With toilets, the rough-in dimension, the shape of the seat (rounded or elongated) and tank design (one- or two-piece) all determine how much space a toilet will take up. The rough-in is the distance from the wall to the center of the closet bend (toilet drain) in the floor. Most newer homes have a 12-inch rough-in; older homes having a 10- or 14-inch measure.

Naturally, the closer the toilet is to the wall, the less space it takes up. Kerr often calls for smaller fixtures in older homes where the rough-in is 10 inches and the toilet is centered in a 28-inch rather than a 30-inch space along the wall. "It's not that a regular-size toilet won't fit," she explains. "It would just look awkward and feel too large for the space."

"Beware of taking a toilet with a 10 inch rough-in and putting it on a contemporary 12-inch rough-in without a special flange," cautions Bissell, "It won't fit." He recommends using a 12-inch rough-in with a rounded or compact elongated front to get the best use of a small space. Another trick, according to Bissell, is to use a one-piece toilet because its low tank creates the illusion that it's smaller. Actually, the distance from the bowl rim to the floor is the same as it is on a two-piece toilet.

Today, elongated bowls are considered more comfortable, but rounded bowls take up less space. In general, round-front toilets extend 25 to 28 inches from the wall. Elongated toilets extend 29 to 31 inches. Because the toilet sits opposite the door in many smaller bathrooms, a regular elongated toilet can restrict the size of the door or its swing. Compact elongated bowls offer the same comfort but don't protrude as far.

For instance, American Standard's two-piece Compact Elongated Space Saver fits into the space of a round-front bowl. The Rialto, a one-piece round-front toilet by Kohler, is even smaller. At 25½ inches front to back, it juts out less than any toilet in the industry.

Bath specialist Kerr, who does 10 to 15 percent of her work with smaller-scale items, feels that having to use smaller fixtures shouldn't compromise the overall design of the room. Although you have to pick fixtures that fit the space, she cites material selection as the other critical issue in small spaces. "Everything has to fit together visually as well. All the materials should be coordinated," she explains. Kerr recommends a single-color floor and walls that blend with the fixtures as the best scheme for making a small bathroom easier on the eye.
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