Design Q +A: Power to the powder rooms

Mary Rentschler and John Fuller make the tiny mighty.


What’s the smallest sink you’ve ever had installed?

An undercounter pounded copper sink, it was 12 inches by 8 inches. Tiny for a quick hand wash, is all!

Are there “rules of thumb” about scale and placement of toilet and sink? How much room does one need to sit down …?  

It helps to have at least 2 feet clear in front of the toilet. Often a toilet and sink end up right across from one another, and often the sink can facilitate getting up and down … ha!

Is it true that because the space is so small, one can be extravagant with textures, and finishes without too much expense?

It’s a great room to really amp up the design elements both from a design standpoint for visitors’ enjoyment, and because of the smaller scale, financially, it doesn’t have to break the bank. The surprise factor of opening up a door and having color and pattern spill out — almost like the lining of a designer coat — can be a pleasing accent !  

Tell us about the “red room” with the spitting … god, or whatever he is? What was the inspiration for this? Did you think it up, or was the device available, and you said, “Say….why not!?”

The client found this Zephyr, God of Wind , and thought it would be perfect in the powder room at her house  on Four Winds Lane. Instead of wind coming out its mouth, the plumber figured out how to get the water for the sink to flow ever so gently from its mouth, so as not to overshoot the antique dough bowl we fashioned into a sink (by sealing it with boat varnish).

In consort with the plumber we designed a copper pipe stand to hold the bowl. The floor was all tile and we repurposed the extra green Moroccan tiles from the kitchen into an insert accent tile floor rug in front of the sink! The total effect with the lacquer red walls as the back ground was quite commanding.

In the room with the glass shower: Does that qualify for a powder room if it has a shower? What is the minimum size one needs for a shower?

A bathroom without a bedroom associated directly with it on the main floor for public use seems to comprise the main elements of “powder room,” with or without a shower. Handy for a random visitor needing a shower after a run or the beach or . . .

What’s your tip sheet for powder rooms?

For pretty:

  • Larger scale wallpapers, mirrors, art can work well in smaller spaces … to almost grow the space v.s making it too precious and fussy
  • Wallpaper the ceilings or paint them to expand the space/visual interest vertically
  • Humorous, picturesque, interesting small scale books, magazines — good for quick visits and short attention spans are a great accessory
  • Scented candles and soaps and pretty hand towels also, and hand lotion, and a medicine cabinet with a few basics like aspirin and bandaids, a comb …
  • Dimmable, gentle lighting

For practical:

  • A window is an added bonus in small spaces — like poking a hole in a jar for lightening bugs!
  • Pocket doors are great so they don’t open into limited spaces
  • A ceiling fan for ventilation and a little noise pollution (!) depending on location and proximity to public spaces
  • Also wall hung toilets are fabulous, and water tank built into wall to save room, and off the floor for easy cleaning.
  • Position the toilet out of view when door is open is best always (if possible). When unable to hide the toilet you can add a door closer so it automatically closes the door .
  • Pedestal sinks, wall hung vanities, or vanities with legs help open up the space a bit and make for easy cleaning
  • TP storage;  cleaning products are important no matter what so other storage or holders or medicine cabinets necessary.

Small Powder rooms can be equated to the challenges of living on a boat … efficient use of space become paramount.

LakeStreetSTUDIO is where John Fuller and Mary Rentschler, two seasoned design professionals in the apex of their careers, commune to practice the design of ‘living spaces’ with zeal, devotion and eagerness.;