Small Bathroom Layout Ideas From an Architect to Optimize Space

Bathroom Layouts

It is in small spaces where, us architects, get challenged. When you have disposable meters, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Small bathroom layout spaces require skill and expertise in order to make the most out of them without compromising comfort or function. So how do we go about designing a bathroom layout that optimizes the space? Find out by learning about the various small bathroom floor plans.

Four pillars for designing a small bathroom layout

There are four basic criteria a bathroom layout should be built on. We’ll apply them in a small bathroom, just over three square meters. Space has good proportions and thus we are able to arrange the pieces so that it is more comfortable and feels more spacious.

1. Alignment

small bathroom layout alignment

Align your ducks in a row. And by ducks, I mean heavy bathroom pieces: WC, sink, and shower. This distribution visually orders the space, allowing us to perceive it in all its magnitude, albeit the small size. This arrangement also generates a natural flow within which makes it more comfortable.

If you look at the first small bathroom floor plan, you can see three very small spaces, one of them really useless. Notice in the second bathroom floor plan how all spaces have unified by aligning the pieces, creating one large pathway used to access all the fixtures in a much more comfortable and functional way.

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2. Heavy and large pieces to the bottom

Placing the bulkier pieces at the bottom, like the shower or tub, is one of the best ways to create a feeling of amplitude. 

small bathroom layouts

This example exposes clearly how by placing the shower in the background we gain space to make it twice as large while gaining also room for maneuver comfort.

3. Continuity

The order in the perception of space is essential.

If instead of a tub or shower, we use the same bathroom floor for the showering area-conveniently bounded by a bathroom screen- the bathroom’s geometry will be substantially simpler, and that will help us to perceive the space in a more orderly and pleasant manner.

4. Leveraging transparencies

When choosing how to separate the shower area from the rest of the bathroom, it is crucial to use a clear glass shower enclosure, instead of a frosted glass, or a curtain. Thus, the eye can perceive the complete dimensions of the bathroom, and although the shower is not a space that can be used as we use the toilet or sink, it is a visual exhaust.

small bathroom layouts

Now that we have covered the four basic pillars for designing a small bathroom layout, let’s take a look at distributions of the space.

Basic bathroom distributions

1. Long and narrow bathroom

In this case, the best distribution of space is the one that has the elements aligned, as it allows better circulation. The shower at the bottom (wall to wall), which gives the feeling that the room is shorter and wider. Then the toilet and finally the sink, leaving enough space for the door and becoming the first element we find so we look ourselves in the mirror. If you have enough space, do not place the sink centered, but rather away from the door, so no one will bump into you if they open the door while you wash your hands.

 💡  This arrangement is also the cheapest for renovations since all the water pipes are placed on the same wall. 

We give you a few decorating ideas to refine the effect when your bathroom is really tight: you can use for example a darker tile on the bottom wall, lower the roof if it is very high (thus avoiding the “tube effect” ) or make a walk-in shower that allows that all the soil is on the same plane. 

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout


Long and narrow Bathroom Layout


2. Wide and short bathroom

We have the entrance on the long wall rather than the short, which means that the front wall is usually the widest part, unlike the previous case (long and narrow)

There are two possibilities in this type of bathrooms: The entrance being in the middle of the wide wall, or on a side. The criteria for the distribution are similar to those of the previous version: first, we must align the pieces for a better circulation; the shower always goes to one side (wall to wall) for convenience, and because it visually “stretches” the short side. What will vary, according to the door, will be the placement of the toilet and sink.

The basic rule is to place the sink in front of the door, whether it’s on one side or if it is centered. In the first case, we have a corner sink; in the second, it will be centered, having the toilet on one side and shower on the other.

The reasons for this arrangement are the same as we saw in the previous case: the sink should be the first item you find when you open the door to have the reflection in the mirror, not only because it is visually more aesthetic (the mirror magnifies the feeling of space when you enter), but because the sink has less depth than the other pieces, it allows us to open the door without bumping into the toilet.

IDEA: If you can afford doing major changes on the bathroom floor plans, a centered door is much more interesting than being in the corner: your bathroom will look bigger and will be better distributed. Moreover, if you place a sliding door instead of a swing door, the effect will be much more evident and the maneuver through the bathroom will be more comfortable. 

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout


3. L-shaped bathrooms

Bathrooms in L shape are relatively easy to distribute.

a) If you have a front door, place the sink opposite to the door. The shower on the short side and the toilet on the other side of the sink. If the downspout is on the short side, you can also place the toilet (facing the bidet if the L is wide enough) and a short shower, on the other side of the sink, from wall to wall.

L-shaped small bathroom layout

L-shaped Bathroom Layout

L-shaped Bathroom Layout


b)  If you have a slide door, place the sink in the corner followed by the toilet and shower.

L-shaped Bathroom Layout

c) Sometimes, depending on the distribution of the rest of the house and if the L allows it, you can also distribute the room as shown on the bathroom floor plan below. In this case, you would be doing pretty much the same as for the narrow and elongated bathrooms with side door: the sink in the corner where the entrance is, then the toilet and in the bottom, from wall to wall, a short shower.

small bathroom layouts

4. Square bathrooms

You would be surprised by how many variations square small bathroom layouts can have. Because although a square is a square, the door can be cornered or centered, the bathroom can have a window on a wall or may not have any, and so on. All these features will require us to distribute the bath one way or another. In addition, there are specific needs for everyone which influence the correct distribution (if you prefer a bath or shower if you need a bidet…) and of course, the size plays a big role.

In any case, we can give you some basic guidelines:

a) If the door is more or less centered and the bathroom has a large window on the front of the door, you have two options:

a.1) Leave the front free to put a plant or towel hanger below the window (especially in small bathroom layouts), placing the sink, shower, and toilet on both sides of the door.

small Square Bathroom Layout

Square Bathroom Layout

Bathroom Layouts


a.2) If the sink is large, you can put a shower with bathtub under the window, place the sink on the wall such that the door opens to it and the toilet is placed on the wall opposite to that.

Bathroom Layout

Bathroom Layout


b) If the door is in the corner and there are no windows, you can put all the pieces in L shape. If the bathroom is large enough, you can also use the wall portion left when you open the door to place a pair of cabinets or opt for creative solutions such as placing a wall halfway up to support the sink and to place the shower behind.

L shaped bathroom layout

MORE: 2017 Bathroom Trends to Get Your Renovation Started 

Small Bathroom Layout Ideas From an Architect to Optimize Space was last modified: June 28th, 2017 by Oriana Gomez-Zerpa
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