Design Tips for a Small Bathroom

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for Direct from the Designers™

It might feel cramped and uncomfortable to use your bathroom if it is particularly small, but there are tricks you can use to make it feel larger than it is. Whether you have a tiny powder room or a full bathroom that closes in when the door is shut, here are some things you can do to make this space much more pleasant. We have included simple projects you can do yourself and more complex renovation overhauls, so get ready to plan the perfect makeover for what you have to work with!

LAMPS PLUS Feiss Infinity Rectangular 36" High Wall Mirror

The Feiss Infinity Rectangular 36” High Wall Mirror from Lamps Plus® covers plenty of wall area to create the illusion of more space. Its frameless design helps it merge where it’s mounted, so it won’t produce a fragmented look that might make a small bathroom feel tight and busy.

Use Mirrors to Widen Space

Do what you can to combat claustrophobia! If you have a window, that’s fantastic, but there are a lot of interior bathrooms without access to any sort of view. Like small galleries and restaurants have done for years, you can put up mirrors to give a wider impression. Floor square footage doesn’t budge, but your eye sees beyond actual boundaries and your mind tends to appreciate the deception. An entire reflective wall in your own bathroom would be disconcerting, but you can always choose a larger mirror to place behind the sink and perhaps another to put on the door or on a wall where you wish there were a window.

Any larger mirror will be an improvement, but there are a few guidelines that will keep your bathroom looking its best. Keep the mirror in proportion to the sink area; the whole room will look awkward if it’s wider than the vanity. If you have a very narrow space to fill—like above a pedestal lavatory—an oval mirror will do wonders. Not only does this formal option instantly add class, but it also provides the shape and breadth you actually need to see yourself in, all without the bulk. You can find variations of these basic mirrors to suit your style, with simple and ornate frames, or even totally frameless panes to maximize the visual spread your bathroom needs.

Mansfield Plumbing Essence Pedestal Lavatory

The pedestal lavatory from the Essence™ Bathroom Collection from Mansfield® Plumbing pulls double duty. Not only does it open space around the base, but it also includes an optional chrome towel bar that consolidates everything you need to wash your hands into a single contained zone.

Open the Sink Area with a Pedestal Lavatory

Rethink the vanity. Especially if your small bathroom is a powder room and you don’t actually need the counter and cabinet space, opt for a pedestal lavatory. If you have a small full bathroom, think about how much that storage space is actually worth—maybe you could keep all your towels and products in another place, like a closet in the hall, a cupboard installed above the toilet, or in a medicine cabinet. The last thing you want is to create clutter, and it’s tempting to do just that when you have somewhere to put down your hair styling tools and razor!

Pedestal-style sinks give you more leg room and open space than vanities, so you won’t feel nearly as crowded. They also have their own classic panache, although you can find them in many styles nowadays. One of the things homeowners overlook at first is that pedestals also allow you to see more of the wall behind them. This prevents the feeling of a bulky vanity closing in, but it also lets you show off more of your chosen wallpaper, paint color, and/or trim. And don’t forget the floor, either! If you want to have a beautiful tiled design, a pedestal lavatory is the way to go.

Moen Old World Bronze Curved Shower Rod

Choose a rod like this Old World Bronze Curved Shower Rod from Moen® to make your shower feel less close and eliminate the curtain cling factor.

Broaden the Shower Physically and Visually

Whether your small full bathroom has a stall shower or a tub/shower combo, there are tricks you can use to help improve its overall feel as well as your own comfort. Changing your shower curtain rod can make a world of difference, giving you more elbow room and vastly improving your user experience. A bowed rod pulls the curtain away from you to give more space as you bathe, but it takes space away from the rest of the bathroom. You can opt to set a curved rod a little farther into the shower to compensate, as it will still give you the added space in the middle, where you actually need it.

In the case of a stall shower, clear glass doors are favored, because they make the whole room look bigger. Fun design ideas also help to add the shower to the visual square footage—you can continue a tile pattern throughout the entire bathroom to help stretch the floor that you see, or continue your wall design in the same way. By including the shower in the overall scheme, there seems to be more of everything, not just fragmented pieces of a bathroom around a bit of open space in the center.

Benjamin Moore Aura Bath and Spa Waterbourne Interior Pain

Use light colors to make your small bathroom welcoming, as they are more reflective, and using brighter trim helps the walls seem farther back. A zero-VOC choice like Aura® Bath and Spa Waterborne Interior Paint from Benjamin Moore® is perfect for tight places with poor ventilation.

Paint with Light Colors

Everybody knows that light paint makes rooms look bigger. This doesn’t mean you have to stick with white, though. There are plenty of vibrant colors out there, and pairing them with other hues around the room gives the space dimension. Make trim the lightest color to help it pop and push the walls away, and think about the ceiling, too. Another color brighter than the walls will help it look higher.

It’s important to choose the right paint for bathroom application due to moisture concerns. Heat and humidity create the perfect conditions for mildew growth, so choose something that resists it. Necessity has encouraged manufacturers to create niche bathroom paint to eliminate worries and provide you with more design options than before. Look for an eco-friendly label, too, because nobody wants harsh fumes trapped in a small bathroom. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint can be released for years after application, so it’s in the best interest of your own health and the environment to avoid them altogether.

Johnson Hardware 200PD Pocket Door

The very narrow shape of this bathroom would not do well with a swinging door, but thanks to 200PD Series Pocket Door Hardware from Johnson Hardware®, easy operation that doesn’t interfere with the toilet or sink is made possible.

Eliminate Door Swing Space

Think about installing a pocket door. This sliding option disappears into the wall when open and easily pulls closed for privacy, and it can still be locked. When space is at a premium, pocket doors really are a great investment. Getting in and out of the bathroom is easier and you also open up more functional space, because there isn’t a dead zone necessary for the door swing. For example, you could put some storage on the adjacent wall instead of having to keep it clear to allow unhindered motion.

Small bathrooms are a fact of life, but they’re ultimately better for being there than not. Appreciate their utility and don’t give up on creating the most spacious version possible with the tools at your disposal. You don’t have to break down walls to make your small bathroom bigger—you just have to employ design tricks that alter your perception and your experience, and you’ll be sure to love it!

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