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Get The Look: Lessons To Learn From A European Small Bathroom

In many parts of the world, living space is at a premium. That means no big, sweeping kitchens and no sprawling master suites. But while a shortage of square footage can feel like a huge problem here in the States, densely populated areas around the world have turned small space living into an art form, squeezing elegant, designer fixtures into master suites the size of a stateside guest bath. Urban interiors and architecture are definitely one place where adversity has bred innovation, so if you’re facing down the renovation of a seemingly impossibly-small bathroom, take a deep breath… and look to the pros for inspiration.

Good small bathroom design is all about choosing fixtures that aren't just space saving, but that look great, too (by Giuseppe Cetere Architetto)
Good small bathroom design is all about choosing fixtures that aren’t just space saving, but that look great, too (by Giuseppe Cetere Architetto)

How It Works:

One of the biggest challenges in decorating a small bathroom in the US is a simple lack of selection. The vast majority of bathroom fixtures are designed for larger spaces, which means if you don’t have a lot of room to work with, you’re probably stuck choosing between a standard pedestal sink and a basic, square modern vanity. But European manufacturers in particular take the idea of a freestanding (or wall mounted) sink and give it a sculptural treatment; they won’t take up much space, but you have a lot more variety of design to choose from. Ditto for toilets. Whether they’re wall mounted or simply have narrower tanks, European designs are elegant and streamlined, meant to save space without sacrificing style. It’s really the frameless shower enclosure that brings this look together, though; anything more opaque than this seamless glass enclosure would totally block off the space, but clear glass and minimal hardware help keep this small bathroom feeling bright and open, even if it’s actually a little cramped.

Get The Look:

Start with the basic fixtures: a sculptural pedestal sink complete with a wall mounted faucet and matching wall mount toilet (and optional bidet!). Then get a frameless shower enclosure and compliment it with a minimalist shower panel – preferably a clean, sharp, L-shaped one that mirrors the shape of the enclosure. A small-but-tall storage cabinet will make up for the lack of a vanity, and a backlit medicine cabinet will give you a little extra storage and a nice clear reflection. One last important difference between European and American small bathroom design: while Americans tend to go for sterile white-on-white color schemes, this Italian bathroom opts instead for laminate wood floors and lush, natural wallpaper, which keeps the space feeling warm and inviting rather than pared-down and sterile.