Every room in the home has its design challenges and bathrooms are no exception. You will need to employ some small bathroom design ideas if space is limited. We have gathered together a collection of hints and tips that you can use to ensure every inch of space is used.
Bathrooms tend to get a lot of use. So any ideas that you put into place have to be functional and practical. Some of the solutions will work in larger rooms too but they will certainly ensure you make the most of what you have available.
The definition of a “small bathroom” is not fixed and rooms can vary in size and shape. The bathrooms in UK properties are generally very limited spatially. The rooms in other countries will be larger and have a lot more scope for change.
The following idea is perfect if you have a very small bathroom.
Use Cloakroom Hardware
Cloakrooms are even smaller than bathrooms. So the cloakroom products are specifically designed to be used in locations that are pretty cramped. Many of them will also work well in bathrooms although some are better than others.
Let’s start with basins.
Wash hand basins can be used for washing your hands, your face and maybe for shaving too. These functions can be carried out with a small basin almost as well as they can in a basin with more generous proportions. Some manufacturers, such as Ideal Standard make basins of a similar design in several different sizes. This enables you to select the design that suits your needs and your room best.
Toilets tend to be pretty standard when it comes to dimensions because they would be impractical if they were too small. But there will be some that are smaller than others. And these will fit the bill perfectly. Combined toilet/basins that are used in the cloakroom are not really practical in a bathroom. This is because the basin section is fine for a quick rinse of the hands but not much else. But they could be employed if you are really pushed for space.
Some design gurus advocate the use of wall-hung basins and toilets in small bathrooms. Their reasoning is that the lack of a physical footprint makes the room feel more open and so appear bigger.
I don’t really agree with this, personally, because in a very small room you will be looking down rather than across. The lack of footprint is hardly noticeable. When you add in the fact that they require specialist wall mounting systems and that they are invariably very expensive, the downsides seriously outweigh the supposed advantages.
Add Some Extra Storage
Small bathrooms will contain the same amount of washing, cleaning, shaving and make-up paraphernalia as a large bathroom, so you need to find somewhere to store it all. There are some obvious options that you can employ such as free-standing cupboards but there are also some less obvious solutions that will help swallow up all of the clutter.
Clutter always looks messy, but in a small bathroom, it can also have the effect of making the room look smaller. The more of this stuff you can hide away the more open the room will feel.
One really neat idea is to make use of the space under the bath. This is usually ignored but there is actually quite a bit of useable storage space available here. There are specialist bath panels available that enable easy access to this area and are ideal for hiding away bulky cleaning items. The panel shown here is Available on Amazon – we get a small commission for any qualifying purchase: click here to find out more
Concealed cisterns are another area where you can grab some extra storage real estate. Fitting a removable access hatch makes sense from a maintenance point of view. But it also means you can use the hidden spaces inside for storage.
These two hidden areas will then free up space in other places, such as bathroom cabinets.
And speaking of bathroom cabinets, these are a perfect small bathroom design idea. They could be a stand-alone item or part of a range of fitted vanity furniture. See this blog post for more info on bathroom storage.
If it is just a cabinet that you are fitting, make sure it has mirrored doors. The doors should preferably be frameless too, to maximise the size of the mirrors. And when it comes to mirrors…
Mirror, Mirror On The Wall
Fit a big mirror. It’s really that simple.
This is an old design concept but it really works. The ratio of the size of the mirror to the size of the room is vital to the success of this effect. A huge mirror in a tiny room will have a massive effect on how big the room feels.
It is possible to buy sheet mirror cut to size from a glazer. This enables large sections of a wall to be covered or even a whole wall in some cases. And the effect is instant. Your eye will immediately convince you that you are standing in a room that is twice its actual size. You can stick them in place or you could have them drilled with screw holes when it is at the glazier.
The other option is to buy an off-the-shelf mirror. Again, there are plenty of options on Amazon – click here for details
These are available in a huge variety of sizes and styles – some with embossed patterns, some without. We would always recommend the plainest design as this maximises the reflective area of the mirror. Many mirrors are offered with demister pads. These require an electric feed but are great because they enable the mirror to remain condensation-free when in use, even if it’s steamy inside the room.
There are also mirrors with built-in lighting which will also require an electrical connection. This should be carried out by a professional as you need to ensure the connections are safe in this steamy environment.
Avoid Dark-Coloured Walls
It seems obvious but many bathroom designs try to incorporate darker colours for dramatic effect. They may be dramatic but they will also be claustrophobic.
A combination of light-coloured walls and a large mirror or two will have more effect on how big the room feels than anything else. It is no surprise that tile and bathroom cladding manufacturers make a large proportion of their ranges in light colours. They know that these will sell well because they just “work” in people’s bathrooms.
Bathroom cladding probably has the edge over tiles because it always stays clean and does not have any grout to turn mouldy. Choose as light a colour as you can and opt for a gloss finish over a matt one. We have more information on cladding here
If you want to add a stronger or darker colour to a small bathroom then use the floor. You can get away with darker colours low down as it is not directly in your line of sight as you enter the room. So the flooring will have less of an effect on your impression of space.
For those who are determined to use a dark colour on the walls, try limiting it to just one section or just one wall. A feature wall will give you a touch of drama but will not overpower the overall feel of the room.
Fit Some Recessed Lighting
Recessed lights have some significant advantages over pendant or surface-mounted lights.
Firstly they can be positioned all around the room so you don’t end up with any dark corners. This can add to the sense of space.
Secondly, they do not protrude down into the room so headroom is maintained across the whole ceiling. The gains from this might seem marginal but every little bit helps when trying to maximise the effect of all of these small bathroom design ideas.
Some ceilings might not be suitable for recessed lighting. If you have a masonry or concrete ceiling then you will not be able to cut apertures for the lights. But there is a solution. You can fit battens to the existing ceiling and then attach ceiling panels to these. Modern, L.E.D spotlights do not require the same air gap as the old halogen lights used to. So you will not have to lower the height of the ceiling very much to accommodate them.
What About A Shower?
The plain truth is that there will not be enough room in a small bathroom for a shower and bath.
There might be some particular configuration that allows you to shoehorn a tiny cubicle into the corner of a room by fitting a smaller bath. But this usually means that both items end up being unusable as they are both too small for comfort.
So you have two options: add a shower over the bath or take out the bath and fit a large cubicle in its place.
The second option would have been unthinkable years ago. These days, many people hardly ever use their baths either through choice, time or by trying to save money (and water). So they choose to just have a shower enclosure and do away with their bath altogether. We have an article that deals with this very issue in more detail here: bath or shower
In a small bathroom, the shower cubicle itself can feel like a bit of a barrier. Although most modern cubicles utilise clear glass, it can still feel like it cuts the room in half, making it feel smaller. You can get a similar feeling from a fixed bath shower screen. So, in an over-bath shower situation, it might be best to opt for a folding screen that negates this problem. You could also choose a shower curtain and ensure it is stowed away when not in use (top tip – use a towel ring to gather up the curtain)
A shower bath is a great compromise when you do not have space enough for both. They have a bulged end that provides a larger showering area with more elbow room. But they also allow you to have a relaxing soak in the bath when required.
Moving Items Around In A Small Bathroom
The ability to be able to move items around in a bathroom will be reliant on a few factors: the pipework; the available space; the cost; the perceived benefit.
If the bathroom is very small there may literally only be one feasible layout. The opportunity to re-jig the positions of items to maximise space increases as rooms get bigger.
There are corner versions of bathroom fixtures available. So there are corner baths, corner basins, corner cabinets and even corner toilets. These are great small bathroom design ideas that could enable you to adjust the positions of items in your bathroom to optimise the useable space. Keep these in mind if your options are very limited.
Toilets are usually the hardest item to re-site as they require very large pipes for the waste water. There are some ways of moving them and we discuss this further in this article here.