Planning Your Bathroom Layout | A Step-By-Step Guide

Published by: Kevin Sears

11th September 23


Reading Time: 6 mins 3 secs

Layout planning is one of the most important stages in any bathroom renovation project.

While a poorly-planned – or non-existent – bathroom layout can cause you a whole world of problems, a well-planned layout will ensure that your space is efficiently used and meets the needs and preferences of everyone using it.

From functionality to safety, aesthetics to accessibility, and ergonomics to comfort, your new bathroom’s layout will determine everything about the space. Which is why it’s so important that you get it right – not forgetting the small matter of maximising your home’s future resale value.

You know it needs to be done and done well, but perhaps you don’t know where to start. Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Step one: Assess your needs and space

As it so often is in any project, the first step is to assess your needs and available floor space.

Before getting too stuck into trendy ideas, take a moment to really think about what you actually want and need from your new bathroom. Do you go with a luxurious walk-in shower or a classic freestanding bathtub, or both? A stylish countertop basin or a vanity unit with plenty of storage space? How much storage will you need? And the all-important question, are you going to stick with your existing plumbing? (Rerouting can be very expensive – we cover why in step four!) 

This first step is all about understanding your needs, the limitations of the space, and trying to strike the perfect balance between functionality and aesthetics.

Accurately measuring your bathroom

No bathroom renovation can get started without this all-important first step. Here’s how you should do it.

  1. Gather your tools: a measuring tape, pen or pencil and somewhere to write down your measurements
  2. Measure your bathroom’s length and width, wall to wall. Make a note of the measurements (in millimetres for the greatest accuracy)
  3. Measure your bathroom’s height, floor to ceiling. Make a note of the measurement
  4. Take all three measurements again to double-check
  5. If necessary, measure all of your bathroom fixtures and fittings, including doors and windows – double-checking the measurements
  6. Plot all measurements and the locations of your fixtures and fittings into a floorplan. If you’re unsure of how, scroll down to our mini floorplan guide below

Step two: Find a style

Your bathroom’s style or theme will be what ties all of its elements together, from the fixtures and lighting to the colour scheme and decor.

The two big factors to think about here are a) your personal taste, and b) the overall aesthetic of your home. Ideally, the bathroom style you land on can complement both well. 

You should also consider the size and layout of your bathroom. Minimalist, clutter-free styles work well in smaller bathrooms; larger bathrooms typically have the space for bolder styles and more unique design elements.

How to get inspired

It’s one thing wanting to find style inspiration; knowing where to find that inspiration is another beast entirely!

The good news is that in today’s world you can find plenty of different sources – found both on and offline – for every individual preference and need.

  • Browsing Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok and home design blogs can quickly offer an abundance of ideas tailored to individual tastes and preferences
  • Visiting local showrooms, DIY stores, and design conferences and exhibitions can provide a hands-on experience of the latest trends

And you don’t have to just pick one source and stick with that – finding inspiration in multiple sources will help you mix and match elements to create a personalised style that's unique to you.

Step three: Choose the right fixtures

With everything you’ve decided on in steps one and two firmly front of mind, now’s time to find the fixtures that will soon populate your bathroom – and determine its functionality and efficiency. 

When choosing your sink, think about details like whether you do or don’t want countertop space, and the style of tap you prefer. When narrowing down your toilet search, consider the depth of the toilet – which will determine how much space it takes up – and if you want the cistern to be concealed or not. And whatever you do, don't think about lighting and ventilation as an afterthought (they’re very important!)

Get your fixtures right and you can create a bathroom design that is both practical and visually stunning.

Fixtures for smaller bathrooms

Space is the big consideration when choosing fixtures for a smaller bathroom: the aim of the game is to choose fixtures that maximise both style and functionality. Here are four ways to do exactly that.

  • Opt for a wall-mounted sink or vanity unit, which both create storage space while also freeing up valuable floor space
  • Consider incorporating mirrored bathroom cabinets to create storage space out of nothing, while adding to your style
  • Choose wall-mounted basin taps and bathroom accessories products, like towel racks and toilet roll holders, to streamline your space and make cleaning easier
  • Go with a shower over a bath, and opt for a transparent shower enclosure to help create the illusion of a larger space

Step four: Assess your plumbing and electrics

Whether you’re renovating an old bathroom or not, understanding the plumbing and electrical foundations of your space is a very important step.

Think about the location of existing plumbing lines and the plumbing requirements of the bathroom fixtures you want to install – your waste pipes and soil stack are most important here. Consider the placement of electrical outlets and switches and how they will work with your new layout and fixtures – if you’re unsure, definitely seek professional advice from an electrician.

You’ll never regret taking the time to assess these needs early on. Failing to plan around any plumbing or electrical requirements will almost inevitably cost you both money and time.

Reasons to work with your existing plumbing

Provided that your existing plumbing is in good working condition, there are many big reasons why you should stick with it for your bathroom renovation.

  • Save money. Moving or altering plumbing lines can be very expensive – especially if you need professional help
  • Save time. On top of money, removing and creating new plumbing is a time-consuming process that will lengthen your project timeline
  • Reduce risk. Changing your plumbing can compromise the structural integrity of your home if not done properly, increasing the risk of damage to your home's structure
  • Fewer or no new permits. Making changes to your plumbing often requires you to obtain new permits from your local authority – costing you more time and money

Step five: Decide on the layout

You know what’s going in your bathroom, now you just need to work out how.

Think about the fixtures you’ve chosen and how much breathing space they need to be used conveniently and comfortably. They’re easily missed at the planning stage, but you won’t regret considering details like the physical space needed to towel dry after a shower (as a general rule of thumb, enough room to poke your elbows out either side of you should be your absolute minimum!)

Consider also the flow of foot traffic when the bathroom is in daily use – depending on the size and role of your bathroom, you’re probably going to find more than one person in there more than once a day. And don’t forget to plan for good ventilation and getting natural light into your space.

At this stage, we’d always recommend creating a clear design plan to help you visualise your new bathroom’s layout and fixtures, and the materials and colours that will tie the space together. You can either sketch out the plan yourself, use one of the many online design tools or work with a professional. It’s really up to you.

Creating a bathroom floorplan

Thinking about sketching out your floorplan? Follow these simple steps.

  1. Accurately measure your bathroom space, including any fixtures and fittings. If you’re not sure how, scroll up for our mini guide
  2. Create a scale overhead drawing of your complete bathroom, including accurate placements of your fixtures and fittings and all of your measurements (in millimetres). We’d recommend using graph paper and a scale of 1cm:20cm
  3. Mark your existing plumbing and electrical points on your floorplan, including water supply lines, drains and outlets
  4. Include ceiling height and light fittings in your floorplan – a key step that’s often forgotten! Also take time to consider how the lighting in your planned bathroom will change throughout the day
  5. Review, adjust and finalise your plan. If you haven’t consulted a professional already, this step could be your last opportunity for that all-important sense check!

34 St John offer a bathroom design service to transform your dream bathroom into reality". Find out more here 

Kevin Sears

About Kevin Sears

Kevin Sears is a bathroom and interior design blogger here at 34 St John. He creates original content utilising his extensive knowledge of the bathroom industry and latest trends.

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