27 Small Bathroom Design Tips Interior Designers Want You to Know

Jessica nelson design

Jessica Nelson Design


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!

We spoke to 10 of the best home decorators, designers, architects, and remodel professionals to give you their best advice on how best to remodel and decorate a small bathroom. These experts include:

Meet the Expert

  • Anaïs Chaumien is the New York City-based interior designer behind Design by Anaïs.
  • Darla DeMorrow is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of HeartWork Organizing.
  • Stefania Filizola is a design expert at Fixr, a resource for remodeling project costs.

Whether you’re working on your ensuite bathroom, a downstairs powder room, or the bathroom you share with the entire household, here’s how to make it work—no matter the size.

  • 01 of 27

    Make Space for a Larger Vanity

    Small bathroom ideas

    @ann.living

    According to Pamela Durkin, Interior Designer and Design Coach at Durkin Designs, LLC, a larger vanity might actually be the way to go—even if it seems counterintuitive. “Get the largest vanity you can get,” she says. “It will give you a lot more counter space and make everything look a bit bigger.”

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  • 02 of 27

    Be Strategic with Pattern

    Small bathrooms

    @burcharddesignco

    While it can be tempting to go all-out with patterns in a smaller bathroom as a way to create a statement on a small scale, Durkin suggests taking a step back and really being strategic with what you go for. “Put a pattern on the floor, for example, but keep the walls neutral by adding texture either in a molding detail or wallpaper,” she suggests.

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  • 03 of 27

    Consider a Fixed Shower Panel

    fixed shower panel

    Taylor Beach / Unsplash

    Instead of a sliding or swinging glass door on the shower, consider a fixed panel. Then, Durkin suggests moving the shower handle to the open end so you can turn on your shower without getting wet. “There are now 2-in-1 shower heads so you don't have to have both a shower head and handheld,” she explains.

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  • 04 of 27

    Keep It Clean

    small, tidy bathroom

    Trinette Reed / Stocksy

    According to Anaïs Chaumien, the New York City-based interior designer behind Design by Anaïs, anyone working with a small bathroom should keep the space as tidy as possible. “Storage boxes and baskets are your best friends if you can't add furniture (otherwise, feel free to add floating shelves, they will help you store everything and are super easy to decorate),” she explains. “Choose neutral colors for the boxes and baskets so as not to overwhelm the space.”

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  • 05 of 27

    Let There Be Light

    Small bathroom ideas

    @burcharddesignco

    If you have a window, it's a huge advantage, says Chaumien. Natural light will immediately make space appear bigger. In that case, be sure to let the light shine. Do not add a lot of plants in front of the window, for instance. Let the light flow! “If you don't have a window, you'll have to add as much artificial light as you can,” she explains. “Maybe change the light fixtures for a brighter/bigger one if you can, add another light source.”

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  • 06 of 27

    Be Strategic with Mirror Placement

    Small bathroom

    @jennpablostudio

    The mirrors are also super helpful when it comes to emphasizing the light of the room—according to Chaumien, you should place it in front of the window or of the light fixture to double the amount of light. “You can, for instance, use smaller mirrors to install in the bathroom to help the light reflect multiple times,” she adds.

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  • 07 of 27

    Don’t Overlook Accessories

    Small bathroom

    @jennpablostudio

    Even if you need to declutter the space, you don't want your bathroom to look too bare. “To add decoration without cluttering the area, play with functional decoration (i.e., elements you would have to use in your bathroom anyway),” says Chaumien. She suggests starting with mirrors for light, little rattan baskets for storage, a beautiful shower curtain, or even an aesthetically pleasing bath mat.

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  • 08 of 27

    Go for Light and Airy Colors

    Small bathrooms

    @jcdesign1.1

    According to Chaumien, unless you'd like to make a statement in the room (and she wouldn't advise it if you want the space to feel bigger), go for light and neutral colors. “Neutral doesn't necessarily mean white,” she explains. “Play with shades of grey, nudes, whites, light blue, pale grey, blush… Any neutral tone will immediately make space appear bigger than if you used darker colors.”

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  • 09 of 27

    Choose Smaller Decorative Details

    Bathroom with wallpaper

    Grace Kelly / Unsplash

    If you want to make a decorative statement, choose smaller details. “You can be playful with the bathroom vanity or the towel holder if the rest of the space is neutral,” explains Chaumien. “Don't be afraid to use wallpaper—but again, nothing too bold. Adding a lovely light blue pattern on one wall (one wall only, please!) will add depth to the space.”

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  • 10 of 27

    Consider Going for Nature-Inspired Accents

    Small bathrooms

    @ann.living

    According to Chaumien, the more natural you go, the better. Natural materials (stone, wood, linen, wicker) will add visual interest without overwhelming the room. “Too shiny, complicated, or cheap materials will draw too much attention, especially in such a small space where your eye will be drawn directly to them,” she explains.

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  • 11 of 27

    Get Serious About Decluttering Beauty Products

    pared down medicine cabinet

    The Spruce / Candace Madonna

    “Declutter first and always,” says Darla DeMorrow, Certified Professional Organizer and Owner of HeartWork Organizing. “Pick your favorite products, just enough, and stick with them. If a beauty product isn’t cutting it, gift it to a friend or toss it ASAP.” According to DeMorrow, the less stuff you have, the more space you can enjoy. This is true in the shower stall, bath tub, and medicine cabinet.

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  • 12 of 27

    Only Keep Essential Cleaning Supplies

    Simple cleaning supplies

    Heather Ford / Unsplash

    Keep only essential cleaning supplies right inside your bathroom for quick and easy refresh. “A good all-purpose cleaner, your favorite essential oil, and a broom and dustpan (hidden in the closet or behind the door) is all you need to keep things fresh,” explains DeMorrow.

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  • 13 of 27

    Get Rid of Excess Towels

    keeping two sets of towels per person

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Demorrow suggests keeping only two sets of towels per person, unless there are particular circumstances when you might need more. “There’s no reason for more if you own a working washer. No matter how you stack, stash, fold, or hang them, caring for more linens than you need just takes up room and energy,” she says.

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  • 14 of 27

    Simplify Your Linen Color Scheme

    Small bathroom

    @homebypolly

    What’s more, Demorrow suggests curating your towels to suit your color scheme when possible—or even better, go for all-white towels, which can be bleached and rotated out when needed.

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  • 15 of 27

    Update Your Lighting

    Pendant lights in a bathroom

    NeonShot / Getty Images

    Sure, your basic light fixture might work just fine, but according to Demorrow, refreshing your lighting can be one of the easiest ways to add some visual interest without taking up any space at all. “A single fixture in the bathroom can provide energy efficient lighting, a fan feature, and a little glam,” she says.

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  • 16 of 27

    Avoid Pedestal Sinks

    pedestal sink

    mtreasure / Getty Images

    According to James Kalim, Founder and CEO at Only Silent, a company about quiet design, you should avoid pedestal sinks—even if you love the way they look. “Although pedestal sinks are beautiful, having them in your small bathroom is not essential,” he says. “This creates wasted space that you can have storage spaces instead.”

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  • 17 of 27

    Hide Your Toiletries

    Hiding toiletries in drawers

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    When designing a small bathroom, the goal is of course to create an illusion of a larger place, and also house any toiletries and items that you want unseen. However, Tom Lawrence-Levy, Interior Designer at Natural Asthetik, says it's just as important to design for the type of bathroom you want.

    “If we are designing the bathroom completely, I usually opt for a custom medicine cabinet that has the shelving and storage built into the wall itself,” he explains. “This way the mirror is completely flushed with the remaining of the wall and gives the room a much sleeker feel, and hides any clutter.”

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  • 18 of 27

    Consider Oversized Mirrors

    large mirror over bathroom vanity

    Ryan Christodoulou / Unsplash

    “Mirroring a wall can also create the idea that your small bathroom is larger than it actually is,” says Ryan Jones, Decorator at Land of Rugs. “Whilst most people will add a mirror into their space above the vanity unit, adding mirrors to an entire wall will reflect light and pattern in a superb way, making your bathroom look bright and large.” According to Jones, this works really well when incorporated with lighter colors like whites and grays.

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  • 19 of 27

    Ensure You Have the Right Size Tile

    Small bathroom

    @homebypolly

    According to Stefania Filizola, Design Expert at Fixr, ensuring you have the right sized tile for your space is key to making it feel bigger than it is. “Grout lines will create a grid, using small or medium tiles will require a lot of grouting, making the bathroom feel smaller,” she explains. “Choosing big tiles that will fit in your space without the need for so many grout lines will help to expand the space.”

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  • 20 of 27

    Use the Same Tile Color and Pattern for the Walls and Floor

    using the same tile on the walls and floors

    Chastity Cortijo / Unsplash

    “I suggest using the same tile color and pattern for the walls and the floor,” adds Filizola. “This way your eyes won’t see the separation, making the walls appear to be further away and the space bigger.”

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  • 21 of 27

    Create Storage Niches When Possible

    built-in shelves

    Trinette Reed / Stocksy

    Filizola also suggests cutting storage niches into your walls—it’s not only aesthetic, but will also improve the space. “Instead of having cabinets or shelves protruding out of the wall and reducing the usable space, you create storage inwards so there’s nothing in your way,” she explains.

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  • 22 of 27

    Go for Polished Finishes

    Small bathroom

    @kjdesignandmortarstyling

    Natural light is always a top priority, especially to make a room feel bigger. A room with lack of light will look and feel closed in—but if adding extra natural light is not possible, Filizola suggests trying to add more sources of artificial light, especially in atypical ways. “You can also use reflective surfaces like glossy tiles and polished or brass faucets to expand the light reach around the room,” she says.

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  • 23 of 27

    Cut Down on Furniture

    Floating cabinets

    Sanibelle BV / Unsplash

    The more furniture or cabinets you have, the less space to move around you’ll have. Try to reduce the amount of furniture as much as possible. “For the essential furniture, consider having it away from the floor, like floating cabinets, over-the-john, and even wall-hung linen towers,” says Filizola. “With a more exposed floor, more light will reflect from it, making the whole space appear bigger.”

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  • 24 of 27

    Take Advantage of Vertical Space

    Small bathroom

    @dommdotcom

    As far as storage goes, thinking vertical will help you save a lot of space—and avoid visual clutter. “The space above the sink and toilet are prime areas,” says Joe Cangelosi, Interior Designer and Founder of Joe Cangelosi Design LLC. “Always get a good medicine cabinet that is as tall as possible—it will fool the eye to think the ceiling is higher, and can offer more storage than a smaller cabinet.” Cangelosi also suggests getting a shelving unit or cabinet to place over the toilet for all of the products and items you need to store.

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  • 25 of 27

    Consider a Bold Ceiling Paint

    bold, painted bathroom ceiling

    Instagram / @housetrends

    “I like to paint bathroom ceilings using a semi gloss paint to reflect the light, or even more dramatic: I love painting bathroom ceilings a dramatic silver color to add some visual interest, bring the eye up, and it also reflects the light to make the room seem much bigger,” says Cangelosi.

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  • 26 of 27

    Opt for Large Pieces of Art—Rather than Small Pieces

    Small bathrooms

    @kaelynguerin

    Although it might seem counterintuitive, Tina Ramchandani, Principal Interior Designer at Tina Ramchandani Creative, suggests you try to use large art instead of small art, to help fill the space. “Smaller frames will draw attention to the fact that you're in a small space,” she says. “When looking at art (or mirrors) think about the frame. A slim frame will take up less visual space, whereas a thick frame may make the space feel smaller.”

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  • 27 of 27

    Create More Space (When Possible)

    raised ceiling in a small bathroom

    hikesterson / Getty Images

    "While it is not always an options, raising the ceilings in a small bathroom can give the illusion that the space is larger than it is," shares Savannah Phillips, Interior Designer for The Knobs Company. "If raising the ceiling isn't an option, another thing you can do to make a small bathroom appear larger is to recess all of the mirrors and any closets that you can."