25 Killer Small Bathroom Design Tips From Decorators and Designers

Small bathroom with purple accents
Carolyn Barber/Getty Images

Small bathrooms are tough to design.  On the one hand, because they are compact, you save money on materials because you are using less materials. On the other hand, small bathrooms are small, and no one likes being cramped.

That's why we contacted twelve home decorators, designers, architects, and remodel professionals to give you their best advice on how best to remodel a small bathroom.

1. Strip Bathroom Of Anything That Sticks Out From Walls

Avoid having anything that sticks out from the walls especially in very narrow bathrooms.

This means that maybe you forgo a towel bar and mount one on the back of the door. Go with built-in toilet paper holders and magazine racks. Even try to avoid decorative shelves. All of this takes away precious square footage.

Dawn Falcone Lifestyles

2. Open Up Your Ceiling By Painting It With a Trompe L'Oeil Sky

 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.

Emme Levine

3. Install Clear Shower Enclosures To Emphasize Visual Pass-Through

To give the illusion of more space eliminate as much visual clutter as possible when selecting fixtures and materials: Clear shower enclosures with minimal hardware; swinging doors rather than bypass if possible

Faulkner House Interior Redesign, LLC

4. Get Creative With Storage By Using Every Available Nook

Storage must-haves: towels, toilet paper, daily supplies (teeth supplies, cleansers, makeup, etc.).

Wasted space: Pedestal sinks (beautiful, but not functional if you have limited space). Consider: Behind the door hooks for towels and robes or over the door pouches for holding small supplies (hair, makeup) and medicine cabinets and/or shelving set inside the walls, in between the studs.

Storage and organizing expert Helene Segura, M.A.

Ed., CPO:  Living Order

5. If Using a Bathroom Vanity, Choose the Smallest Possible One

Choose smaller bathroom vanities. Many companies now make "apartment" size vanities. Or go with a simple pedestal sink or wall mounted sink.

Dawn Falcone Lifestyles

6. Uplight Your Ceiling With Sconces To Create the Illusion of a Taller Ceiling

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 a more expansive space. For a narrow room, illuminating one wall with light will give the illusion of a more open area.

Pegasus Lighting

7. Install Floor Tile On a Diagonal

Place floor tiles on a diagonal. This will give the room the illusion of being larger. Larger tiles with thin grout lines will also give the appearance of more square footage.

Dawn Falcone Lifestyles

8. Hang the Toilet From the Wall

A great way to maximize a small bath's space is the use of wall hung cabinetry and toilets with oversized floor tile.

Today's product offering in both of these arenas are much more expansive that in years past and there are styles to suit everyone's taste and decor.  The wall hung toilet and cabinetry show more of the floor and give the illusion that the room is larger than it appears.

Banner Plumbing Supply

9. Install a Mirrored, Recessed Medicine Cabinet

Another great space saver is a fully mirrored recessed medicine cabinet. Once installed the cabinet looks like a stylish flat or beveled mirror, but has hidden storage of 4 inches which is the depth of a standard wall. These cabinets come in a variety of heights and widths to accommodate most applications and the best part about the cabinet is its fully mirrored inside so you can easily see what product is behind the bottle of mouthwash!

Banner Plumbing Supply

10. Instead of Towel Racks, Use Hooks

Instead of towel racks, I've designed custom murals with hooks integrated into the picture - like a tree painted on a wall with hooks installed over the branches. It's like when you go camping and hang the towels on tree branches to dry.

Emme Levine

11. Big Tiles Look Best In Small Bathrooms

Select larger floor tile to open up the space. Lesser grout lines give the illusion of bigger space.

Bloom Designs

12. Replace Shower Curtain With Glass Door

Open up the room with glass. If your bathroom only has a shower stall consider not only a glass door but partially taking out another wall & replacing it with glass. Even a small tub area will benefit from some clean, clear glass doors. If glass is not an option then use clear shower curtains that will allow light in.

Dawn Falcone Lifestyles

13. Limit Yourself To Two Paint Colors (More Than That Feels Busy)

Keep it simple. Busy wall paper, too many paint colors, patterned fabrics and 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.

Dawn Falcone Lifestyles

14. Look Into Long Medicine Cabinets That Go Behind the Door

Longer "medicine cabinets" are available to take advantage of vertical space behind bathroom doors.

Faulkner House Interior Redesign, LLC

15. Beware of Busy Details That Crowd the Room--Stone Veining, Trim, etc.

When selecting materials, be aware of the cumulative effect of patterns. Veining and designs in tiles and flooring, decorative details on hardware and cabinetry can "crowd" a room. On the other hand, using only small scale patterns can emphasize that the room is small. Incorporating larger scaled moldings or architectural features sparingly can give the room more importance.

Faulkner House Interior Redesign, LLC

16. Create a 3rd Visual Dimension By Adding Art That Uses Perspective

Adding art to the walls can also increase the sense of space. Landscapes in particular can give the walls dimension. Finally, lighting effects can highlight architectural features, illuminate "dead" corners and art and make the room more comfortable and functional.

Faulkner House Interior Redesign, LLC

Hang a beautiful painting. Just make sure it isn't valuable since water and humidity can damage art.

MEC Design Studio

17. Find Extra Space By Carving Storage Niches In Interior Walls

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.

Workshopapd

18. Emphasize Texture Over Color

Bring in texture, not color, to add interest without it getting too busy. Add one unique element --a cool mirror, a unique piece of art, a funky sink. One carefully chosen focused piece can transform it from small and boring to cute and chic.

Workshopapd

19. Bright Light Can Make a Small Bathroom Feel Bigger

Paying attention to the lighting. Well lit space always looks larger, so if the budget allows smart redistribution of lights and placing them on the dimmer or preset mood control will create desired ambiance. Eliminate pendants that dangle at the head/eye level, they typically "drop" the ceiling and make the room look even smaller. Wall mount fixtures are usually the best decorative application for a small bathroom, just make sure no one will bump into them.

Idée Chic Designs

20. Extend Wall Ceramic Tile To The Ceiling (They Look Higher That Way)

Tiling the walls all the way up to the ceiling will make the ceilings appear higher. Place a colored or decorative tile near the upper wall and ceiling line to draw your eye up.

Dawn Falcone Lifestyles

21. Correctly Scaling Elements Can Make or Break the Small Bathroom

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 4x6 or similar size also create a nice depth to the walls and when used in calmer shades extend the room's size.

Idée Chic Designs

22. Choose the Right Kind of Door for Your Small Bathroom

Be sure your bathroom door swings out, not in. Or, better yet, use pocket doors.

Pamela Bayer Interiors

If there isn't much space, make sure the door doesn't open in front of the toilet. It's better to open towards a wall than the toilet if possible.

MEC Design Studio

23. Put a Vessel Sink on a Floating Countertop

One recommendation I would offer is to take out the clunky sink cabinet and replace it with a floating countertop with a vessel sink. You can then incorporate either hanging or floating shelves below for storage (include baskets for those items you don't necessarily wish to display). This takes the visual weight up and off the floor while still providing for ample storage in a small space - something much needed in every bathroom.

Huh? Designs

24. Layout:  Push Bathing Facilities Against Farthest Wall

Depends on the space - I've even designed powder rooms to tuck in under a stair - but, if you have a typical rectangle space, have the tub/shower area on the far wall. This allows you to make maximum use of the space. Try to have a window on this wall.  Have the sink as you come in and the toilet between.

Emme Levine

25. If You Choose Darker Paint Colors, Then Go For a Glossier Sheen

Many designers will suggest lighter, pastel paint colors or whites or grays for small bathrooms. Yes, these colors are easy to work with and will make the space feel light and airy. But, you can choose a deeper hue as long as you go with a semi-gloss finish. The sheen in the semi-gloss paint will reflect light and help the room look bigger.

Dawn Falcone Lifestyles