A cosy retreat, a clinical minimalist space, and an indoor garden. Never Too Small’s brilliant bathrooms have very different styles, but are all spaces that make clever use of the available footprint and, above all, feel special. We pay homage to the bathrooms that stand out, and the designers who have gone the extra mile in creating what can often be the most overlooked room in the residence.
Here, you do nothing.
The brilliant bathroom of Shacky is stripped to its most basic elements. A shower, a toilet, a sink, and the trees.
Architect Jan van Schaik designed Shacky to be towed and placed on remote properties. In this case, the location is the remote Victorian high country location. With a composting toilet, solar power for electricity, gas bottles for heating and wood for cooking, Shacky has been designed to be placed far away from anything that looks like a neighbour and that affords the inhabitants certain liberties that would raise eyebrows (and a few complaints) in most cities.
While undercover to protect from the sun, and the rain, Shacky’s bathroom is permanently open to the elements on one side. Shaving, showering (and everything in between) takes place gazing out at nature, with nature gazing right back.
There’s something inherently, and immediately relaxing about the idea of Shacky, it’s been deliberately designed for the resident to slow down, breathe and look. With no power points in the entire structure, the ask from Jan is that visitors embrace ‘jomo’, or the joy of missing out. You can’t charge your laptop, you can’t watch Netflix.
jomo, the joy of missing out
Currently, remote work has us more connected than ever. Shacky asks us to pause, confront the elements and let nature do its business.
Architect Brad Swartz completely demolished the interior of this 24sqm/258sqm apartment when creating this Never Too Small fan favourite.
Meaning ‘dolls house’ in Portugese, the name ‘Boneca’ couldn’t be any more apt, there are so many delightful features to slide, open and discover. A design that could only be achieved through a blank canvas and clarity of vision.
While the sliding panel that creates separate living and sleeping spaces is undoubtedly the ‘hero feature’, Boneca’s bathroom is less obvious, yet equally considered. A first-time visitor could be forgiven for believing the architect had omitted the bathroom entirely.
The large battened wooden sliding divider is so present, so encompassing an idea that the slim white flushly-set entrance to the bathroom is easily overlooked. That’s a deliberate move by the architect, but gently pushing the surface reveals a meticulously planned bathroom and walk-in robe.
A floor-to-ceiling mirror is immediately visible upon opening the door, creating the illusion of deeper, more spacious area. The wooden floor extends into the hidden hallway to the foot of the mirror, and concealed strip lighting plays off the timber to provide a luxurious ‘hotel-like’ ambience.
The ‘wet’ area of the bathroom is defined with floor-to-ceiling charcoal tiles, split with a single pane of glass to contain any splashes from enthusiastic bathers. In this bathroom, natural light is scarce, provided by a small window above the shower. The architect strategically uses large mirrors on opposing walls to extract every last photon from the available light sources.
The wardrobe could very easily have been a small cupboard or drawer tucked away somewhere in the apartment, yet Boneca very cleverly uses the corridor to the bathroom to create a walk-in robe.
It’s a considered touch that is unexpected, yet delightful. The resident can move from the shower to dressing in the WIR and then on to the living room or bedroom, a well-thought-through flow that adds a private, premium feel to the space.
Boneca is located in a 1960’s built high-density block of 40 apartments. Looks can be deceiving. From the outside, you just wouldn’t expect to find such a gem tucked away. Evolving these spaces to suit how we expect to live today is key to creating affordable, desirable income for inner-city residents.
Brad sums it up perfectly when he says ‘our cities have amazing old housing stock that has been solidly built and isn’t going anywhere, and repurposing this amazing stock to bring it up to the way we want to live our lives now is one of the most sustainable ways we can continue to grow our cities’.
Repurposing this amazing stock to bring it up to the way we want to live our lives now is one of the most sustainable ways we can continue to grow our citiesBrad Swartz
Images by Tom Ferguson
The foyer of Tara is largely unchanged, a glimpse back into a past where the entrance was a meeting place, and a statement of intent, reflecting more the design of central train stations of the time, than the ground floor of a high-density residential building.
That’s where the nostalgia ends, as there is very little left untouched in this Nicholas Gurney-designed studio. Nic’s design philosophy is to ‘make use of existing building stock so people continue to feel comfortable living in our cities’, to use the shell, but adapt it to complement modern expectations and living conditions.
One only needs to view the floor plan and then step inside Tara to understand why the bathroom is ‘brilliant’. There are no hidden features or cabinets tucked away. No bold statements of gold, brass or copper. Instead, it just feels bigger than its footprint should allow. Lighter than the windows and available sunlight should make it feel.
It’s a roomy, light filled bathroom that has no business being roomy or light filled.
Therein lies the brilliance in what Nicholas Gurney has pulled off. The basics have been executed with a clarity of how each small decision will impact the final product. The wizardry here is in the deliberate selection of tiles, exactly the same, covering every surface floor to ceiling to create “a unique geometric pattern” that makes the bathroom feel larger than it is.
The frosted door allows the living room to borrow light from the bathroom, and vice versa bounces in, around and off the white tiles creating a chain reaction of light and space.
At night, a concealed strip light above the shower provides a warm glow that is lifted by the bright tiles. The flatness, and uniformity of the tiles, the frosted glass and hidden light mean there are very few harsh shadows being cast.
Fewer shadows provide more of an ‘infinity’ feel to the bathroom. The light has more area and space to bounce off, the edges become diffused and the space grows accordingly.
Brilliance in design is so often about getting the fundamentals right. The vision required to make something with immovable boundaries feel and look so much larger is what small footprint design is all about.
Tara is a great example of the materials and elements doing the heavy lifting. That takes foresight, expertise and restraint by a designer.
Image 1 by Terence Chin
The one that started it all, Microluxe is still one of our favourite examples of bold interior design.
Steel, brick and stone are deliberately left exposed and treated as ‘precious items, preserved for their beauty and memory of the site’.
With the dark painted ceiling and walls, and the bare, raw materials poking through, visitors feel like they’re in a special, almost reverent space.
The feeling of being in a gallery is amplified by a raised marble plinth in the living room upon which sits a black bathtub presented like an ancient sacred artefact against the angled marble offset behind it.
The bathroom is not big enough to fit a bathtub. For most people, this reality would put the fanciful notion of having such a luxury in so small a space to bed, but the Englishman in architect Ben Edwards was unwilling to accept such a minor inconvenience. There are two approaches one can take when doing something so ambitious as dropping half the bathroom into the living room;
– find a way to hide it, expose it only when needed by tucking it under a table or hiding behind something much larger, or,
– own it.
Microlux absolutely owns it, turning the bathtub into a feature. A perfectly hung robe, tied around the waist, unashamedly announces that ‘yes, you saw right, this is a bathtub, and it’s here to be used’.
The museum-like elevation of the bathtub does not mean the rest of the bathroom is neglected, though. Thankfully, the toilet, bathroom sink and cabinetry are afforded the expected privacy, even if this privacy is yielded by a sliding gold mirrored door.
A cylindrical sink rises from the marble floor against the backdrop of square tiles, offset by industrial taps and piping that doubles as a towel warmer.
We admire the sheer audacity of the vision of Microluxe, and the expertise required to pull it off. We love how walls can’t get in the way of an Englishman and his bath and the splendour with which it’s presented.
Images by Fraser Marsden
Never Too Small’s Brilliant Bathroom Week starts with a look back all the way back to early 2019, our 17th episode where we profiled Nano Pad, designed by Eva Marie Prineas of Studio Prineas.
Designed as a retreat for her clients, with a secondary objective of being appealing and contained enough for short-term rental, what was a poorly planned inner-city apartment became a standout example of inner-city micro living.
While the footprint of the bathroom actually decreased in the redesign, you would never be able to tell. As all good bathrooms should, the designers have ensured that this one feels like a retreat, even going so far as to think about how the olfactory senses might experience the space.
This is executed with stunning timber floor, and ceiling battens providing a sauna-like look, feel and smell that puts residents and guests immediately at ease with a casual, cosy familiarity.
It takes considerable foresight to reduce the footprint of an area, yet still make it feel larger, lighter and more comfortable. Studio Prineas delivers a relaxing, light-filled retreat in this brilliant bathroom.
Images by Chris Warnes