downstairs bathroom ideas: an under stairs WC in neutral colours

Design tips for small downstairs bathrooms

Small space ideas and practical tips to help you create a stylish, functional cloakroom

By Rebecca Parker | 12 August 2021

Whether you’re building a new home from scratch, giving a redundant under-the-stairs cupboard an overhaul or ripping out a dated suite, these downstairs bathroom ideas and practical tips will help you create a stylish, functional room in a small space.

Plan the layout

Identify exactly what you want the space to achieve. ‘Is it primarily for your family or will guests use it, too?’ asks architect Richard Gill at Paul Archer Design. ‘A room next to the utility/boot area where children, adults and dogs come in from outdoors will need to be very different to a cloakroom off the main entrance hall.’

If you’re renovating, the layout may be dictated by the existing services. ‘If you’re updating a cloakroom as part of a major project, the process of redirecting drainage, relative to the overall works, will be minor,’ says Gill. ‘But if you’re adding a new one, the cost and disruption of reorganising drainage can be limiting.’

small downstairs bathroom under the stairs with grey and white tiles and white bathroom suite

This under-the-stairs scheme showcases Crosswater’s compact Kai collection

Pipes and ventilation

According to Melanie Clear, founder and director of Clear Architects, the position of the soil pipe is a key consideration. ‘It needs to be sited on an outside wall, ideally not on the front of the house,’ she says. ‘If this isn’t possible, a macerator, a unit that reduces waste so it can be pumped to the drain, is the best alternative – although it will need to be incorporated in the initial design.’

Adequate ventilation is also important when considering small downstairs bathroom ideas. Building regulations state that a window or extractor fan should be included to ensure the room has a sufficient supply of fresh air and to remove condensation.

Planning a layout that works should be your main priority. The position of the door, windows and basin are primary considerations, ensuring there’s enough space to make the room comfortable to use. Before choosing furniture and fittings, get a feel for the dimensions by marking out where products would be placed. This will provide an idea of how many square metres you’ll have once everything has been installed.

colourful taps in a quirky small washroom with grey tiles

Paul Archer Design created this quirky cloakroom with brightly coloured taps from Vola

Space-saving solutions

If you are working in a small room, many bathroom suppliers offer a range of space-saving solutions, such as shallow basins and short-projection toilets. Some, like Victorian Plumbing, offer two-in-one toilets and basins (with the basin above the cistern) for the tightest of spots.

‘Avoid filling the floor: a wall-mounted loo and basin will give the impression the area is larger than it is,’ says Scott. ‘A shallow countertop with a small inset basin and shelf below is preferable to a chunky vanity unit with storage that you may not need.’

patterned bathroom floor tiles in a small bathroom with grey units

This cloakroom by Britton Bathrooms features a variety of patterns, colours and textures

Be storage savvy

A cloakroom doesn’t tend to have the same storage requirements as a family bathroom or en suite, so avoid cluttering the space with bulky furniture you won’t need. ‘Somewhere to keep spare loo rolls or a couple of cleaning products is normally ample,’ says Scott. ‘An area of countertop space is practical, somewhere to stand a handwash and hand lotion for guests.’

Incorporating built-in shelving or a cupboard in the recess creates a space-saving way to store items in a small downstairs bathroom. Alternatively, a slim, wall-mounted vanity cabinet offers a streamlined solution.