How to go from DRAB to FAB

Today I’ll share with you the before and after makeover of an en-suite bathroom. It’s a very small space, which often means that it can be challenging to design.

  • How do you maximise storage in a small space? Particularly in a bathroom when you have loads of products and need it to be organised.
  • How do you create a sense of space when you’re confined by the four wall and can’t extend the room? It can be tricky making a small space feel larger.
  • How do you know what to choose so that it won’t go out of style? You don’t modernise your bathroom every day so you need to make it look good and be future proofed.

I’ll show you this SMALL BUT BEAUTIFUL BATHROOM TRANSFORMATION and answer all of these important design conundrums.

Redesigning your bathroom can often feel overwhelming because you don’t want to make an expensive mistake. You won’t be changing your bathroom frequently, so any errors of judgement will be visible for a very long time, niggling you every day. Maybe you have a sink that’s not big enough, a tap that dribbles water, a floor that’s constantly looking dirty or a bathroom cabinet that’s too small for all your products.
The design of your bathroom should not only look good, but also be practical whilst accommodating your physical and mobility needs.

Here are some of my design tips that will help you design your own bathroom that looks great and feels amazing.

This en-suite bathroom is in a modern two-bed apartment and is for a guy who has epilepsy. Due to the possibility of seizures, the shower door was a main consideration of the design, ensuring it could be easily opened whilst also providing protection and preventing him from falling out of the cubicle.

A bi-fold door was the best option and, although the original bathroom had this style of door (coincidentally because of the confined space), the room was dated and grimy, with a small sink and no storage.

(Before Makeover)

Due to the confined space, the layout of the bathroom had to remain the same, but my aim of the transformation was to modernise the space, creating a practical, safe and hygienic room.

Just look at the original bathroom, that glass shelf was an accident waiting to happen, you could pull the toilet roll holder off with your little finger and the boxing for the services (toilet and sink waste) was a shelf trap for dirt and grime. The room needed to be easy to keep clean and without any hazards that might cause injury. As well as being stylish, it also needed to be affordable with quality products that weren’t too costly.

Whilst visiting my bathroom showroom, with my client, we saw this cabinetry that was on offer because it was ex-display – saving over £2,000 off the original price. What a bargain and it fitted the design brief perfectly, being modern and a great colour.

Showroom Ex-Display Arrangement

The colour scheme for the apartment was white, grey and blue, so the pale grey units fitted in perfectly. Being so light in colour, the units would also make the bathroom feel spacious, which was an important factor in such a confined space.

You’ll notice that the display units came with black handles and taps, so I changed these over for chrome (to match the other handles in the apartment), at no additional cost. I also removed the flyover shelf (on top of the wall units) from the design because it would make the en-suite bathroom feel smaller.

Sleek & Modern Bathroom Transformation

As this bathroom is smaller, with a different layout to the showroom arrangement (sink and toilet switch place), the units had to be reconfigured to fit this space. The carpenter’s done a great job of hiding the soil pipes whilst optimising storage in the base cabinet.

I could have added feature blue tiles to this design (potentially in the shower or as a splashback behind the sink), but this would have made the room feel smaller. I decided to keep the space clean and crisp with gloss white wall tiles, balanced with a darker floor and worktop. When I style this bathroom, I’ll incorporate blue towels and accessories for a pop of interest and colour.

It’s been transformed from a drab, dated and grimy bathroom to a modern, sleek and stylish space. It’s a place where you’ll want to be rather than a room where you have to be. Modernising your bathroom can help to relax your mind and energise your day.

So let’s take a look at the design questions you might have when modernising your bathroom:

  • How do you maximise storage in a small space?

Your bathroom has to work really hard because it’s often a room for storing all of your personal lotions and potions, medicines or emergency kit, toilet rolls, bathroom cleaning products and towels. Each item might require a different type of storage solution, so it’s useful to make a list of everything you’d like to have in your bathroom and then look at how you like it to be stored – do you want it out and visible for easy use (toothbrush, shampoo, toilet brush) or would you prefer for it to be stored away (deodorant, medicine, face cream)?

In this original bathroom, there was only a shelf above the toilet and a shelf created by the services as places to put personal products. This was far from adequate and I’m assuming that the previous owners of the apartment kept their things in the bedroom.

The units in the new bathroom design provide loads of hidden storage and a long worktop for personal items.

If the client needed more storage than I’d designed, I would have incorporated the flyover into the bathroom as a place for additional storage boxes. For this client, the wall unit and the base unit provide more than enough space to organise his things.

When I style the bathroom, I’ll also incorporate a shower caddy and a toilet brush holder. I particularly like this toilet brush holder that also has space for the toilet cleaner. It’s a very neat and practical solution. For a small bathroom, where you can, look for a storage solution that has a dual purpose because it saves space whilst helping you to be organised.

  • How do you create a sense of space in a bathroom?

Creating a spacious room takes into consideration several factors, such as lighting, layout and colour balance. By incorporating sleek and slender units into the design, they focus on the length of the space and make the bathroom feel larger than it is.

You no longer have the eye going up and down between the toilet and the sink, so it’s less confusing and easier for the brain to process. As well as making the bathroom feel larger, it will also create a sense of calm in the room.

The original bathroom had yellow light bulbs and brown tiles that immediately darkened the small bathroom. If you look at the room, you’ll notice that the colours get darker from ceiling to floor – with a white ceiling, brown wall tiles and a dark floor. If you look away from this photo and then look back at it, you’ll most likely notice that this colour combination makes you focus on the floor because it’s the darkest element in the room.

Sometimes you might want to look at the floor, particularly if it’s patterned, but for this bathroom your eye should be focused upwards, into the room, so that you immediately see the whole of the room rather than just the floor.

I have used a dark floor in the new bathroom design but, by being complemented with a dark worktop, the eye is drawn into the centre of the room and the linear worktop takes the eye on a journey, focusing on the length of the space.

The original brown mosaic style tiles were meant to be a feature in the bathroom, but they actually made the space feel smaller and more cluttered because they were over fussy, and cutting the space in half as they didn’t go from floor to ceiling.

I used glossy white wall tiles in the whole of the bathroom to create a clean and sterile looking space. This was helpful for the client who needed a non fussy space to help him feel calm and relaxed. The glossy tiles helped to optimise the new white light, from the ceiling downlighters, and the floor to ceiling tile design prevented any lines of delineation that might otherwise aesthetically reduce the room size.

Interior design focuses on the senses, so anything you add into the space will affect not only how it looks but also how it feels.

  • How do you know what to choose so it won’t go out of style?

Before I saw the bathroom showroom units, I was planning on using similar modern cabinets for this client. As well as being a pale colour that made the space feel larger, with practical cupboards to keep the bathroom organised, this sleek bathroom style is neutral and therefore timeless.

When you’re choosing items for your home, unless they’re vintage or antique, then you’re buying things that are the interior trend of that moment. To help future proof your room, look for colours that are neutral (like the pale grey cabinets) or choose simple unfussy lines (like the sleek units). You can then add interest and update the look through accessories.

Imagine you home is a book, with each room as a chapter in the book. For each room, the walls are the background to your story, the furniture is the characters and the accessories are the plot. To make the plot more interesting and exciting, you need to change up your accessories with colour, texture or pattern.

I’ll be adding the accessories to this bathroom once the apartment is completed and ready for final styling. Check out my @gainterior instagram for future highlights.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this makeover and have gained an insight into the complex design decisions you need to make to create your perfect bathroom sanctuary. Remember to take into consideration how you want it to feel as well as creating your stylish paradise. Your well designed bathroom will help you to relax and invigorate you every day.

If you need my professional advice and guidance then I’m always here to help.

If you’re modernising your home, particularly your bathroom, and are
uncertain about the layout, worried about making an expensive mistake,

don’t know what to choose or where to shop,
just phone me for a chat and I’ll help you create your dream bathroom.



BIID Interior Designer & House Dr Consultant

M: 07841 519802