0825sam
Just wondering, I am not an expert so my suggestion about entering the bath from the corner may be off base, but it seems that softening the corner would go a long way to dealing with it in its current position. Could you then add windows to the left of the window that is already to the left of the bath? and/or enlarge the small window to the right?
2 Likes   March 13, 2013 at 11:29AM
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tamela123
We have a 34" x 7' 1/2 bath at the end of our galley 1850's kitchen....it's tiny and crazy(the fridge door bumps into the bath door)...but I would Not give it up...function !!
1 Like   March 13, 2013 at 1:02PM
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tamela123
Ok...if you get rid of it figure out where you could build a better one on the 1st floor
1 Like   March 13, 2013 at 1:05PM
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redheadedwmn
I would start by framing out and dry-walling the ceiling to be a continuation of the kitchen ceiling. (even if it's only 8FT vs. 9FT). I think this would be a MAJOR help!! It would take away a bunch of the angles that are causing distraction.

As weird as it is, my vote is to keep the bathroom. I think you can still add the windows you need for a sunroom. Could you do 2-3 windows on the right wall (when you are facing the french doors), and 2 on the left wall and one large one where the tiny window is?

But again, I would start with the ceiling. Frame and drywall, then step back and look at the space. I think it could still be a great space by streamlining the oddness that's currently going on.
1 Like   March 13, 2013 at 1:06PM
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showergel
Maybe you could opt for a softer wall colour and a tint on the ceiling so there's not such a jarring difference between ceiling and wall....who knows it may give the illusion of the oddly placed powder room disappearing....and bump up the small window to a larger size...try it on a computer first though. Paint can hide a world of sins!
1 Like   March 13, 2013 at 3:09PM
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team1s
Are you intending to move soon? If yes, then you better keep it. If you're hoping to stay for several years at least I'd get rid of it. You don't like it and you're the one who has to live with it.
1 Like   March 13, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Carolyn Albert-Kincl, ASID
The key will be improving that bath so that she likes it!
1 Like   March 13, 2013 at 5:49PM
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Mary Poulos Interior and Exterior Design
I am again reading libradesigneye post, and I think it is really perfect. Then put you windows along the side wall as libra said. Even small side yards, if they are not too narrow can make an interesting view out, it you find the right planting material, or trellis etc.
1 Like   March 13, 2013 at 8:26PM
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libradesigneye
Blushing here ;) Do think my fellow redhead is right about ceiling in here , more accurate to period and best in this space. Think opportunities for new lighting placed as you desire,insulation, even surround sound for the vintage vinyl could be built in.

Saw you were investigating casework for potential end wall option. Want to mention a nifty door option i saw integrated into wall of casework. Since longer narrow space is easiest to put to use when door is not at end but somewhere mid-space and both ends are available inside for fixtures / layout, that would mean integrating door (and possibly glass transom for borrowed light) into casework wall. That helps to solve awkward transition at french door but presents other issues.

Usually casework is at least 14" deep (and these days many set lower cabinets sufficient to hold media boxes / upper shelves to manage flatscreens). Saw door frame set at face of casework/ bookcase instead of at wall. This offers extra 14" from the open door to the back wall of the narrow room to allow for movement inside when door is open. Neat vintage door with unique profile could add rather than subtract from wall, but room traffic pattern must be considered in door placement.

Inside the powder room a designer could figure out how to put a hidden door behind a full size mirror that opens to a walk in pantry or laundry room. You could relocate the pretty high window to the powder room end. Or take that concept back up to plan with the entire kitchen. Maybe set up butlers pantry with remote entry to powder and shift kitchen further into this space? Worth it to consider all the possibilities and potential uses. Time to draw up dimensions and consider all your options.
2 Likes   March 13, 2013 at 10:49PM
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Dee Gould
A powder room on the main floor is a must..broken ankle convienced me a powder room was a Must! Yep, I wanted to maintain the integrity of our Victorian...only area the kitchen pantry...guest were sent upstairs, family on if necessary...there was only room enough for toilet and a small sink..more than once was so happy there was one on main floor...find a place youll be glad
0 Likes   March 14, 2013 at 7:09AM
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Sigrid
There's a reason a British euphemism is "cloakroom." Plenty of tiny WCs were put in what used to be the hall closet. Our dacha has a toilet in a space the size of a closet. It has the world's tiniest sink, but it's functional.

Have a bathroom on the first floor. Inspect every closet for options and shop for an armoire. Big armoires that are really nice pieces are usually pretty inexpensive, if you shop vintage.
2 Likes   March 14, 2013 at 7:29AM
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Restoring our 1890 Victorian
Again, thank you so much for all the suggestions! I love anything fancy, so corbels and bookcases are right up my alley… I’m going to think about design options for keeping it… even if we decide to take it out, at least I’ll feel like I did a real exploration of options for redesigning it.

There really is not a single closet or corner to relocate this to… moving it to another room would just be moving the box somewhere else… not to mention the other rooms are fairly small, so it would be even more noticeable.

As of now, we’re planning to keep the wacky raised-ceiling, but remove the bead-board and replace it with plain sheetrock. Hopefully that will downplay it. And we’ll figure out some low-key lighting.

If I come up with anything interesting, or find good inspiration, I’ll post a photo.
1 Like   March 14, 2013 at 5:31PM
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