Wealthy home buyers demand bathrooms; lots of bathrooms


Here’s another way the rich are different: They have more bathrooms.

Real estate brokers who cater to the moneyed say their clients typically want homes that have at least two bathrooms for every bedroom. And with spacious tubs, floor lamps, dressing areas and seating, some bathrooms rival bedrooms in size.

“The bathroom has become the dressing room,” said Bob Ray Offenhauser, a Studio City-based residential architect who routinely encloses the shower and toilet in their own rooms within a room. “They really don’t look much like bathrooms anymore.”

Some mansions have nearly as many commodes as entire blocks in less regal neighborhoods.

Pickfair, the Beverly Hills estate of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, was outfitted with 30 bathrooms in a later overhaul. But the record locally may be the 41 bathrooms boasted by an 18,400-square-foot Mediterranean-style home in Bel-Air that was recently on the market for $40 million, real estate agents say.

By comparison, the Bradbury home of former Dodger Adrian Beltre and his wife, Sandra, seems modest: 16 bathrooms. Still, that’s more than six times the average for newly constructed single-family homes.

“We use them all,” said Sandra Beltre. She worked with the architect on the custom-built home and is glad she insisted on adding more bathrooms than originally planned.

In the main house, all the bedrooms have en suite bathrooms. Other bathrooms sit off the children’s playroom, the kitchen, the game room and the gym. The guesthouse has two.

There are his-and-her bathrooms in the pool cabana area, one in the gardens of the 4-acre property and another in the 2,500-square-foot batting cage area.

Beltre said the home is often a gathering place for their three children’s friends, extended family and the couple’s wide circle of friends, who are frequently invited over for game or wine nights.

“It turned out perfectly,” she said.

With the third baseman now playing for the Texas Rangers under a six-year, $96-million contract, the 16,600-square-foot house is on the market for $19.5 million.

For those who can afford it, an abundance of bathrooms provides convenience and privacy for both guests and residents. The presence of bathrooms in the public areas also enables homeowners to entertain without fear of guests’ sneaking a peek into the medicine cabinet.

“The idea is never to inconvenience yourself or a guest,” said agent Boyd Smith, whose turf includes Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge. “You almost cannot have too many bathrooms.”

A half-bath once sufficed for an entire downstairs, but now Smith sees buyers of multimillion-dollar homes wanting three to five powder rooms — one directly off the study, another off the library and two for the media room. Those who have staff quarters need to provide en suite bathrooms if they want to attract and retain first-cabin employees, he added.

Buyers can be as picky about bathrooms as they are about kitchens.

“The bathrooms are reminiscent of those in very fancy hotels,” said Lynwen Hughes-Boatman of Deasy/Penner & Partners, who has the Beltres’ listing.

Los Feliz-area real estate agent Konstantine Valissarakos said one buyer asked to see only homes with at least 15 bathrooms because of his frequent entertaining. The fixtures must also pass muster; agent Bret Parsons said he once squired a wealthy couple around to look at houses and at every one, the husband would sit on the toilet to see how it felt.

Architect Offenhauser, who recently retired, said he figured the bathroom count in custom homes by starting with two for the master bedroom and one for each bedroom. Then he’d add a couple of powder rooms and a bathroom for the swimming pool. And then he prepared himself for the client to ask for even more.

Sometimes, even Offenhauser’s generous bathroom arithmetic isn’t enough. The Bel-Air house with 41 bathrooms? Offenhauser designed it 1985 — with 15 baths. Subsequent owners went on a frenzy of bathroom building, adding more on an upper level and in expanded staff quarters.

Further increasing the number of bathrooms in grand homes are junior bedroom suites, said agent Felix Pena of Hilton & Hyland. Some wealthy owners want their guests to feel at home with finely appointed his-and-her bathrooms.

“It’s not only the master suite that has two bathrooms,” he said.

Among his A-list clients, steam showers are in style, as are oversize, luxurious tubs set in the center of big rooms.

Pickfair in Beverly Hills has the most bathrooms of any home he has ever listed. The 25,000-square-foot villa, last priced at $60 million, boasts 30 to go along with its 17 bedrooms.

“When you start counting all those,” Pena said, “you need a full-time plumber.”

As with other trends started by the rich and famous, there has been a trickle-down effect.

In the West, the number of new homes with three or more bathrooms increased to 26% in 2010 from 15% in 1987, while the number with 21/2 bathrooms more than doubled, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

“I wouldn’t look at a two-bathroom house,” said Lynda Shim, a financial planner who stopped at a Standard Pacific Homes development in Brea on a recent Saturday to check out a model. She lives close by and is considering a move-up house for her family of five.

This is just the type of buyer Standard Pacific has in mind, according to Jeffrey Lake, the company’s national director of architecture. The 4,223-square-foot model has a bathroom off every bedroom, plus a powder room. The five-bedroom floor plans include 5 1/2 bathrooms.

“The move-up buyer definitely demands a higher bath count,” Lake said.

Part of the amping up in bathrooms also can be attributed to baby boomers “going for exactly what they want,” said Diana Schrage, senior interior designer at the Kohler Design Center, a three-story tourist attraction devoted to kitchen and bathroom products in Kohler, Wis.

Contributing factors have been the emergence of the spa experience and changes in health and wellness attitudes.

“Boomers are looking at bubble massages and different water experiences as taking care of their bodies,” Schrage said, “part of their health.”