Considering a master-bath overhaul and wondering what it takes to fit in everything you want?
“A hundred square feet can be a nice sweet spot,” says San Diego designer Corine Maggio. It allows for the classic four pieces—a double-sink vanity, a tub, a separate shower, and a toilet—while meeting the minimum standards for comfort and usability. That means allowing for a 3-foot-square shower, 30 inches of clearance alongside a tub and in front of a commode, and a 60-inch-long vanity.
Is going bigger that much better? It depends. Not all square footage is considered equal, since design decisions are also dependent on room shape and window and door locations. “A narrow space can be quite efficient, since most fixtures go along a wall, while a square lends more flexibility,” Maggio says. “Whatever the shape, clever design can mitigate layout restrictions.” Consider, too, that this size space can also enable higher-end finishes that could break the bank in a larger bath.
Small Bathroom Layouts
Of course, not everyone wants the classic four-piece configuration, even when there’s room, opting instead to ditch a seldom-used tub in favor of a bigger shower, extra storage, a toilet enclosure, or even a laundry closet.
To illustrate the point, see how two designers, an architect, and an ardent DIYer made the most of a master bath in—a bit more or less than—a 100-square-foot space.
Clean, crisp four-piece
CASE STUDY 1: 94 SQUARE FEET
Talk about a tight squeeze. The long, narrow master bath in her clients’ 1951 house in La Jolla, CA, was “closed-in and compartmentalized,” Maggio says—in part because a large linen closet to the left of the entrance was squandering square footage. Removing it and replacing dated fixtures in their same locations opened things up. Though the door and window couldn’t move, “We were able to tweak things enough to make a big impact in the same general layout,” she adds.
With a curvy soaking tub, square tiles instead of subways, and a mix of brushed-nickel and antique-brass hardware, “the bath hits just the right note between playful and sophisticated,” says Maggio.
1. Reshaped shower Squaring off an angled shower narrowed it slightly but added length, enlarging it by 4 square feet overall. Axing the angle created the opportunity to utilize the full length of the vanity wall.
2. More open space “The linen closet was too deep and heavy-looking when you walked in the door,” Maggio says. A bulky sunken tub abutted both it and the shower. Removing the closet freed up floor space, creating breathing room between the shower and a new freestanding tub. “The more floor you see, the bigger the space will feel,” the designer points out.
3. Vanity revamp A larger custom sink cabinet 6 feet long now lines the wall opposite the tub. The toilet stayed in its recess.
4. Sleek storage On top of the vanity, just inside the door, a ceiling-height cabinet boosts storage, and a built-in hamper below collects laundry that might otherwise hit the floor.
Designer: Corine Maggio, CM Natural Designs, San Diego, CACarpenter: Alex Singer, San Diego, CA
Paint: Pure White (walls) and Gale Force (vanity); Sherwin-Williams
Floor tile: Arizona Tile
Sconces: Savoy House Lights
Mirrors: Serena & Lily
Vanity hardware: Baldwin Hardware
Tub: Memoirs freestanding bath; Kohler
His, hers and theirs
CASE STUDY 2: 104 SQUARE FEET
When Jacque and Jeff Flaherty’s twin sons were small, bath time was a ball in Mom and Dad’s enormous oval soaker. Once the boys got older, the couple decided to reclaim the master bath in their 1996 Colonial-style home in Gaithersburg, MD.
“The bathroom was a decent size, but with the fixtures lined up against the walls and wasted space in the center, I thought there must be a better way to use the space,” says Jeff, an avid DIYer.
The Flaherty bath is located on a corner, so both sides benefit from a window. The couple love the shower’s pebble-tile floor.“Every time we step inside, it’s like a foot massage,” says Jeff.
1. Dual entrance Jacque and Jeff each wanted a private space, so Jeff drew up a plan for a unique Jack-and-Jill bath with two entrances from the master bedroom.
2. Two halves After gutting the space, Jeff divided it in half, framing a partition wall with a one-sink vanity on either side and a toilet on the adjoining wall. Both sides had existing windows.
3. Shared stall Forgoing a tub made room for a 32-by-42-inch shower that opens into the his-and-hers half baths. Peace reigns. Jeff says, “We haven’t had a single argument over toothpaste in the sink, towels on the floor, toilet-seat position, or any of the usual issues couples have.”
Both Flahertys have their own private space, which they individualized with slightly different paint colors (his is blue, hers is green). Open shelves over the toilet add storage and display space in Jeff’s.
Paint: Silver Sage (her side), Restoration Hardware; Flowing Breeze (his side) and White (molding), BEHR
Faucets: Kohler (her side); Kingston Brass (his side)
Tile: Lumber Liquidators (floors), Floor & Decor (shower walls), The Tile Store Inc. (shower floor)
Lighting: Quoizel Lighting
CASE STUDY 3: 126 SQUARE FEET
While it has become popular to banish the tub in a master bath reno, some folks still enjoy a good soak—like the couple in this 1956 contemporary home in Manchester, MA. “But no one wants a tub jammed in the corner,” says Kristina Crestin, their designer. “It’s not pleasing to the eye or very functional.” So the built-in tub wedged between the vanity and the toilet room had to go.
Organic elements, including salvaged wood on the vanities, porcelain floor tile that looks like leather, and handmade hex tiles behind the tub, help soften the room’s modern geometry.
1. Soaker spotlight Crestin placed a sleek, squared-off tub opposite the entrance—where the dated double vanity had been—to create a fresh focal point, then crowned the ceiling vault with a large-scale pendant light.
2. Vanity flair The tub’s square ends allowed for custom 36-inch-wide vanities to snug up along either side, a pleasingly symmetrical setup that separates the couple’s grooming stations. Long, deep drawers offer convenient storage.
3. Cleaned-up WC New finishes refreshed the existing 5-by-4-foot space.
4. See-through shower The shower stayed where it was but gained frameless glass, helping to preserve the room’s open feel.
Custom vanities with reclaimed-wood drawer fronts and simple cutouts rather than hardware add warmth and character. Recessed medicine cabinets with framed mirrors provide eye-level storage.
Designer: Kristina Crestin Design, Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA
General contractor and custom cabinetry: Curran & Sons Construction, Inc.
Tub: MTI; Designer Bath
Handmade hex tile: Discover Tile
Pendant light and sconces: Worlds Away
CASE STUDY 4: 93 SQUARE FEET
Master baths weren’t common in 1905, when Adam and Jill Sharkey’s Craftsman home in Santa Barbara, CA, was built. Instead, a sitting area adjoined their bedroom—which architect Adam knew could be better utilized. “We didn’t want to continue sharing the hall bath with our kids, and we wanted an upstairs laundry,” he says.
The bath’s classic black-and-white scheme is elegant, modern, but still in keeping with the house’s Craftsman style—just what the Sharkeys wanted.
1. A simple plan Adam laid out a 60-inch double vanity perpendicular to the window in order to take advantage of the natural light. He placed the toilet across the room, where the ceiling slopes down slightly, offering a subtle sense of enclosure.
2. Room to move In addition to agreeing on 36 by 40 inches for the shower, the couple wanted “landing space” for exiting and entering it, placing the end of the vanity almost 3 feet from the shower.
3. Secret stack “It makes sense to have the washer and dryer upstairs, where our dirty clothes and bedsheets are removed,” says Adam. A 3-foot-square closet holds stackable units; a skinnier one alongside has drying-rack pullouts and a deep drawer to hold supplies.
Clear glass-globe sconces with brass fittings are similar to original fixtures elsewhere in the 1905 house.
Architect: Adam Sharkey, Santa Barbara, CA
Contractor: Jose Manuel Mora, Mora’s Construction, Oxnard, CA
Cabinetmaker: Lotus Cabinetry, Santa Maria, CA
Paint: Frazee Dear Feather; Sherwin-Williams
Shower door: Bortolazzo Glass, Santa Barbara, CA
Mirror, and vanity with double sinks and marble top: Design Element
Faucets and shower fittings: GROHE
Closet doors: T.M. Cobb
Sconces: Restoration Hardware