Finding Bathroom Storage For A Small Difficult Bathroom

Dear Laurel,

Would you consider a blog article on bathroom storage for the small bathroom – where there is not room for a beautiful antique armoire for storage – but simply – double gasp – over the toilet storage? Can that ever look elegant?

Thank you for considering,



bathroom storage - albeit tacky storage


You mean like this?


Granted, I’ve been in a lot of bathrooms where there’s been some variation of the over-the-toilet storage. And I also realize that some people have limited funds.

As many of you know, I love to do a little historical research to see if something inspiring transpires.

You may recall in our recent posts about enfilades that the numerous doors lead to the… uh.. the john.

Apparently, the loo, crapper– okay, fine. The “toilette” back in the 18th century was a place where the lady and gentleman of the house did their entertaining.


Marriage A La Mode – The Toilette – William Hogarth


They took their tea there too.

Crazy time!

I’m trying to wrap my mind around all of this. But I did find a most interesting, well-written expose about life in the 18th century that explains things better than I ever can. I think that you’ll enjoy it too. (it’s a pretty out-there website and sorry for all of the click-bait, but the article is interesting, I think.)


In the meantime, I’m not getting a lot of clues about bathroom storage here.



Young Woman At Her Toilette


And this one with a harp and her clothes strewn all over the place. Guess that she could use some bathroom storage.

People were very different back then. I mean, their habits. I think that in other ways no, but their habits were gross. Although maybe they would think that we are gross since we no longer actually talk face-to-face with each other.


Never mind the bathroom storage because when it came to hygiene, have to say that they were pretty revolting.


Boilly La Toilette intime ou la Rose effeuillée



Oh, look, there’s a shelf over the chamber pot.

Well… there it is…

I guess that little exercise didn’t produce anything inspiring in terms of bathroom storage.


However, I can commiserate with those of you who have super tiny bathrooms.


Remember my bathroom?

By the way, in case you are wondering what’s going on with that; a third of the ceiling is missing and the walls have been ravaged. Why? Well, about a month ago, instead of the usual trickle of water from above which has ruined my walls, there was a massive hemorrhage of water. What a mess! They will be coming to fix the walls/ceiling soon and hopefully, the leak will be no more!

And I do still very much, at the very least want a new vanity.


bathroom vanity - bathroom storage


By the way, this one from Ove Decor is one of my top posted pins on Pinterest.

But ever since I started talking about my bathroom, I have had an idea for storage that would be quite cool, I think.

My little room which can barely fit one person, let alone a crowd has one thing going for it.


And this one thing is the most obvious place to gain potentially a phenomenal amount of bathroom storage.


What is it ALREADY Laurel?


Oh, sorry. I guess it’s not that obvious.

Well, in my little bathroom I have over seven feet of uninterrupted wall.

Well, sorta.

There is a bump out which I’m not quite sure why it is there.

And then there’s the bloody hot water pipe that cooks the room in winter.


Yes, Laurel. A wall and there isn’t enough room to put anything on it and if you put shelves there, you would be hitting your head.


Yes, I know that. Will you please let me finish!? :]

The storage is IN the wall.

Remember when we talked about between the stud storage?

And we also touched on it in one of my favorite posts about brass in the new unbathroom.

But, it makes so much sense to have between the stud storage in bathrooms.

Look at medicine cabinets. If they are recessed, that is between the studs!


And we can take it a step further. What is behind the bathroom wall?


In my case it’s two closets. Two sucky closets.

But, what if we stole a few inches from the interior of those closets? Would hell freeze over? Would it spoil some vast eternal plan? Not in my case.

But it would make a big bloody mess. It’s really the type of project that would be best accomplished if no one was living here.


Above is the entrance to my bathroom. See where the door to the bathroom is? The open door. It could be attached to the other side and then swing out. That wall is longer than the other one. That way, the entire wall inside would be free.

Then, we could do some really cool built-in cabinets. The only issue would be the bloody pipe. Or I should say the SCALDING PIPE!

No wonder the woman in the painting is so down. That pipe is a real thorn in my paw. But for now, let’s pretend that it isn’t there.


The next images are some inspiration images I found to show what could be done if we consider moving into the wall itself and maybe stealing a few inches of space from behind it.

*Please note. We might not be able to do this on a wall that has water and waste pipes in it. Always seek out the advice of a professional before attempting to DIY. You’ve been warned.


Sharon Mimran


Photo: Brian Vanden Brink


John B Murray Architects

You can see more of this gorgeous bathroom by clicking on the link.




Talk of the House


This is a cute idea for a kids’ bathroom.



Liz Marie Blog

This cabinet isn’t recessed, but I love the antique glass doors and it’s a helluva lot classier than the melamine. No?

3 North

This one is technically in the hall. And that too, is an option.

I love the idea of having a little dressing area outside of the bathroom, as well.


Here are some more bathroom posts that you might enjoy reading.


Here’s How To Get The Cool High-End Bathroom for a lot less

A Disturbing Bathroom Renovation Trend To Avoid

Bathroom Art Ideas You’re Gonna Love

21 Interesting Bathroom ideas for bathroom people

Best No-Fail Gray Paint Colors For Bathrooms


Have any of you put in between the studs storage in an area that couldn’t fit a typical cabinet on the wall?

Please share with us your experience in the comments if you have.



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57 Responses

  1. OK, first, I LOVE your designs, and your comments are hilarious! Thank you for this blog!
    I have a situation that your readers might find interesting. My first floor bedroom is empty except for a desk. I want to turn it into a guest room/ office. This is my opportunity to start from scratch and I want it to be charming, welcoming and sleep 2. Maybe a daybed with a trundle? There is also an ensuite bathroom with it. Also, I should mention that I would love to live n a slightly less formal version of Downton Abbey!

    Admiringly yours,

  2. Hi Laurel,
    Loved the post about small bathroom storage. My father actually built shelves in between studs in our bathroom and bedrooms in my childhood home. They were 7 inches deep, so extended into the room a little bit. You couldn’t put towels on them, but books and all kinds of bathroom stuff fit just fine.

    Another reader mentioned a book about the history of homes, etc. but wasn’t sure of the name. I think she may be talking about “At Home” by Bill Bryson. It is a very enjoyable read about journeying through a house from room to room and writing a history about how everything that we see today in our own homes began. It’s funny, historical and filled with all kinds of trivia. I’m sure your local library could get it for you.
    I found it fascinating.

  3. My friend did this to a pantry. The pantry had shelving along one wall and across the back but the other side had no room for anything, not even enough room to hang any kind of small shelf.

    They went in between the wall studs and got enough room for shelving that now holds canned goods and spices. Genius!

    Also you can get a little more room if you turn the studs sideways. We bought a refrigerator that was a little deeper than the space we had. My husband went into the wall behind the refrigerator and turned the studs sideways. They are usually 2×4, turned sideways you can get an extra 2 inches. It worked for our issue and if you needed more than 4 inches depth for a shelf this would give you about 6.

  4. Dear Laurel,
    Once again, a charming and useful article. Just one detail, however. In the historical pictures above, ‘toilette’ does not mean ‘bathroom’ or loo/toilet, it means getting dressed. The rooms shown are not bathrooms or lavatories. The Boilly painting is not showing a lady using a chamber pot, but a bidet.
    While I much prefer today’s bathrooms, things weren’t as bad in the 18th century as you might think from the pics above : ) !

    1. Hi Marie-Helene,

      Interesting about the word Toilette.

      I guess that they didn’t have a separate room to call a “toilette.”

      The bidet was pointed out to me already. Not that I expect everyone to read all of the comments, but thanks for cluing me in!

  5. Most of these pictures seem to be deeper than stud depth. If there is no space to steal in the back to make the cabinet deeper, then the stud depth is only 3 to 4 inches isn’t it? This wouldn’t be deep enough for towels or am i missing something? I love the look and do need some storage in my small baths. Thanks for the ideas.

    1. Hi P,

      Yes, you are right, unless the towel is not super-big and it’s rolled up. But one thing I forgot to say is that sometimes a few inches can be had from room itself. While, there might not be 12″ of space, even 2 or 3 inches might be all that’s needed.

  6. Laurel,

    Always love your posts. As an art history major and “wannabe” designer, I wanted to suggest a possible “read” for you in between posting. Cannot remember the author but the information gathered is worth it ! Titled “If These Walls Could Talk”……you will find out about the origins of the bathroom, living room , bedroom, etc. and how these rooms and others have changed through the centuries. There are other topics covered that cover lifestyle issues…..a great social history book that is a fun read.

    Take care…keep the posts coming and inspiring us all….

  7. I suppose you can’t say much for the hygiene habits of people living in the 18th century. They didn’t have indoor plumbing after all. However, the paintings are beautiful. These are all very attractive bathrooms and the storage is very well thought out. Can you please tell me Laurel, why, as of late, I see so many bathrooms with the tub right in front of a window, which offers no privacy whatsoever? Some of them have window coverings, but many do not. Am I missing something here?

    1. Hi Lisa,

      That’s a good question about the windows in front of a window. I suppose if the bathroom is on the second floor and there’s no way that anyone can see in because the property is so vast, then one could forego the window treatment. Most of my clients wanted one. Usually we did a Roman shade which I had made extra long and then they could pull it up a few inches to show a little glass, but there would be at least two pleats at the bottom so it wasn’t just a piece of fabric hanging.

  8. Hi Laurel Yes, Yes…it’s funny as I started reading this, I kept saying to myself between the studs, between the’s perfect. My sister did it in her small bathroom; it was amazing how much she could store in there. Thanks. you’re the best!!

  9. Very informative post Laurel! When upgrading my four bathrooms I added between the studs storage and wish to share if told you cannot do it on an outside wall due to insulation batting required; opt for Thermal Foam Board (EPS) instead of the common fiberglass type and no depth of the shelving will be lost. Also re your hot water pipe; would it be possible to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse by wrapping it in some type of mesh (similar to that used in radiator covers) and convert it into a vertical towel bar of sorts? Of course, this is just a thought … ☺.
    Wishing you a beautiful day. -Brenda-

    1. Hi Brenda,

      Thanks for the info about the thermal foam board. As for the pipe, I think it’s best to make it disappear as much as possible. I wish that they had put it by the window. And of course, that one can’t be moved because of the stacking sitch. Oh well… Thanks for trying!

  10. Great post with beautiful, inspiring photos to match! Perhaps you can wrap that vey hot pipe with insulation? I believe there is some specifically made for pipes. Good luck!

    1. Hi Allyson,

      The problem is that it’s supposed to be hot, not insulated. And besides, I’m not fond of the way it looks. The thing is to be careful when it’s on. But no way would anyone build anything like that now. The best thing is to accept that butt burns are part of the apartment’s charm. LOL

  11. Well, I didn’t DO this, but the builder of this house evidently did. One of the bedrooms upstairs has a closet with a weird offset inside it. Half of the Jack n Jill bath up there is on the other side of the wall, and apparently that was the only place to tuck in a linen closet since I don’t have one downstairs. So the offset is actually that linen closet which is accessed through other side of the wall in the JnJ. In the BR closet, that little nook provides a place where I store fabrics on the bolt (I use the little bedroom for a sewing room). So — borrowing space from one of your closets seems like a grand idea to me. Maybe you could even eliminate that particular door into your hall? I have had some doors turned around in the past, particularly when they open up onto a area where you really need to put something else. I find it to be a great solution. They actually remove the entire door frame, so there is usually some patching up necessary in the drywall or plaster.

    1. Hi Ellen,

      Since the flood, I can’t even close the freakin’ door. The doorway is where the water came pouring forth. so the entire frame is severely warped. AAMOF. I’d love to have them move the door anyway, since they will have to replace the moulding. It’s a really good lesson. Just because something was done a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s right and needs to stay that way!

  12. I died laughing at “Although maybe they would think that we are gross since we no longer actually talk face-to-face with each other” and plain died reading about 18th century habits.

    On the immediate topic, I’ve been noodling storage in my tiny 5×7 FULL bath and amazingly I thought of between the stud storage just last night, googled a bunch, and thought I was all set. Wall 1: door, light switch (probably has electrical above it so nothing can go there). Wall 2: wet wall w/ sink, toilet, and bathtub plumbing. Wall 3: tub runs entire width. Wall 4: blank!! <– was all set to build a stud cabinet there and was crushed to realize the other side of the wall has FIVE electrical and internet outlets as it was the former owner's office nook. Literally one per stud space. Womp womp.

    So I'm still stuck. Oh well! Still a great solution most of the time.

    1. Hi Julie,

      The only thing I’m thinking is if funds permit to consult with an electrician. Wires and switches, etc more often than not can be moved. Maybe you’ll get lucky?

  13. You must read my mind! Thank you for the great ideas for ways to add storage to tiny baths. We have a pipe just like yours but inside the linen closet. Perhaps you can do that, too, with one of these great cabinets.

    1. Hi Patti,

      If only my bathroom were six inches wider, but as it is, it’s really tight in the bathroom. And the pipe is to heat the room. Although, most of the time, even when super cold, I’ve had the window open! It gets super hot in this place ever since they switched to natural gas two years ago. Otherwise, the pipe in a cabinet would be a great idea.

  14. Great post Laurel. A between-the-studs idea that I’ve seen quite a bit and recently used in my own renovation of our small master bathroom is to put an upper cabinet right on the counter, in between the 2 sinks. We don’t have a tub in our tiny bathroom, but we do have 2 sinks. We sunk that 12″ deep cabinet into the wall by 3 inches so it only takes up 9″ on the counter. This has become our long wished for linen closet for towel storage!

    1. Hi Anne,

      Yes, I’ve seen that variation a lot too, but since it still protrudes a lot, I didn’t include it and also, the topic is a very small bathroom which would not have two sinks. But it is a great idea.

      One thing I should have said in the post is that it is sometimes okay for the recessed cabinet to also protrude a little. Just depends on how tight things are.

  15. Laurel,what a sense of humor you have, always a joy to catch your little comments as you write your post. I was lucky enough to have my husband build a two shelf insert between the studs in our master bathroom. Made such a difference for me, I place my everyday well used items on those shelves and they are in easy reach. ( Things that would add clutter on the sink counter top.) One of my best suggestions to be incorporated into our home. Make space where you can!

  16. In a previous house we had a super tiny narrow bathroom. I replaced the dinky little vanity (that got hit by the door – changed the door to swing out as well) with an elegant pedestal. There was a nice window over the toilet. I had the contractor put in recessed shelves on either side of the sink. I had plans to put nice millwork doors on them but in the end I just put greenish glass shelves inside and they looked lovely, even with spare TP on the lower ones. I wish I had photos but we sold the house 10 years ago.

  17. Brilliant! You made me run to check out the wall above the toilet in my tiny bathroom, which backs up to a closet. I might be able to do stud storage. Fingers crossed.

    I love your dream vanity but I only have space for a 30 inch vanity, which adds to the challenge and fun. 😉

    Thanks for the clever solution and inspiring pictures!


  18. Fantastic post, Laurel! Thanks for sharing these inspiring photos! While many of these storage spaces hold beautifully edited stacks of white towels and attractive accessories that hold useful things for the bathroom, my favourites are those with covered storage where you can cram in your hodgepodge of grooming tools and supplies. I love the idea of storage between the studs, and am planning a panelled wall look where some panels are doors covering the shelves between our studs, and the door handles are towel bars. When I see beautiful photos of designer bathrooms, I always wonder where they hang the bath towels to dry. Towels for a family of four take up a lot of real estate!

    1. Hi Sandy,

      haha on the absence of wet, hanging towels for a family of four– or more! Of course, in England, all of the hotels had towel warmers. Such a great idea. Helps dry them towels too!

      We really need the English to invade us again and this time bring their kitchens and bathrooms!!! haha

      1. I have rows of HOOKS in my bathrooms instead of towel racks…they take up so much less room and allow the towels to dry. I use bath sheets from IKEA which already have loops sewn in, or I sew them in myself. ..I often wonder why hotels don’t have more hooks…I have hooks on the backs of all closet doors, too!

  19. I had a new home built a few years ago, and was working with the builder’s floor plan, which had a small guest bath with tub. It came with a pedestal sink as standard, but I wanted someplace to store an extra roll of TP and tissues. I opted to change the sink to a console vanity, which was installed “free standing”, since I wanted my cabinets to look more like furniture that bathroom vanities. Due to the size of the bathroom, I was limited to a 24″ vanity. The console vanity has a cabinet under the sink, and an open shelf under the cabinet, where I can put a basket with guest towels. It’s about as small as you can go with vanities, but it’s just enough.

    In my master, I wanted to have medicine cabinets, but I didn’t want the usual mirrored ones that are used. I went with these from, which can fit between studs and you can put whatever art you want in them. People have no idea the pictures on the wall are really medicine cabinets!

    I love the idea of storage between the wall studs!


  20. Oh Laurel,

    That is not a chamber pot in the picture you showed us!
    It is a bidet and it is used to wash your private parts.
    In the old days women gave it the nickname ‘my little horse’.
    You can still find bidets in France and in Spain.
    Almost every bathroom in Spain, be it in private houses or in hotels is equipped with a bidet. Mostly standing next to the toilet and about the same size. Nowadays it has of course warm and cold streaming water and it is not ‘revolting’, on the contrary, it is a highly hygenic method to wash yourself, f.i. after using the toilet. But it is pretty unknown outside these European countries.

    I do remember that I had one in my bathroom in Holland and one day my G.P. went in there to wash his hands after examination. “Oh, how woonderful”, he exclaimed, “you also have a special basin to wash your feet”. It was very amusing, for apparently he had never travelled outside his own country.
    Hope you liked this information.

    Kind regards,
    Cornelie de Klerk

    1. Hi Cornelie,

      You know… I was staring at that thing for quite some time trying to figure it out and now, it makes sense. Thank you so much for educating me and hopefully others.

      Of course, I do know of the modern-day bidet. They are fairly rare here, but not unheard of.

      When I was in Cairo. Yes, I lived in Cairo, Egypt for six months working in a hotel by the pyramids as a professional dancer, (1980) we had a bidet in our bathroom.

      My roommate and I used to wash our lingerie and tights in it! haha!

      1. I had a bidet in my last house, (and I do miss it on occasion) and people are still putting them in the larger homes if space allows. I just did a beautiful high end bathroom with a DXV matching set. The client loves it… but I do have to admit it’s also great for soaking your feet and washing your intimates lol.

  21. Further proof that you are a living genius….. love love love …. have I said it enough the inter stud beautiful joinery cabinets.

    My huge question is why do we store stuff in bathrooms anyway? apart from a spare loo roll, absolute essential cleaning routine items, toothbrush and toothpaste . I eliminated everything three months ago for staging to sell purposes and miss none of it. Might have helped that I also disposed of my dearly beloved husband to another city.

    My bedside table is now a dainty 16 cm french country solid silver case holding my pens, pins, tweezers, hair thingies etc.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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