10 Gorgeous Bathroom Listing Pictures With Hidden Problems

August 21, 2023

10 Gorgeous Bathroom Listing Pictures With Hidden Problems

For those of us who love surfing real estate listings, nothing stops us in our tracks like a truly luxurious bathroom. Just looking at photos of glossy tiled wet rooms, deep soaking tubs, multijet showers, and other luxe elements seems to melt away stress.

But while it’s natural to fast-forward in your fantasies to owning such a palatial paradise in your someday home, you’ll want to press pause before you purchase. Why? Because some of the things we fall for in real estate listing photos can turn out to be a real pain in real life.

I learned this the hard way—by buying a home with a bathroom I swore I’d adore, but that quickly jarred me back to an uncomfortable reality once I took my first bath. Avoid my same fate by taking a closer look at these listing photos and hearing how these lovely amenities might not live up to the hype.

1. A shower-tub combo

deep soaking tub with no room to lean your head back
Ouch alert! There’s no room to lean your head back.

Have you ever had to make the shower-bath compromise—you love a long soak, but your partner prefers a good, hot shower, or vice versa? Someone is always left out.

The combo suite gives everyone what they want, but pay attention to how the room is laid out. It’s not uncommon to see a tub squeezed up against a shower stall, with no room behind the tub to lean back. Bathing with your head jammed upright is certainly not the relaxing experience you'd be dreaming of.

2. A free-standing tub

freestanding tub wedged in an alcove
Imagine retrieving all the things that will fall between the walls and the tub

When you imagine the perfect en suite bath, is there a free-standing tub? In my fantasy bathroom, there’s always that jumbo sculptural place to soak. But there’s something you need to know about how a free-standing tub works best—and that is out in the open.

When squeezed into an alcove, as this one is, it’s a mold condition waiting to happen. Someone is sure to slosh water down the wall. And how many nail brushes, pumice stones, and nail clippers will vanish, along with bars of soap, slipping into the narrow gap between the walls and the tub? Finally, how will you clean that space?

3. A loo with too much of a view

egg-shaped bathtub surrounded by windows
Well, it’s probably popular with nudists.

It’s not uncommon for a bathroom designer to locate a free-standing tub in front of a row of windows. It’s a wonderful experience to bathe surrounded by views of nature. But if you’re drawn to a photo of a tub with a view, give a thought to window treatments. Sometimes there are none. And you might find it difficult to relax in a room with no privacy and possibly your neighbors getting an eyeful.

The bath pictured in our title avoids this pitfall as the room faces the garden surrounded by fences and steep slopes, so it's relatively private, but still exposed to other family members and guests.

4. A wet room

A tiled curbless shower and tub
Wet rooms can require some serious cleaning.

Everyone’s latest obsession, wet rooms are sleek and beautiful. And they are very functional for homeowners who require wheelchair accessibility since there’s no lip between the shower and the rest of the loo.

But there are downsides, too. Namely, a wet room can easily take up the space of two bathrooms. And having one big bathroom instead of two could ratchet down the resale value of a home.

5. Glass shower partitions

A frameless glass shower door
You can’t turn on the water without getting wet.

Frameless glass shower screens have the effect of opening up a space: Light bounces off the glass, making everything look brighter. Dispensing with a shower curtain is also a great way to show off beautiful tile or stonework inside the shower. But before you fall head over heels with these based on listing photos, take a second look at where the fixtures are located.

Usually, there’s one glass panel that’s fixed and another that swings open. Depending on where the fixed panel is located, there might be no way to turn on the water without stepping partly or fully into the enclosure.

If you typically turn on the water and let it warm up before you step in (as many of us do), you may be in for a cold spritzing on a daily basis.

6. Double sinks

A bathroom with two pedestal sinks
Two sinks can be great, but not at the expense of good storage.

Aah, your very own sink, without anyone else’s toothbrush crowding yours. It’s dreamy for couples sharing a bathroom, but look at how much room these two pedestal sinks take up—and how little storage there is.

If you go with this design, you’re sacrificing a cabinet that would hold all manner of hairstyling tools, hoarded toilet paper, and toiletry staples. And you’re setting yourself up for a lot of clutter, which doesn’t make for a soothing, spa-style space.

A better option is a dual sink vanity.

7. A closet attached to the bathroom

Closet off the master bathroom
Who wants to walk through the bathroom to get to the closet?

Everyone’s dream en suite bedroom likely includes a closet (or two)—better yet, a closet you can access via the bathroom. What could be more convenient?

But stop and think for a moment about the layout here: Most people will find it very annoying to have to traipse through the bathroom every time they need to get to their closet. What if someone is using the bathroom and you have to wait? No, thanks!

Additionally, steam from the shower can trigger humidity issues that are unsuitable for clothing storage. A moist walk-in closet? We’ll pass.

8. A vessel sink

A vessel sink
Caution: Vessel sinks rarely have overflow drains.

When you first saw a vessel sink, did you do a double-take? This type of sink looks unique—and that’s appealing. But, at the risk of being a buzzkill, allow us to share that most of these basins have no overflow drain—that little hole that’s near the top of most sinks.

Should you leave the water running, walk away, and get distracted, the overflow drain will prevent a flood in your bathroom. With a vessel sink the water flow needs to be low to ensure the draining speed is faster.

9. A barn door

Sliding barn door on a bathroom
A barn door offers little privacy, so it’s not great for bathrooms.

A barn door can be a great design solution for a small room. It allows you to take advantage of the space where the door would usually swing open. If you’re a homebuyer, however, be wary of listing photos that show a barn door on a bathroom.

Because a barn door hangs on the outside of the doorframe, it doesn’t settle snugly in the frame like a standard door does. It doesn’t close as securely, nor does it muffle sounds like most doors do. If the toilet has its own private enclosure, that’s a bit better, but it can still be quite a, umm, public way to do otherwise private activities.

10. An open-concept bathroom

Open-concept master bathroom
An open-concept bathroom is fun at a resort but less so at home.

This last one is an oddity. At one time, they were popular in exotic hotels and resorts and while I have see a couple of these, I think they were usually installed in the 70's & 80's so thankfully not a design idea that has endured - the open-concept bathrooms. 

But wait - I've heard reports that they are making a comeback - please let it not be so!

Maybe it works for some people, but for me privacy is one of the key elements of a relaxing bath or shower. And what if your partner is asleep when you get back from the Lodge after a long and dusty ride around Tamarancho? Do you go to bed dirty or wake them up having a good wash? No - I believe we must keep the bathroom a sanctuary. Oh and those houses I've seen with open concept bathrooms, guess what else they had - big price reductions! 

So think carefully when planning a new bathroom & consider enlisting the help of a professional designer. We'd be happy to recommend one if you don't have your own.

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