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Design Dilemma: Bathroom with Walk In Closet or Walk Through Closet to Bathroom?

Which is better when you must have a tandem bathroom & closet arrangement?

A master suite is a bedroom that includes both an attached private en suite/bathroom and a closet — usually the walk in variety. There are numerous ways to configure these three rooms. However, master bedroom floor plans where the closet and bathroom are arranged so that you must walk through one to get to the other are on the rise. Builders and home buyers alike seem to like these tandem room arrangements for the master suite because less square footage is taken up by hallways, allowing the home to feel more spacious. Whether it is better to walk through the master closet to get to the bathroom, or place the closet first and walk through it to get to the bathroom is a hotly debated topic among new home buyers. There are pros and cons to each side of the issue.

The pros and cons of walking through the closet to the bathroom or vice versa are fairly evenly divided between advantages and disadvantages, making the decision a personal one for each homeowner.

  1. Walk Through Closet to Bathroom:

    With this floor plan, homeowners enter the bedroom, then must pass through their closet to access the master bath.

    bathroom with walk in closet
    Example of a master closet that connects the bedroom to a large en suite/master bath area at the end. The closet functions as a hallway in this instance, with traffic flowing around either side of the closet island. Notice that the windows are all in the bathroom, and the windowless area was used for the closet. Also notice the mirrored cabinet door, the baskets and the numerous drawers that conceal areas of the closet that might become messy. The owner's suits are left hanging in the open, as the always neat and pressed.

      Walk In Closet to Bathroom Pros:

    • Greater privacy for the bathroom: Even if your commode is enclosed by a door, do you really want someone walking through while you're doing your business? The closet to bathroom arrangement gives spouses direct access to clothing changes and accessories kept in the closet without disturbing their partner's private moments.
    • Quiet: A full closet acts as a sound barrier to typical bathroom noises like running water, hair dryers, electric razors, etc. This can be a great advantage when one partner works different hours and one needs to get ready for work while the other is still sleeping.
    • Odor Free Bedroom: Even if you vent your bathroom with a fan, lets face it, sometimes there will be unpleasant odors around the commode. There is less chance of these smells reaching the delicate nose of a partner when there is a closet in between the bathroom and bedroom.
    • Open closet: This arrangement allows for more versatility and the possibility of an open closet layout, where a closet/dressing room simply becomes part of the master bedroom, making the room appear larger and more personal. This arrangement is particularly popular with homeowners who favor open floor plans.
    • Convenience: If you like to use your bed as a staging area when packing a suitcase or selecting the next day's clothing, this layout allows you to lay out your clothes on the bed. This is especially convenient when figuring out what to pack.

      Walk In Closet to Bathroom Cons:

    • Closet does double duty as a hallway: Closets can be messy and cluttered, especially if you don't have a professionally designed closet organization system. No one really likes to look at a mess. Alternately, you can simply choose to be very neat in your closet all the time. For some people, this comes naturally. For others, it can be quite a challenge.
    • Cost: This ties in with the "closet as hallway" drawback. You may need to include cabinet doors to cover some of your hanging and shelving areas in order to consistently present a neat and orderly closet space. This is an additional expense that can add up depending on the style of door chosen.
    • Closet becomes a quasi public area of the home: Some people like to keep their closets locked for privacy and security reasons during parties or when domestic staff is on the premises for cleaning, etc. If you lock your walk through closet, you also prevent anyone from being able to clean or use the bathroom.
    • Longer walk to the bathroom: Depending on your situation, this might be a problem. When you are laid up sick or even pregnant, sometimes there are advantages to having your bed closer to the toilet.
    • Less privacy for the closet: If guests (ahem... in-laws) are talking in your room and need to use the bathroom, they have to go through your closet. You may not want them looking at your slinky lingerie.

  2. Bathroom with Walk In Closet:

    With this floor plan, homeowners enter the bedroom, then must pass through their attached bathroom to access the walk in closet.

    Master bathroom with walk in closet attached
    Example of a master bathroom that connects the bedroom to a large walk in closet/dressing area at the end. The bathroom functions as a hallway in this instance, conducting the user to the closet.

      Bathroom to Walk In Closet Pros:

    • Greater security for the items in the closet: You can lock your closet without restricting access to the bathroom.
    • Shorter walk to the toilet: Depending on your situation, this may be important.
    • Cost: With this setup, you and your partner are the only ones who will see the closet, so you may choose to use less expensive finishes and options than you would in a more public space.
    • The closet will be a separate, private room: If the closet is to serve a dual purpose as your dressing room, office, exercise room or private retreat, you may not want it to be used as a hallway. In this instance, passing through the bathroom to access the closet is better than vice versa. Additionally, the inherent restricted access that goes along with having to pass through the master bath on your way to the closet keeps that closet space quieter and more private.

      Bathroom to Walk In Closet Cons:

    • Lack of privacy: Your bathroom will be performing double duty as a hallway for accessing the closet. Even if you have other bathrooms in your home for other people to use, you may not want your partner walking through your space while you are sitting on the john.
    • Restricted access to closet may be inconvenient: If you lock the bathroom door, your spouse will have to wait until you are finished in the bathroom before being able to retrieve a sweater or other article of clothing from the closet.
    • Odor: Odors from the toilet will be closer to the bedroom/sleeping areas. Need we say more?
    • Noise: Typical bathroom noises like running water, hair dryers, electric razors, etc. are closer to the bedroom area and could disturb a sleeping partner.
    • Ventilation Adequate ventilation for both the closet and en suite is paramount when you must pass through the bathroom to access the closet. Code requires that bathrooms be ventilated. However, some humid air from the shower is certain to leak out to adjoining spaces anyway. If steam from the shower gets into a closet, especially a windowless closet with no other openings other than the bathroom door, it could cause mold and/or mustiness in the clothing. This problem can be avoided, however, if you remember to also vent the closet.

So which is better?

Many homeowners love having a tandem arrangement of the master bathroom and master closet. They swear by the extra convenience that comes from not having to go back into the bedroom after taking a shower in order to get dressed. That type of added convenience applies to either arrangement — walk through closet to master bathroom or bathroom with walk in closet. It confirms that the question of which is better ultimately comes down to individual preference. Personally, if I were to choose between the two, my decision would be based on the position of the windows in the home. Although it isn't required by code and may be impossible in some condominiums or attached housing situations, you want the bathrooms/tub areas and toilets to have windows. An exhaust fan simply cannot meet the freshness that comes from an open window. Natural daylight is also a benefit, more so for bathrooms than closets. Therefore, the best choice when locating the bathroom and closet is to place the bathroom where you can easily have access to a window.

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Bathroom with walk in closet.
Bathroom leads to walk in closet
This closet is located at the end of a large master bathroom that connects to the closet on one end and the master bedroom on the other. The bathrooom acts as a kind of hallway between the closet and bedroom. This arrangement works well for these homeowners, as they need a large empty area in front of the closet island for exercise and yoga.

closet connects bathroom to bedroom
walk through closet
This large walk through closet connects the master bedroom with the master bathroom. Glass doors on either end of the closet allow for privacy in both the bedroom and bathroom. This layout of closet to bathroom was chosen because of the position of the windows in the home. The owner wanted a light filled bathroom and view of the outdoors from the soaking tub. See Project >

walk through closet connects bedroom to bathroom
This open floor plan closet connects a small bathroom to the rest of the master bedroom suite. The bathroom door is located in an unobtrusive corner of the closet, accessible, but not very noticable. The show stopper in this master bedroom suite is definitely the glittery closet with its large island. The owner chose to play up that element, creating a traffic pattern that goes around the closet island to get to the bathroom. See Project >

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About Closet Works

Closet Works is a proud member of The Container Store family of companies. Since 1987, we have been helping homeowners in the Chicago area by creating closets, pantries, office/guest rooms, wall units and more that help create a better, less stressful lifestyle. Great ideas to "Organize Your Life" and examples of our organized bedrooms, closets and other custom organization systems can be found throughout our website. For more information on Closet Works call toll-free at 800-425-6738.
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