5 Design Tips For Small Bathrooms

small bathrooms

When we see pictures of bathrooms in glossy magazines and on social media they always look like a vast, open, minimalist oasis of calm and serenity. Large, free-standing baths have acres of space around them to show off their curved lines and capacious bathing area. In the distance, sometimes out of focus as it is so far away, stands a huge, walk-in shower.

But the reality is a little different.

In many modern houses, the bathroom is designed to be as small as possible while remaining functional. This lack of open space can result in a small bathroom feeling rather closed-in, especially if some basic styling errors have crept into the design.

Our simple 5 step guide will help you avoid these mistakes and get your bathroom feeling as light and airy as it is possible to be.


Bathroom Decoration – Keep It Light, Keep It Reflective

small bathroom wall panelsc

The largest surface area in any bathroom is the wall so your choice of decoration here will have the biggest visual impact and the biggest influence on how light the room feels.

Light-coloured tiles or bathroom wall panels are the way to go here. There is no need to use plain white but this is obviously an option. A small amount of colour or pattern, such as a light marble effect, is perfect and will prevent the design from looking too “clinical”.

Ceilings need to be plain white – full stop. Any other colour or design will just catch the eye and have the effect of making the ceiling appear lower than it actually is. Although gloss finishes reflect more light they also reflect other colours and will again be a detraction. So matt white is best. There are matt white ceiling panels that fit the bill and will not need re-painting or indeed any maintenance at all.

Floors can afford to be a little darker in the overall colour scheme for your room but if you are opting for a very dark colour you could try off-setting this by covering an area of the floor with a lighter-coloured bathroom rug.

Bathroom Mirrors – The Bigger The Better

small bathroom mirror

Of all the design tricks you can include in your bathroom, installing a large mirror will have the greatest effect.

Ideally, fit a mirror the full width of the wall behind the basin. This will have a huge impact on the feeling of space within the room. When it comes to bathroom mirrors size matters, so get the largest one you can squeeze in.

Providing it is large enough, a mirror will trick the eye into thinking the room is twice the size. In most circumstances, the mirror will be placed behind the hand basin or vanity unit. But this is not always possible and will depend on the shape and size of the room together with the actual layout.

Another option is to use a large, mirrored bathroom cabinet. Although these project out from the wall they will provide extra storage (reducing clutter) and, providing they are large enough, give the illusion of extra space.

The Bathroom Suite: Any Colour You Want – As Long As It’s White

small bathroom white suite

Not that you have many choices these days – virtually everything is white. But the more white you have in the overall scheme within the bathroom the better, so that will work in your favour.

White basins and baths not only keep things light they also look cleaner for longer by hiding soap residue. If you get a dark-coloured wash basin or even one of the very attractive glass designs, you will feel the need to wipe it down after every single use.

There are many products that are available primarily for use in cloakrooms that can be used perfectly well in a bathroom. Corner toilets, wall-hung basins, small vanities etc. are all worth considering. A local showroom will be able to advise you on this and provide something small but usable.

Corner baths, although shorter overall, take up more space and have less lying-down room than a straight bath.

If you are thinking of using a free-standing bath then you need to take into consideration that they require quite a bit of valuable floor space around them to show them off to their best. Just because something physically fits into your bathroom it doesn’t mean that it will work as part of your bathroom design, so plan carefully.

Add Some Storage To The Room

You will always find lots of soaps, shampoos, toiletries and cleaning products in any bathroom. But to keep the room from looking cluttered they need to be out of sight. So you need to think about adding some bathroom storage.

A semi-recessed vanity basin will allow for plenty of storage while having a smaller footprint than a full-depth vanity unit. The basin in a semi-recessed unit will provide a similar size washing area to that of a standard pedestal-mounted basin. But a basin and pedestal set-up will not provide you with any storage. This is vital in a small bathroom as clutter from shampoos, soaps and cleaning products will really detract from the overall look of the room.

Vanity units are positioned low down in your line of vision so they keep within the “openness” guidelines.

The attractive model shown here is from the Roseberry range by Utopia Bathrooms. Extra cupboards are available that can join to the vanity unit to provide even more storage – if you have the room.

WC units can also be used. These will also help cover all of the toilet’s pipework and completely encase the cistern giving a “cleaner” look to your design.

See our article on bathroom storage ideas for more information.

Bathroom Lighting

small bathroom lighting

Downlighters enable the whole room to be flooded with light. Make sure they conform to the correct standard – different parts of the room require different ratings. If you fit all lights using the strictest ratings you will not have to worry about whether it falls in or out of the right zone.

If you have a light centrally mounted on your ceiling go for the maximum output bulbs that the unit will allow. If there are individually manoeuvrable lights in the cluster point them to where they are needed most – the wash hand basin.

Extra lighting for the basin area is recommended for shaving and makeup etc. Many illuminated mirrors and bathroom cabinets are available that can throw some additional light on this area. Also, positioning lighting near or above a mirror will effectively magnify the output of the light.

Bathroom Windows

Keep window sills clear of any clutter to allow the maximum amount of natural light into the room. Clutter, in general, should be avoided as clear surfaces look more open and spacious. If you are going to install a roller blind make sure it has a straight rather than scalloped bottom edge to enable it to be stowed away fully to allow the maximum amount of light through.

Clear glass will make the room feel more open but there are obvious privacy issues with this and most bathrooms will already have obscured glass in place. If you live in the middle of the countryside clear glass is less of a problem but in suburban environments, frosted glass will be a necessity.

If you are designing the room from scratch and have a say in the size of the window you need to strike a compromise between being too small and not letting enough light in and too large so that it takes up too much wall space.

small bathroom window