How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Bigger

light and airy small bathroom

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Everyone, it seems, would like to have a larger bathroom. But that's often not possible without making major alterations to the home.

Even if your home's bathroom is small, it doesn't have to look small. With a few changes or remodels, you can create the illusion of a larger bathroom, all without moving a single wall or adding onto the home.

Install a Larger Mirror

Mirrors not only add to the illusion of increased bathroom space but they also reflect more light back into the room. Since your bathroom already has a mirror, consider dialing up the size.

Super-sized mirrors up to 5 feet long and 3 feet high can easily be installed with just a cordless drill, drill bits, and a few screws. Do-it-yourself installation costs for this type of mirror are well below $100.

Or you can add two mirrors where two walls meet. This L-shaped configuration bounces back even more light into the room and increases the feeling of more space.

Frameless mirrors add a feeling of more space than framed mirrors. Screw into studs in order to support heavier mirrors. Look for a tarnish-resistant coating to protect against high-moisture conditions.

Increase Natural Light

If more light is better in a small bathroom, then natural light is always the best. Windows and skylights that potentially can provide light may be painted over, dirty, or covered with curtains. Cleaning windows is easy and inexpensive.

Skylights that are covered in moss or dirt can be cleaned roof-side with a scrub brush, warm water, and a mild detergent.

Tips

  • Repair broken blinds and curtains so that they open and close, as needed.
  • For a permanent solution, replace clear glass windows with frosted privacy glass.
  • Clean window screens with water and a soft brush, as cobwebs and dirt can impede natural light.

Replace the Bathroom Vanity Cabinet

Bathroom vanity cabinets offer many advantages, with one of the greatest advantages being the opportunity to store items below the sink and behind closed doors. But vanity cabinets, too, are space-wasters in small bathrooms.

For maximum room, replace your vanity cabinet with a cantilevered countertop or with a pedestal sink. Pedestal sinks can be self-installed and cost between $150 and $400. While pedestal sinks give you more floor space, keep in mind that your countertop space will shrink.

You can recover some of that lost storage space by installing a medicine cabinet. Medicine cabinets install flush with the wall and practically disappear.

Tips

  • The flooring under the vanity cabinet may need to be filled in. It's usually best to refloor the entire bathroom.
  • Use a pry bar to gently pull the cabinet away from the wall.
  • Remember to turn off the water supply before removing the sink.
pedestal sink in a bathroom
The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Thin Out the Decorations

Decorative accessories like artwork and small rugs are fun to add and make a small bathroom feel warm and inviting. But they can also lead to serious clutter if left untamed. If you are a collector, consider thinning out extraneous items from the bathroom.

Removing clutter is completely free and its effect will be felt immediately. Remember, it doesn't have to be permanent, either. You can always archive favored items and then cycle them back into the bathroom when you wish.

Tips

  • Instead of multiple items, limit yourself to one of each item.
  • Ask yourself if the item has any functional value. If not, does it make you happy? If neither, discard it or move it to another part of the house.
toning down decor in your bathroom
The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Decrease Color Contrasts and Dividing Lines

Dividing lines and sharp contrasts between colors serve only to make the bathroom feel smaller. Wherever possible, erase or blur lines between items.

For example, a wainscot that is painted a different color from the wall should instead match the wall color.

Crown molding is a visual stop. When your eye travels upward, crown molding painted a different color from the walls or ceiling makes the room look smaller. So, consider painting crown molding the same color as the ceiling or the walls.

Wall tiling that ends halfway up the wall can be extended to the ceiling—or removed entirely. Paint and tools for this type of simple painting project will range from $50 to $150.

Tips

  • If the choice is between a light or a dark color in the bathroom, go with the light color.
  • Tall baseboards can be replaced with shorter baseboards for less of an imposing feel. Most small bathrooms cannot visually support tall baseboards.
  • Removing crown moldings altogether will provide an even greater sense of openness. Crown molding is more appropriate in larger spaces, such as dining rooms, living rooms, and hallways.

Add a Clear Glass Frameless Shower Enclosure

The largest item in a full bathroom is the shower or the bathtub/shower combination. Adding to that sense of size is the enclosure. While removing the enclosure is out of the question, you can take the next best step and make that enclosure transparent. A transparent shower enclosure looks and feels less bulky than a framed enclosure.

Frameless shower and tub enclosures are made of thick tempered glass held together at the corners. With no frames on the glass, the enclosure is as invisible as it will ever be. A 32-inch frameless glass door alone begins at the very low end, around $600, and ranges up to $1,000. Two- and three-sided enclosures begin at around $750, on up to $3,000 to $5,000.

Tips

  • Check the specifications since shower doors are either left- or right-opening.
  • Bypass doors slide; pivot doors open like a door since they are hinged.
  • Consult with a contractor or bath design professional since do-it-yourself installation can be difficult.

Use Similar Materials Throughout the Bathroom

Having a wide variety of dissimilar materials in the bathroom can be chaotic, leading to a feeling that the bathroom is cramped and busy. If your small bathroom has, for example, striated marble tile on the floor, glass mosaic on the wainscot, painted drywall above the wainscot, ceramic tile in the shower, and even more, you have an overload of dissimilar materials.

Consider toning down the visual noise by switching out some of the materials for similar materials. Tile wainscot in the bathroom (not in the shower or tub) can usually be removed in favor of a wall system of drywall and baseboards. A ceramic tile countertop can be removed and replaced with a quartz countertop that closely matches the look of the shower/tub surround.

Costs for this type of improvement can be expensive, ranging from $200 to $400 for removing wall tile, on up to $1,000 to $5,000 to replace a floor, shower, and or countertop. But these are major remodels that result in a wholly new bathroom and can lead to higher resale value for your home.

Tips

  • If the tile cannot be removed, consider painting over the tile.
  • When looking at colors, choose lighter colors for a more airy feeling.
  • If replacing floor tile, use a larger format tile.