Half-Bath Ideas: Eight Ways to Make This Tiny Space Shine

  • Remodel and Design Rules of Half-Bathrooms

    Small Half-Bathroom or Powder Room
    Small Half-Bathroom or Powder Room. Getty / slobo

    What Is a Half Bathroom?

    • Around 50 Square Feet But Usually Far Less: There is no design council defining how big a half-bathroom should be.  Generally, it is 50 square feet (total room size, not just walkable floor space).  More often, it is just big enough to be able to walk from the toilet to the sink:  about 16 square feet.
    • Small Bathroom With No Bathing Facilities:  A full-service bathroom has as many as 4 services: 1.) Toilet; 2.) Sink; 3.) Bathing facility (shower, bathtub, shower/tub...MORE combo, or shower and tub).  Thus, a half-bath has half as many of these services.  Half-bathrooms are a blessing in disguise.  Because there are no bathing facilities to deal with, your job is cut in half.  No shower, no bathtub, no extensive counters.  Floor space is postage stamp-sized.  
    • Different Names For It. Powder room or guest bathroom are names often attached to it.  But as long as it has no bathing services, it is a half-bathroom.

    Two Reasons You'll Love Remodeling It

    Half bathrooms are indeed small.  But this allows you to hone your bathroom design skills on the half bath before proceeding to the master bathroom.  

    For another, remodeling your half-bath will not impact your life as much because you are not decommissioning any bathing facilities.  This allows you a more freedom of time to finish the work.  However, it should be pointed out that guests will have to use your main bathroom while the half-bath is being remodeled.

    Your half-bathroom is asking for some design love.  But what are you going to do with only a toilet, sink, door, and mirror?  Plenty:

    1. Position Your Half-Bathroom On Perimeter, If Possible

    One solid bit of feng shui advice: do not position the half bath in the center of the house.  Instead, make sure that one of its walls is an exterior wall of the house.

    There are good reasons for this.  First, any window-less room feels oppressive.  Second, it is not a great idea to position a room where people perform, well, personal activities within a larger area where people are cooking, reading, watching TV, and so on.  

    If you cannot move the half-bathroom to the house perimeter, you will learn to live with it; it's just not the preferred arrangement.

    2. Bathroom Fans:  Required or Recommended?

    A high-velocity fan is necessary for the half bath because this room tends to be situated near living areas.  

    Strangely enough, building code does not currently require that your half-bathroom have an extraction fan.  As long as you have 3 square feet of window to the outside, you do not need a fan.  And that window only needs to be half-openable.  

    Building code aside, you should install a quality, high velocity fan in your half bathroom.  

    3. Favor Larger Tiles Over Smaller Tiles

    Large tiles in small bathrooms actually make them seem larger.

    4. Position Toilet So It Is Not Facing Door

    Some feng shui experts say that positioning the toilet so that it is facing the doorway is a bad idea. Feng shui or not, this tends to be solid design advice.

    5. Avoid Big Sink Vanities That Dominate the Room

    Pedestal sinks are one great way to maximize room. Cabinet-style sink bases not only take up floor space but feel ponderous. You really don't need to store anything in the half bath, anyway. Store cleansers in another bathroom or in a laundry room cabinet.

    6. Keep It Simple

    Over-adorning your half bath only leads to clutter. Besides the toilet and pedestal sink, keep other items to a minimum.

    7. Stick With Majority Neutral Colors But Bright Touches Are Fine

    Maintain a majority of neutral-color surfaces (flooring, walls, etc.), but that doesn't mean you can't have a bright accent wall.  Dark colors are imposing and make your bathroom feel smaller.

    8.  Stick With the Footprint

    Rearranging floor layout is out.  This is such a small space that you cannot move things around much.  So, you'll be working with what you already have: