5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

By Mitchell Parker, Houzz

The most common bathroom size measures 8 by 5 feet — enough room for a single sink, a toilet and a shower or shower-bathtub combination. You may think there isn’t much you can do with an area of this size. But you’d be wrong. Here, five projects within these dimensions showcase clever ways to create virtual and literal space, and how to make big style statements on budgets small and large.

1. From Retro to Whoa

Location: Los Angeles

Cost: About $15,000

Designer: Carlos Forteza of CCForteza

                                5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

                                Carlos Forteza, original photo on Houzz

BEFORE: Everything in Carlos Forteza’s house was in good shape but “frozen in the 1970s,” he says. In this hall bathroom, vinyl covered almost everything, while an unnecessary “wing” wall made the space feel too compartmentalized.

AFTER: Removing the wall opened up the space, while Carrara marble tile on the walls and floor brought the room into the current decade.

Forteza replaced the plumbing, electrical and insulation, things he always recommends for homes built in the 1940s and ’50s.“These homes have seen their time,” he says. “Ninety-five percent of the time when you gut out, you will see dry rot, termite-infested wood — you want to fix that. Putting new tile down won’t fix what’s wrong inside the walls.”

But while newer homes won’t have these kinds of problems, Forteza says you should be wary of past remodel projects too. “You never know what quality a previous homeowner instituted,” he says. In other words, always build a 10 to 20 percent contingency into your budget, no matter what the size of your bathroom.

Forteza extended the Caesarstone countertop above the toilet, a move he likes to do in compact bathrooms whenever he can. “That 6 or 7 inches of depth gives a lot of counter space,” he says.

                                   5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

                                CCForteza, original photo on Houzz

For your remodel, Forteza advises making sure you see and approve drawings with measurements, like the ones shown here depicting the layout and wall elevation of Forteza’s bathroom.

These drawings show the tile layout.

                                      5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

                                CCForteza, original photo on Houzz

Walls moved: No, but one nonstructural half-wall was removed.

Plumbing moved: Yes. Everything was reconfigured. The shower head switched walls, and the sink plumbing was rerouted from the wall up through the floor.

Plumbing replaced: Yes, and electrical

Professionals hired: Forteza acted as designer and builder.

Special features: Frameless glass without door. “It makes it look nice and clean,” Forteza says.

Splurges: Plumbing fixtures and custom cabinets. “Try to splurge and be happy,” Forteza says. “The difference between a Home Depot cabinet and a custom cabinet is not going to cost your mortgage. You’re going to be looking at it every single day. You might as well save up more and be happy with it.”

Savings: Off-the-shelf tile from a big-box store. “I usually buy tiles from a special tile supplier, but I saw this for a bargain price and bought a bunch,” he says. He also saved on design and building fees by doing the work himself.

2. From 1950s to Timeless

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Cost: $20,000

Designer: Julia Mack of Julia Mack Design

                                 5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

                                Julia Mack, original photo on Houzz

BEFORE: This bathroom featured standard yellow tile with white trim, remnants from the day it was installed in the 1950s. Not quite fitting for a homeowner who travels frequently and enjoys staying in European-style luxury hotels with spa-like bathrooms.

AFTER: Designer Julia Mack began with a mostly white tile palette, which, like the frameless glass shower enclosure, gives the illusion of more space. The simple color scheme, unlike the dicey yellow from before, has built-in staying power. “I prefer to keep tile neutral because it will be there for a long time and you don’t want to get tired of colors,” Mack says. “If you really want color, add it through wall paint that can be easily changed, or towels and accessories.”

The glossy white tile features a subtle horizontal stripe, and Mack thought this would look good paired with small matte black tile installed in a herringbone pattern on the floor. “Once these two items were finalized, I knew that the large pearl inlaid mirror was imperative,” Mack says. “It adds a modern quality plus some needed pattern and interest to the white space.”

Walls moved: No

Plumbing moved: No

Plumbing replaced: Yes

Professionals hired: Donald Meta (contractor), Julia Mack of Julia Mack Design (interior design)

Special features: A new glass shower enclosure that visually expands the space

Splurges: Tiled shower niche with two tiled shelves

Savings: Mack kept the existing lighting and bought an inexpensive sink cabinet from Ikea.

3. From Ceramic Nightmare to Marble Dream

Location: Central Park West, New York City

Cost: About $12,000 (for materials only; not including demolition, labor, paint or design fees, as this was part of a whole-house renovation)

Designer: Sharon Pett of Pett & Associates

                                 5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

                                 Sharon Pett, original photo on Houzz

BEFORE: Built in 1959, the bathroom still featured the same ceramic tile with stuck-on soap dishes and an ineffective shower door. A pedestal sink lacked storage, and there were no niches to make up for it. The owners had been living in this Central Park West condo for 25 years and were tired of the way the bathroom looked.

AFTER: The homeowners wanted something “classic yet elegant and somewhat feminine,” Pett says. She gutted the space down to the studs and started fresh. She covered the floor and walls in Thassos marble tile, with hints of blue on the floor and in the grout, a nod to one of the homeowner’s Greek heritage.

To gain storage, Pett added a large vanity with an undermount sink that allowed for several drawers. She also created two wall niches, one above the toilet and another in the shower, each lined with slabs of Blue Celeste and white Thassos marble.

Walls moved: No

Plumbing moved: No

Plumbing replaced: Yes, and electrical

Professionals hired: General contractor

Special features: Floor-to-ceiling marble tile, frameless shower enclosure and recessed niches

Splurges: Everything

4. From Junky Storage Closet to High-End En Suite

Location: Tribeca, New York City

Cost: About $60,000 (not including architect fees and permits)

Designer: George Ranalli of George Ranalli Architect

                                 5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

                                 Julie Press, original photo on Houzz

Remodeling a bathroom is one of the most expensive and time-consuming projects you can tackle in your home. But creating a new bathroom where there wasn’t one before? That’s a whole different level of commitment — and budget.

That’s what Julie Press and her husband, Simon Potter, faced in their newly purchased Tribeca loft, which had three bedrooms but only one bathroom. Not an ideal situation when the couple’s son comes home on college breaks. And not ideal for resale value in a high-end market.

BEFORE: The couple turned their attention to what previous owners had described as a dressing room right off the master bedroom. While the previous owners had been using the space for storage, Press saw it as a perfect opportunity to create an en suite bathroom. (To make up for what would’ve been lost closet space, they converted three bedrooms into two and used the remaining space to create a walk-in closet.)

The ladder seen here leads to a green wheel that firefighters can use to turn off the sprinkler system once a fire is under control. Press and Potter’s architect, George Ranalli, originally said that regulations prevented him from touching the mechanism and that the couple would have to shower next to the ladder. After some research, however, Ranalli discovered a regulation chain system that fits over the wheel.

AFTER: Press and Potter spared no expense in the new bathroom. Being in Tribeca, they knew that if they were to sell the loft in the future, the bathroom would have to appeal to high-end clients. “I wanted it to be beautiful,” Press says.

Mosaic Carrara marble tile covers the walls up to 8 feet and is capped with a black marble border tile. Carrara marble in a basket-weave pattern adorns the floor. Press estimates she spent $7,300 on tile and $7,800 on installation.

Here you can see the required sprinkler wheel with the chain system. A wall-mounted toilet and recessed medicine cabinet make the most of the tight quarters, while mirrors help create more visual space. Polished nickel wall hooks, towel bar and towel rack provide storage options.

The frameless glass shower enclosure also helps create the appearance of more space, letting the eye travel back the full 8-foot length. Carrara marble tile in a basket-weave pattern lines two shower niches, connecting the shower to the floor tile.

Walls moved: No, but the floor had to be raised to accommodate new plumbing.

Plumbing moved: Yes, from one side of the home to another

Plumbing replaced: Yes. There wasn’t any plumbing here before, so everything is new.

Professionals hired: George Ranalli Architect; Guy Gorodishtan, Kitchen Bathroom Plus (contractor)

Special features: Floor-to-ceiling marble; recessed niches and medicine cabinet

Splurges: Everything

Savings: This was a whole-home remodel, and Press and Potter saved elsewhere in the project in order to go all out in the bathroom.

5. From ‘Dark and Dreary’ to Light and Cheery

Location: Livermore, California

Cost: $11,238

Designer: Homeowner Joanne Payling designed the space, chose the materials and worked with the contractor.

                                 5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

                                 Joanne Payling, original photo on Houzz

BEFORE: Nothing had been done to this hall bathroom since it was built in 1990. “It was dark and dreary, with a yellow light over a cracked sink,” says homeowner Joanne Payling. “It always depressed me to go in there.”

AFTER: Payling and her husband, Larry Stanker, hired a contractor, Gene George, to gut the space down to the studs. Payling then set out choosing materials and fixtures for George to install.

Payling looked for a vanity with an undermount sink and lots of storage, but she couldn’t find one she liked in her price range. She saw a pedestal sink she really liked, but it didn’t offer any storage. Then she came across a photo on Houzz of recessed storage set between wall studs. She had her contractor build a cabinet into the wall studs behind the door, and that solved her storage dilemma.

Payling says that not having a designer helped her cut down on cost, but it also opened the door for a few mistakes to slip through. For example, she wished she had been present when the wall tile went up. She would’ve had the light switches installed higher so the tile wouldn’t have to be cut and worked around them. “But this was a DIY project, and I’m not a designer, so I don’t freak out about that stuff too much,” she says.

                                 5 Designs for an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

                                 Joanne Payling, original photo on Houzz

BEFORE: The original vanity and recessed medicine cabinet didn’t offer much storage, and when the couple’s college-age daughter was in town, everything ended up on the counter.

AFTER: Payling splurged on the white Thassos marble tile with Blue Celeste dots for the floor; she saved by going with inexpensive ceramic tile for the shower and walls, both of which she spiffed up with glass and marble tile accents.

Payling also would’ve liked the toilet tank to touch the wall behind it rather than have a gap of a couple of inches — another design detail she feels could have been prevented if she had hired a designer or been present at installation.

Walls moved: No

Plumbing moved: No

Plumbing replaced: No

Professionals hired: Gene George (contractor)

Special features: Recessed wall cabinets; marble floor tile, glass and marble accent tile

Splurges: Marble floor tile

Savings: Basic off-the-shelf wall and shower tile. Payling also saved by acting as her own designer.