Design Ideas For Small Bathroom

small bathroom design ideas

It’s lovely to look at the pretty pictures in glossy magazines, and we can often get some great renovation ideas from them, but for most existing bathrooms in the real world that need remodeling, they are not very useful.

If your bathroom is a standard 5′ x 7′ shoeboxes surrounded by stairs, kitchens, and other non-grabbable areas so you can’t make it any bigger, your problems are of a different kind than those of the person designing the 10′ x 16′ master bath.

Small bathroom designs come with a limited number of possible layouts, depending on the size of the room, location of doors and windows, location of exterior walls and existing plumbing, and what you want to squeeze into the room.

Let’s look at a few small bathroom floor plans and discuss the pros and cons of each.

In this 5′ 6′ x 7′ 6″ room, the bathtub/shower combo occupies one complete end of the room, and the toilet and vanity occupy the rest of the long wall.

smallbath1

Pros:

  • no plumbing in the exterior wall (good in cold climates)
  • all plumbing in the same wall – makes vents and drains easy, and supply lines short.
  • tub in its own niche – easy to waterproof all 3 walls and install shower curtain rail
  • space for a towel hook between the tub and the door

Cons:

  • toilet in full view through the door
  • shower and bath faucets are harder to reach past the vanity/sink
  • the door may bang against the tub
  • window right by the toilet (OK if it’s high, otherwise may need a curtain or obscured glass)
  • required floorspace for all 3 fixtures overlaps, hard to have multiple people using the space unless they are VERY close friends
  • Little storage space: mainly wall cabinets over the toilet and sink, sink vanity cabinet. Could add a high shelf over the window.

This room is square rather than rectangular, and a tub would make the whole room very cramped. This design uses a corner shower instead of a tub.

smallbath2

Pros:

  • toilet protected by the door, instead, the vanity is the view through the door
  • no plumbing in the exterior wall
  • corner shower is attractive and easy to install

Cons:

  • the door may bang against the toilet, or even a person using the toilet
  • required floorspace for all 3 fixtures overlaps, hard to have multiple people using the space
  • Little storage space: mainly wall cabinets over the toilet and sink, sink vanity cabinet. Could add a high shelf over the window.
  • nowhere convenient to hang a towel ready for when you’re done in the shower

This alternative layout for a 7.5 x 5.5 foot room shows the toilet and sink on the wall at the far end of the room from the tub. This assumes a door that is no wider than normal, and a pedestal sink that doesn’t stick out too far.

smallbath3

Pros:

  • required floor space for all 3 fixtures overlaps, but the area feels a little more spacious than in the other layouts.
  • tub in its own niche – easy to waterproof all 3 walls and install shower curtain rail

Cons:

  • toilet in partial view through the door
  • the door may bang against the tub
  • Little storage space: mainly wall cabinets over the toilet and sink. The pedestal sink doesn’t provide storage underneath. A high shelf is possible on the sink/toilet wall, or the long wall from the toilet to the bathtub.

Some of the factors to take into account when you’re designing your small bathroom are:

  • Existing plumbing locations, if any: while it’s cheaper to keep locations as they are (and perhaps means you don’t need to get a plumbing permit) if the bathroom is small anyway the cost of moving the tub or sink may not be very much. Moving the toilet is a much more expensive and complex proposition.
  • External wall location: in a cold climate it’s better to keep water supply lines, at least, away from cold exterior walls.
  • Door location: in a rectangular room a door is better in the middle of a long wall, giving you more options for fixture locations. The worst is right in a corner, which blocks off the wall next to it completely. In a small square room, the corner location may be better.
  • Type of door: while a pocket door saves space inside the room, my experience is that the water vapor from the bathroom gets into the wall pocket, condenses there, and then you get mold. In a very tight space, an outward-opening door may be the only solution.
  • View into the room: if you can work it so that the view through the open door is off the vanity area or a pretty shower curtain, do so. If your only option is a view of the toilet, maybe you’ll just need to get into the habit of leaving the door closed.
  • Required floor space for fixtures: there are minimum standards for the amount of floor space next to each fixture to make it possible and comfortable to use. In a small bathroom design, these will almost always overlap to some extent. If you know that more than one person will use the bath at a time, try to make the free floor space long and narrow rather than square, making it easier for 2 people to be in the room at once.
  • Storage space: while a pedestal sink leaves more floor in view and can make the room feel larger, a vanity cabinet gives you storage. In a small bath, your best bet is usually wall storage as there’s no floor space for freestanding cabinets. Storage set into the wall studs (not just medicine cabinets but full height storage) is a good option where a door opens against a wall so you can’t project into the room much, and storage above head height, such as a wall-to-wall shelf for towels, can take a surprising amount of stuff.
  • Fixture choices: do you have to have a tub? Replacing a tub with a shower can give you a better shower experience and more space in the room, maybe even enough for a double vanity.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about and many options for improving the layout, comfort, and function of your small bathroom.

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