25 Small Bathroom Design Tips

Wide angle view of a very small bathroom
Robert George Young / Getty Images

Small bathrooms can be tough to design. On the one hand, because they are compact, you save money on materials because you are using fewer materials. On the other hand, small bathrooms are small, and no one likes being cramped. That's why it helps to have professional advice. Twelve home decorators, designers, architects, and remodel professionals convene to give you their best advice on how best to remodel a small bathroom.

  • 01 of 25

    Remove Items That Jut Out

    Protruding items in any room create or add to a feeling of heaviness or visual complexity, which is not desirable in a small space. "Avoid having anything that sticks out from the walls especially in very narrow bathrooms," advises Dawn Falcone of Dawn Falcone Lifestyles in New York.

    "Forgo a towel bar and mount one on the back of the door," she suggests. "Go with built-in toilet paper holders and magazine racks. Try to avoid decorative shelves. All of this takes away precious square footage."

  • 02 of 25

    Create Openness With a Sky Mural

    What can create a more infinite visual than that of the sky? There's a way to include a piece of the sky on your bathroom ceiling without having to go through the hassle of installing a skylight.

    Designer Emma Levine advises: "If you have a small space with a tall ceiling, play that up by painting the ceiling a light blue with some small clouds to draw attention up."

  • 03 of 25

    Extend Eyeline With Clear Shower Enclosures

    "To give the illusion of more space eliminate as much visual clutter as possible when selecting fixtures and materials," advises the designers from Virginia-based Faulkner House Interior Redesign, LLC. "Install clear shower enclosures with minimal hardware and swinging doors rather than bypass if possible."

    Bypass doors, which slide open and closed, often includes a distracting track and frames. Frameless sliders offer a cleaner look, but still requires a track. A swinging, or pivoting, shower door is often frameless or semi-frameless with discreet hinges.

  • 04 of 25

    Get Creative With Storage Ideas

    Every bath has items that require storage, such as towels, toilet paper, and daily grooming and makeup supplies. teeth supplies, says storage and organizing expert Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO. She says that there's plenty of wasted space that don't offer much storage, which is detrimental in a small bathroom.

    "Wasted space, such as pedestal sinks, are beautiful, but not functional if you have limited space," she says. "Consider behind-the- door hooks for towels and robes or over-the-door pouches for holding small hair and makeup supplies. Set medicine cabinets and shelving inside the walls, in between the studs, for storage."

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  • 05 of 25

    Get a Mini Bathroom Vanity

    Older style bathroom vanities are simply oversized boxes meant to hide pipes and come with very little efficient under-sink storage. "Choose smaller bathroom vanities. Many companies now make apartment-size vanities (less than 24-inches wide). Or go with a simple pedestal sink or wall-mounted sink," suggests Dawn Falcone. She points out that these smaller vanities and sinks streamline the space in a small bathroom, as long as you don't clutter the surrounding areas.

  • 06 of 25

    Give the Illusion of High Ceilings With the Right Lighting

    Lighting can create the illusion of a larger bathroom. You can use design tricks through lighting to visually enhance the space in a small bathroom. To make the room appear larger, try up-lighting the ceiling with wall sconces or cove lighting. It will create the impression of higher ceilings and more expansive space. For a narrow room, illuminating one wall with light will give the illusion of a more open area.

  • 07 of 25

    Install Floor Tile on a Diagonal

    A floor with a regimented, grid-like tile design makes a small bathroom feel even smaller. "Place floor tiles on a diagonal to give the illusion of being in a larger space," says Dawn Falcone. Diagonal tiles tend to create the illusion that a narrow space is wider than it really is.

    "Larger tiles with thin grout lines will also give the appearance of more square footage," she adds. The larger tiles and thin grout lines trick the eye into seeing a less "busy" floor. A floor with smaller tiles and more grout lines may make you feel as though the space is cluttered with too many intersecting lines.

  • 08 of 25

    Hang the Toilet From the Wall

    Conventional floor-mounted toilets take up precious space in a small bathroom. "A great way to maximize a small bath's space is the use of wall hung cabinetry and toilets with oversized floor tile," say the experts at Banner Plumbing Supplies. "The wall hung toilet and cabinetry show more of the floor and give the illusion that the room is larger than it appears."

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  • 09 of 25

    Install a Mirrored, Recessed Medicine Cabinet

    You can either surface mount or recess a medicine cabinet. Surface mounting the cabinet leaves it jutting out a few inches from the wall. A recessed cabinet will streamline the look of a tight bathroom space because it sits semi-flush with the wall. Choose a fully-mirrored cabinet rather than a framed model to further reduce the visual clutter of lines. A flat or beveled mirrored door will open to full storage which is the 4-inch depth of the wall.

  • 10 of 25

    Use Hooks Instead of Towel Racks

    Instead of towel racks, integrate hooks into a custom mural for your bathroom.

  • 11 of 25

    Big Tiles Look Best in Small Bathrooms

    It may sound counterintuitive, but large tiles help make a small bathroom feel larger. Larger floor tile opens up the space. Lesser grout lines give the illusion of a bigger space.

  • 12 of 25

    Replace Shower Curtain With Glass Door

    "Open up the room with glass," suggests Dawn Falcone. "If your bathroom only has a shower stall, consider replacing existing older doors with a newer clear glass door." She also advises homeowners to eliminate a partial wall in the bathroom that may be separating the shower and the tub and replace it with glass. If adding a glass enclosure is not an option use clear shower curtains to let light filter through the space.

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  • 13 of 25

    Limit Yourself to Two Paint Colors

    "Keep it simple," continues Dawn Falcone. "Busy wallpaper, too many paint colors, patterned fabrics, and numerous accessories will make the room feel cluttered and smaller. Two colors will work great in a small bath. One for wall color and another for accessories."

  • 14 of 25

    Use Vertical Space Behind the Door

    Instantly double your storage space in a small bathroom with a behind-the-door trick. "Longer medicine cabinets are available to take advantage of vertical space behind bathroom doors," recommends Faulkner House Interior Redesign, LLC.

    Some medicine cabinets attach to the door with a durable over-the-door hook and others need to be screwed on. Door models are typically longer than wall-mounts or recessed versions. To make the most of this idea, look for a 12-inch wide by 36-inch long model with a 2-inch to 3-inch depth.

  • 15 of 25

    Avoid Busy Patterns and Choose Simple Hardware

    Faulkner House advises against crowding your bathroom with too many details. "When selecting materials, be aware of the cumulative effect of patterns. Veining and designs in tiles and flooring plus decorative details on hardware and cabinetry can crowd a room."

    Experts at Faulkner House add that too many small-scale patterns can also emphasize that the room is tiny. "Incorporating a wide molding or a bold architectural feature sparingly can give the room more importance."

  • 16 of 25

    Add Dimension With Art and Lighting

    "Adding art to the walls can also increase the sense of space," recommends Faulkner House. "Landscapes often can give walls dimension." Landscapes are effective for small spaces because the eye thinks it's looking out into a vista.

    Use lighting effects to highlight architectural features and illuminate dark, dead corners. Better lighting, in addition to artwork, makes the bathroom feel more comfortable and functional.

    it isn't valuable since water and humidity can damage art."

    Warning

    Never hang valuable art in a bathroom. The water and humidity will damage the piece.

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  • 17 of 25

    Carve Out Storage Niches in Interior Walls

    Take advantage any time you have the opportunity to build storage into a bathroom wall between the studs. "Incorporate cabinets and niches into wall cavities to create extra storage. The space will feel larger if you can carve into the walls as opposed to having shelves and cabinets project out of them," says Workshop/APD.

  • 18 of 25

    Emphasize Texture Over Color

    "Bring in texture, not color," suggest the designers at Workshopapd, "Doing this adds visual interest without making the space too busy."

    For example, add a unique element, such as a dramatic and sculptural wall mirror or a textured glass vessel sink. "One carefully chosen piece can transform a tiny bathroom from small and boring to cute and chic."

  • 19 of 25

    Bright Light Can Make a Room Feel Bigger

    Pay attention to the lighting in a small bathroom. A well-lit space always looks larger. Eliminate pendants that dangle at the eye level because they typically trick the eye into thinking the ceiling has dropped which makes the room appear smaller. Wall mounted fixtures are usually the best decorative application for a small bathroom. Just make sure no one will bump into them.

  • 20 of 25

    Extend Wall Tiles to the Ceiling

    A common way to make small bathrooms appear larger is to make the ceiling look taller, says designer Dawn Falcone. "Tiling the walls all the way up to the ceiling will make the ceilings appear higher," she says. "Place a colored or decorative tile near the upper wall and ceiling line to draw your eye up."

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  • 21 of 25

    Select Room Elements in Proportion to the Space

    Wildly mismatched scale can look garish and even a bit surreal. From Idée Chic Designs: "The scale of other elements; depending on the precise size of the room installing too large or too small tile all over will look out of proportion to the room's parameters and thus accentuate its small size. Accent small tiles work well, just make sure you pay attention to the main floor or wall tile size that is installed. For modern/transitional places installing rectangular tile vertically will visually increase the height of the room; glass tile or similar size also creates a nice depth to the walls and when used in calmer shades extend the room's size."

  • 22 of 25

    Be Mindful How You Place the Door

    "Be sure your bathroom door swings out of the bathroom, not into it," recommends New York-based designer, Pamela Bayer of Pamela Bayer Interiors. "Or, better yet, use pocket doors if you have a small bathroom.​

  • 23 of 25

    Build a Floating Countertop With a Vessel Sink

    "Take out the clunky sink cabinet and replace it with a floating countertop and a vessel sink," recommends Los Angeles-based designer, Brooke Coe of Huh? Designs. "Then incorporate either hanging or floating shelves below the countertop for storage" Use baskets to hide items you don't want to display. Open and airy basketscan also remove the visual weight up and off the floor while providing ample storage in a small space.

  • 24 of 25

    Place the Tub or Shower Against the Farthest Wall

    In a typical rectangle bathroom space, putting the tub/shower area on the far wall maximizes the space.___ why????

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  • 25 of 25

    Make Sure Darker Walls Are Glossy

    "Many designers will suggest lighter, pastel paint colors, whites, or grays for small bathrooms,: says Dawn Falcone. "These colors are easy to work with and will make the space feel light and airy. But, you can choose a deeper hue in a semi-gloss finish." She says the sheen in the semi-gloss paint will reflect light to help the room look bigger.