From dealing with strata issues and managing your limited space, renovating a small bathroom can be quite a task. Winner of The Block, Shannon Vos, shares the five biggest lessons he learned while renovating Australia’s tiniest bathroom.
A bathroom reno could just be one of life’s biggest tests — along with my current daily situation, surviving a two-year old’s public meltdown. When you combine the tiniest of spaces, a mountain of red tape and the knowledge your work will be scrutinized by the International Design Committee of Instagram, you have yourself quite the battle. Here’s what I discovered in my quest to perfect the small bathroom I share with my wife, our toddler Dusty, and baby Raffa.
Start With Red Tape
“Everyone loves a strata committee [similar to a co-op board],” said no-one ever. I live in an apartment and the strata step was probably the hardest part of our reno. We had to get a by-law passed, which effectively meant our neighbors could determine if and when we could renovate. We thought over this for months, playing all the scenarios in our heads and having all the conversations.
Eventually, we approached our strata committee with detailed plans, non-disruptive timelines, and a list of reputable trades, and our neighbors were more than happy to vote a big, fat YES and let us move on with our project. As a general rule, any major renovation — in this case, anything to do with waterproofing and wet areas — needs approval from 75 percent of the governing committee.
My advice? Know your neighbors and keep on their good side, as it might do you a world of good one day. Even though we have a small block, we endeavored to make the whole process hassle-free for our neighbors, with no works done on common property and no trash left anywhere on site. Look after them and they’ll look after you.
Be Smart About Space
One of the biggest hurdles of small-space design is exercising restraint. When dealing with modest proportions, it’s important to work with what you have. For us, that meant picking one element to take charge stylistically and sticking with a simple aesthetic. In our bathroom, measuring no more than 1,500mm x 2,600mm, we managed to fit in a generous bath, a decent floating vanity and a bigger-than-average shower, all without the space feeling cramped.
We lined up all the services along one wall, as this ensured an easier build and meant we could have a lot of free space down the other side of the room. A wet area encompassing an open shower and low bath makes a standard 950mm-wide shower seem much bigger than it is. And a 15mm lip stepping down into the shower means any water from the kids’ bathtime stays away from the dry portion of the room.
Keep It Simple
We couldn’t be too daring in such a restricted space, with a small window and limited natural light, but we wanted to do something a little different to the everyday Pinterest parade. So, we looked at how we could put our own spin on some basic choices. I love a subway tile, and a handmade one is even better. The matt white ‘York Slim’ version we chose from Beaumont Tiles is a nice spin on the traditional square-cut subway. You could think this stretched-out organic tile (65mm x 396mm) is playing safe but, when laid vertically and paired with an easy-to-clean grey grout, it gives a fresh look with lots of character.
As for floor tiles, the more grout on a bathroom floor, the more your Saturdays are spent scrubbing all sorts of gunk from it. This makes a large-format tile with a rectified edge a cleaner’s best friend. The gray “Timeless Ceppo Gris” terrazzo-look tile from Beaumont Tiles comes in a whopping 800mm x 800mm and gives a grand look without any of the hassles of concrete on a bathroom floor. Best of all, with only three grout lines to worry about, cleaning the floor is a breeze — or so I’ve heard.
Take Your Time
Home renovation shows have given us many good things over the years, but unreasonable time frames is not one of them! I often get asked to renovate a bathroom in a week or less — and I have to explain that, in the real world, a bathroom should take a good two weeks at least. A small space doesn’t necessarily mean small time frames. We took about three weeks from demo to reveal.
We could have done it in less, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist and wanted the best job possible. An even better decision was to move the family out and give the contractors the run of the house. There was way too much dust, noise, and dirty footprints to even consider keeping my wife and kids at home. If you can, escape the chaos and keep your sanity.
We wanted to include some special elements, as they’re the cherries on the cake that can make or break a reno. To counter the hard surfaces, we paired the referred soft warm strip light with a ceiling that stands apart. We wanted a peach tile, but as that may be an expensive change down the track, we chose a “dirty” peach ceiling instead. It gives lots of visual warmth. On cold mornings, underfloor heating is like flying business class. It’s not necessary but, boy, it feels good once you have it. The Hotwire mat system we installed is easily DIY-able and, considering it was a small floor plan, fairly inexpensive.
As we chose large-format floor tiles, I wanted a strip drain to save on the tile cuts and work with the fall in the floor. As I designed the shower to be exactly 935mm wide (yes, I’m that sort of guy), the standard 900mm- or 1000mm-wide drains didn’t cut it. Lauxes Grates make a customizable strip drain that is ideal for my fussy self. Last of all, a cluttered bench space can crowd out any room. The moulded pond top on our vanity keeps the area free of a visually bulky sink. It also frees up plenty of space on the bench for the 15,000 bath toys we now share our room with!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First For Women.