By a Pragmatic Interior Designer, aesthetically travelling.
A Guide to Designing a perfectly balanced bathroom within your tiny home on wheels.
Disclosure: Everything shared in this blog is just my opinion, I can't guarantee the same solutions will work out for you! But I can guarantee that I will only ever link or recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are exclusively my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I might be lucky and earn a small commission from.”
You may be thinking, hmm I wasn’t even going to install a bathroom in my campervan…. some people don’t, and that’s fine, there are many ways to live in a van without a bathroom, but for us, we prioritised accommodating this on-board opulence.
We wanted to ensure our full-time on the road home could be self-sufficient in all seasons when travelling, and ensure we never have to factor in locating services or staying on campsites during our travels, allowing us to remain off-grid. Having a separate internal bathroom grants us these freedoms. So, if you like the sound of this little on-board luxury, keep reading to find out how make a bathroom work within your camper layout, and most importantly, make the most of it.
Function is Queen
It’s always about function. You are sacrificing precious living space by accommodating a separate bathroom, so make it count by ensuring it's functional and uncomplicated to use. If your bathroom becomes a burden to shower in, you will avoid using it and therefore, would have sacrificed valuable footprint in your tiny home for a bathroom you don't want to use. Function. Is. Queen.
Aim to build your bathroom roomy enough to be able to shower without any modifications needed (removing the toilet etc). We have met other full-time van-dwellers on our travels who have a bathroom that requires the toilet being removed prior to showering, and they always envy our full size set up! It will of course be a toss up of living priorities that will determine if you have room for this, but if having a well functioning bathroom is near the top of your list, you wont regret going bigger.
Diving into the Detail.
Installing a solid door to your bathroom as opposed to a screen or a curtain will create a completely segregated space. It will also be more aesthetically pleasing and you can use the door for things like a full-length mirror (absolute van life luxe) and hooks for storage etc. It is the heavier option, so this will need some consideration, but overall we are super happy that we opted to install a solid door and sacrificed the weight. We love that when the door is shut, the bathroom does not impose on the kitchen space and fuses into the rest of the interior.
TIP: If you do opt to install a solid door, consider installing a small extractor fan in the bathroom.
Wet Room vs Pre formed
We installed our bathroom as a wet room, and I would advise that this is the best way to go. It means the space doesn't feel segregated and you avoid losing floor space to a bulky shower tray. Pre-formed shower trays are also prone to cracking, so having a toilet sitting on top of a shower tray is not the best solution IMO. In terms of aesthetics, this is also the sleek better looking option. If you want more detail on how to create your own wet room, The Whole World or Nothing have a great blog detailing how to build your own wet room, we followed their guide when installing ours.
Protection & Personality
Waterproofing your bathroom is essential, damp is a swear word in within camper culture! But waterproofing doesn't need to be ugly, this is where you have the opportunity to bring your style and design preferences into your bathroom.
We covered all four walls (and the internal side of the door) with a tile panelling from Reco Surfaces. Their panels come in a huge variety of patterns and colours, and are so easy to install, perfect to work with when you are contending with curved walls! This product also requires ZERO tanking and can be applied straight to your wall substrate, this saves space within your footprint in terms of wall depths.
If you are like me and just want 150x150 white tile & grey grout panels, don't be fooled and think these will be easy to find. Reco Surfaces were the ONLY supplier I could find that sold this product.
We also installed a hardwearing anti-slip vinyl to the wet room floor in a pale grey which is waterproof also, and allowed us to form a fall to our wet room floor and still install the flooring in one piece of vinyl.
TIP: Keep your colours and patterns subtle and simple on the walls, you still want it to feel like a relaxing bathroom. Bold patterns and colours can overwhelm a small space like this.
The Bare Essentials
Spoiler Alert: When you live in a van, you wont be showering everyday, so say goodbye to those luxury bathing products. Storage can be kept to a minimum within the bathroom, you will only need to find storage for your cleansing essentials. Some open metal storage and hooks for towels etc should be enough. Oh and somewhere to put your loo roll when you shower, you don't want to end up with soggy paper!
TIP: Consider using a wall mounted bottle holder for your shower gel, shampoo etc. This means you won’t have to worry about them falling over when you drive off as its fixed to the wall. You can also make cute labels for them.
Soils and Spoils
At this point, there is absolutely no debate on toilet solutions, composting is 100% the way to go. It's far more practical as you can dispose of the waste in normal bins, eliminating entirely the need to factor in toilet emptying locations into your travels. Composting is also far more environmentally friendly and is, well just an all round great choice (It is Tay's fave item in the van).
In terms of design, aesthetically, there isn't much to shout about when it comes to composting toilets, they are what they are! We went with the Natures Head composting toilet, which is a great product and non-offensive in the looks department. It's a costly item, but worth it so if you can afford it, splash out on this.
TIP: Ensure your bathroom door opening is wide enough to take the toilet out, its much easier to empty the toilet by taking the whole unit outside.
The Water Works
When picking your shower, practicality should be your priority. It's tempting to go for integrated fittings, I would have loved to, but its just not practical and means you will have to build your walls wider, sacrificing floor space. Go for a slim, wall mounted rail kit shower with a bracket to mount the shower head. You will want some flexibility when showering in a small space so the removable head comes in handy.
TIP: Check if the shower specification is water saving when picking your shower set up.
The Pretty Bit.
Now we have covered function and practicality, you can start building your mood board and ogling all those beautiful designs on Pinterest to start inspiring your own bathroom ambience. Whilst working on conjuring up your vision there are a few more things I would keep in mind;
Keep it simple. Your bathroom is a small space, so try to keep the design streamlined and sleek, with a narrow colour palette.
Stay in Sync. Although it is a separate space, you will still want it to exist in harmony with the rest of your camper interior.
Accentuate if you will. The bathroom can be the ideal space to incorporate subtle design elements within your overall camper aesthetic. Think about a tile pattern you can extend into the kitchen area, or a colour that you bring through onto the walls in the rest of your space.
Be Bright. Consider how much lighting you will need in the bathroom, I would suggest no more than 2 spot lights. Make sure they are IP rated for bathroom use!
Switch it up. Think about where your switch will go for your bathroom lighting, as you wont be able to install it within the bathroom. I would also put your bathroom lighting on a different circuit to you main spotlights so in the night, you can just turn on your bathroom lights.
Consistency is key. Ensure your fittings are all the same finish. We went for matt-black fittings. There is a myth they are hard to keep clean - they aren't and they look beaut, I promise.
Did you enjoy this read? Why don't you take a look at our blog on Camper Kitchen Design, a Guide to designing the perfect Kitchen for your Home on Wheels.
Do you really love our van and want to build something similar? You can now buy our entire set of digital, downloadable van design plans, including technical drawings, visual sketches and design boards, click here to take a look.