Projects & Improvements

Before and After: A 25-Square-Foot Bathroom’s Redo Features a Smarter Layout and a Bolder Design

published Jan 31, 2023
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Before: a white tub, sink, and toilet
Credit: Janette Smith

Full bathrooms with small footprints are true design feats. After all, it’s pretty impressive to squeeze a sink, toilet, and tub into about 15 or 20 square feet. It’s doubly impressive to make those limited square feet function swiftly for day-to-day use, and it’s triply impressive to make them look stylish at the same time. For some major inspiration, take a look at these awe-inspiring 15 small bathrooms with big style.

A few design elements that there’s room for even in the tiniest of washrooms? Fun tile, festive colors, sleek vanities, statement-making mirrors and luxe lighting. Homeowner Janette Smith’s tiny cottage bathroom’s “after” employs all of the above, but before it was a bit boring (and a bit of a logistical nightmare).

Credit: Janette Smith

“The room was very plain and a little bit cold and depressing,” Janette says. “The decor was out of place in such a quirky little cottage.” And by “quirky,” she means that the cottage bathroom was only about 4.5 feet by 5.5 feet — and because the little bathroom was built into the eaves of her home, it had a steep sloped ceiling. “The full-length bath was placed on the longest wall, therefore under the eaves, so any showering had to take place sitting or kneeling in the bath,” Janette says. It was, she notes, an “extremely challenging space.”

Credit: Janette Smith

In 2022, Janette decided to make a change, starting with measuring her space and working out a redesigned layout that would not require any major plumbing changes. In her newly redesigned bathroom, the waste pipe could remain in the same place, and the hot and cold water pipes would only need a minor re-route.

Janette’s new bathroom plan involved rotating the tub to the right so it would sit where the sink once was, moving the sink closer to the door, and moving the toilet to the back left corner of the space. “Sourcing a very short-but-deep bath was crucial to the plan,” Janette says, “and finding a corner toilet that also had a very shallow depth would allow the best use of space for this tiny room.”

Credit: Janette Smith

As for the design? She wanted that to match her quirky cottage, which meant it couldn’t be boring. “Decorating was going to be very bold and colorful to warm the room up so that it could become a small and mighty bathroom that I could love,” Janette says.

Janette hired a handyman (for approximately $1,300 of her $5,000 all-in redo) to install the fixtures and furnishings she’d picked out: her space-saving corner toilet, her slat wood wall behind the tub, her light fixture, her mid-century-inspired mirror, her wood slat wall, and her 16-inch-by-16-inch stone-topped vanity.

Credit: Janette Smith

“The vanity basin was supposed to be wall hung, but it was very heavy, and the old lath and plaster wall wouldn’t take the weight,” Janette recalls. To make it work, she and her handyman added sleek back legs to the piece so it could be freestanding. Other small-space helpers Janette loves in the space? The marble shelf from H&M and the hooks on the side of the vanity.

In total, the reno and installation took seven days. “I was really lucky to find a local handyman who could do the whole job for me — plumbing, tiling, electric, carpentry, etcetera,” Janette adds. “I imagine the seven-day timescale would have been impossible to achieve if individual experts were bought in sequentially.”

Janette’s favorite details in the space are three colorful DIY additions: the wallpaper behind the mirror, the teal vinyl tile, and the punchy pink tub. The soaker, a compact roll-top white tub, was a splurge. To take it from basic to breathtaking, Janette sanded the exterior surface before repainting it using Farrow & Ball’s Rangwali. “I love the pink,” Janette says of her color choice. “It’s so warm. It matches perfectly with the Dahling Morris wallpaper and with the pink roller blind.”

Credit: Janette Smith
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Because the tub is so compact, Janette couldn’t find an off-the-shelf shower curtain rod to work. DIY to the rescue: Janette made her own custom-sized curtain rod out of a bamboo hula hoop! Her bathroom is a testament to the true creative thinking that comes with small space living, and it now works much better for her.

Credit: Janette Smith

“I love the whole look,” Janette says of her revamped, rearranged compact cottage bathroom. Her best design advice for others taking on a bathroom reno? “Be brave,” she says. “A bathroom is one of your most personal spaces, so make it fit your personality and style. Design a room that will make you smile each time you use it.”