Small or unusually shaped bathrooms are always difficult to decorate, but if you ask me, long, narrow bathrooms are the hardest to work with. While there are lots of tricks for working around a small space, trying to fit all the fixtures you need into a narrow room while also maintaining a comfortable walkway can be a real headache. Just making sure the room doesn’t feel crowded is a trick in and of itself, let alone making the space feel inviting, but with a little pre-planning and the right layout, even a very narrow bath can be beautiful.
In a very narrow bathroom, there might not be enough space to do anything but put all your fixtures up against one wall and leave the opposite one completely open in order to have a clear walkway through the space. But while this arrangement is pretty inherently imbalanced looking, paying attention to the visual focal points in your space can make a big difference in the overall feel of the bathroom. For example: pay attention to what you’ll see when you open the door to the bathroom. If the door is on the long side of the bathroom, it should open up directly on an important design feature – like a freestanding tub, or your bathroom vanity. The far ends of a long bathroom are where you’ll have the most room to work with, so put your bigger fixtures (like a shower or a large mounted tub) there, and make sure they’re attractive to look at across the length of the space.
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In a slightly wider bathroom, you might have the space either to stagger your fixtures to either side of the room, line them up across from one another, or recess some of them into one wall or the other. In this case, your walkway will be right down the middle, so the ends of the room won’t be the focal points of the space. Especially if you stick to open-air fixtures or frameless shower doors, this will create a much more open, balanced feel. That said, what you really need to keep in mind with this type of layout is clearance. Shower doors, cabinet doors, and bathroom doors can easily butt into each other if you aren’t careful, so it’s important to arrange your major fixtures so their doors won’t touch when they’re both open, and you won’t have to maneuver around them to use your space comfortably. For example, you probably want to put your vanity next to your tub rather than your shower, so the shower door won’t bump into you if it’s opened while you’re brushing your teeth at the sink.
Downsizing your fixtures is an important first step in any small or odd-shaped bathroom, but in a long or narrow bathroom, that means something a little different. Rather than fixtures that are narrower, you want ones that are long but shallow, like vanities that aren’t as deep (or even wall mounted sinks in place of full vanities), and wall mounted toilets. The closer to the wall your fixtures sit, the wider your walkway will be, and the more open the space will feel. It might not be a big enough change to make a one-sided narrow bathroom into a two-sided one, but with a skinny vanity or a tankless toilet, you’ll really feel the extra wiggle room.
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Of course, not all narrow bathrooms are particularly long, and if you don’t have the space to line up all your fixtures single file, you’ll either need to pick and choose, combine functionality, or get a little creative with the way you use your space. Obviously, swapping out a full-sized soaking tub and shower stall for a shower/tub combination is an easy way to save space. But if you want to keep the luxurious feel while taking up a little less floor space, you might want to try a slightly more innovative option, like this in-floor ofuro, a Japanese style soaking tub that’s deep enough to stand in, and can easily be combined with a wall- or ceiling-mounted shower head, providing all the sleek elegance and functionality of both a soaking tub and a shower stall in less space than you’d need for either.
Long bathrooms also present a worse-than-average problem when it comes to windows. Any bathroom layout demands a certain degree of finesse in balancing natural light and ventilation with privacy, but in a long bathroom it’s particularly difficult to find a place to put a window that doesn’t look directly in on something you’d rather not have your neighbors spying on. The solution, though, is surprisingly simple: narrow rectangular windows placed all along the upper edge of the bathroom provide ample natural light without setting you up to be peeped on. These narrow windows work equally well on either long side of the bathroom, or if one of the short sides of your bath happens to be the exterior one, a narrow horizontal window (especially a frosted one) can give you a little bit of extra light without opening up a full wall and sacrificing a lot of privacy.
One of the few places a long, narrow layout actually works really well is in a kid’s bathroom. While a bath designed for a gaggle of kids won’t have the sleek, elegant drama of many of the bathrooms pictured here, having a long multi-sink vanity (or even a long trough-style sink, in a particularly narrow bathroom) is perfect for shuffling multiple kids through their morning and bedtime routines. A combination shower/tub, again, isn’t super glamorous, but it’s plenty effective for your growing brood, and paired with a handheld shower head is perfect for bathing the little ones. Just hang a towel bar opposite the vanity for every kid who will be using the bathroom, and put a footstool in front of every sink, and you’ve got a surprisingly comfortable setup for a growing family.
A long, narrow space is hardly ideal to work with, but if you take care with it from the start and plan your layout and fixtures accordingly, you can absolutely get a decadent, luxurious feel from even the oddest-shaped space.