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6 Tips for Smart Small Bathroom Design

Expert tips for smart small bathroom design during a bathroom makeover or home remodeling project. Includes where to position fixtures, choices in cabinets, and more.

Small bathroom design may seem simple—the options usually are few—but a small space is much more difficult to design well than a large one, because it is unforgiving. A poorly-placed fixture can make the area almost unusable. The keys to small bathroom design are using space efficiently and making the spaces feel open and non-confining.

small bathroom design ideas

Fixture placement is the key to smart small bathroom design. If a base cabinet isn’t necessary, opt for a pedestal sink to maximize space.

Small Bathroom Design Tips

During the 1950s and 60s, millions of American homes were built with 5-by-7 foot bathrooms, a size that is ample for basic fixtures but leaves little room for any conveniences. During a remodel, the challenge is often to make these small rooms feel bigger.

You can make the standard 5-by-7-foot bathroom feel—and function—larger in a few ways:

1Set the toilet and sink along one wall of the bathroom. Doing this leaves a clear corridor of space. Ideally, position the toilet so it isn’t the first thing you see when you walk into the room.

2Consider opting for a pedestal sinkinstead of a more conventional cabinet-mounted sink. The standard vanity base cabinet can be a real space gobbler. If you need storage, however, a vanity cabinet may be necessary—just keep it small.

3Raise cabinetry off the floor. Wall-mounted cabinets open up the area visually and allow for more floor space.

4Install a large mirror behind the sink area. A mirror never fails to make a small room feel significantly bigger.[GARD align=”left”]

5Locate the bathtub or tub/shower combination across the width along the far wall so it doesn’t become an obstacle. If there is a window on that wall, all the better. This will allow the eye a space-enlarging view to the outdoors.

6Opt for a shower curtain instead of sliding shower doors. A curtain can be a decorative, cozy addition and, when drawn back, feels less confining.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Bathroom Designer

Accessible & Universal Design Guidelines

Accessible and universal design guidelines to help make a new bathroom or home remodel usable by everyone. Includes questions to consider, measurements, and more. universal design guidelines drawing

The terms “universal design” and “accessible design” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Accessible design, mandated for public spaces by federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), involves creating an environment that is barrier-free, and is primarily aimed at the wheelchair-bound and disabled.

Universal design, while incorporating the spirit and some of the features of accessible design, has a broader scope. Universal design intends to create an environment that functions appropriately for all, regardless of physical capacity. This would include, for example, people with arthritic conditions; the elderly, injured, or movement-impaired; as well as small children.

Bath Universal Design Guidelines

Bathroom design has become increasingly sensitive and responsive to the needs of not only the physically challenged but also of an aging population. Creating a bathroom environment that allows people of all ages and physical capacities to use the facilities safely and with ease is the motivating force behind universal design. Here we look at universal design guidelines for bathrooms.

If you are planning a new bathroom or a bathroom remodel, it pays to introduce yourself to universal design principles. Designing a bathroom that allows everyone-inhabitants and visitors alike-easy use of the facility is a wise investment in both the present and future livability and marketability of your home.

Begin by asking yourself these questions:[GARD align=”right”]

• Do you plan on living in this house into your old age?

• Do you have, or expect to have, an aging parent living with you?

• Does anyone in your family or immediate circle of friends have physical disabilities?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you should definitely work basic universal design principles into planning your new or remodeled bathroom.

If your answer to the last question is yes, you may also want to incorporate accessible design principles into your planning.

Accessible Design Guidelines

Much of accessible design is governed by federal standards that apply to public spaces, but the principles are easily adaptable to residential bathrooms. For a house, accessible design means allowing ample space for wheelchair entry and turning radius within the bathroom, scaling sink and countertops to the appropriate height and depth to accommodate a wheelchair, and installing roll-in toilet and bathing facilities, among the many considerations.

An accessible-design bathroom offers a wheelchair space that is, at minimum, 24 inches deep by 36 inches wide; a 5-by-5-foot clear space is considered optimum. The doorway measures 32 inches wide or larger. Lighting and fan switches and other electrical outlets are installed no higher than 48 inches from the floor and outlets no lower than 18 inches from the floor. Sinks are set 32 inches high and offer generous under-counter legroom. Any under-counter pipes are insulated to prevent scalding. An accessible design bathroom includes a specialty toilet, with extended flush handles, that sits higher than normal, with lavatory rims resting no higher than 34 inches above the finish floor.

Shower and/or bath facilities can be the most problematic for the handicapped. Many new products on the market have made dramatic improvements in this area. Roll-in showers with low or no thresholds are equipped with an array of safety features that include low-set hand-held showerheads, anti-scald devices, non-slip grab bars, and waterproof seats. A new generation of door-entry, enclosed bathtubs have built-in seats and even hydraulic lifts to transfer a person from wheelchair to tub. There are also soft-sided tubs that ease entry and exit from the tub.

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines are available in print by calling (800) 514-0301 or online at www.ada.gov.

More Universal Design Guidelines

A universal design bathroom incorporates and extends many of the features of an accessible design bathroom, but focuses on an aging, rather than disabled, user. Universal design relies on common sense, and strives to be user-friendly for anyone who uses the bathroom. Universal design principles focus on:[GARD align=”right”]

• Ease of use

• Easy access

• Adjustability

• Safety and stability

Ergonomic wing-blade faucet handles or motion-sensor taps, for example, aid those with arthritis who have difficult turning bathroom handles. A tub’s faucet set placed on the outer rim of the bathtub makes it easier to reach for someone who has difficulty bending or is prone to dizziness. Adjustable-height hand-held showerheads allow a custom shower for the tallest to the smallest. Built-in or installed seating in the bathtub or shower offer that option to those who cannot stand for extended periods. Grab bars placed strategically around the toilet and outside and inside the tub or shower not only help the frail and movement-impaired but also provide an extra measure of stability in the bathroom to children as well as able-bodied adults.

Other universal design bathroom safety features, such as anti-scald devices on all faucets, shatterproof materials, and slip-resistant flooring, make the bathroom safer for everyone.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Bathroom Designer

Accessible & Universal Design Guidelines

Accessible and universal design guidelines to help make a new bathroom or home remodel usable by everyone. Includes questions to consider, measurements, and more. universal design guidelines drawing

The terms “universal design” and “accessible design” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Accessible design, mandated for public spaces by federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), involves creating an environment that is barrier-free, and is primarily aimed at the wheelchair-bound and disabled.

Universal design, while incorporating the spirit and some of the features of accessible design, has a broader scope. Universal design intends to create an environment that functions appropriately for all, regardless of physical capacity. This would include, for example, people with arthritic conditions; the elderly, injured, or movement-impaired; as well as small children.

Bath Universal Design Guidelines

Bathroom design has become increasingly sensitive and responsive to the needs of not only the physically challenged but also of an aging population. Creating a bathroom environment that allows people of all ages and physical capacities to use the facilities safely and with ease is the motivating force behind universal design. Here we look at universal design guidelines for bathrooms.

If you are planning a new bathroom or a bathroom remodel, it pays to introduce yourself to universal design principles. Designing a bathroom that allows everyone-inhabitants and visitors alike-easy use of the facility is a wise investment in both the present and future livability and marketability of your home.

Begin by asking yourself these questions:[GARD align=”right”]

• Do you plan on living in this house into your old age?

• Do you have, or expect to have, an aging parent living with you?

• Does anyone in your family or immediate circle of friends have physical disabilities?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you should definitely work basic universal design principles into planning your new or remodeled bathroom.

If your answer to the last question is yes, you may also want to incorporate accessible design principles into your planning.

Accessible Design Guidelines

Much of accessible design is governed by federal standards that apply to public spaces, but the principles are easily adaptable to residential bathrooms. For a house, accessible design means allowing ample space for wheelchair entry and turning radius within the bathroom, scaling sink and countertops to the appropriate height and depth to accommodate a wheelchair, and installing roll-in toilet and bathing facilities, among the many considerations.

An accessible-design bathroom offers a wheelchair space that is, at minimum, 24 inches deep by 36 inches wide; a 5-by-5-foot clear space is considered optimum. The doorway measures 32 inches wide or larger. Lighting and fan switches and other electrical outlets are installed no higher than 48 inches from the floor and outlets no lower than 18 inches from the floor. Sinks are set 32 inches high and offer generous under-counter legroom. Any under-counter pipes are insulated to prevent scalding. An accessible design bathroom includes a specialty toilet, with extended flush handles, that sits higher than normal, with lavatory rims resting no higher than 34 inches above the finish floor.

Shower and/or bath facilities can be the most problematic for the handicapped. Many new products on the market have made dramatic improvements in this area. Roll-in showers with low or no thresholds are equipped with an array of safety features that include low-set hand-held showerheads, anti-scald devices, non-slip grab bars, and waterproof seats. A new generation of door-entry, enclosed bathtubs have built-in seats and even hydraulic lifts to transfer a person from wheelchair to tub. There are also soft-sided tubs that ease entry and exit from the tub.

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines are available in print by calling (800) 514-0301 or online at www.ada.gov.

More Universal Design Guidelines

A universal design bathroom incorporates and extends many of the features of an accessible design bathroom, but focuses on an aging, rather than disabled, user. Universal design relies on common sense, and strives to be user-friendly for anyone who uses the bathroom. Universal design principles focus on:[GARD align=”right”]

• Ease of use

• Easy access

• Adjustability

• Safety and stability

Ergonomic wing-blade faucet handles or motion-sensor taps, for example, aid those with arthritis who have difficult turning bathroom handles. A tub’s faucet set placed on the outer rim of the bathtub makes it easier to reach for someone who has difficulty bending or is prone to dizziness. Adjustable-height hand-held showerheads allow a custom shower for the tallest to the smallest. Built-in or installed seating in the bathtub or shower offer that option to those who cannot stand for extended periods. Grab bars placed strategically around the toilet and outside and inside the tub or shower not only help the frail and movement-impaired but also provide an extra measure of stability in the bathroom to children as well as able-bodied adults.

Other universal design bathroom safety features, such as anti-scald devices on all faucets, shatterproof materials, and slip-resistant flooring, make the bathroom safer for everyone.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Bathroom Designer

Expert Color Tips for Decorating

Choosing the right colors for rooms and furnishings can make or break the way the room looks and feels.Helder Almeida / Shutterstock.com

Choosing the right colors for rooms and furnishings can make or break the way the room looks and feels.

How to use the principles of color for knock-out design schemes
There are many starting points for choosing room colors, all equally valid. The easiest way is to take your cue from paint manufacturers, who offer brochures and color chips with specific suggestions on which colors to use together. These color choices needn’t apply only to paint; use them to choose fabrics and accessories as well.

Or, begin with your favorite color, adding large doses of white or off-white, and perhaps using smaller amounts of one or two accent colors. Choose slight variations of the main color for a monochromatic room, or choose accents from the complementary color palette for more excitement.

A good rule of thumb is to use warm colors with warm and cool colors with cool. If you want to modify the color temperature of the room, however, choose from the opposite side of the color wheel.[GARD align=”left”]

Another way is to begin with a favorite fabric, rug, or object, drawing your colors from those chosen by design professionals. If the color combination seems overly bold for an entire room, vary the proportions or use paler shades to suit your tastes.

Some combinations are tried and true: one color plus white; blue and yellow; or red, white, and blue. These color schemes never seem to go out of style, even though specific shades may vary in popularity from year to year.

Professional interior designers have a way with color, producing attractive rooms time after time. This is because they employ the principles of color and adhere to some easy-to-follow color tips:

Pull rooms together with a thread of color. If you use a color in one room, then use at least a small amount of the same color in the next room. The entire house will be cohesive if varying proportions of the same color palette are used in all the rooms.

Use neutral shades for permanent features. Save bolder colors for walls or accents that can be repainted or replaced when you tire of them.

Don’t try to match shades exactly. When colors in a room share the same underlying tones, they are often more interesting if they almost, but not quite, match.

Balance the accent colors in a room. Complementary colors, in particular, look best when they are roughly equal in intensity. Use bright with bright, pale with pale, and dark with dark.

Think of contrast as well as color. Choose one predominant color, and select contrasting colors to serve as accents.

Use large doses of light or neutral colors. Let them separate the smaller and more vivid accent colors.

Enhance dark or bright walls by painting the trim white. The reverse holds true for light-colored walls. If woodwork is unimpressive, have it blend in by painting it the same color as the walls.

Group accessories in the same color for more decorative impact. If displayed together, they form a collection and will seem more important than if scattered around the room.

Draw attention to artwork by displaying it against a deep-toned wall. Choosing a color drawn from the painting will enhance the effect.

Keep pastel rooms from seeming overly pale. Throw in a bold dash of a deeper or brighter color to serve as an accent.

The Effects of Color on Mood

It makes sense to surround yourself with colors that make you feel good. Color creates emotion, according to common wisdom, so successful decorating partially depends on making appropriate color choices. effects of color on mood

This has some scientific validity. It’s beneficial to select the colors that make you feel comfortable, happy, tranquil, energized, or whatever mood you hope to encourage. Bright orange walls, for instance, might keep you awake in a bedroom, but soft blue or warm beige would encourage sweet dreams.

Remember that there are many shades within a color family. By going lighter or darker, or by mixing in other colors, you can modify the emotional effects.

Following are the ways specific colors affect emotion:

• Yellow. Cheerful, intellectual, uplifting. Strong shades might be overwhelming and are best in smaller amounts, but light to medium shades can lift your mood like a room filled with sunshine.color tips for decorating

• Green. Fresh, restful, rejuvenating. Like being out in nature, green can revive the spirit. The shade is important; blue-greens are calming and yellow-greens are more stimulating.[GARD align=”left”]

• Blue. Tranquil, homey, comforting. Unrelieved doses of pure blue seem cold and formal, but reddish blues or greenish blues are more inviting. Think Wedgwood, periwinkle, or turquoise.

• Purple. Creative, sophisticated, surprising. Paler shades like lavender are meditative, and darker ones like eggplant are artistic. This color was once reserved for royalty, giving rise to the term “royal purple.”

• Red. Bold, vigorous, exciting. Bright shades might be too stimulating, but dark shades seem elegant and classic. Pale pink is comforting and promotes feelings of well-being.

• Orange. Energetic, friendly, appetizing. Pure orange may seem jarring, but terracotta, pumpkin, and apricot are warm colors that inspire relaxation. This is a good color for rooms where people gather.

• Neutrals. Peaceful, reasoned, quiet. These soothing shades offer relief from brighter colors, separating them enough to keep their stronger energy in check. Light neutrals are harmonious and expansive, while darker ones are dramatic.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Interior Painting Pro

Decorating a Victorian Style Home

Classic Victorian houses stand proudly against a San Francisco backdrop.King of Hearts / Creative Commons

Classic Victorian houses stand proudly against a San Francisco backdrop.

The common perception of Victorian homes is that they were dark, dreary, and stuffed with uncomfortably formal carved furniture with horsehair seats. Some were, but others, reflecting the Victorians’ fascination with exploration and proprieties of the time, were filled with color and light. Decorating was highly individual and reflected the interests and social standing of the occupants.

It’s important to remember that television and radio were non-existent, so the family had to entertain itself. Well-stocked libraries, musical instruments including a piano in the parlor, gentlemen’s card tables, the requisite Stereopticon (forerunner of the slide projector), and all manner of needlecraft projects—now associated with Victorian decorating—were necessities to staving off boredom.

Walls & ceilings. Paint the walls in saturated colors or give them a faux finish-burgundy, forest green, sage, mauve, or ocrhe—with stained wood trim. For a more sophisticated palette, choose taupe or gray and paint the trim with ivory enamel. Built-up moldings are key to homes of this period; a door usually has plinth blocks plus fluted uprights, medallions at the corners, and often a clear- or stained-glass transom. Typical ceilings are 10 or 11 feet tall, leaving plenty of room above eye-level for crown moldings, picture rails, and stenciled or wallpaper borders.

Floors. Stained hardwood flooring predominates, and public rooms may have inlaid borders, sometimes in a Greek-key pattern. Machine-made Wilton rugs or intricate Persian rugs dress up the floors. Runners add warmth underfoot to hallways, and they’re also affixed to stairways with brass rods at the base of each step. The kitchen and bedroom floors are often painted planks.

Surfaces. Almost everything is embellished; plainness was considered to be in poor taste and abundance a sign of success. Patterns on wallpaper and furnishings range from dainty trailing vines to bold florals in the style of William Morris to neo-classical draped-fabric designs. Ceilings have plaster medallions, gas chandeliers have etched-glass shades, and, if something can be trimmed with fringe, a tassel, or a rope swag, it is.

Fabrics. Choose substantial fabrics like damask, brocade, and velvet, and throw a paisley or embroidered shawl across the piano. Hang floor-length lace curtains at the windows, adding heavy draperies plus swags and jabots in the colder months. Drape openings between rooms with velvet portieres hanging from rings on rods; they frame the opening and close to keep out drafts.

Furniture. Aim for a mix of cushioned and all-wood pieces. High ceilings require at least one tall piece for proper scale, and low-slung pieces are to be avoided. A Jenny Lind spooled bed, a camel-back settee paired with tufted chairs, a mahogany or rosewood secretary (or roll-top desk), a tea table within arm’s reach, and a roomy dining table with matched chairs and a buffet server are typical for the period.

Find a Pre-Screened Local Home Interior Designer

Spanish Colonial Revival Style

Based on earlier homes in Mexico and other areas settled by the Spanish, this style enjoyed huge popularity in the United States from about 1915 until 1931.

Spanish-style House

These homes were usually one story, with low-pitched clay-tile roofs, stucco walls, hand-forged iron gates and hardware, a long porch (called a portal) and often a courtyard or walled garden featuring a fountain.

The look was intentionally exotic; instead of constructing these homes in the midst of ones with more standard architecture, builders often created entire Spanish-style neighborhoods.

Walls & Ceilings. The most predominant material for both interior and exterior walls is stucco, which usually has a smooth finish to simulate traditional adobe made from clay. Paint it a neutral color such as tan or beige or go for a brighter look with sun-kissed yellows and oranges, terra cotta, or even cerulean blue.

On the ceiling, install beams, using well-worn timbers or faux beams of dark-stained wood. Often each end of the beam rests on a decorative corbel. In New Mexico and elsewhere, ceilings feature vigas, natural spruce or Ponderosa pine logs stripped of bark and laid in the ceiling with plaster between them. Sometimes these are braced with latillas, smaller limbs that fit between the logs, often at 45-degree parallel angles, alternating in rows for a herringbone effect.[GARD align=”left”]

Floors. Use tile or brick flooring, but select a slightly irregular type that looks hand-made. Pinkish-orange Sautillo tile, which comes in a number of different shapes, is one traditional style. Other floors might be broad pine planks, or tile in the center with wood around the edges (or the reverse). Thickly woven Navaho-style rugs or other hand-loomed rugs in bright colors or stripes complete the effect.

Surfaces. Use columns to support porches or interior balconies; wooden posts (essentially vertical vigas) or spiral-turned stone columns (in high-end homes) are traditional. Include some intricate hand-painted Talavera tiles in bright colors as a kitchen backsplash, along the wall as a chair rail, or to face the risers on steps.

Fabrics. Bright or neutral fabrics with a hand-loomed appearance are appropriate for most furniture. Leather is always a good choice too, especially if it’s natural, waxed cowhide. Outside, use canvas awnings to shield the windows from too much direct sunlight.

Furniture. Sturdy wooden pieces in simple, utilitarian shapes are most appropriate, and it’s a good idea to include some ironwork too. Colorful painted cabinets, rustic benches, tables with thick plank tops, upright chairs with carved backs and leather seats are authentic. Look for whimsical details such as zigzag cross bracing, elaborate iron hinges, or carved animal figures.[GARD align=”right”]

Accessories. Hand-forged iron light fixtures and hardware, natural plant materials, oversize turned-wood candlesticks with beeswax candles, earthenware pottery in primitive finishes, heavily carved mirrors, folk art carvings, and religious artifacts like Santos or crucifixes are typical. If there’s a recessed niche in a thick wall, display a vase of flowers or make a tiny shrine. Minimize shiny accessories, unless they’re hand-hammered copper or the traditional tinwork of Mexico. Brilliantly colorful folk art paintings add an exuberant touch.

Details. Hang garlands of dried chili peppers in the kitchen, or display a wreath of naturally colorful Indian corn cobs or corn shucks.

Find a Pre-Screened Local Home Interior Designer