We are planning to make a major upgrade/remodel in the master bath. This is primarily because our current tub is barely four feet long and I want one we can really soak in. (Yes, the impetus is purely aesthetic and absolutely not necessary.) When we do this, we’ll be working with a design/builder who is comfortable with using recycled and sustainable materials, as well as incorporating ‘green’ principles into the design.
That paragraph looks impressive, doesn’t it? Let’s go back through that a little more carefully and see what it really means.
For one, a soaking tub has a number of different shapes, depending on culture and time frame. For many people, a soaking tub is what I think of as a hot tub or jacuzzi: about 4 feet in diameter, made of wood or molded plastic, and has its own heater and filtering system. In Japan, a soaking tub is a commonplace in every home. Their version has a much narrower diameter and is very deep. One takes a shower and cleans off before entering the tub, where one sits in very hot water up to the neck. It is a very smart design in a country where space is at a premium but soaking is a cultural necessity.
Recycled materials include components rescued from the dump, from a construction site’s trash, and from deconstructing other buildings. Technically, this means that I might find every item in the new bathroom elsewhere (people dump paint all the time, in fact), except perhaps the drywall material. This isn’t likely to happen with me, however, mostly because I don’t have the time or contacts to find all the materials needed. What is probably going to happen is that I may find some materials — the tub, sink, cabinet(s), fixtures, flooring — through craigslist and the rest will be new. That’s an acceptable compromise for me.
Sustainable materials are those materials composed of renewable, rather than nonrenewable resources. This is based on a matrix of decisions: are the materials natural, plentiful, or renewable? is their manufacturing resource-efficient? are the materials locally available? are they durable? Other considerations include: how much pollution is created in the manufacturing process? is the manufacturing process low in waste production? is recycled material included? is the energy required to produce the material efficient, or low? does the use of these materials produce low levels of on-site waste? For me this means looking at the elements I don’t recycle from elsewhere and making decisions about what to use. I like wood, but it is difficult to use in a bathroom, so I will likely incorporate tile, paint, glass, and metal as being the best choices for durability and resource management.
What about design elements? Here’s where it can get very tricky and why I want to hire a professional. The tricky aspects are (in no particular order): the whole room will need to be gutted and re-installed (unless I get that Japanese-style soaking tub); I’m not sure the tub I want will be supported by the current floor (mine will likely be significantly heavier); I am seriously considering installing a tankless water heater to cut down on our heating bill costs and guarantee hot water on demand (which is a bit of a crap shoot at the moment); I like the idea of radiant floor heating; and I like the idea of a cork or marmoleum floor. The window is double-glazed, and likely protected by the HOA rules, so keeping it is probably a necessity. But I want to incorporate a curtain instead of the blinds we currently have (easier to keep clean, for one thing). We currently have a double sink cabinet, but I hate keeping it clean, so I’m willing to switch to a single sink, if we can keep the same amount of storage space that we have now. I would love to have a linen closet, but I’m not sure how the space for one would be found. The lighting fixture is not the original, which was hideous, and I’d like to keep it (recycling!)
You’ll notice I’m not talking about ‘French country’ or ‘modern’ styling. That’s far less of an issue at this point than the overall feel of the room in terms of where everything is and what recycled, sustainable, elements we can incorporate.