Your bathroom layout is the key to a successful space but this would be hard to achieve if the fundamental elements have not been properly considered.
So, getting a bathroom layout right first time is vital. Everyone wants a stylish space to help energize at the start of the day and unwind in the evenings, and these bathroom layout ideas will show you how.
'Getting a bathroom layout right will make a huge difference to the enjoyment of the space, says Yousef Mansuri, head of design at luxury bathroom brand C.P. Hart.
'You don’t need to be restricted by the position of the soil pipe when planning a bathroom layout, but you do need to know where it is coming in, and how far it can be moved without affecting performance.
The less distance soil has to travel the better. Soil pipes can be extended within stud walls, under the floorboards (if joist direction allows), or even re-directed on the exterior wall to enter the bathroom exactly where you want it.'
Below, we tackle different bathroom layouts, reflecting different needs, bathroom ideas, styles and sizes.
Bathroom layout ideas
If you're wondering how to design a bathroom, before you begin browsing ideas, check the measurements of your bathroom and make a scale plan. Include elements that will affect your design, such as window positions and heights, external walls – and therefore drainage – and door openings.
Then, create the main elements – a bath, shower cubicle, toilet, basic storage – to-scale so that you can better see what works where.
'The room size undoubtedly has the biggest impact on what can be achieved, but you also need to consider door and window positions, as well as any fixed features like a fireplace or existing panelling,' agrees Yousef Mansuri.
'For a separate shower and bath, plus toilet and basin, we’d suggest a bathroom of at least 1.7m x 3m. Almost all bathrooms require compromises. If you want a large, luxurious shower, prepare to settle for a small vanity. Prioritizing your preferences is a good place to start.'
1. Cater to your bathroom layout's negative space
As you begin to experiment with them, remember the negative space, too; in other words, the space between the different elements of your bathroom layout.
'There must be sufficient space between fitting for usability, cleaning, and aesthetics,' advises Youself Mansuri at C.P. Hart. 'Leave at least 10cm between a vanity unit and a wall or shower screen, and allow 80cm-width for the WC, to provide elbow room. The same for a shower; I wouldn’t like to go below 80cm wide inside.
'Consider circulation space in the center of a room. Can you move around comfortably and is there enough space to fully extend the vanity unit drawer, or to bend your legs when sat on the toilet?'
2. Avoid emptiness in a bathroom layout
'In very large rooms, putting fittings around the edges can make the center feel cold and empty,' says Yousef Mansuri.
'I often try to play with interior architecture in big bathrooms. For example, using stud walls for separate shower and WC areas, placing large baths centrally, or creating double-entry shower scenarios.
It’s also lovely to include seating. A bench, a side chair, or even a glamorous chaise lounge, to create space for relaxation.'
3. Revolve your bathroom layout around a key feature
'Take a look at your space and consider your wish list,' says Louise Ashdown of West One Bathrooms. 'The fittings for a family bathroom are likely to be different to a luxurious ensuite bathroom; a compact wet room different to a large spa-like bathroom.
'Decide on your key feature, be it a sculptural freestanding bath, a glamorous vanity unit or a double shower, and try to position it as the focal point, visible from the door.'
Yousef Mansuri agrees, 'Establish a focal point upon entering your bathroom. This could be a lovely vanity unit with mirrors and wall lights, or a beautiful freestanding bath. It should not be the toilet, if at all possible.
Where there is a window, the sill height is very important. Can you fit that toilet cistern frame under the window? If the window is large or particularly beautiful, you may wish to highlight it by positioning a bath below.'
4. Choose the statement bath layout
For anyone with a large bathroom or a master bathroom, putting the bath center-stage is often a priority.
The best place to position the bath in this case is centrally against the focal wall – usually the wall opposite the door to the bathroom or beneath the window. If you have plenty of floor space, a bath placed in the center of the room can give the space a real sense of occasion.
'A freestanding bath can look stunning, but it needs space to show off its shape, so may be better suited to a larger bathroom,' continues Louise Ashdown. 'A standard bath is L1700mm, but there are plenty of larger and smaller options: try out the bath before you buy, because comfort is king.'
If you are taking this approach, ensure the bath deserves the stardom you are giving it: a shapely freestanding bath will be most appropriate here.
And, of course, max out this bathroom layout by ensuring the bath is framed with beautiful bathroom tile ideas, a stunning window treatment of even just a stand-out paint color.
5. Pick the bath and separate shower layout for large bathrooms
If you have the space for a shower and bath in your bathroom, it is best to install them as separate elements. But do consider how you use your bathroom before devoting precious floor space to both.
If, for example, your family tends to shower more than take baths, consider sacrificing bath-size to ensure there is plenty of room for a spacious shower. By contrast, if you rarely shower, a smaller or space-efficient corner cubicle or even an over-bath shower (see more on that below) might be a better use of your space.
If you do have just enough space to include both a bath and separate shower, there are many inventive ways of maximizing the space.
One is to divide the room with a partition wall that the bath can sit against and which can be used as one side of the shower cubicle.
In modern bathrooms, using a glazed shower screen to create the division, as in the bathroom above, can make the bathroom layout feel more spacious. And, of course, it allows light to flow freely through the room.
6. Save space with the over-bath shower layout
If floor space is tight and you are looking for small bathroom ideas, it is wiser to incorporate the shower into the bath. A quality pairing can give you the best of both worlds: a spacious feeling bathroom, with all the functionality you need.
The over-bath shower above is beautifully decorative but if you are serious about practicalities, and the shower will be used very regularly, look for a bath designed specifically for showering.
L-shaped or bow-end baths will give you more room to stand in the shower end, without taking up too much floor space.
Relying on a hand-held shower attachment is the least preferred option. Having a proper shower fitted at the shower end of the bath is a must if it will be used often.
7. Select the shower room layout for small spaces
If you are looking for shower room ideas or wet room ideas, your bathroom layout may already be decided due to lack of floor space and, of course, drainage, which will be a major consideration and cost.
'You could decide to tank the whole floor for a wet room or a less expensive option is to create a walk-in design using a simple glass panel or panels to screen off a shower area with a flush-fitted tray or flush-tiled floor above a floor former.
In this case, you need a minimum of 1200mm x 900mm to be able to shower in comfort and prevent water splashing outside the shower area,' says Louise Ashdown.
'In a smaller space, an enclosure will prevent splashes and a minimum comfortable size is 900mm x 900mm. An enclosure is also essential if you want to install a steam shower, in which case you need a roof to the enclosure with a maximum height of 2200mm.'
8. Boost space with wall-hung fittings
Wall-hung fittings are amongst the most vital of bathroom layout ideas – even in larger spaces. They make bathrooms not just bigger-looking – because you can see right beneath them to the walls of the room – they also make them easier to clean, too.
The space-enhancing trick wall-hung units and fittings create is really useful if you are choosing large fittings, such as double vanity units or wall storage units. But the even smaller elements of your bathroom layout can contribute.
'A wall-hung toilet, supported on a concealed frame, frees up the floor and maximizes the sense of space in your bathroom,' says Louise Ashdown.
Yousef Mansuri discusses the practicalities: 'Wall-hung fittings allow you to see underneath, giving a better sense of space. A stud wall is built out by at least 12cm to 20cm to hide cistern and pipes but if you have a stud-partition wall already, for example it’s a newly created en-suite, you can utilise the interior voids.'
If the wall-hung look is too contemporary for the bathroom style you have in mind, pick furniture and fittings with streamlined or neat proportions, or sleek, narrow legs.
9. Think vertically
You may not consider it immediately but your bathroom's height needs to be included in layout planning.
'If ceilings are particularly high, then I would stop the tiling at 2.2m or 2.4m high (picture rail height) and paint above,' advises Yousef Mansuri.
'High ceilings can push lighting out of IP-rating zones, affording more design choice – consider a glamorous chandelier. A low ceiling requires careful showerhead positioning. A flush-to-ceiling shower can help gain extra headroom, as will a low-level shower tray.'
10. Consider flooring in your bathroom layout, too
A change of level in a large bathroom layout can look wonderful – perhaps creating a stage for a centerpiece bath – and it can be a useful way of solving plumbing issues.
However, if your bathroom layout ideas revolve around furnishing a smaller bathroom, or maximizing space in a large bathroom, one-level, uninterrupted bathroom flooring ideas will have a similar effect to wall-hung furniture, making the room feel bigger.
'Wet room floors can give the illusion of extra space as there is no break in the floor type. Underfloor heating can free up wall space for other fittings,' advises Yousef Mansuri.
11. Consider storage right from the start
No bathroom can function without cleverly thought-out bathroom storage ideas, so this needs to be one of your earliest researched elements.
Using otherwise dead space is the most-efficient way to furnish your bathroom with storage. Think bathroom shelf ideas like shelving over a toilet or other small bathroom storage ideas, such as drawers beneath vanity units; niches within partition walls over baths or within shower cubicles and over-basin mirrors with storage hidden behind.
For bathrooms with little floor space, think tall, narrow storage that can either be wall-hung or floorstanding. These units can usefully hold everything you need them to but take up little room.
Adding a mirror to the front of this type of storage will help your bathroom layout feel more spacious and will help the storage blend away.
If, of course, you have plenty of space, a floor to ceiling run of mirrored cabinetry is a wonderful option. Consider the reflections cast, though, as few people want to see themselves on the toilet or in a shower. And remember, sliding doors are more space efficient than those that open outwards.
And, bear in mind that storage with doors is always going to be a better choice in what is often a small space than open shelving.
How do you lay out a small bathroom?
To lay out a small bathroom, draw out a to-scale plan and use cut outs of the priority elements – bath, toilet, basin, storage – to see what can fit comfortably.
Then, being careful to measure the space between each element to ensure there is enough room to move around, consider whether there is space for a separate shower or whether you have to consider an over-bath shower, a bath-only option or a shower room that sacrifices the bath.
Good ways to save space in a small bathroom layout is to choose underfloor heating over wall-hung heating options, and to pick slim but tall storage units or those that can be hung in otherwise dead wall space.
Finally, consider wall-hung bathroom vanity ideas and other fittings, as these will give an impression of space.
Where should a toilet be placed in a bathroom?
You may well find that there is little choice in where you place a toilet in a bathroom due to the position of the soil pipe.
However, if you can be flexible, never place the toilet opposite the door to the room and ideally, always tuck it away out of sight from the room's entrance.
You want your bathroom to look like a spa space as you enter it and a visible WC doesn't promote that.
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