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How to Redesign a Bathroom that’s too Big

By 03/04/2016February 10th, 201750 Comments


Via pinterest (combined shower and tub)

Lately I’ve been thinking about house plans. I have seen so many of them that aren’t fabulous and it makes me wonder why there isn’t one website where you can go and find the best house plans.

Floor plans that would make you weep with joy. This is what I think is missing in the marketplace today.

Last night during dinner, one of the participants in my Specify Colour with Confidence™ event (happening this week) said when she bought a car, she filled out a questionnaire that outlined her preferences, it told her which car she would love. By now, an interior designer should not have to view an architect’s plans to make changes like ‘The powder room should not open right into the formal dining room’, etc. We should have this down to a fine art by now just like so many other things with technology today.

The floor plan in our rancher is one I would add to that site. I love that we have a ‘bedroom wing’ which has the master bedroom and ensuite, 2 bedrooms and a main bathroom. Then there’s the living wing with the living room/dining room at the front of the house, the kitchen and family room behind them, then you walk through the laundry room to the powder room.

For two people it’s a perfect plan that leaves you with an office and a guest room. Or a family of four. Bedrooms for both kids.

When I first saw that the powder room was right beside our laundry room literally at the other end of our house I thought that was so dumb. But now that I have a studio office right behind the house, it works perfectly. My clients do not have to walk through the entire house to use the bathroom. And when I’m gardening, I don’t have far to go through the back door (which is through the laundry room) to wash my hands.

To see the full tour go here.

Anyway I digress. But the point I want to make is that I have seen so many odd bathroom designs in my time, especially ones that are too big and awkward, well it seems we need a post that handles this.

What to do when your bathroom layout is just too big for a regular toilet, bathtub + shower and vanity?



Crystal’s bathroom (above) was a new build. Originally she said they were going to build a wall in between the toilet/tub but then last minute nixed that plan which is why they ended up with a bathroom that is unusually large.

And what can you really do with this kind of shape? It’s not like you can move furniture in here to fill it up and make it look like it was intentional like you might do with custom furniture in a living room for example.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Jan’s creativity came to the rescue. We talked about adding a shower and arranging it and a tub in the corner but that cut off access to the tub. Then, Jan came up with this idea (below) and sent me this inspiration picture:


image source

Here’s her drawing of the new design (below). Crystal and her husband have 2 kids, a boy and a girl. This is the bathroom they share. So now they will have their own toilet room and all that empty space will be used up by the enclosed shower and tub.

You can splash all you want and this space will stay warmer during bathing because it will be mostly enclosed.


Jan’s drawing

Is this a brilliant plan or what?




Pinterest (Wood panels seem impractical here unless they are tile but love the window)

Today is Day 3 of my Specify Colour with Confidence™ event in Dallas, Texas. One of the insights from yesterday (and there were many) was a conversation we had about spreading your money around and spending it in the right place during a renovation OR a new build. For example, do you need 8 recessed lights in your cathedral height living rooms or 8 lamps?

You need that many lamps anyway for atmosphere that a recessed light can never provide so better to keep more of your budget for decorating rather than spend it all on fixed finishes that are not necessarily that important.


Bethia & Kathy

I am honoured to lead this event to so many incredible women, there are some in this course who have followed me since 2008 (the very beginning of this blog).

Half of my course this time is homeowners and colour enthusiasts and the other half design professionals. That’s one of the reasons why we came back to Texas so fast (we were in Houston in November) because I have a big following here. Texans are really passionate about their homes. Since you can’t learn what I’m teaching anywhere else in the world, it doesn’t matter whether your brand new or have been in the design industry for 30 years.

At lunch yesterday, a lawyer from Connecticut who registered the day before and flew in last minute said she was building a new house and although it’s wonderful to be able to make all your own choices, that scared her too! She confided she wanted to be able to argue coherently with her contractor 😉 😉

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact us! We would love to help you choose colours, select the right combination of hard finishes or create a plan to pull your room together. You can find our fabulous e-design consultation packages here.

Related posts:

My Design Studio: Before, During & After

The Enchanting World of Atmosphere

How to Create Instant Atmosphere in your New House (do this during your new build)

5161 pins


  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Hi Maria, Jan’s idea is great.
    I went to see a model home yesterday that had a master bath with a layout like what Jan suggested.
    But the bathroom was still huge. I left thinking there is no way I want to be cleaning that much floor tile. (I can’t even imagine the cost associated with a floor that big. Labor, materials. YIKES!)
    The boy’s bedroom in this model was also large. It was staged with 2 full size beds. But it had a tiny closet.
    So you are right…some builders just don’t get where space is needed & where it isn’t.

  • Stacy says:

    I hate this concept, I just have to say it. It just makes for an enormous shower, and if you’ve ever used a large shower, it takes a while for steam to warm it up. Plus the cleaning factor–now you have to dry off a tub and a shower after taking a shower. It looks like a designer’s concept that is truly not practical for a homeowner.

    • Bert says:

      Yes, exactly what i thought!

    • Tami says:

      Ditto! Looks amazing…but way too much cleaning.

    • Catherine says:

      I have to agree with Stacy. My husband and I have a fairly large master bathroom. It is large enough for a separate tub area, walk-in shower with 2 shower heads, and 2 comfortably-sized walk-in closets. We also have a separate “water closet” with door. The shower rarely gets as warm as I would like it to, particularly in our climate. And, it is a pain to clean. I would lose my mind if I added in the extra tile and tub space. Also, we used to have great couple discussions in our old master bath that we no longer have. The intimacy of the space is lost. I say design a space for how your life functions. I would much rather have 2 separate smaller bathrooms for that family above, than one large one. To my eye, this arrangement will not stand the test of time and will readily date the home.

    • Lorena says:

      There is such a thing as a too big bathroom. I have a friend who has a bathroom with a shower that spans the whole length of the bathroom! That is such a pain to clean and keep warm. Who needs a shower that is 15 feet long!

  • Jen says:

    Nice concept but not practical in my opinion.

  • mrsben says:

    Totally agree with you Maria that this combo layout is a great solution for a large bathroom and is actually one that I have recommended for my daughter’s en suite that has so much wasted space that it is sinful … ☺. That said; I am in the midst of renovating four of my own bathrooms and opted for the main one to have separate areas and relocated the tub and stall to an inside wall namely due to a) the cold climate I live in plus b) an overhead skylight that could be drafty c) found that when my children were older they preferred a single shower area as there was less after cleanup/maintenance and last but not least d) resale appeal. All said; even though I am not a designer something I see that is lacking within the spaces shown is the use of ‘sizable ‘ wall niches that should be decided upon in the initial planning stage keeping them out of the direct range any water source if at all possible plus IMHO the installation of a hand-held shower feature would also be beneficial. -Brenda-
    P.S.: Congratulations on the success of all your recent seminars, Maria.

  • Gina says:

    I’ve studied floor plans for over 30 years. “Walking” through a house that is merely lines on a paper is difficult for some, and what looks correct on paper needs to be dimensionally examined for furniture placement. I think there was a surge in the 90’s of “bigger is better”. The two-story foyers, huge bathrooms, huge everything. I think as we get older more practicality steps in. “Do I want to clean the bathtub where my leg hair shavings just landed while I’m rushing through my shower?” I know I don’t. It sure looks pretty, though.

    • mrsben says:

      @ Gina: “What looks correct on paper needs to be dimensionally examined for furniture placement”. Definitely agree with you and the concept also goes beyond what is on paper as my son (who is actually fashion designer) on occasion stages new homes for developers and he has shared the secret that often the furnishing they use are custom built to fit the space. So that is something to keep in mind as well. Also in respect to “we get older more practicality steps in” as an old gal who refuses to be a slave to housework; agrees with you once again as one does not have to sacrifice aesthetics for practicality or function for that matter. -Brenda-

    • Kay says:

      So agree about the “bigger is better” attitude that results in what another commenter called a “sinful waste of space.” A friend of a friend has a house so huge (14,000sf) that her little dog had to wear a diaper because it took him too long to get out of the house when he had to go.

      Bathrooms are best when they feel cozy. I agree with those who object to the shower/tub combo, however beautiful. It will steam up, and that’s an awful lot of glass to keep clean, after every use.

      • mrsben says:

        @Kay: “It will steam up, and that’s an awful lot of glass to keep clean, after every use”. Agree with your statement however from my personal experience having the proper exhaust fan (preferably on a timer) will and should solve the issue. Also shall add for the elimination of water spots on a glass enclosure; opt for glass that has been treated (and for those that are not, periodically apply a product called Rain Away recommended for automobile windshield treatment) plus ensure that the shower fixtures you choose are the correct ones in design for your size of space. In other words, note their design/angle position/water projection. i.e.: I purchased a Mohen Shower arm for a ‘wall mounted’ Rain Shower Head that had wonderful reviews however my plumber persuaded me not to use it due to said reasons.

  • Jo says:

    Too much, still too big, way too much to have to clean even if you don’t use the tub. It will get water spots on it that, if left to dry, will just make the tub look crappy. So that means wiping it down every day. No thanks.

    I have never gotten the whole ‘toilet in a separate little room’ thing. Who is in the bathroom with you while you’re going (no, toddlers don’t count)? I mean, close the door to the bathroom and there you go. Our first house had a California bathroom with the toilet and tub in one room and the sinks outside of that. I hated it. So you had to open a door before you could even wash your hands. Ew.

    Bathrooms and showers are the last thing I’d want to be big. As previous posters pointed out, too much to clean and too long waiting for the shower area to get warm enough.

    Just my 2 cents. 🙂

    • KA says:

      Agree on the tub issue. Disagree on the toilet. A toilet out in the open is called a “prison toilet” for a reason: that’s how prison cells are designed. The toilet room makes things more sanitary too.

    • Lorri says:

      There is a great reason to separate the toilet!

      Most people don’t put the lid down before they flush. When they flush, everything in the toilet bowl goes into the air as fine droplets and falls on anything within several feet of the toilet . . . like your toothbrush.

      There have been studies on this. Still want your toilet out in the open?

      Only other solution is to insist everyone put the lid down before flushing.

  • Jenny says:

    The link to “see the full tour here” is not working. I am planning on building a home and would love to see house plans that you love.


  • I just began as a developer and custom home design consultant and one of my biggest issues in finding a house plan to build for a recent property we acquired was finding a floor plan that was practical and didn’t waste space. We ended up having to hire an architect, but not all architects are great about including adequate space for proper furniture placement (ours was thankfully). I think we came up with an excellent design and fit a lot into 3,018 sq. ft. But I did have to suggest changes such as not having the powder room right off the kitchen. I mean, who wants bathroom smells where you cook and dine?! When another architect reviewed the plan, he suggested moving the bathroom back to off the kitchen because he said people would not want to have to walk past a laundry room (messy) to get to a bath. There is a hallway off the kitchen and both the laundry and powder are contained in their own rooms. Shut the door to the laundry room and voila! No mess. I also included lockers with doors in the mudroom (said hallway) so that any clutter could also be contained. I put so much thought into the entire plan that builders teased me that I was designing for myself and not for resale. I wish every builder put as much thought into the quality and function of their builds.

    Anyway, I will be attending your conference in Charlotte and I’m sooooo excited!

  • Heather says:

    My husband and I remodeled our master bath last year and used this “wet room” approach. We love it! We used a freestanding tub to eliminate the possibility of water pooling on the tub “deck”.
    The tub has a matte finish and we have not noticed water spitting. We simply squeegee the shower using a window washer’s extending pole.
    I hope Chrystal and her family enjoy their new bathroom as much as we enjoy ours.

  • Heather says:

    Oops! That word should have been “spotting”.

  • sandyc says:

    My late husband’s daughter and son-in-law had a ginormous master bath designed for their custom build in Bend, Oregon. Everything was laid out around the perimeter of this master bedroom-sized square with a dance floor in the middle – talk about work triangle in the kitchen. My master bath is barely more than a powder room and I could do with a bit more space but I’d never want that much. I’m with you, Maria, about ranchers – so practical. Even if you don’t have the option of a studio out back as you do, there’s the option of converting an unused LR/DR area into a great office/studio setup. The home I used to visit had the laundry room between the kitchen and the garage and no powder room but the main bath was off the hallway to the bedrooms and though it wasn’t set up that way, it probably could have been set up as a Jack & Jill with doors from each hallway so guest bedroom occupants could enter from their hallway and not have to walk around to the hallway entrance off the LR. Loved your comment about Texans being passionate about their homes. We are. If I’d had the extra bucks, I would have been to Houston and your class in a flash – after all that’s where I was born and raised and lived most of my life and would be back if I could afford to own what I have here in Arizona. Unfortunately, the concept of creating a home which feels open and airy and makes me smile every time I walk through the rooms is not shared by anyone I know here. Thank goodness for you, Maria, and all the other super opportunities you offer us – virtual sharing can’t be as great as the real thing, but it really isn’t a horrible second.

  • Dale says:

    You are spot-on in your analysis of the state of house plans today! They are largely awful. One of the largest sins, among many, is the lack of a “privacy gradient”, that is, the concept that the public rooms are the first ones you enter, and bedrooms and bathrooms (and any other rooms not on public view) are placed farther away, and often have hallways, staircases, or other barriers that keep them private. As you rightly point out, even a “public” powder room should not be situated right off the dining room – it’s really inappropriate to be so near a place where one eats, and the people who use it deserve more privacy than that. If anyone is interested in this concept (and many others that should be taken into consideration when building/renovating) I highly recommend anything written by Christopher Alexander, especially “A Pattern Language”. The book is a bit of a tough go, but is filled with brilliant insights for creating a house that functions well and is beautiful to boot.

    • Lorri says:

      I think there are tons of good house plans online, but they exist alongside terrible plans.

      So many builders wouldn’t know a good plan if they tripped over it.

      It’s always amazed me that such bad plans go on existing, let alone getting built when good ones are available. It would be amazing if there was a web site that only had outstanding plan available!

  • Keira says:

    My pet peeve with showers–especially non-tub versions–is why do they rarely include a place to place your feet when you shave your legs? And why so few recessed niches for shampoo and such (with an appropriately sloped shelf so no water puddles)…Instead you have a beautiful shower with tacky shower caddy, or shampoo bottles in all the corners of the tub? lol. Even my fancy “rust free” Umbra shower caddy now has rust.

    • Bernadette Keaggy says:

      I’m with you on showers not having enough receding spots for shampoo etc. also for existing showers with no spot to put foot on, I use a ceramic small urn that works well even in a tiny shower and it can be squeeged off!

  • Dale says:

    One more thing, as I continued to read the rest of your email. THANK YOU for the insight from your conference in which you favored lamps over recessed lights in a cathedral ceiling. I am in the middle of a large renovation, and just came down on the side of lamps and torchieres for our cathedral ceiling, and eschewing the high-hats. I have been doubting myself, and you confirmed I’m on the right track – thank you again, I’m very grateful.

  • Cindi says:

    Regarding the lamps, I agree they give a good look to a room with layered lighting. But I’m struggling because all my seating areas are pulled away from the wall so there’s nowhere to plug the lamps in. There is one outlet in the floor, but of course it’s totally in the wrong place for my furniture layout. I will have to install more floor plugs where I need them, but then they will probably be in the wrong place for the next furniture layout.

  • Ann says:

    This is embarrassing but I had to leave a party once because the bathroom was right near the entertaining kitchen area and there were so many people right outside the door. My stomach was upset and I had to go but the thought of walking out by all those people or turning on the fan made me want to crawl into a hole! Lol. Floor plans are so important for guests too! My bedroom opens to my bathroom, we chose to have the door on the water closet (toilet). We will have whole conversations while we are getting ready but NOT while we are using the toilet!!!! It works for us! I can see how there are so many different types of house plans because we are all so unique. I would rather have more closet space than a large bathroom! I have too many clothes!

  • Emilie Pirrone says:

    I planned my master bath to have a little extra elbow room – including a partially glassed in shower with a tiled bench. When it came to the placement of the toilet, I wanted the privacy of a door but also a small single lavatory sink. It certainly made more sense than installing a bidet – so “last year”. It didn’t take up any space that could have been used in any other way. And if planned properly, walls can be placed to create closets or linen storage. Exhaust fans can be installed that are designed to function for two rooms at the same time.

  • Hi Maria, You always open up a good discussion. It is fun to read everyone’s opinion. I don’t know why architects don’t team up with designers. That has been a pet peave of mine for along time. Most architects are men (no I am not a feminist). A lot of men are not always in tune to the way a house is run & how it should be organized. I see beautiful rooms with no storage space or closet space. That also includes bathrooms. I have always thought that more women should be architects. There is such a thing as function! Hope I have not offended anyone. Just my personal opinion.

  • Jan Romanuk says:

    All your insights are appreciated and we did consider the cleaning aspects and discussed this with our client. You will all be kept apprised with the process thanks to Maria’s amazing and informative blog.

  • Martha says:

    I like the idea of the shower and tub being on an inside wall. We live in a cold climate and my bathtub is below two windows, brr, even though the windows are triple panes.

    I like others above I wouldn’t want to have to wipe down the bathtub because I used the shower.

    Question, are house plans impractical because most of them are designed by men, or is that showing my age?

  • Carol says:

    I think you are so right about not having a centralized place with great house plans that really work!!!! Maybe you will meet an architect in your
    travels that can start that. I think it would be a
    great opportunity for someone with the needed skills!
    Im wondering what you ended up doing with your free Sunday in Austin?


  • Meger Anski says:

    Canned lighting, great topic.

    There are some really attractive ones out there now. “Not Your Mother’s Canned Lighting” anymore. 🙂

    But, cathedral ceilings are the worst. 🙂 No one feels welcome or comfortable under them. Christopher Alexander discusses patterns and how they welcome or put us off. Cathedral ceilings are only to intimidate (think; actual Cathedrals, built to inspire awe and make us feel small in the presence of greatness). They are not meant to be lingered in, or cozy up or feel embraced, safe, and at home.

    This leads up to lighting. Lamps bring down the ceiling, and create a space of their own. They can help ‘ignore’ the height and bring space to scale. Canned lights are not intended to this.

    So it depends on end goal. Welcoming space where you want to linger, and is welcoming? Or intimidation?

    Neither is especially better goal than the other, but ya need to know the results you are going for.

  • Jeannine says:

    I like the wet room idea too. I don’t get the argument that you have to dry the tub after you shower. When the shower is IN the tub do you dry your tub after each use? No. It is ok for it to get wet. I wouldn’t have tile deck on the tub but that is easy enough to not do.

    One think to keep in mind is that this concept actually works really well for a bath that is small as well. if you have a small space yet you really want a free standing shower AND a separate tub this is a great way to combine the two without having to make space for walls around the shower area. by only needing a piece of glass to “enclose” the shower you save several inches.

  • Liz says:

    I’m definitely in the ‘very creative, but don’t like it for practical reasons’ camp.

    Shower floors are yucky spots – mildew, hair, and let’s face it, who scrubs their shower floor religiously every week?

    So then when you want to pamper yourself with a bath, your floor is your dirty shower floor? Function before form always wins it for me.

    I SO agree with your point about home plans, Maria. I designed our new build in ’08 from ‘the inside out’, ie. drew the floor plans of all the rooms we wanted, to scale (using graph paper – like Jan; makes it a breezy task), and also with the furniture layout. The latter went a long way to ensuring every sq inch was used well and that it would flow well functionally as well as spatially.

    Then we found a not high end but good technical architect to implement my floor plans into a whole house. Of course a few things changed to accommodate stairs etc most efficiently, but the end result is a home we absolutely love and one that is super functional.

    Things like putting a fireplace smack in the middle of a wall leaving owners no option but to put their TV above it or to the side drives me nuts! It’s like product designers who don’t really think about how someone is going to use the product.

    My advice to anyone who’s building a house is to make sure you add your desired furniture onto your plans, to scale, and make sure they work. Want a king bed? Make sure there’s enough room also for bedside tables that are the appropriate scale for a king … It’s shocking the kind of surprises a home owner can encounter after they move in that aren’t expected even after gobs of time was spent reviewing plans. Adequate closet / storage space ETC …

    Let’s get that home plans site together! 😉

    • M says:

      I’m with you on not wanting to walk thru or on the shower floor for my pampered soaking tub experience. I usually have a candle or some pretty soaps in a container (and I use both)on the tub deck and wouldn’t want those wet.
      Sometimes if I’m having a marathon soak my spouse wants to get in the shower. That wouldn’t work in the wet room.

      Regarding the toilet, if there is room, YES to the separate closet! In a large bathroom it just looks weirdly voyeuristic and ugly to be out in the open.

  • Kathrine says:

    Tub/Shower combos date homes to pre 1980s. It’s usually the last to be gutted in a remodel because of the expense. The best bathrooms have a separate room for the toilet, whether older homes or new. Who really wants the toilet to be the first thing they see when they open the door to a otherwise gorgeous space when going in to just wash your hands? Why have to stare at a toilet when taking a luxurious bath or stand by a toilet while brushing your teeth in a shared bathroom? I Celebrate having space to give a toilet its own room and also to add a piece of furniture for storage, like a beautiful armoire.

    • Maria Killam says:

      This is the kids bathroom. The master bath will have a steam shower and a lovely free-standing tub.

  • Christina says:

    I would recommend using the space to create two separate bathrooms. With four people – include two growing kids – two smaller bathrooms makes more sense to me than one very large bathroom.

  • Susan Telfer says:

    In my opinion, a website with the best house plans does exist: Jenish. I have admired their home designs in the past and have lived in one for the last nine years. The layout is very well thought out with no wasted space.

  • I have been working ( at the same large table) with an architect on cottage designs for 2 years now. He does great elevations, but I do the floorplans. He CAN do them , but he’s 38 years old. Not to say all 38 year old architects can’t do floorplans. They can & do. But WHO uses this tool (the home is a TOOL with which we live) ? By far the most thorough use is, primarily, by women. With all my heart, I believe we need women designing this tool. Do we ask our husbands to change to a different transmission on his motorcycle? Or “honey, I just don’t think you should buy THAT saw…..” No, we totally know what works and what functions best in the home. Why? Because we USE it most. Don’t misjudge me here. I am not being a feminist or making some kind of a political statement. I love my husband. We have discussed this ad infinitum. But gals– that’s where to start. Start by communicating with your spouse. Not easy. But absolutely necessary….. Then go & design that floorplan— YOURSELF!

  • Deb Landy says:

    Floor plans and remodels
    I would like to see more remodels of the classic 3br ranch home. I work with a builder and we have been updating the dated ranches for empty nesters who want to ditch their big house and age in place. I too was looking for sites to give me some inspiration. Loved your exterior remodel of course.
    Anyone know of sources for ranch remodel inspiration?

  • Maria says:

    Love your lighting idea with the big bathroom, I have a big one but I can’t reorganize it

  • Annie says:

    An even better kids bathroom would have a door off the hallway opening in between 2 separate medium sized vanities (each mounted against the wall of the hallway.) Facing the doorway as you look in would be 2 more doors, each facing one of the vanities. Door on right opens to a water closet. Door on left opens to a small tub or shower room. That way – one kid can be showering in privacy while the others use sinks. Or uses the water closet. Excellent use of space if you have 2-3 kids. No one ever has to wait for anything! And everyone has privacy for water closet or shower.

  • Rosemary says:

    Sorry, hate this concept, think it’s just bizarre. If you take a shower, now you have to clean both the shower AND tub…. NO, I’ll pass on this one.

    • Maria Killam says:

      As a fix in a renovation for a bathroom that is too big in the first place though? That is inspired. And it’s only my opinion. I agree with you, in a perfect world, the bathroom would be designed perfectly in the first place 🙂

  • Mid America Mom says:

    Late to comment sorry! Weird hobby but I have spent years looking at houseplans, visiting models, designing homes that I could see myself living in or just for fun (I wanted to be an architect when I was in middle school). We did have a new home but it was tract with some customizations which we did. Moving on… around 2008 I was part of the slow home project lead by a real estate and design firm (and yes architects are in the mix) in Calgary – yep Canada – called housebrand. We were advocating smart home design based on certain principles. It also included factors such as walkscore and being green. The site and facebook appears to still be there if you want to look It was alot of education, discussion, and they did a book called whats wrong with this house. I found it fun and yes I learned and applied some of it to remodeling two homes so far. As for this bath… wow looks 10*10 at least. I personally would have gone with a real wall.

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