Just because you are designing or renovating a small bathroom doesn’t mean you can’t find compact building products with style. Here are 11 to consider.
There is a good chance that most people live in houses where the baths are on the small side.
We know this because the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s (NKBA) 2021 Design Trends report found that the majority of homeowners often opt for expanding their bathrooms sizes when possible. Houzz’s 2020 Bathroom Trends Study corroborates this finding: 54% of homeowners disliked their bathrooms for its small footprint.
Lack of space tops the list of homeowner headaches when it comes to bathrooms. And for those homeowners who aren’t able to expand their space, small bathrooms present even more issues when it comes to design.
Amanda Giuliano, studio manager and lead designer for kitchen/bath design studio Nicolette’s For The Home, works with many small bathrooms and unique spaces. In fact, she once designed for a 3-foot-by-8-foot-long half-bath tucked away underneath a staircase.
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Bathroom design by Amanda Giuliano of Nicolette's For The Home
For a general rule of thumb, light colors make spaces feel larger, Giuliano says, adding that this can apply to every area of a small bath, from the vanity to wall colors. But one thing the designer stresses to her clients is that they can make any decision they like.
“A well-designed bathroom is impactful no matter how small or large,” says Giuliano.
Having a small space is not necessarily a bad thing. Small spaces mean small scale, which does not require the same budget a large bathroom may need. Trendy touches and impactful choices will inherently cost less, which can provide an opportunity for some fun.
More and more homeowners are looking for products to create a spa-like feel of their baths, which includes heated towel racks. This amenity has been growing in commercial properties, but small bathrooms can still experience the luxury of a towel warmer through Amba’s Radiant Small product. It holds one hanging towel and measures 20-⅜ inches wide by 21-¼ inches tall by 4-¾ inches deep. It’s available in polished and brushed stainless, matte black, or satin brass.
But materials are even more important in the small space because they must provide the textures, colors, and aesthetics the client desires. If wallpaper is on your materials list, Giuliano suggests going with smaller formatted wallpapers. Wallpaper can also be an avenue to enhance the space through additional colors and textures.
Tiles can also be an avenue to explore textures and colors. Herringbone, octagon, or hexagon tile patterns in a smaller format can add texture, for example. Instead of plain subway tiles, Giuliano says imperfect shapes with variance can keep a classic design while upping the aesthetics, even if the tiles are plain white or gray.
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Bathroom design by Amanda Giuliano of Nicolette's For The Home
The top complaint that Giuliano hears from her small bathroom clients is the lack of storage space. For her under-the-staircase half-bath, Giuliano opted for building into the wall to create storage areas.
“A couple of ways to get some really creative storage solutions in a small bathroom, which is typically 40 square feet or less, is built-in exposed shelving,” says Giuliano. “Reclaimed wood is obviously the trend that’s in right now and this is a great opportunity if people want to do that in a space.”
Reclaimed wood shelving also can be used similarly to a shower niche shelf, but behind the door, for example. And above the toilet can always be a solid go-to for shelving space, whether it be for storage or simple decor, especially if there is limited vanity countertop space.
Giuliano also recommends recessed or flush mount medicine cabinets to bump up the storage. Some of her favorites come from Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Rejuvenation.
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Pottery Barn offers two sizes of recessed medicine cabinets: 17 by 27 inches or 21 by 34 inches. The larger cabinet features three shelves while the smaller has two interior adjustable shelves. Offering a protective lacquer for moisture protection, the medicine cabinet can come in a matte black, warm bronze, brass, nickel, polished nickel, or chrome finish. Its minimalist modern design can work well with different bathroom styles.
For some real flair and functionality, Robern’s Profiles line offers uniquely shaped medicine cabinets for modular configurations. The 12 inch wide medicine cabinets can be paired together for double the medicine cabinet. The cabinets can come in either chrome, polished nickel, matte gold, or matte black. Both USB charging ports and outlets are inside the cabinets. Each medicine cabinet also has a magnetic strip for secure storage of metal items. These medicine cabinets can be recessed, semi-recessed, or surface-mounted.
Euro vanities are a match made in heaven for small bathrooms. This style typically comes between 12 to 18 inches deep. The thin vanity is much better suited for bathrooms than a pedestal vanity, says Giuliano, although many believe pedestal vanities are superior.
Laufen’s dual vanity and washbasin features two doors and an ultra-modern design. Although the slim vanity measures almost 24 inches long by almost 20 inches wide by 28 9/16 inches high, it comes with drawers and drawer organizers with a soft-closing mechanism. The fireclay washbasin comes in white, while the MDF and laminate body can come in matte white, light, or dark gray.
Scarabeo’s Italian-made and designed Plana floating washbasin and drawer can bring a unique focal point to a small bathroom. Although not the most extensive storage solution possible, this vanity can work well in small areas. The wash basin table measures 23 inches long by 18 inches wide by 7-½ inches tall. The drawer is 31 inches long by 17 inches wide by 7-inches tall. The Plana line can be customized if other sizes of wash basin tables or drawers need to be combined.
Scarabeo’s Fold collection can be ideal for the smallest of bathrooms. These floating sinks are only 14 inches wide by 8 inches tall for some styles, while other styles are only 9.44 inches by 9.44 inches. Fold features a mix of small sinks with floating wall containers. The two pieces can be mixed and matched together for custom configurations in order to provide a homeowner with as much or as little storage needed.
“Clearly, they have zero storage solutions,” says Giuliano. “If you’re needing storage in a small bathroom, they're just unrealistic.”
Floating, or wall-mounted, vanities are becoming increasingly popular, according to NKBA, but just like pedestal vanities, these are not always ideal for storage solutions since it means less vanity storage.
Small bathtubs can be more difficult to find, but many homeowners need a tub for their children. A shower-tub combo would be best for a homeowner with a need for a tub.
The Cambria Cast Iron Roll-Top Clawfoot Tub was made just for small bathrooms. Its dimensions are 48 inches long by 30 inches wide and 20-½ inches tall. Although an average-height person cannot comfortably lay in the tub, it can be ideal for children and creates a focal point in the bathroom. The claw feet can come in either brushed nickel, chrome, white, or oil-rubbed bronze.
For a bathtub that can fit in small bathrooms and allow for an average height homeowner to sit and relax, look no further than the acrylic Siglo Round Japanese Soaking Tub. Its round shape has a 41 inch diameter and 26 inch height. Inside, the tub is fitted with a built-in seat, and has two acrylic sheets that provide insulation.
Kingston Brass offers several 54 by 30 inch alcove tubs, but their smallest alcove is their 48 by 32 inch Ambry tub. The company says this alcove bathtub can fit into a standard tub space and allows for 13-¾ inches of depth with a 43.6 gallon capacity. The 54 inch alcove tub can handle 14-⅜ inches of soaking depth. Both are made from acrylic with fiberglass reinforcement.
What about curbless showers?
“Don’t try to do curbless in a small bathroom unless you have brand-new construction, or you can go down after the bathroom is gutted,” says Giuliano. “You’ll still need to do a shower door in a small bathroom and not do the open door, sort of walk-in look, because you just don’t have the clearance, unfortunately.”
Corner showers are still popular in small spaces, but a large constraint to showers are what’s available in the market. If a contractor can build their own shower pan and a homeowner can purchase custom glass doors, Giuliano says that’s the way to go in any bathroom.
Wall-mounted toilets may also seem like a forward-thinking choice, but they will always end up costing more due to the installation necessities. Look for compact, one-piece toilets with a standard 12-inch rough-in and around a 25-inch depth.
Family-owned and operated Tiny Bathrooms sells toilets and sinks for, you guessed it, tiny bathrooms. The Small Egg Compact Toilet features a unique rounded design, a soft-close seat, silent flush, easy cleaning due to no crevices, and a self-cleaning, glazed finish. It’s 25.5-inches long by 18.5 inches wide by 24 inches tall. Tiny Bathrooms also sells 23.5 and 20 inch long toilets.
Only two inches longer than the Small Egg toilet, Toto’s Neorest measures 27-3/16 inches long by 15-3/16 inches wide by 21-⅝ inches tall. The toilet is ADA-compliant, remote control operated, features an automatic toilet seat, heated seat, air deodorizer, night light, warm air dryer function, and more. It is WaterSense certified and can come in either a white or beige glaze.