Small bathrooms can be transformed with compact fittings and storage. Even the tiniest of cloakrooms have potential; it’s all about finding clever solutions to fit everything in.
A small bathroom might be a simple square, say two metres by two metres, or a skinnier room where there’s length but limited width. Perhaps you’re looking for a smarter place for your washbasin to avoid banging your elbow on the wall when you clean your teeth, or you’re desperate to swap the shower over the bath for a spacious walk-in shower. You might be keen to turn a large cupboard in your bedroom into a compact ensuite or have plans to install one into your new loft conversion. You could even by trying to work out if the precious space under the stairs could be converted into a useful cloakroom.
Bathroom fittings and storage come in all shapes and sizes to maximise use in the smallest of bathrooms. Ultimately, the magic to creating the illusion of space is about careful mixing and matching to produce a streamlined, minimalist look that’s clutter-free.
Where to Start
Measure-up – thoroughly. Of course, measure the overall length and width of your bathroom but dig a little deeper too. Take into account the location and dimensions of all alcoves and recesses; the width of the door and the space taken up by the door swing; the window (including the height of the sill from the floor); radiators, wall and built-in cupboards you plan to keep; and where the waste exits.
What don’t you want to change? Note what you like and don’t like about the layout. For example, you might like the bath where it is, and are happy with the circulation space around the toilet, but not with the basin. Make a note of the size of the fittings as well as the clearance around them. You can use this valuable information for planning the new layout.
What do you want to change? Unlike a kitchen there are no ‘rules’ on where you should place fittings but changes to the layout may affect the pipework. A plumber will confirm if it’s possible to move pipes as this might mean a difficult route to the drains. In a flat, you might face added complications by needing permission from the freeholder. Ideally you want pipes to run out of sight under the floor or behind the wall but if this isn’t possible, pipes can be fixed to the wall lower down but they will need to be boxed in. This will create a ledge, which can be handy as a shelf but less practical if you want to fit a bath or shower flush to this particular wall.
Draw a scaled plan of the new layout on graph paper. Make scaled cut-outs of all the bathroom fittings and lay them on your plan to see which sizes fit and how everything will work together. Play around with the layout making sure you’ve allowed enough usable space around the loo and wash basin, in front of the bath and for the swing of the shower door (if necessary). You may also want to download and play around with our bathrooms.com app. This allows you to see how our products will actually look in your bathroom!
Watch out for a sloping ceiling. An ensuite may go under the eaves in a loft conversion and some under stair cloakrooms could have the potential to be turned into a small shower room. In both situations, don’t forget to factor in the height of the sloping ceiling to your floor plan.
Bath or Shower?
The bath and shower are going to be the biggest pieces in your bathroom. Decide if you’re having one or the other or both. Anchor down the dimensions and the position on the floor plan. This will then confirm how much space you have left (and where) for a toilet, wash basin, storage and heated towel rail.
You may be surprised how easy it is to fit a bath into the smallest of spaces. A standard bath measures 1700mm x 700mm but some of our baths are as short as 1500mm. A straight-edged bath fits nicely into a right-angled corner while a curved bath gives the illusion of space.
Be mindful of both the length and width of the bath in your planning. A freestanding bath makes a superb feature but they do require more space as the bath stands away from the wall with a floor-standing tap fixed to the middle or at one end. A short length freestanding bath with a deep profile works best in a narrow room where the floor space is in the length. A bath on legs, like the Slipper, will reveal the floor and make the room feel bigger.
A back-to-wall bath is a great solution if you’re looking for a freestanding aesthetic but don’t have quite the amount of space. Its long edge lie flush to the wall and the curved or angular profile is visible on the front and end faces. Taps can be mounted above or onto the bath which is another space saving option.
Positioning a bath under a window or expansive roof-light will enhance a bathing experience. If the roof is sloping check the head height is adequate enough for you to easily get in and out of the bath.
Don’t forget you don’t need to have a bath in the family bathroom if space is tight and you prefer a large shower – a bath in a luxurious ensuite may suit you better.
Recent research says that almost 25% of people in the UK claim they no longer take a bath. When space is at a premium, a shower can do just the job, especially if you’re not a ‘bath person’.
More than half adults claim that they never have a bath.
Small Shower Baths
A shower can be used over a standard-sized bath but the best of both worlds are the space-saving P-shaped or L-shaped shower baths in curved or square profiles. Ours come in shorter lengths of 1500mm and 1600mm and are wider at one end (850-900mm) for a more comfortable showering experience. A 180° hinged shower screen pivots inwards as well as outwards so you won’t knock into an adjacent toilet or basin. We sell left- and right-handed models so make sure you’ve worked out which one works best for your floor plan before you place an order.
Maximise valuable space by re-hanging the door to open against the wall.
Decide if a shower enclosure is going to be the centrepiece of the room or a practical place to wash – then look at the styles and sizes. A concealed shower, where the pipes are recessed into the wall, has a fixed head and tap so it can often look more discreet than a surface-mounted exposed shower rail with lots of shiny chrome that draws the eye. But if you go for a large shower head over something small, round and plain, the bold design will be eye-catching whether its fixed to the ceiling or on a rail.
Consider the proportions of the shower tray too. Balance with the rest of the fittings if you want an understated shower; our smallest shower trays are 700mm x 700mm. The smallest quadrant shower trays tend to be slightly bigger at 800mm x 800mm and the curved edge gives a softer appearance in a smaller bathroom. If you want to go large and fill one wall with a shower, look at trays up to 1700mm long and 900mm wide. Just make sure you’ve got space for the basin and loo as well.
Choose a shower screen or door carefully. Sliding and folding doors are space-savers but a design with too many hinges or too much framework adds bulk to a bathroom, as will a shower curtain. Look for frameless designs which will provide a clear sight-line through to the shower wall to create the illusion of space, although be wary as they give you less adjustment freedom especially if the walls in your property aren’t completely straight. For this you’ll need shower profiles which allow you to position your doors so they sit flux against the wall to create a seamless finish. If you have a sloping roof you may struggle to open a hinged or pivoting door outwards into the room. Although at 760mm wide our hinged doors are narrower than the 1000mm wide sliding door. The ideal solution is a walk-in shower with a single pane of glass as a screen.
A wet room provides the most open and seamless look in a small bathroom and this can be emulated with the Easy Wet Room ultra-low shower tray measuring just 25mm high that sits flush with the floor tiles. The benefit here is there’s no need to lay tanking or install the tray under the floor.
Choose one style statement piece (a bath or shower) to avoid making a small bathroom look too busy.
A corner toilet is a great solution in a tiny cloakroom as are toilets with a short projection. Our shortest toilet is the 485mm Metro Square. This Back-to-Wall design is often more compact than a standard close coupled toilet as the cistern is concealed inside the wall. Wall-Hung toilets also have concealed cisterns and being mounted on the wall reveals the floor making the room feel bigger. Just make sure the support frame doesn’t add extra depth to the toilet.
Check the width of the toilet too. You don’t want to feel sandwiched in next to a wall or other fittings so it’s a good idea to allow at least 200mm either side and 400mm in front, but work out what feels most comfortable for you.
If you’re not too tall you may be able to position a toilet underneath a sloping ceiling – even better if the toilet is under a roof light as you’ll gain an extra 15cm or so with the sill recess.
Curved edges give the illusion of space in a small bathroom.
Small Wash Basins
Look out for slim-line pedestals, wall-hung and corner wash basins if storage isn’t important. The smallest basin we sell is the 340mm x 295mm Cubitt Designer Wall Hung, which takes up less floor space than a pedestal.
A more practical size for the main bathroom is a 400mm or 500mm wide basin with a similar projection. Check the depth of the bowl balances with the other dimensions; deep, narrow basins can be awkward to use in a tight space. Allow enough space around the sides; a good benchmark is about 200-250mm either side.
Storage is often essential in a small bathroom and pull-out drawers or a cupboard hide clutter and keep the look minimal. A vanity unit is a great solution because you can combine a basin with drawers, shelves, a cupboard – or all three. Some of our narrowest designs are 400mm wide and project out by just 220mm – perfect for a small cloakroom.
Vanity units can be floor-mounted, corner-mounted or wall-hung with basins sitting flush to the storage or curving outwards. If you’re planning on placing a vanity under the window, check the height of the window sill against the height of the unit. Chunky handles can make a vanity unit look bigger so opt for small, round knobs or integrated handles. Choose colours that blend into the room like white, cream or grey and a gloss or lacquer finish helps reflect the light.
Wall-hung vanity cupboards and toilets reveal the floor and make the bathroom feel bigger.
Make use of ‘dead’ space by fitting a small towel ring or a row of hooks next to the basin or a shelf on the wall above the toilet. Corner cupboards tuck away and tall, narrow cupboards use the height in the room without taking up wall or floor space (if the cupboard is mounted); some of ours are just 300mm wide. Check there’s enough space to pull out a drawer or swing the door and that it’s the right way around for your layout.
Combination units work well in a cloakroom where our smallest all-in-one basin, toilet and cupboard fits into a space just 900mm wide with a 255mm projection.
Look for multi-functional solutions like a mirror with shelves or a mirrored cabinet with LEDs for extra light. If the edge of the basin is too narrow for resting a toothbrush holder and soap dish, then choose designs that can be wall-mounted.
Don’t crowd a small bathroom with too much clutter on the shelves.
Heated Towel Rails
Fix a heated towel rail within reach of the shower and bath. If your options are limited look at all the redundant wall space, including above the bath. You may find a short, wide towel rail is a better option than one that’s tall and thin. Our widest towel rails are 790-915mm and our tallest are two metres. Opt for a straight design that sits flush to the wall as a curved shape intrudes slightly into the room.
Don’t forget the BTU (British Thermal Unit) value of the towel rail needs to be warm enough to heat the size of your bathroom. The ideal temperature for a bathroom is around 23°C and we recommend 341 BTUs per square metre of floor space. The size you need will depend on the dimensions of your bathroom, what type of windows you have and the type of heating already in place. Use a BTU calculator, like http://www.diydoctor.org.uk/calculators/btu-calculator.htm to work out the BTU units. If your heating needs are high, then you might need to think about having two heated towel rails or a radiator and a towel rail.
Create a focal point with a designer heated towel rail if there isn’t space to make a feature of the bath or shower.
Open up the space by keeping walls neutral and add splashes of colour with accessories or tiles. Gloss, glass, mirrored and polished tiles all have light-reflective surfaces but use pattern and bold colours sparingly to create small details such as a glass mosaic splashback or a ribbon running through a neutral-coloured tiled wall. A herringbone tile pattern draws the eye upwards, and using the same tiles across the walls and floor, or large format tiles with less grout lines, all make a room feel bigger. Large mirrors bounce light and LED tape lighting mounted under basins or shelves makes them appear to float.
Check the latest building regulations for guidelines on disability access for bathrooms as this may apply to your project.
Draw a floorplan on graph paper for an accurate picture of your bathroom
Back-to-Wall baths offer a great alternative to a freestanding bath
Best of both worlds with a shower bath
Frameless shower doors create the illusion of space
Maximise space with a short projecting toilet
Keep the floor clear with wall-hung bathroom fittings
Double-up by combining a basin with a vanity unit
Snatch back high reaching space with tall cupboards and heated towel rail