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Small spaces pose interesting design challenges, even for architects like me. If you have an oversized budget, the possibilities are endless. However, powder rooms or small bathroom layout ideas that don’t compromise on comfort or functionality require skill and expertise. 

So, how do we go about designing a bathroom layout that fully optimizes your floor space? Find out as I share the ins and outs of various small bathroom floor plans, including small master bathrooms.

Four pillars of design ideas for a small bathroom layout

There are four basic criteria that govern the way any layout is built. We’ll apply them in a standard-sized small bathroom, just over three square meters in dimensions. Then, we will arrange the pieces so that the area feels more comfortable and spacious. 

Keep in mind that building codes require that the minimum distance from the center of a toilet and/or bidet to a shower or any other bath fixture or a wall should be 18 inches.

1. Align your bathroom fixtures

bathroom layouts

Get your heavy bathroom pieces such as the toilet, the bathroom sink, and the shower or bathtub in a row. The new distribution visually orders the space, allowing you to perceive it in all its magnitude, even with its small size. 

By the way, you may be able to switch a shower with a toilet if you so desire with some bathroom remodeling and plumbing work. 

If you look at the before image of the two layouts, you can see three empty gaps. But, wasted bathroom 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 accessing all the fixtures in a much more intuitive, functional way.

2. Keep heavy and large pieces at the end of the bathroom

Placing the bulkier pieces, like the shower or tub, away from the entrance is one of the best ways to create the illusion of more space in your small bathroom layout.

Bathroom Layouts

This example clearly shows that by placing the shower in the background, we make the small room seem twice as large. You can even gain enough square feet for maneuverability.

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3. Maintain a continuity

The arrangement of fixtures alters the perception of space. If instead of a standard bathtub with a shower, you use the same area for a chic shower area – conveniently bounded by a bathroom screen – the bathroom’s geometry becomes substantially simpler. This is one of the best layouts for a small bathroom — boosting its orderliness and attractiveness.

Read more: Five Great Storage Solutions for Small Bathrooms

4. Leverage transparencies

When choosing how you’d like to separate the shower area from the rest of the bathroom, a clear frameless glass shower enclosure is a much better bet than frosted glass doors or a shower curtain. That way, the eye can perceive the entirety of the bathroom. 

bathroom layouts

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

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Four Basic bathroom distributions

1. Long and narrow bathroom

The best distribution of space is the one that has the elements aligned to allow better circulation. For example, a wall-to-wall shower at the end will give the impression that the room is wider. Make sure the toilet and sink leave enough space for the door to swing open. Another useful feature is the bathroom mirror. Use it to add visual space. 

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

There are a few small bathroom layout ideas for decoration 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 all the features to be on the same plane. 

Bathroom Layouts

narrow bathroom

2. Wide and short bathroom

There are two possibilities for this type of bathroom design: the entrance can be in the middle of the side 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 reason is, the sink should be the first thing your eye goes to when you open the door to showcase the reflection in the mirror. This not only makes the room seem more spacious and aesthetically pleasing but also allows us to open the door without bumping into the toilet because the sink has less depth than the other pieces.

Bathroom layouts

Bathroom Layouts

IDEA: If you can afford major changes, a centered  sliding pocket door is much more interesting and convenient than one in the corner. Your bathroom will look bigger and will be better distributed.  

Read more: Bathroom Remodel & Renovation Financing Options

3. L-shaped bathrooms

Bathrooms with an L shape are relatively easy to distribute.

a) In an L-shaped room, you should consider placing a wall-mounted sink opposite the door. If possible, place 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 Bathroom Layout

Bathroom Layouts

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

layout for l shaped bathroomc) 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 floor plan below. The sink is in the corner where the entrance is, then the toilet and in the bottom of the L, from wall to wall, is a shower or tub.

l shaped bathroom layouts

L shaped bathroom

4. Square bathrooms

It’s surprising how many variations square designs can have. The door can be cornered or centered, the bathroom may or may not have a window, and so on. Often, there are specific needs for everyone that will influence the “correct” distribution. For example, you may prefer a small bath over a shower, or might want a bidet. And of course, size plays a big role.

Read more: 5 Tips For A Functional And Beautiful Bathroom Layout

Basic guidelines for square bathrooms

If the door is more or less centered and the bathroom has a large window in the front of the door, you can leave the space beneath the window free to put a plant or towel bars (especially in extra small bathroom layouts), placing the sink, shower, and toilet beside the door.

bathroom layouts design

bathroom layouts designs

square bathroom

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. Additionally, the toilet is placed on the wall opposite the sink.
bathroom plan designIf 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.
bathroom plan design ideas

Last words

We hope these tips and tricks by an expert architect will help you become a pro too on maximum bathroom space-utilization as well as space saving. With these strategies and layout ideas, a small bathroom needn’t be a bane. If you plan well, you can have a beautiful space of real estate that’s functional too.

Read More: Tips From Experts: Make Your Small Bathroom Look Bigger

Small Bathroom Layout Ideas From an Architect was last modified: April 13th, 2021 by Oriana Gomez-Zerpa

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