By Joe Provey
My wife and I have a very small bathroom. The tub, toilet, and sink are lined up shoulder-to-shoulder along one wall. An in-swinging door assaults anyone foolish enough to linger in front of the mirror.
And, this particular bathroom is the smallest in a long line of small bathrooms I’ve owned. For that reason, it may be that I’m the world’s leading expert on finding ways to increase bathroom storage.
Here are my top ways to find storage in a small bathroom:
1. Install a big medicine cabinet
For much of the last century, medicine cabinets were small, because a) people knew how to get by with a lot less stuff, and b) they were typically set into the wall between studs (typically only 14-1/2 inches apart). If you’re not into the asceticism of the past, rip out the old unit and install a large wall-mounted cabinet. Yes, it will encroach a bit into the room, but your compensation is thousands of cubic inches of usable storage.
2. Go with a vanity over a pedestal sink
The temptation with a small bathroom is to install a pedestal sink. The idea is that it will make you bathroom “feel” bigger. And, it will. But if storage is what you need, install a vanity and set your sink into it, or on top of it — vessel sinks are a nice compromise between pedestal sinks and vanities.
Vanities with deep drawers are much more convenient than ones with doors — no bending to search in dark recesses for what you need. Sure, it may take some clever plumbing work to keep pipes clear of the drawers, but it can be done. If you’re stuck with a door-style vanity, consider retrofitting a pullout shelf. They’re available as kits that come with slides and preassembled wooden trays.
3. Use the space over the toilet
Shelves or cabinets (which aren’t too deep) are great ways to use this underused space. Just leave enough room between the bottom shelf and the top of the toilet tank, so you can easily access the flush mechanism to make repairs. There are hundreds of over-the-toilet organizers available. Some mount to the wall, while others have legs that straddle the toilet tank and rest on the floor.
4. Hang hooks behind the door
There are all sorts of racks designed to take advantage of the space behind the bathroom door. Some racks install over the door top; others hang on the hinge pins. Keep in mind that towel bars are better for hanging wet towels, but hooks are great for robes and clothing. In a pinch, use a classic back-of-door shoe bag and fill the compartments with extra soap bars, shampoos, bandages, combs and so on.
5. Hang stuff in the shower area
I don’t like hanging organizers from the showerhead. Who likes staring at toiletries? A better way is to hang your organizer near the back of the shower area. Doing so may require that you install a hook in tile, but that’s easier than it sounds. Use a punch to nick the tile and bore an anchor hole with a masonry bit. While you’re at it, install a few extra hooks for hanging brushes, shower caps, washcloths, etc.
6. Use less stuff
The first rule of organization is to get rid of stuff. Clear out hair and skin products you tried once and never used again. Do the same with old medicines (but check with your municipality for properdisposal). Turn old towels you rarely use into rags. And limit your stock of bathroom cleaning agents — you’d be surprised how versatile a big bottle of white vinegar and a jar of baking soda are.
Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.