Having a small bathroom can be a major frustration for many homeowners. The reality is that, unless it is a deliberate plan to add extra convenience, such as a second bathroom or downstairs loo, it can be claustrophobic and limiting to the point it provides nothing more than functionality, and certainly isn’t the relaxing space envisaged.
Yet there is so much scope to create even a small bathroom space into something that offers comfort, and a place to escape from the daily rigours of life. In this exploration into the world of tiny, small and compact bathroom spaces, it will cover everything from the types, sizes, and features of a small bathroom, as well as giving great ideas on how to enrich your space with colours, themes and products to truly maximise it to its full potential. Here’s the sections we’ll cover:
- What is a small bathroom and what dimensions do they come in?
- What are the types of small bathroom that can be found?
- How to plan a small bathroom refresh/renovation
- How to use products and storage to maximise & free up extra space
- Themes and Colours to consider for small bathrooms
- How to create the illusion of more space in a small bathroom
- The cost of renovating or refurbing a small bathroom
- How long it will take to fit a new small bathroom
- Example images and inspiration of small bathroom styles, designs & colour schemes
What is a Small Bathroom & What Are The Dimensions?
The answer to what a small bathroom is really quite down to personal interpretation. What may be small for one person, may be comfortable for another. Nevertheless, in its basic definition, it is any bathroom that offers the essentials to maintain a decent level of personal hygiene: a toilet, bathroom sink, and if space allows, either a bath or shower.
The average standard British bathroom is roughly 5 or 6ft x 8ft (1.5m-1.8m x 2.4m), which by comparison to some areas of the world, could be considered small. A lot of this is down to the historic design and old-style build of houses (such as terraced). According to Hunker.com, the equivalent US bathroom for example, starts at a similar size to the UK, all the way up to an average of 160 square feet (e.g. 10ft x 16ft) for master bathrooms, which include double of everything. Using these figures as a measure, anything under 5ft x 8ft (or 40 sq.ft) could be considered – and is probably – a small bathroom.
Despite this, not many people realise, however, that under the Building Regulations 2010, new homes and any new bathroom builds have to conform to very specific guidelines. Firstly, any residential property must contain a bathroom including a basin and either a bath or shower. For sanitary conveniences (e.g. toilets), then it must include handwashing facilities or have a room connected or next-door for this. Other factors to consider include:
- Door openings
- The amount of space left between bathroom items
- Fire Safety
In the case of the Merged Approved Documents provided by the Government, that are used alongside Building Regulations, an example of compliant WCs and Cloakrooms with just a toilet and basin are a minimum of 0.85m x 1.6m for how small a bathroom should be with side door access, while for front access it would be 1.05m x 1.5m. All of these allow 750mm from the front of the toilet to allow for clear access and usage. If looking at a bathroom space including a bath or shower, then factor in the length and width of this space. Although this is dictated by personal taste, the guidance suggests this should be no wider than 1.35m and at least 1.7m (4.5ft x 5.6ft approx.) to accommodate a bath. Nevertheless, what can be achieved will be reliant on the layout and size of the space at hand. The dimensions of small, wheelchair or disabled accessible bathrooms, will need to be much larger at its minimum to accommodate more space for maneuverability.
Bear in mind that this guidance above only exists for new spaces and new builds. Existing spaces do have to comply with more up-to-date guidance in some respects, however, in terms of size and space, there tends to be grace in updating it as it is.
Types of Small Bathroom
When it comes to small bathrooms, lots of jargon or names thrown around depending on where you are in the world, as well as to explain the purpose of a type of bathroom. As defined above, an actual bathroom tends to include at least a bath or shower, plus a toilet and basin. Toilets, WCs and Cloakrooms usually only contain a toilet and basin. Nevertheless, the phrase ‘small bathroom’ tends to provide an umbrella name for all of the above, and so we have explained below each name and what they include:
Small Master Bathroom/Small Main Bathroom/Second Small Full Bathroom
Also called full bathrooms or three-quarter bathrooms, the master or main bathroom is the one used as the main one in the house, either on the upstairs or ground floor. The likelihood is that any pre-existing master bathroom will be around the size mentioned or above. It usually contains a toilet, basin, and either a bath or shower, or both if space allows, and contains everything needed for a great pamper session. A full bathroom contains all four, while three-quarter bathrooms only contain one of a bath or shower. In the US, some master bathrooms contain double of each items for couples and partners to have their own.
Small Jack and Jill Bathroom
Not usually seen as much in the UK but these are bathrooms joined between two bedrooms with access point from each bathroom. They are like master bathrooms but shared.
Usually connected to a bedroom, these usually provide the basic amenities for private and overnight purposes, such as a bathroom mirror, small towel radiator, basin, storage and toilet plus any accessories. It is usually in addition to a primary or master bathroom in the home.
Cloakrooms/Powder Rooms/Guest Cloakrooms
A cloakroom (not to be confused with those in schools!), also known as a powder room in the US, is a secondary space like an en-suite. It contains a similar level of amenities to an en-suite and is usually located on a different floor (e.g. downstairs or ground floor).
WCs/Downstairs Toilets/ & Under-Stairs WCs
Some older homes may have pre-existing extensions or toilets that provide a second loo or toilet. By and large, these will not probably be more than box rooms or storage spaces (and will definitely not conform to latest guidance). These may contain as little as a small toilet and a hand-washbasin (though some don’t even have this!), and the basic accessories (toilet brush/toilet roll holder).
Planning A Small Bathroom
When it comes to starting on a new small bathroom project, there are several things to consider. These can be broken down into:
- How much space you will have to play around with
- The extent of the work taking place
- The budget you will have
- Style and features of the space
From a space point of view, in pre-existing spaces, this will be dictated by how much was there before. It may be possible to free up some extra space by removing features or altering the room, but this can prove costly.
If it is a brand new space, or a conversion of another room, or even just expanding into another room, then this will rely on the extent of the work required to make it both safe, plus the installation of plumbing, ventilation and electrics. In both instances, it is worth consulting an expert earlier on to get an idea of how this will impact on timeframes, budgets and what will and will not be possible, in order to save frustration further down the track. A lick of paint or even just updating existing fixtures and fittings, for example, will be a fairly quick job to complete. A complete renovation could take months to finish.
Once this is determined, it then comes down to planning the style and items for the space. Remember to consider that space is going to be vital, and further ahead in this piece, there are some great ideas to how you can create the illusion of more space. There’s no use trying to shoe-horn both a full shower and freestanding bath into a tiny space – it just isn’t practical or possible. As such, it is worth consulting a 3D bathroom design expert in this process, as they will be able to design realistic imagery to illustrate how the finished bathroom will look, as well as creatively think of any other ways to help enhance or practically make changes to give you the small bathroom of your dreams.
All of this combined will give you a budget, and then the ability to work out whether to scale up or down the plans in mind before proceeding any further.
Small Bathroom Product & Storage Ideas
When it comes to working with a small amount of space, there are plenty of products on the market that can help you with the most complex and challenging of layouts. Broken down below is a series of product ideas for small bathrooms to consider in your refurb or refresh:
Cloakrooms and WCs will not be looking to include these (simply because they are just a toilet and basin) but if the space can stretch to around 1.7m in length, width or both, then there is no reason why the bathroom cannot accommodate a simple bathtub. It is also worth considering the width of the bath with 700mm or less suitable for a small bathroom. One factor to consider before jumping headfirst into bath buying is also worth making sure that the door/room has the access to install the bath in the first place. If it can, here’s a breakdown of some that can be accommodated in small bathrooms:
- Straight Baths - In most cases, the easiest design to go for in any small bathroom space is a straight, fitted or inset bath in a rectangular shape. These can be fitted as a solo bath, or with accompanying shower handset/overhead shower connected to electric or central heating/hot water systems.
- Shower Baths – Shower baths act the same as straight baths but are designed to come with an accompanying shower screen. They can be fitted with panels and come in handed designs, and a mix of different shaped edges described like letters of the alphabet. A J-shaped bath can free up extra space by having a curved end. You can read more about shower baths in our shower baths guide here.
- Spacesaver Baths – Designed for spaces limited, these are baths with one narrow end like the corner is cut off to help create extra space. However, they are just a practical addition for those who want to have a quick sit in a bath than a deep soak.
- Corner Baths/Sitting Baths – A corner bath is one that sits in the corner of a room. These tend to be quadrant or D-shaped with a smooth, curved front. They are used for sitting in.
What about Freestanding Baths?
The highly sought freestanding bath is often a question asked about when it comes to small bathrooms, and whether small spaces can accommodate one. The short answer is that it can be included into a small bathroom, yes. Many freestanding baths are available in small sizes from around 1500mm in length, so if you are looking for small and stylish then there are numerous options to choose from. In terms of access for plumbing and cleaning, it is required to always leave extra space around the edge of the bath, so factor this into the decision making. These can be in both modern and traditional styles, and a variety stylish and eye-catching designs.
When it comes to toilets, one with a shorter projection is always the best to maximise the space available, and will usually be named or labelled as having a short projection. Short projection toilets have a smaller outward depth compared to normal toilets saving a few vital inches and more space to move around in. These are usually around 610mm or less for close-coupled toilets, or 500mm or less for back to wall or wall hung WCs. It may also require a short or reduced height WC toilet frame or smaller compact concealed cistern alongside these items if the location or layout is difficult. If it is not depth
Basins & Basin Taps & Bathroom Furniture
Basins for small bathrooms come in a variety of names – compact basins, cloakroom basins, hand wash basins or washbasins. The reason behind these is that they are usually small enough to do basic functions, such as a quick rinse of hands or face. There are a variety of basin styles to choose from, although in the interests of space, it is usually worth looking at a wall hung cloakroom basin to leave open space, or alternatively an inset basin or cloakroom vanity basin and unit, which can be paired with furniture to combine basin and storage all-in-one if the latter is a necessity. From an accompanying taps point of view, smaller cloakroom taps are available to fit alongside the basin due to the reduced projection of the spout required.
Not prevalently available, although there are some around on the market, are toilet and basin combination units. These are a WC unit, which a back to wall toilet sits in front of, while the basin is positioned on top of the unit either directly behind or offset/handed to one side.
When it comes to showers, the same principle applies as baths. For any small bathroom space, it is likely that it will only be possible to fit either one or the other as standalone. The only way to compromise and have both is to have an overhead shower over a bath, such as an electric shower, or a shower riser-rail kit.
If opting for a shower enclosure, then the size of this will be dictated by the available space, however, the smallest ones are usually around 700mm and can be fully enclosed or with a side and front panel. Again, the size will have to allow enough room to move around in, as well as to be able to access other facilities.
Wetrooms is another question that gets asked frequently, and in fact, these are a practical way of opening the room out. While a certain area of the bathroom can be turned into a wetroom (e.g. where the shower is), one practical idea is to make the entire space a wetroom. This may include the installation of a panel but it does not have to be as obstructive as an enclosure can be. This will allow for an overhead shower such as a rainfall shower head, and the possibility of a shower valve with diverter to other items such as a handset.
Lighting & Ventilation
Lighting is going to be vitally important in a bathroom space. If the bathroom is windowless, then lighting is going to be problematic, and the last thing anyone wants is a space that is dark and depressing. While this may require a completely re-wiring or wiring from scratch, lights can be installed from the ceiling in the form of a main light with or without spotlights or wall lights. Alongside this, think about illuminated accessories. If installing a bathroom mirror, an LED bathroom mirror that can be wired into the wall or that is connected to the main lighting switch can help add brightness.
If you have a window, then maximising the light around the room is going to be vital. Clear glass, glossy finishes, and light colours, along with mirrors can all help with this.
Ventilation is going to be limited in a windowless room, and that can cause problem with mould, mildew, and damp. Any new bathroom will have to provide adequate ventilation including the installation of an extractor, and this may also be a consideration for any pre-existing home.
Towel Storage & Drying Towels in A Small Bathroom
For many smaller bathrooms, it will be about drying hand towels rather than large towels. This can be accomplished by a simple towel rack that can be placed at a higher height, or a towel rail or ring alongside your bathroom sink.
If looking for heated solutions, such as an electric towel warmer, there are plenty of compact sizes. This may prove problematic in spaces just providing a basic toilet, but most spaces will be available, or have a small one, already fitted.
There are no considerations to factor in when it comes to flooring – in short, it is an open book on preference. Choose between vinyl flooring such as LVT flooring, or alternatively opt for bathroom tiles.
Can You Make A Small Bathroom Disabled Accessible?
Making a bathroom disabled accessible is really about the initial size of the space, and the accessibility. For many pre-existing spaces, it may not be practical to convert in a disabled or wheelchair accessible space without some renovation work to make a wider door and room.
However, if this is possible, this shouldn’t be a problem. It may be worth considering the type of facilities required for the type of disability, such as special access needs for baths and showers, larger height toilets and lower height basins and taps for people to be able to reach and use. From an assistance point of view, installing bathroom grab rails can help with getting up and down.
Small Bathroom Ideas: Themes and Best Colours
When it comes to themes and colours, much of this is down to preference. There are no real limiting factors over traditional or modern, both work perfectly in a small bathroom space. These can also be in several different themes:
- Minimalist and simple
- Much more…
With colours, bright and fresh is always a great one to use for a small bathroom, as it can really help ensure the light gets around the room and look bigger. However, if looking for something cosier and more intimate, it can be as playful with colour as you like, with blues, greens, yellows all strong pop colours. Black, white, grey mixed with golds and brasses are also other options.
There are a number of guides created already that can help with choosing colours or styles but in reality, it really does come down to personal choice and taste:
- 15 Bathroom Colour Scheme Idea for Suites of All Sizes
- Hotel and Spa Bathrooms
- 2023 Bathroom Trends
- How To Find the Perfect Bathroom Cabinet Style
How to Maximise Your Small Bathroom & Create The Illusion of More Space
In any small bathroom, making the room seem larger is going to be vitally important. This can be achieved in a number of ways from not over-accessorising to using the full height and width of the room. Some of the way this can be accomplished includes:
- Keeping things simple – not over-complicating the space can help widen the room
- Lifting things off the ground to maximise floor space
- Using the height of the room and all corners to leave no inch uncovered
- Accessorising over using furniture leaving space for the essentials
- Combining features such as basin and storage, or mirrors and storage
- Using bathroom mirrors to reflect and create light around the room
There are plenty more suggestions in our 16 ways of how to make a small bathroom bigger here.
What is the Cost of Refurbishing and Renovating A Small Bathroom?
The cost of refurbishing or renovating a small bathroom will be dictated by the amount of work being undertaken, and also the location based in the country. London-prices will always be inflated compared to the North East of the UK, for example.
For a small bathroom or ensuite, the rough approximation of cost is around £3,000-£3,700 for a complete refresh including new fixtures and fittings. However, if it’s just a lick of a paint then obviously this will be as much as is required, and probably no more than a few hundred pounds. If building from scratch, then you will need to consider any renovation and planning consideration. A full breakdown of all the potential cost implications can be found in our guide to how much a new bathroom costs.
How Long Will It Take To Fit A Small Bathroom?
When it comes to the timeframe of installing a new small bathroom, this depends on the number of items to install and the extent of work being undertaken. A few days should always be allowed for electrics and any tiling/finishing work. Typically, the fitting of bathroom products should take anywhere between a few days to up to a week, although time should always be factored in for works around simply installing the items, such as plastering, tiling and grouting. For bigger projects, this will be dictated by build and renovation works, which can take from several months to up to a year.
Small Bathroom Images
To provide inspiration and ideas, we have collated a selection of small bathroom images to show what can be achieved in a variety of spaces from attics to cloakrooms.
If you are looking for help or inspiration for your small bathroom project, get in touch with us, visit our bathroom showroom, or book a 3D bathroom design appointment, and we will be happy to help guide you along the journey from planning to getting it installed.