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March 08, 2021

A Stunning Age-in-Place Bath Remodel

Kevin sent me some pictures last week. His mom, Betsy, had remodeled her guest bathroom. As you will see, this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill remodel. She designed the bathroom with her own mother, his grandmother, in mind. Wow. The before-and-after pictures are so stunning and full of thoughtful details, I just had to share them with you.

Kevin’s mom and dad are empty-nesters, and his grandmother lives in a memory care facility about a mile away from their house. During the height of the pandemic, Betsy was considering moving her mother into their home since she didn’t know when she would be able to see her in person at the time, which prompted the bathroom remodel. Thankfully, his grandmother is now allowed to visit freely, so she no longer has to move in. But Betsy decided to convert one of her seldom-used guest baths to accommodate her mother. Below is the “before”.

Not great for a 94 year old woman to use, so Betsy went about to reimagining the space with her in mind. Too often, an accessible bathroom feels cold and institutional. If you have ever gotten the handicap-accessible room at a hotel chain, you know what I mean. Perhaps you’ve seen one at an assisted living facility: Stark and cold with white-on-white fixtures, tile, and shower surround. The only thing that stands out in this space are the grab bars in an institutional brushed stainless-steel finish. Thankfully, that is not the case here.

Betsy made a bathroom that is not only accessible, but joyful. It functions magnificently for her mother, but it is also suitable as the everyday powder bath. Guests won’t feel awkward using this bath. Perhaps this bath is so well done, you haven’t noticed all the features that make it perfect for an aging senior.

Nonslip Porcelain floors

Let’s start with the porcelain large scale tile on the floor and walls. At first, I thought it was a terrazzo marble floor. Which would be beautiful, but not at all durable. As it turns out, that’s just the finish of the tile – brilliant! The beauty and warmth of marble with the durability of porcelain.

Pedestal-style sink

Naturally, for wheelchair access, the sink must be a pedestal or wall hung. So Betsy took a functional necessity and turned it into a design feature. I love the contrast of the dark wood cabinet with the warmth of the tile walls. On trend, the sink is rectangular, and the faucet is simple, elegant, and functional. Notice the detail of the countertop and how it flows into the shelves – nice!

Shelves and baskets for storage

While the wall hung sink works great for a wheelchair, it eliminates the storage under the sink. Look under your bathroom sink. In my house, it is full of “stuff” that I’m not exactly keen on displaying. So where do you store all of that? First, Betsy created space within the walls for shelving. Then, she utilized baskets to store non-decorative essentials. Within reach but artfully displayed. I love how the dark baskets play off the dark wood of the cabinet. I’m told more baskets are coming for the shelves on the right. Quite an improvement from before!

Lighted mirror

While not an accessible feature, per se, the lighted mirror is a wonderful touch. We all look better with the light shining at face level versus from above, casting unflattering shadows. This bathroom doesn’t lack for lighting.

Luxury Toilet

Whether it’s bad hips, knees, or just atrophied leg muscle, the higher toilet is easier to stand up from. In addition, the seat has a built-in bidet, heater, and even a built in nightlight – quite a feature normally reserved for the master bath!

Grab bars

Notice the placement of the grab bars. They are on both sides of the toilet. One also functions as the toilet paper holder – a nice discreet touch. Because Kevin’s grandma isn’t paraplegic, the grab bar behind the toilet wasn’t needed. Notice the finish on the grab bars matches the finish of the facet and the wall sconce above the sink.

Zero threshold shower

The zero-threshold shower with its linear drain is so well done, you wouldn’t even know that it was once a tub/shower combination. I love the frameless shower enclosure and the smaller but matching marble look tile on the floor. Of course, there are grab bars (matching finish), but one cleverly serves double duty as a place for soap. The teak shower seat is a lovely, spa-like touch. Not only is it functional, but the dark wood brings warmth and contrast to the marble-look shower walls. And of course, there are thoughtfully placed niches in the wall for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.

Handheld and rain shower heads

With two showerheads, this shower doesn’t forget that people want to feel pampered. The handheld shower head works great for grandma and the rain shower head is spa-like and inviting.


Last but not least, this bathroom has that sparkle! The inserted small tile on the shower walls and behind the toilet and sink adds a much-appreciated dimension of joy to the space.

Designed With Dignity In Mind

Betsy’s attention to detail might lead you to believe she’s in the industry. Alas, she’s not an interior designer, architect, or builder. Instead, she is a student of our industry (and avid reader of our blog) and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty – she even did the demolition work herself! She took a rather forgettable secondary bathroom and managed to pull off a stunning remodel that is a delight to use at any age. Most importantly, she provided a luxurious space that gives her mother the dignity she deserves. Perhaps she could teach the chain hotels a lesson in aging in place with grace.

Are you finding buyers wanting more multi-generational/age-in-place features in the home? It’s important to remember that no matter what age we are, we all still want a place that feels warm and inviting.

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters