FLUSHING THE POWDER ROOM OUT OF OUR HOUSE PLAN

This weekend we had a second site visit with our architect/daughter. (Check out Whole Tree Architecture.) She, her boss and his family of four came for the weekend, and the 7 of us (one admittedly still in diapers) got along fine with 2 bathrooms.

We had a site visit Saturday and throughout the weekend mulled the question of how to whittle down our footprint.  By the end of the weekend, we had flushed the powder room.

...TOO MANY TOILETS! photo credit bikingbettie-flickr

Because we are following good accessibility practice and putting our bedroom and bath on the main floor, we decided to make that bath do double duty.  We can put the toilet and a sink into a powder room space with a pocket door that opens into the rest of the bathroom with the shower and perhaps another small sink.

We will have a second bathroom on the lower level where our offices, music room and spare room nestle.

This seems good on so many levels – not the least of which is one less bathroom to clean.  I recently posted on green cleaning, but of course the greenest way to clean is to have less objects to clean.

It has taken a while to let that powder room go.

It seemed so convenient, but I am growing to believe that convenience often comes at the cost of true happiness.  This may be particularly true with bathrooms.

Back in the 50s and 60s people thought it was normal for a family to have one bathroom.  Social studies of happiness chart that American happiness has declined since that time.

I can remember my parents’ best friends, a farming family, had an outhouse during my early years.  Each night before the  children were tucked into bed, we made one last expedition with flashlights.  What an adventure!

photo credit: greenbrokes photostream, flickr

I also remember the joy and pride with which our friends showed us their bathroom addition a few years later.  It was MUCH more convenient.  But it’s not their flush toilet that is surrounded by the rosy glow of childhood memory.

And speaking of childhood – my own and my children’s – I am here to tell you that sharing a bathroom builds negotiation skills that will take you far in life.  Sharing a bathroom can respect privacy while fostering a sense of personal closeness that is real and immediate and no-nonsense.

My younger daughter (a senior at UW-Madison) just returned from a 10 day, winter break service trip to an Indian reservation in South Dakota.  10 college kids signed up and traveled there in 2 minivans and were put up in very sketchy accommodations that included 2 baths and one working shower for the 10 of them.  One of the first things they did when they got there was work out a shower schedule.  One of the last things they did was to schedule a reunion get-together this coming week.  They have bonded into what could be in some cases life-long friendships.  Part of that is no doubt based on the intimate proximity their living quarters dictated.

We are social animals.  We cut down our chance at true happiness when we seal ourselves off from each other.

If you are designing a house and want to make a happy one – I urge you to reconsider the number of bathrooms you have been told that you need — then flush one.

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3 replies

    • Thanks for commenting. Yes, my daughter does work for Roald Gundersen who was written up in the NYT in November. Here’s the link to that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/05/garden/05tree.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=whole%20Tree&st=cse

      The photo was actually one I borrowed from Flickr, and it was taken in England. Those toilets were evidently sitting on the tennis court of a hotel. It was an amazing image. I had to use it. Speaking of photos, your own are really wonderful. I love the Fire and Ice sequence.

      It is a constant learning experience to be planning a house with Whole Tree Architecture. We are planning to build in 2012, and it will take that long to think through every aspect to make as sustainable a structure as possible using an unconventional technique. But I can’t justify building in the old unsustainable ways. I want to be a pioneer, and in the U.S. in 2010, that means exploring ways to live sustainably. We don’t have any more wilderness to explore. I guess it’s the ultimate “staycation.”

      I’ll be reading your blogs with interest.

      Denise

    • Thanks for commenting. Yes, my daughter does work for Roald Gundersen who was written up in the NYT in November. Here’s the link to that article:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/05/garden/05tree.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=whole%20Tree&st=cse

      The photo was actually one I borrowed from Flickr, and it was taken in England. Those toilets were evidently sitting on the tennis court of a hotel. It was an amazing image. I had to use it.
      Speaking of photos, your own are really wonderful. I love the Fire and Ice sequence.

      It is a constant learning experience to be planning a house with Whole Tree Architecture. We are planning to build in 2012, and it will take that long to think through every aspect to make as sustainable a structure as possible using an unconventional technique. But I can’t justify building in the old unsustainable ways. I want to be a pioneer, and in the U.S. in 2010, that means exploring ways to live sustainably. We don’t have any more wilderness to explore. I guess it’s the ultimate “staycation.”

      I’ll be reading your blogs with interest.

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