Reader request – small bathrooms

Posted on Thu, 17 Jun 2010 by KiM

Here is request #2 from Jeffrey and Julia of Stamford, CT: “I found your site when trying to come up with ideas for my small but master bathroom. My wife and I have three kids and are stuck with a bathroom that needs gutting and we have no idea where to start with picking colors and textures to do this project (on a dime, too.) The space is approx. 100 inches long and 60 inches wide. The sink and toilet is on the left, just as you enter this rectangle space and we have about 32 inches of shower space where we want to convert into a tub. I am at a total loss for what to do. I just know the shower wall is rotting and needs to come out. That causes me to loose all the other walls, too so it has become a total re-do, therefore leaving me with a blank canvas. All I know is that it needs storage and I want it to be the center piece of our already black wood furnitured-home, with white walls and ceilings, and natural-colored wood parquet floors. Ugh. So I write you in desperation for inspiration for something to do with our (god-awful) space and need for our simple family of five.” Yikes. That is quite a small bathroom, and a master at that. I personally would try and leave the shower instead of a tub because a shower will save space (plus how do you fit a tub in 32″?). Here are some very small bathrooms that I hope can provide you with some ideas on where to go with your teeny tiny space.

James Shanks Bolig Magasinet
voon wong & benson saw Sköna hem
Rachael Smith Bo Bedre
Bolig Magasinet Urban Spaces
The Selby Zuzana Fischer
Retrouvius The New York Times
Home & Design Living Etc.

Jonathan Clark Architects
Lawrence Group

alita says:

i just re-did my bathroom and it is just those sizes, and i can tell you, it s not THAT little for apartment bathrooms in Argentina. The door is in one of the short walls and i put the tub by the other short wall, under a small window that also work as a shelf (because the wall is very thick). in one of the "long walls" i put the a floating countertop with a sink, so the space under it is free. in that same wall, just at the right of the main door, there s another door (old houses!) that i simply closed and provided with shelves. in the opposite long wall, the toilet and the "bidet" (i don t know how you say that in english), and there s still place by the left of the main door for a very very little cupboard.
it s not finished yet and i haven t moved in, so it s empty, but i can send you some pictures if you are interested and do not understand my explanation, which is very likely … sorry, it s been a long time since i don t write in english.-

Karen says:

My husband, Jerry Middleton, makes lovely handcrafted wood medicine cabinets at his workshop in Brooklyn, NY. He does custom sizes and could do a black finish if you like. He also does custom work (bookcases, vanities, etc.) for people in and near NYC. Check out his medicine cabinets at his website,

Katie says:

We too have a small bathroom that we want to remodel, so I eagerly read this post. Thanks Kim. Our bathroom is the same size 5’x8′, and it does not have a window to let out steam after each shower, but instead a really noisy fan. Two advices that I want to give Jeffery is to choose the smallest lavatory and avoid putting any bulky cabinet in the bathroom, so the bathroom can ‘breathe’. I also find the idea of a wall mounted towel heater like the one in "Bo Bedre" photo that Kim posted very clever.

Priscilla says:

Alita, you are completely clear. Don’t worry about your English, if only my Spanish were half as good!
PS Por favor, can you come help me with my teensy guest bathroom? It’s 3′ x 5′!

Karen says:

We remodeled our very small bathroom two years ago, and did most of the work ourselves. We installed Durock around and above the tub (very important, since it’s impervious to water) and used a white subway tile and black tile for the trim, black ceramic corner shelves in the tub area. No mastic–I’d read it breaks down, so I insisted that the tiler use the old fashioned, concrete like stuff, and not premixed. We chose a medium gray grout since it doesn’t have to be cleaned as often. I didn’t want a fan light–they’re ugly, and there are too few to choose from–so we installed a light separate from the fan. For the fan, we chose a Nutone low-noise unit, the smallest they make (50 cu ft per minute) since the volume of air in the bathroom is pretty minimal. (I think Nutone has info online that will help you calculate the correct size of fan.) It’s SO much quieter than the old fan light we had. I recommend putting the fan on a timer so you can leave it running after you bathe and it will turn itself off. And finally, we saved a lot of money by NOT changing the location of the fixtures. Do do so is a big expense. We put the money we saved into installing a window over the toilet in our windowless bathroom (actually, we discovered during demolition that there had been a large window in the tub/shower wall, right by the fixtures) and we sprang for a really nice shower valve system that allows us to control the water volume and temperature separately. We prefer low volume showers, so this works well for us. And finally, as I wrote above, we installed one of my husband’s medicine cabinets, in mahogany. He hasn’t gotten around to making us a vanity yet, but that’s coming. I’d love to have a pedestal sink, but we really need the storage. So we’ll go with an undermount sink. The towel bars are on the back of the door, since that’s the only place they’ll fit.

Suggestion: only consider light colors in a small bathroom. A dark one will make the bathroom look smaller.

Karen says:

Oh–we also installed a small wall heater, and it was one of the best decisions we made. It’s great to be able to warm the bathroom quickly, and not the whole house!

Anne says:

We have a a long and narrow bathroom that we recently refurbished, with tub, vanity, shower, and wall-hung toilet. Our bathroom is 3,35 m * 1,45 m, so a little bigger than yours, but not by a lot. Our layout is much like the marble bathroom from Retrouvius above, with a shower to the right of the vanity unit. We chose large white tiles on the wall, and white bathroom fittings to maximise feeling of space. We also chose aqua tiles for the floor, to add some interest. I would advice against a wooden floor in a bathroom, as it is a wet zone and such a small bathroom especially will easily be prone to moisture problems. Maybe dark tiles instead? A space maximizing solution that we went for is an oval shower corner with glass doors that can be folded inwards. If you go for a tub with shower fittings, I would recommend a shower curtain rather than glass wall, as it is really hard to clean and get a good seal between wall and tub. Also, I recommend high mirror cabinets above the vanity (drawers are great), which allow for much storage space. Wall hung toilets and vanities are also a good idea. Good luck and do send pics! says:

We remodeled our "master" bathroom last winter with similar dimensions of 4.5 ft. X 10 ft. Immediately when you stepped into the bathroom you were at the vanity, with the toilet about 10" to the left and the walk-in shower on the short wall 10" to the left of the toilet. It was frustrating because you couldn’t get a broom between the vanity/toilet or the toilet/vanity. The door would swing open and hit the towel bar and block the small window on the remaining short wall. We removed the window, rotated the new wall to wall vanity 90 degrees to be on the short wall freeing up floor space and made this wall a focal wall by adding a fabulous Walker Zanger travertine tile in 6" X 12" and 6" X 24" lengths. A solid core pocket door was substituted for the old swing door. The toilet was moved over about 3" and makes the world of difference for cleaning the floor. We used modern dark gray tile in a 12" X 24" size for the floor and the shower (including the shower ceiling) in a brick pattern. We finished it off with a frameless glass shower doors. We couldn’t be more happier with our extremely small master bath. It was definitely worth the seven year wait!

Carolyn says:

Hi Kim, I love the tile in the bathroom from Dwell. Do you know what it is? I couldn’t find the photo on their site.

Thank you! We’re in the middle of a major house reno, and I’ve drawn so much inspiration from your site.

Ib says:

These examples are SO not 'small bathrooms', I think our bathroom is approximately 1,2 x 1,2 m, and that's probably a large guess. In standard Copenhagen/Nørrebro bathrooms, having a separate shower is a luxury. Hint: If a tub fits in there, it's not small.

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