Designer Leslie Lamarre, co-owner and principal of interiors at TRG Architects in Burlingame, California, and winner of the first place award for Best Small Bath in the 2013 design competition sponsored by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, enjoys the challenge of making the most of a small space. Here's how you can too!
NKBA 2013 Best Small Bath / Bernard André
Aim for Average
“A too-big tub is a real space waster," says Lamarre. “Most people sit upright in the tub, so a 5-foot tub is sufficient for practically everyone. There are all kinds of ways to use the space that you save with a smaller tub,” such as adding a mini storage unit. “The more you can build in, the better.”
Use the Corners
Corner sinks, with or without vanities, are a great way to make the most of limited space. “When you’re remodeling, you’re handed the space that you’ve got,” Lamarre says. “Once I had a jog in the vanity wall, so I carried the countertop across the space. It feels cohesive and created a dynamic design aspect.”
Take a Shower
Consider getting rid of the tub entirely. “It’s actually more comfortable to take a shower if you’re not standing in the tub,” Lamarre says, “and a frameless glass shower makes the space look bigger.” Older homeowners or those with mobility issues will find it convenient to enter a shower without having to climb over the side of a tub.
Whether you want—or have room for—a vanity will influence bathroom sink choices. Lamarre says a vanity has to be at least 24 inches wide to accommodate a full-size sink and provide some functional counter space. But if you can make do with a smaller sink and just a dollop of counter space, even a petite vanity can offer valuable hidden storage.
Consider a Wall-Mounted Sink
If you don’t have room for a vanity or just don’t want one, check out a pedestal or wall-mounted sink. These styles have a lighter, less solid look than a vanity and may be ideal for truly tiny spaces. “There are some really cool options; some wall-mounted sinks are only 11 inches deep,” Lamarre says. Others have broad, integrated ledges or shelf-like surfaces at the side; some even come with built-in towel bars.
Don't Forget Medicine Cabinets
You can stash more items in a deep cabinet, but one that’s flush with the wall might be a better pick because a protruding cabinet will make the space feel smaller. Depending on the room and your cabinet choice, you may be able to install two identical cabinets side by side. Besides doubling the storage, the expanse of mirrors can make the room look larger.
Choose the Right Toilet
Lamarre advises that wall-hung toilets or those with round rather than elongated bowls are the best picks for compact spaces. But keep in mind, “Your choices have to fit the design aesthetic,” she says. A wall-hung unit “has a contemporary aesthetic; a round bowl works better with a traditional interior.”
Keep It Bright
A light, bright space is always more attractive and inviting, and in the bathroom in particular, light improves functionality. Recessed ceiling lights are a good starting place, but be sure to provide task lighting—Lamarre recommends sconces—around the mirror. If you like to shave in the shower, good-quality lighting will make the job easier and safer.
If you're looking for more on small-space solutions, consider:
6 Storage Tips and Tricks Anyone Can Use
10 Ways to Live Large in a (Very) Small Space
7 Easy Ways to Boost Bathroom Storage
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