Bathroom, lavatory, loo, toilet, powder room, cloakroom – whatever you call it, decorating the smallest room in the house is not exactly the most romantic of design projects. Unless you live in the SF decorator showcase that is, and can powder your nose in this delightful space:

(Photograph by Elizabeth Fall)

In our case, our downstairs bathroom is not only the smallest room in the house but probably also the smallest room in the world. It’s billed as a quarter bath, which means it has nothing but a toilet in it. There isn’t even room for a washbasin (before you exclaim in horror, we wash our hands in the kitchen sink). Just to get into it, close the door and sit down, you have to perform a complicated maneuver, which requires practice. To make matters worse, the ceilings are so high that the space seems even narrower – a bit like being in a large vertical coffin. And it has no heating so feels like a Victorian outhouse in the middle of a British winter.

So why bother decorating it at all, you ask? Well, remodeling the layout is not an option at the moment, so I decided to make the best of the situation. If we can’t have a spacious bathroom with wide washbasins, fluffy towels and glamorous mosaic flooring, then we can at least have a space that doesn’t look like it should have strips of newspaper instead of bath tissue. This is how it turned out.

I chose the Bindweed wallpaper from Ferm Living for the walls above the dado rail. The bold black and white design brightens the space immensely and the pattern even makes the room seem larger. My husband spent the best part of a day putting the paper up, only to run out half way through the last wall. It was two days before Christmas so we had some shipped overnight (thanks to the very helpful folks at Branch) and he finished up the job on Christmas Eve. Now that’s true love: spending the day before Christmas in a freezing 5′ x 3′ space, suspended over the toilet bowl, wrestling with soggy wallpaper.

The lower walls show traces of one day being tiled but have been covered in layers of paint in varying shades of avocado and magnolia, so we just painted them white. The light fitting (this one from Lamps Plus) seems a particularly perfect match – it echoes the shape of the flowers in the wallpaper and, when lit, gives off a lovely dappled light (making it tolerable to spend more than five seconds in there).

Finally, the mirror is from the West Elm sale. We joke that it suits the room perfectly because it is probably the smallest mirror in the world. The actual glass is just about big enough for powdering your nose (because your nose is all you can see). But I like it so it has stayed.

So that, in a nutshell, is how we converted our ‘loo’ into a space to be proud of (well, not ashamed of at least). Fortunately, 2010 will bring some more ambitious and exciting decorating projects, details of which I’ll share very shortly…