How To: Design A Small Bathroom

This week’s client work involves designing a compact 1.8m x 1.8m family bathroom which needs a complete update: a new suite, taps, shower, storage, heating and tiles to make it super practical and super stylish too. So…. I started off by reminding myself of a few top tips, after all, it’s no good video presenting top tips for a small bathroom and then not following them is it? 🙂

I’ve installed absolutely loads of small bathrooms, both for our ‘do-er uppers’ & rentals and for clients’ homes, so we here at Moregeous know what works and what doesn’t. This isn’t a blog post simply regurgitating Google tips or written by a keyboard design expert with no actual experience. Have a read and feel free to post a question if you have one!

Here are those recapped tips in a nutshell, along with several more thrown in for good measure.

  • Talking of measure, I want you to measure everything, and I mean everything. Each wall length, the height of the room, the window size – including the distance from any room corners and from the floor to the sill, the door size and where the current suite is positioned.img_3283-2
  • Draw your room up on graph paper with a scale ruler. On an A4 piece of graph paper, I use the 1:1 scale and pretend each 10mm is 10cm. This will help you work out what new bathroom pieces you can fit in to the room, i.e. whether you really can fit in that monster shower cubicle or long dreamed of bathroom cabinet.
  • Take a photo of the plan with your phone, very handy when paperwork is forgotten and you’re out & about shopping.
  • Remember the space between the suite items is important too, don’t cram them all in right next to each other. Try to leave at least 150mm between items, more if you can.
  • Don’t put the loo right next to a wall, you need *ahem* knee space, understand? No? Use your imagination.
  • Very angular styles can be problematic in small spaces, sharp corners hurt when you bang against them. Curvy might be better.
  • Clever suppliers have special ranges for teeny bathrooms so if you’re *really* short on space, search out those styles. The loos are smaller, the basins narrower and tub baths are made shorter than the standard sizes.
  • When you’re choosing the suite or individual pieces you want, jot down the dimensions, e.g. the width and depth of the basin and loo, the bath length, and check them against your plan using the same scale rule 1:1. Modern loos are often shorter and narrower than traditional ones giving more space.
  • Basins come in all shapes and sizes so have a play with different ones before you decide. There is little worse than a basin too small to use, bear this in mind when choosing.
  • Smaller basins are overpowered by a large tap spout which protrudes into the bowl and you’ll bash your hands on it constantly. Shorter spout taps work better for smaller basins.
  • Most bathroom companies have measurements included in online / brochure info.
  • You may not really have enough room for a separate shower but if you’re desperate to squeeze one in, opt for a quadrant with a curved front to save on space.
  • Choose a sliding or folding door shower opening not one which opens outwards
  • In a non-family bathroom, consider ditching the bath for a super sized shower, not a plan which suits everyone but for rentals especially this decision can work well. Only two of my 20 rentals have baths and no-one complains.Small shower room.jpg
  • There are a whole host of baths for smaller spaces, from Japanese tubs through bijou slippers to contemporary shower baths. Pop it on an angle, squeeze it in a corner or in some extreme cases, move a door to fit one in. Consider all the options.
  • Remember you can choose between a steel and an acrylic bath and there seem to be more choices for the former – my tips are HERE
  • If you want a shower over the bath, choose in a P or L shaped bath if you can – there’s so much more space for standing up in.
  • Try central side mounted taps on a screened family tub, far easier to reach when bathing kids. Valves and a side flowing press fill are good here as they don’t protrude as much as a standard tap, meaning less for your little princess to swing off or bang her head on.

Small Baths.jpg

  • Small bathrooms have smaller budgets but there are still cute ways to save.
  • Leaving the loo where it is is the more cost effective choice if possible. The soil stack (that big black 4 inch pipe at the back of the loo) will otherwise need to be moved and this can be a hefty job, especially if it goes under the floor or is a cast iron stack externally for example. That said, if the whole bathroom would be far better with the loo moved, take your plumbers advice on moving costs and possibilities.
  • The same goes for the basin and bath, plumbing costs are lower if less work and less copper / pipework is required. Often however older bathrooms are poorly designed and changes in positioning are needed, sometimes it’s better to swallow these costs to get a far better design.
  • Small rooms need decent heating too and this is often overlooked. I’ve been guilty of this in the past and it’s a mistake, thinking the heat would work it’s way from the rest of an apartment into the bathroom. A unheated space gets cold, especially in winter, meaning more likelihood that bathroom moisture will condense on cold walls and form mould.
  • Get online and work out the heat your room needs – a measurement called the BTU – using the measurements you’ve taken for your plan. B&Q have an handy system HERE. Most small bathrooms need somewhere between 800 – 1200BTU, just dependent on orientation and insulation. To give you a rough idea an 800 x 600 chrome towel rail gives out just over 1000BTU.
  • Check out how much the radiator or towel rail will protrude from the wall and don’t have them too near a loo for e.g. Maybe a narrow but very tall one will sit nicely next to your shower, or a flatter style will hug the wall in a tight space. Research the market, it’s full of surprises.
  • Consider installing electric underfloor heating to save on wall space and then just fit a small towel rail with a low BTU which doesn’t take up valuable wall space. This option is not as good at heating the whole room though, so make sure you ventilate well, see below.
  • In a small room, chrome towel rails often get rusty from moisture over time. Either invest in a decent one, or maybe a white / anthracite if you’re budgeting (that’s my landlord tip)
  • Top Tip – Hang towels from trouser clips in door frames to dry and air instead of hogging the bathroom radiator, to allow the small room to keep warm and dryHeating small bathroom.jpg
  • I can’t stress enough how important this is. Make sure you have a decent quality extractor fan which comes on with the lights, on a delay timer. It’s vital to ventilate small rooms to stop mould growth, which is more often that not a lifestyle as opposed to a property problem. My fav is the Icon fan – have used them lots, costly but gorgeous looking and don’t break down as often as others on the market.
  • Leave the door to the shower open at all times (apart from when showering obv) so cold moisture doesn’t get trapped inside the cubicle and turn into the dreaded black mould.
  • Leave the bathroom door open to allow the room to air when not in use.2016-01-28_0004.jpg

If that lot hasn’t given you some food for thought when planning your small bathroom then nothing will 😉


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