Small Bathroom Layout Ideas From an Architect to Optimize Space

small bathroom layouts
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Small spaces pose interesting design challenges, even for architects like me. If you have an oversized budget, the possibilities are pretty much endless, but great small bathroom layouts that don’t compromise on comfort or function require skill and expertise. So how do we go about designing a layout that fully optimizes your space? Find out as I share the ins and outs of various small bathroom floor plans.

Four pillars of design for small bathroom layouts

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. The pace has good proportions, so we are able to arrange the pieces so that it is more comfortable and feels more spacious.

1. Alignment

small bathroom layout alignment

Get your ducks in a row. And by ducks, I mean heavy bathroom pieces: the toilet, the sink, and the shower or bathtub. The new distribution visually orders the space, allowing us to perceive it in all its magnitude, even with its small size. This arrangement also generates a natural flow, making it more welcoming and comfortable.

If you look at the before image of the two layouts, you can see three empty gaps, and wasted space is a big no-no. Notice in the new floor plan how there is only one, larger space. By aligning the pieces, we have created a large pathway for access all the fixtures in a much more intuitive, functional way.

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2. Heavy and large pieces to the bottom

Placing the bulkier pieces, like the shower or tub, away from the entrance is one of the best ways to create a feeling of more space. 

small bathroom layouts

This example clearly show that by placing the shower in the background, we make the room seem twice as large while gaining all-important room for maneuverability.

3. Continuity

The arrangement of fixtures in small bathroom layout also alters the perception of space.

If instead of a standard bathtub with a shower, we use the same are for a chic showering area – conveniently bounded by a bathroom screen – the bathroom’s geometry becomes substantially simpler, which boosts the orderliness and attractiveness of your small bathroom even more.

4. Leveraging transparencies

When choosing how you’d like to separate the shower area from the rest of the bathroom, a clear glass shower enclosure is a much better bet than frosted glass or a shower curtain. That way, the eye can perceive the entirety of the bathroom. Keep in mind that even when the shower isn’t in use, it can still add to the sense of light and spaciousness.

small bathroom layouts

Now that we have covered the four basic pillars for designing small bathroom layouts, let’s take a look at their various distributions.

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Four Basic bathroom distributions

1. Long and narrow bathroom

In this is the case for your bathroom, the best distribution of space is the one that has the elements aligned to allow for better circulation. The shower at the bottom (wall to wall) gives the impression that the room is shorter and wider. The toilet and sink leave enough space for the door to swing open, revealing our reflection in another space-adding feature, the mirror. If you have enough space, try not to place the sink centered with the door, so no one will bump into you if they open the door when you’re washing your hands.

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

There are a few decorating ideas that can refine the illusion of space when your bathroom is really tight. You can use a darker tile on the back wall, lower the roof if it is very high (to avoid the “tube effect”) or make a walk-in shower that allows that all the features to be on the same plane. 

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout

PHOTO VIA: HGTV.com

2. Wide and short bathroom

For these short and wide small bathroom layouts, the entrance is 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 for this type of bathroom: the entrance can be in the middle of the wide wall or to the side. The criteria for the distribution are similar to those of the previous distribution: first, we must align the pieces for better circulation; the shower should be placed to one side (wall to wall) for convenience – and because it visually stretches the short side. What will vary, according to the door placement, will be the position of the toilet and sink.

The basic rule is to place the sink in front of the door, whether it’s to one side or centered. In the first example image, the sink is centered, with the toilet on one side and shower on the other; in the second, the sink is in the corner.

The reasons for this arrangement are the same as we saw in the previous case: the sink should be the first item your eye goes to when you open the door to showcase the reflection in the mirror, not only because it is makes the room seem more spacious (the mirror magnifies the feeling of space when you enter) and aesthetically pleasing, but also because the sink has less depth than the other pieces, allowing us to open the door without bumping into the toilet.

 IDEA: If you can afford major changes, a centered door is much more interesting than one in the corner: your bathroom will look bigger and will be better distributed. Moreover, if you place a sliding pocket door instead of a swing door, the effect will be much more evident and it will be easier to maneuver around the room.  

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout

Long and narrow Bathroom Layout

PHOTO VIA: www.designlovefest.com

3. L-shaped bathrooms

Bathrooms with an L shape are relatively easy to distribute.

a)In small bathroom layouts for L-shaped rooms, you should consider placing sink opposite to the door, if possible, with 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 and a small shower or tub on the other side of the sink, from wall to wall.

L-shaped small bathroom layout

L-shaped Bathroom Layout

L-shaped Bathroom Layout

PHOTO VIA: www.architecturendesign.com

b)  If you have a sliding door to your small bathroom, place the sink in the corner followed by the toilet and then the shower or tub.

L-shaped Bathroom Layout

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

small bathroom layouts

4. Square bathrooms

It surprising how many variations square bathroom layouts can have. The door can be cornered or centered, the bathroom may or may not have a window, and so on. These kinds of factors often compel us to distribute the fixtures one way or another. In addition, there are specific needs for everyone that will influence the “correct” distribution (you may prefer a bath over a shower, or you might want a bidet, etc.). And of course, size plays a big role.

In any case, here are a few basic guidelines for square bathrooms: 

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

i)Leave the space beneath the window free to put a plant or towel hanger (especially in extra small bathroom layouts), placing the sink, shower and toilet beside the door.

small Square Bathroom Layout

Square Bathroom Layout

Bathroom Layouts

PHOTO VIA: www.bhg.com

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

Bathroom Layout

Bathroom Layout

PHOTO VIA: www.annehepfer.com

b) If the door is in the corner and there are no windows, you can put all the pieces in an L shape. If your bathroom is large enough, you can also use the available space for a double sink, or opt for creative solutions such as building a half wall to support the sink and placing the shower behind that.

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: May 10th, 2018 by Oriana Gomez-Zerpa
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