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How to plan for a small bathroom

How to plan for a small bathroom

Many small bathrooms are too high in proportion to their floor area. Transform some of this high-level space into storage: cupboards above the bath are one possibility; building a narrow shelf between the top of the door and the ceiling another. Or try continuing the ceiling colour a short distance down the walls to the line of an imaginary picture rail to improve the proportions of the room.

Neat boxing in of any messy plumbing work and clever conversion of awkward areas into concealed extra storage space will help to streamline a small room.

Although catalogues from manufacturers of bathroom suites illustrate larger-than-life settings, most of us have to deal with much smaller rooms.


If the rest of your accommodation is generous, you can make a separate shower room or toilet, freeing valuable space and reducing pressure on the bathroom itself. Or, if a room next door is large enough, you can 'borrow' some of that space and enlarge your bathroom. These solutions, however, are expensive, involving both major plumbing works and building expenses. More realistically, you can try to work with what you have. In terms of re-arranging the plumbing, it is relatively easy to change the position of the basin, more difficult to change the position of the bath, and hardest of all to move the toilet.

A cheaper alternative is to replace large, and perhaps outdated or ugly fittings with smaller, more compact and modern ones.

The easiest and least expensive solution is to use colour, pattern and mirrors to create an illusion of space.

Used cleverly, mirrors can appear to double the size of a room, while the clean lines of modern, wall-hung fittings, together with a sophisticated colour scheme, will help to create a sense of space.

Reflections Bathroom mirrors have far greater potential than being used just for shaving or brushing your teeth. Mirror tiles come in any sizes, room tiny mosaic squares to huge glass panels, and range from the traditional silver to smokey grey and warm, pink-tinged tones. Tinted mirrors and small. mirror tiles are kinder to less-than-perfect naked bodies than large panels of silvered mirrors.

In poorly ventilated bathrooms, condensation on mirrors can be a problem, and glass mirror tiles feel cold to the touch. Acrylic mirrors and tiles are slightly better in this respect and are lighter in weight but are easily scratched. Make sure any mirror you buy is suitable for bathroom use, or the mirrored backing may come off.

Like ceramic tiles, mirror tiles need to be fixed to rigid, even surfaces, and large mirrors need strong, sound walls.

Fitting solutions

Whether making a new bathroom or replacing existing units, remember that wall-hung basins and toilets take less floor space than conventionally supported bathroom fittings and that cleaning under them is simple. Be careful of weak internal-walls; basins weigh least, but an occupied toilet is very heavy. If in doubt, consult a reputable builder or surveyor.

Although there are no scaled-down toilets, there are models with slim-line cisterns, ideal for ducting. There are also small basins, usually advertised as being suitable for bedrooms, but equally useful in tiny bathrooms. Steer clear of basins sold specifically for cloakrooms. These are too small to be useful for anything other than washing hands.

Cleverley concealed

The smaller the bathroom, the more important it is that dull or unattractive items are kept out of sight.

If you are replacing bathroom fittings, go for the sleekest ones you can find - suites that have been designed so that the plumbing can be *concealed or ducted. Alternatively, you can combine clean lines with hidden storage space by boxing in your fittings.

If the toilet and basin range along one wall, and the supply and waste pipes are laid in a single line, the whole lot, including a slimline cistern, can be hidden behind a purpose-built false wall, finished matching the scheme of the bathroom. The top of the wall can be used as a narrow shelf for accessories or ornaments. (Make sure you can open a panel to gain access to the pipes and cistern.)

Storage If the cistern is on a long wall, boxing it in could include shelving on either side or above.

Boxing in the basin is a smaller scale project, and there are ready-made vanity units available from manufacturers. If the front is fitted with a door, you will have the perfect hideaway for shampoo bottles, cleaning materials and spare toiletries.


If you have a really small bathroom, perhaps where you have 'borrowed' space to make it en suite with an adjoining bedroom, you may not have the room to fit in a conventional bath. The obvious answer is a shower but, for those who prefer a bath, a sit-down model provides an up-to-the-neck soak. In the room on the right, this arrangement enables you to have bath, toilet and basin without overcrowding.

To avoid a small room becoming claustrophobic, keep your colour schemes simple go for clean lines, either with light, neutral backgrounds to help create a sense of space, or choose a single clear colour for a brighter effect. This is not the place for unnecessary clutter, so keep it all out of sight; built-in storage is a definite bonus in this situation.

A real plus in a small bathroom is that you can splash out on a few more expensive materials than usual tiles, fabrics and flooring without breaking the bank.