When you have a small business: use Your Bathroom for More than Just, Well, Using the Bathroom

We all know that running a small business can be challenging for any number of reasons, but perhaps nothing about a small business feels smaller than the amount of space you have for storage.

You want your business to look settled, so you never want to look like you don’t have enough space. Supplies and inventory get squirreled away anywhere that’s out of sight, and sometimes that means storing some things in the bathroom. Of course, the problem is that your bathroom already has a function to serve, so how can you use that one small room to serve a dual purpose but while not having your water closet look like a storage closet?

Here are a few strategies to help you get started:

  • Shelves, shelves, and more shelves. Adding shelves seems like an obvious solution, but what might not be so obvious is where to put them. Commercial buildings often have higher ceilings than residences, so consider putting shelves in places that might normally be out of reach. You wouldn’t store anything in your home bathroom so high you need a ladder to get to it, but in your business, you may have supplies you buy in bulk or don’t need to access very often, so quick and easy access isn’t as important. If you find yourself putting items in the bathroom ‘temporarily’ that seem to stay there for months, do yourself a favor (and clear floor space) by investing in shelving.
  • Store supplies in the shower, and if there is no shower, pretend that there is. If your office bathroom has an unused shower, then that’s an obvious spot for storage that can be nicely hidden with a floor-length curtain. But if it doesn’t, a well-placed curtain can create the illusion that there is one while offering ample space for a shelving unit or even just a place to stack boxes.
  • Bathroom furniture. If your bathroom sink is just a pedestal type, you are probably giving up some valuable storage space. An inexpensive sink cabinet can provide plenty of concealed storage for small items and simultaneously help update the look and usefulness of the bathroom by providing more counter space. Alternatively, if you’re stuck with your bathroom faucet the way it is, you may be able to hang a small curtain skirt around the underside that will both hide the plumbing and give you just a little bit more space to store things.
  • Etageres or a medicine cabinet? Maybe not. Two fixtures you might normally expect to find in a bathroom, the etageres (the cabinet over the toilet) and the medicine cabinet aren’t necessarily a good fit for a bathroom in your business. The medicine cabinet doesn’t provide much useful storage and might actually be counter-productive if an employee decided to store something in there (medicine, etc.) you might not want customers to see or have access to. The etageres has more space for storage, but probably not enough to store more than just the supplies for the bathroom, and you want to be careful about not putting too much bathroom furniture in a small room. It’s all about creating a good balance.

Mistakes to avoid

While there are plenty of ways to create new storage in the bathroom, there are some important things to consider when deciding exactly what to store in there.

  • Don’t store merchandise in the bathroom. Even if you truly trust your customers (and employees for that matter), it’s a good idea to remove temptation. Any situation where someone is alone behind closed doors with the products you’re trying to sell is just too risky. Even storing the merchandise out of reach or inside of a locked cabinet is probably not a good idea.
  • Beware of humidity. This is a bigger concern if your bathroom has a working shower in it, but even with just a sink and a toilet, there is more than enough moisture in the room to potentially damage some of your supplies, such as opened packages of paper and even some electronics.
  • Mind the lights and the vents. Shelves and curtains can be invaluable in providing extra storage space, but it’s important to keep them from getting too close to your lighting fixtures, both for safety and in the interest of having a well-lit restroom. Shadows in a bathroom can make it look dirty, and that’s not the impression you want to leave your customers with. Also, you need to ensure that the exhaust vent has plenty of room to work and any air vents that feed into the room are unobstructed.
  • Remember that people close the door. This seems pretty obvious, but at home we often hang things on the back of doors or store things behind them because our guests generally don’t look there. Of course in a bathroom, the door will always close behind the customer and whatever you’ve got stashed back there will be the first thing they see.

Of course, every bathroom is going to be different and some will be more suited to these solutions than others, but by taking a good look at the space you have and considering some new strategies, you can usually find a happy balance between the function and utility of your restroom.

Jay Harris, a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago area, is a regular Home Depot blog contributor on bathroom projects. Jay’s interests range from providing vanity tips to writing on bathroom cabinets and faucets.