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Enough space in the smallest of spaces: designing small bathrooms

Enough space in the smallest of spaces: designing small bathrooms

Enough space in the smallest of spaces: designing small bathrooms

Narrow, small, often without windows – the bathroom is the problem child in most apartments. With the right bathroom furniture and modern compact toilets and some skill, even small bathrooms can be furnished stylishly and with sufficient storage space.

7.8 square meters: According to the Association of the German Sanitation Industry (VDS), an average bathroom in German apartments is this large. But even small bathrooms can be big if you furnish them properly – solutions for the most common problems.

Space-saving furnishings

A small bathroom can quickly look cramped if sanitary objects and bathroom furnishings are too large or inappropriately arranged. With a well thought-out bathroom arrangement, owners of a small bathroom can achieve a spacious effect.


The problem: a bathtub in standard size 170 x 75 centimetres does not fit into small bathrooms.

The solution: frequent bathers should inform themselves about space-saving variants. So-called space-saving bathtubs provide a remedy. Manufacturers rely on special shapes for these:

Corner baths are ideal for filling room corners. There is also plenty of storage space around the bathtub.

These bathtubs are available in various sizes. They are between 135 and 180 centimetres long and between 135 and 145 centimetres wide. Like the classic bathtubs, the corner tubs are 42 to 50 centimetres high.

Asymmetrical bathtubs offer plenty of space for the upper body and run narrowly towards the foot end. They can thus be installed with the narrow side next to the entrance door and a sufficiently large passageway remains. Typical dimensions are a length of 150 to 170 centimetres, a width of 70 to 100 centimetres and a height between 42 and 50 centimetres.

Extra deep bathtubs are suitable for rooms with a maximum length of 160 centimetres. These bathtubs are suitable for sitting baths as they are 50 to 70 centimetres high.


The solution: Whether with or without a shower tray – showers should be installed at floor level in small bathrooms, the shower cubicle should be made of glass. In this way the eye perceives the entire surface as a unit and the bathroom appears larger.

Square: It is available from a size of 70 x 70 centimetres. Some manufacturers already offer them from 65 x 65 centimetres. The advantage is that the shower tray does not have to be placed in a corner of the room, but can also be installed on the side of the wall.

Rectangular: For narrow bathrooms, rectangular shower trays are recommended, which are available from 75 x 80 centimetres.

Pentagonal: This shape is suitable as a corner shower and has a footprint of 75 x 90 centimetres or 80 x 80 centimetres.

Quarter circle: These shower trays require at least 80 centimetres in length, but also offer more space for the shower user than pentagonal shower trays. The rounded shape requires a shower cubicle with rounded doors. These are usually more expensive than square shower enclosures.

No shower tray: The optimum solution is to do without a shower tray and provide the shower floor with the same tiles as in the rest of the bathroom. So the bathroom looks bigger. In addition, a shower partition that can be swivelled away provides more freedom of movement. This gives bathroom users more space when they are not showering. The water flows off via a shower channel or a floor-deep drain.

Arrangement of sanitary facilities

The problem: Older sanitary objects often take up a lot of space in small bathrooms. The reason for this is their standard sizes, which are unsuitable for small rooms. In addition, the shower, bathtub, washbasin and WC are usually mounted next to each other along the wall, which means that additional space is lost.

The solution: The pre-wall installation enables a new arrangement of the sanitary facilities. The system is simple: experts fix the water pipes and drain pipes along the room wall. The second step is to cover the room with gypsum plasterboard. Special mounting elements help to install washbasins and WCs. The advantage of this approach is that no walls have to be opened to lay new pipes.

The installation blocks are between 17 and 25 centimetres deep and vary in height as required. It is therefore possible to install the pre-wall either room-high or half-high. A half-height front wall has the advantage that the wall projection can be used as a storage option.  If cavities in the pre-wall element remain free of technology and pipes, this space is ideal for flush shelving. These are recessed into the front wall.

Even the floor plan of the room can be changed with pre-wall elements. For example, bathroom owners can place a T-shaped pre-wall element in the middle of the room. The washbasin can be mounted on the longer side. Two separate areas are created behind this wall. One contains the shower, the other the WC. However, this division is only possible in square bathrooms.

WashBasin and furniture

The problem: around the washbasin with a wall-mounted washbasin without a base cabinet, a lot of storage space can be lost. In addition, the standard size wash basins are often too large for a small bathroom.

The solution: A furniture washbasin with a small washbasin is recommended so that too much space is not lost. Furniture washbasins are available in many variants and sizes. If guests also use the bathroom, a closed cupboard is recommended, as this conceals all tins and tubes. If the bathroom is only intended for the family, open shelves allow easy access to the bathroom utensils used daily.

The wash basin should be integrated flush into the top of a washbasin. This creates storage space around the washbasin and the washbasin surface appears larger than with the installation of a top-mounted basin. In terms of shape and size, there is a large selection of wash basins that can be integrated. Precise measurement is important in order to find the optimum sanitary object.

Storage space

The problem: There is little space for conventional cupboards in small bathrooms. That’s why storage space has to be created by other means.

Solution: In principle, it is important not to give away centimetres in small rooms. Instead of many small cupboards and shelves, it is also better to select a large part that offers enough storage space and optically brings peace into the small bathroom.


  • Customization for niches: Specially made shelves or cabinets for small corners are optimal.
  • Shelves: Shelves also offer additional storage space in small bathrooms. Baskets for small parts are either placed on the shelf or suspended from it with a hook.
  • Roll containers: They are often to be found in the office furniture department, but are also suitable for the bathroom. Their advantage: They are mobile and can be moved as required.
  • Apothecary pull-out: It is narrow and a real space miracle. Because its storage system goes into the depth of the cupboard. It is available in different heights.
  • Mirror cabinet above the washbasin: This fulfils several functions at once. It offers storage space, mirror surface and lighting.


  • Wall installation: Wall installation of mirror cabinets or shelving units using a flush-mounted model or as a built-in cabinet saves space.
  • Use walls: Narrow wall cupboards above the toilet or shelves above the bathroom door – the wall can be used in many places for more storage space. A small pedal stool facilitates access to cupboards and shelves that are mounted higher on the wall.


In furniture stores and DIY stores there are numerous utensils that can be misused for the bathroom:

  • Curtain rails stretched along the ceiling provide space for hangers and bags, for example.
  • A rope ladder in the bathroom, mounted on the ceiling, acts as a holder for towels and small hanging baskets.
  • For rarely used utensils, a basket can be attached to the ceiling using a pulley system. This is lowered or pulled up with a rope.
  • Important: The bathroom equipment must be waterproof so that it is not damaged by the steam.

Five tips: Making small baths look bigger

In addition to the selection of suitable bathroom furniture and sanitary facilities, there are other options for making the small bathroom appear larger.

Tip 1: Create more order

With small baths it is worth fighting for every centimetre of free space. Saving space is therefore a top priority.

To prevent regularly used objects from standing around, containers can be mounted on the wall. That concerns for example soap dispenser, hair dryer holder or toothbrush cup.

For the attachment of these mountings do-it-yourselfers do not need to drill holes into the tiles. They are available with special adhesive tapes that are easy to remove or can be purchased with suction cups.

Also here applies: Use niches. The narrow piece of wall behind the door or between the sanitary objects can be used as a place for additional hooks. Baskets or hanging devices with several small pockets can be attached to it. This creates new space for small parts.

Tip 2: No optical structure

In large bathrooms, it makes sense to visually separate individual areas from each other. In small bathrooms it is better to emphasise the unity of the room. Furniture placed across the room in long, narrow bathrooms or various tile colours and shapes act as visual barriers. Instead, it is better to tile the bathroom uniformly.

Tip 3: Colour design

Targeted coloured accents are permitted. This can be achieved with accessories in the same shade, for example. Photo: Aqua Culture/ FRICKBathroom

Colours have a decisive influence on the spatial effect. If you want to make the small bathroom look big, it is best to use bright colours or colours from the same colour family for tiles and bathroom furnishings. For example, the combinations beige and brown, white and yellow or different shades of grey are suitable. The fewer contrasts and hard transitions the colour design contains, the calmer and larger the bathroom appears. The classic bathroom colour white remains popular, as the eye recognises fewer contours in a white environment and the room thus appears more spacious.

Tip 4: Skilful wall and floor design

Large tiles are suitable for a small bathroom. The small number of joints between the tiles creates a quiet surface. Laying tiles with polished edges reduces the joint width. In addition, it is advisable to buy the tiles in a suitable size for the walls. This means that a row of tiles can be glued to the wall without having to cut the tiles. Cutting to size would create thick joint edges at the corners of the room and make the wall surfaces appear smaller. Who wants to avoid joints completely, should plaster the complete bathroom walls water-repellent. This creates a homogeneous, quiet surface without tiles.

If the wall and floor design with monochrome tiles is too monotonous for you, you can add a little luxury to your bathroom. Accents with glossy mosaic tiles or tiles with a proportion of gold leaf are real eye-catchers. By the reflection of the light they brighten the room additionally.

Tip 5: Free Floor

Free spaces make rooms appear more spacious. For this reason, wall-mounted bathroom fittings are ideal. In addition, it is worth cleaning up everything that lies on the floor. This includes body scales, hair dryers and towels. Bathroom carpets should also be used sparingly. A large carpet is recommended instead of several small ones.

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