How to make a small bathroom functional – Article

Never mind the small space. With a bit of clever compromise, you can have your bath and enjoy it too.

In this ‘supersize’ age, a big luxurious bathroom is on every home renovator’s wish list. But structural and budgetary constraints often mean you have to make do with the space you’ve got, and that means compromise.

“You really need to pinpoint what your needs are and make that distinction between what you have to have, and what you want to have,” says Elizabeth Luke, from Luke Interiors. So before you get carried away with visions of wet’n’wild, Roman-style romps, ask yourself these questions.

Shower or bath?

In an ideal world you’d answer “Both”, but this is a luxury many older bathrooms weren’t designed to accommodate.

“Your starting point should be to look at who’s going to be using the bathroom and their ages,” says Elizabeth. “If you’ve got elderly people, then forget the bath and just have a shower. If you have small children, on the other hand, you will need a bath, but maybe a small one will do.”

If you really can’t live without your Sunday-night soak, but are not a fan of the standard shower-over-bath combo, then enlist the help of a designer to come up with something unique.

“I did a bathroom a few years ago where I actually custom-made a bath out of bricks and tiles, and sat the shower screen on the edge of that wall,” says Elizabeth. “By doing it that way, I could make the bath area any size or shape I liked.”

Waste or space?

The next question you need to ask yourself is: “Does my bathroom really need a toilet?”. If the answer is “Yes”, then consider the many space-efficient models now on the market.


“There are pans now that extend only 460mm from the wall, so they’re a great space-saving alternative,” says Elizabeth. “And if the room is timber-framed, you can hide the cistern in the wall.”

Storage or style?

So you’ve managed to squeeze in a bath, shower and toilet while keeping your itsy-bitsy bathroom functional. Good for you. Now all you need to do is work out where to put all those towels, shampoo bottles, soaps, bath bombs, rubber duckies etc.


“If your bathroom is small, I would avoid full-sized vanities for storage,” says Elizabeth, who explains that the key to making a small bathroom look spacious is to have as much floor space visible as possible. “I would have a neat wall-hung basin with alternative storage areas.”

One clever option is to recess your cabinets into the walls. This is ideal for above the basin, where the doors can double as mirrors. But if your walls won’t allow for this, a floating vanity (see picture) is another stylish, space-saving solution.