Space-Saving Fixtures Scaled to Fit Small Bathrooms

Photo: this_could_be_my_house/flickrWhat do rural tiny homes, new suburban houses, and old apartments smack dab in the center of the city have in common? Most were built with bathrooms that can politely be termed minuscule. If this describes your dwelling, a bathroom remodel -- or ideally, a bathroom transplant! -- may be at the top of your home improvement priorities list. While your washroom will never be as enormous as an over-the-top celebrity bath, you can still achieve a comfortable, even luxurious effect. Shave off inches wherever possible but don't compromise on quality. The secret is scale ... using first-rate, smaller-sized fixtures that match the room's proportions and maximize every bit of space.

Getting Started

Before you start remodeling your bathroom, familiarize yourself with local building code and find out any minimum size limitations. Good bathroom remodeling contractors will have this information on hand. Consult the National Kitchen & Bath Association's Guidelines of Bathroom Planning as well, but remember, these latter are just that -- guidelines. Many of the NKBA items contain additional information, clarifying how to manage with less space. One further consideration is universal access; this may not be relevant to your household right now, but it will allow for such eventualities as aging in place, accommodating elderly relatives who come to live with you, or selling your home to someone who does require such access.

Toilet and Bidet

A smaller toilet will make for more legroom in your remodeled bathroom, but it's likely to have a 10 inch rough-in (measurement from the toilet boltholes to the finished wall) instead of the standard 12 inch, so check that it will fit in properly. While the traditional round toilet style is readily available and inexpensive, it's not as comfortable for large and/or tall adults as the more modern elongated type. However, a standard elongated toilet may measure as much as 32 inches, 3-4 inches more than a round model. Try to seek out the compact elongated version if you must have this style. A wall-mounted tankless toilet will require less room, but there may be problems with installation and cleaning.

A bidet is a European luxury feature that you might think takes up too much space. However, it's doable if you reduce your bathroom footprint by opting for a bidet built into your toilet, with a thermostatic valve that mixes in hot water and provides a warm spray for the bidet function only, not for flushing.


Choose a narrow, low projection sink. Avoid pedestal sinks unless you really love the look; they just don't allow for much storage space. A floating (wall-mounted) sink, on the other hand, is ideal -- you can store supplies underneath or provide an essential inch or two of additional clearance for the toilet. If you don't like looking at the space beneath your basin, add a sink skirt, which is an attractive cover-up that won't bang your knees.

Tub and Shower

The generally accepted minimum length for a bathtub is 5 feet. If you are really squeezed for space, there are standard-style tubs as short as 4 feet. These will save you water and heating, but before you buy, try road-testing one for comfort by climbing inside -- with the dealer's permission, of course. Or go for a deep step-in tub of 32 by 38 inches, which is universally accessible.

Another universal-access bathroom alternative is a stall shower. The minimum allowable length is a lean 32 inches. Corner installation saves even more square footage. How about building in handy shelves for necessities like soap and shampoo?

Storage Etc.

Medicine cabinets and other types of storage cupboards should have a slim-line profile, but extend upward as high as you can go. Storage shelves and niches are a fantastic option, as long as they don't jut out far enough for bathroom users to bang their heads.

Don't forget to small-scale the rest of your materials to complement your compact bathroom design. For example, glass mosaic tile for your small bathroom's walls is tiny and packs the perfect design punch.

Laura Firszt writes for

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