Small bathrooms can be incredibly charming. But unless yours is a sweet little bonus powder room with no purpose save for hand-washing before dinner time, a small bathroom can also be tricky to design. Where do clean towels go? What about hooks for wet ones? And how much room can be allotted for a shower or bath? Done right, a small bathroom can be a case study in smart simplicity, with personality to spare. Don’t let limited space stop you from living large!
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Before you throw in the towel and call a broker to help you find a new place, consider the following storage, floor plan, window, and styling solutions that will help your small bathroom look as good (and work as hard) as a big jack-and-jill. Make every inch count, and you’ll forget how small your bathroom actually is. Scroll to the end for more design FAQs!
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Hang a Mirror Gallery Wall
Besides looking incredibly charming, this collection of vintage mirrors in a Boston home by Cecilia Casagrande is also a great small space solution: The mirrors move sunlight into every nook and cranny of the room. By painting the frames all Farrow & Ball Pitch Black, the homeowner unified the quirky collection to feel cohesive in a small space. Wallcovering: Ms. Ward, Grow House Grow.
“The bathroom is really long and narrow, so it forced me to really find the right bathtub to fit in it,” says designer Delia Kenza of a small bathroom she renovated for clients in Brooklyn. She demo’d the former bathtub surround, which wasted valuable inches, and replaced it with a freestanding Signature Hardware tub on an elevated platform.
A wavy contrasting floor tile, carried up the side of a built-in tub, unifies several surfaces in this bathroom by Atelier ND at actor Carice van Houten’s Amsterdam home. A bright red towel warmer takes up barely any square footage adds serves more than one function: storage, and coziness.
For a bathroom just off the main bedroom in Alison Victoria’s Atlanta loft, the HGTV star designer chose not to add doors at all. Instead, she installed a solid bronze doorframe from an old elevator, and played off the gilt theme with an ombré Phillip Jeffries grasscloth wallcovering hand-painted with 24-karat gold.
Add a Skylight to Your Small Bathroom
So your small bathroom doesn’t have any wall space for windows… but what about installing a skylight? Studio Diaa opted for a Crystalite one, which floods the space with natural light but also maintains privacy.
“I wanted it to feel like a jewel box,” says Andrew Brown, the designer behind this small but aspirational bathroom. With bold gold features, rich textures, and plenty of patterns, Brown proves that an elevated look isn’t reliant on having a massive canvas to work with.
A deep red paint color, fun graphic floor tiles, and modern pendant each add some personality to this small bathroom (in a cool Seattle treehouse) designed by Andy Beers of Ore Studios. The spacious drawers under the floating vanity also help keep things tidy, and maximize every spare inch of the space.
Hide the Bathroom With a Jib Door
“I watched a lot of period piece murder mysteries, and I knew I wanted a secret door,” says Michelle L. Morby, the occupant of this fun powder room by Landed Interiors & Home. Hiding any room behind a Murphy Door (no matter how small it is), is guaranteed to make it the most exciting place in the house.
“Everything feels sort of candlelit,” says designer Jae Joo of this Boston home. The elegant powder room is no exception. Ambient lighting radiates a soft glow, wood finishes emit warmth, and the green floral wallpaper brings the entire room to life; together, these elements have a cocooning effect. Replacing hinges and installing pocket doors—whether at the entrance or on a closet enclosure—saves a lot of usable space in a small bathroom.
Stick to a Tight Palette
Interior designer Elizabeth Cooper brought out the rich blue veining in the marble surfaces with an icy pale blue paint color on the cabinet doors. Keeping some of the wall unfinished creates a calming effect that helps keep pattern-pushing small spaces from feeling overwhelming.
Mix Materials to Keep it Interesting
Designed by Cameron Schwabenton, this eclectic bathroom in a 1770s Charleston residence honors the integrity of the home’s history with rustic wood foundations. But by incorporating more modern materials, like the marble used in the shower, it also feels contemporary and polished. The country-style elements are perfect for a quaint, modestly-sized bathroom while the white marble brightens it up.
Only Keep Products You Love
AP Design House optimized this bathroom by installing a narrow shelf over the sink for storing small essentials like skincare products, cotton swabs, and more. But be sure to choose items with pretty packaging so there’s no need to hide them out of sight.
Tuck Cabinets Into the Wall
Customize built-in storage with a solid enclosure that’s hidden in the wall to take up less visual real estate. This crisp all-white bathroom designed by Adam Leskinen features a perfect example.
Use Your Toilet as a Surface
This bold and playful bathroom designed by Robin Henry proves there’s nothing wrong with using your toilet as an extra surface for propping up bathroom accessories. How to keep it looking clutter-free? Forget the open shelving and allow vibrantly hued walls to stay clear and in the spotlight.
Customize a Shower Bench
Even if your bathroom only has space for a small shower, you can still make it feel and look luxe. Take, for example, this one designed by Romanek Design Studio. The baby blue zellige tiles and sleek matte black and glass enclosure makes a modern statement. A floating bench adds both formal and functional value, too.
Add Space-Savers to Your Small Bathroom
Everything in this small bathroom by design duo Nicky Kehoe serves a purpose while also adding some decorative style. For example, even the wall hook is perfect for tiny spaces. If you look closely, you’ll see that it has several swiveling prongs for extra hand towels—we love this simple one from Wayfair.
Use Unique Materials in Monochrome
In this bathroom by Tamsin Johnson Interiors, the stone surfaces, classic striped towels, sculptural sconce, and round mirror prove that minimalism can have edge. And the easy-going, grayscale elegance is proof that taking a minimalist approach can result in a unique and quirky space without overpowering the eye.
Related: Small Bathroom Paint Colors
Keep Toilet Paper In Bins
Corral toilet paper and other personal hygiene items you’d rather keep discreet in baskets and bins, then tuck them neatly under the sink, as designer Shari Francis does here.
A wall-to-wall mirror is a guaranteed way to create the illusion of spaciousness. Designed by Elizabeth Cooper, the bathroom boasts an open and airy vibe despite not getting ample natural light. That’s thanks to the light color scheme and sweet wallpaper.
The obvious highlight of this bathroom is the fun use of tile and color, but good looks aside, designer Kureck Jones also knows how to maximize function. The oversized pendant adds just enough contrast but also floods the room with light, which is an essential in a bathroom (don’t forget extra lights by the sink and mirror areas, too).
Hang Curtains Strategically
Try a curtain that looks more like a drape than your average plastic shower curtain, and hang two from either side so you can tuck them away when you want to. Heidi Caillier opted for a soft oat-meets-blush linen shower curtain to add warmth to the cool space.
This hidden vanity in this Gail Davis-designed bathroom is such a fun surprise. The orange mirror picks up on the warmth of the curtains and wallpaper accents while the striped penny tile floor complements the navy paint. Apply this trick to your own bathroom to double its function without cramping it visually.
Use Tile to Your Advantage
It doesn’t get much tinier than this bathroom, yet it still looks elevated and functional. The key is to use waterproof materials throughout so everything can get wet (a central drain is also a must) and then swap your shower head and secure towel racks to the walls.
Go Ham With a Gallery Wall
No room is too small for artwork. In fact, sometimes small spaces are the perfect places to display things on the walls since vertical space is all you have to show off your style. We love the eclectic artwork against the baby pink walls of Ailana Michelle Ralph’s powder room. Framebridge is a great resource if you’re looking for ways to elevate your art collection and family photos.
Use Window Ledges in a Small Bathroom
In another bathroom designed by Jae Joo, the careful balance between clean contemporary style and the 200-year-old bones of the house live in harmony. Instead of cluttering the walls and floor with shelving units and storage furniture, Joo simply leaned a framed print on the windowsill and then added a tiny vase.
Curve Corners on the Vanity
By making the edge of your vanity soft and rounded, you’ll gain back space and you’re less likely to bang into the edge when you’re in a rush (win-win!). Full of fun patterns and whimsical motifs, this powder room designed by Chango & Co. proves that small spaces can still shine.
Make up for a nonexistent linen closet with a strategic configuration. Whether it’s a mirrored medicine cabinet or a vanity with deep enough shelving to fit towels, as Robert McKinley Studio did here. We’re loving the offbeat (yet still neutral!) clay color scheme, too.
Choose a Bright Color for a Simple Design
Make sure every piece has a purpose. Choose mirrors with drawers or shelves if you don’t want to go for a traditional medicine cabinet, or use your wall space to build cabinets. The vibrant tangerine-painted cabinets in this bathroom designed by ETC.etera bring out the orange undertones in the pink stone vanity topper, which also ties in the pink floor tiles and area rug.
Install a Floating Shelf
In a small powder room, a floating shelf will be a life-saver for essentials like washcloths, hand soap, candles, and tissues. Interior designer Gail Davis installed a simple glass shelf right under the mirror for a nice, symmetrical display. And if there isn’t much room for fun decor, choose a texture-rich wallpaper.
Create Outside-the-Box Surfaces
In this modestly sized powder room designed by Corinne Mathern Studios, the tiny shelf transforms an awkward corner into something chic. It’s just large enough to fit a select few cosmetics or a vase with flowers. Either keep it at the same heigh as the sink, or put it right between the sink and mirror.
Go Dark and Moody to Make it Feel Bigger
Interior design firm Robson Rak embraced the small size and lack of light in this powder room by making it feel snug and intimate with black tiles, mood lighting, and dark cabinets under the smoky natural stone sink. And while the mirror might be slim, its height draws the eye up and accentuates the high ceilings.
Instead of a double sink vanity, a long design could save you serious space. The sink and countertop are all one piece and it’s long enough that two people can get ready at the same time. There’s also plenty of room to hang towels on this one designed by Heidi Caillier.
Opt for Glass Shower Doors
Skip the foggy glass or dark curtain, and opt for glass doors. It’ll make the shower feel like livable square footage. Emil Dervish kept this industrial space clean with white graphic square tiles but added some funk with color on the upper half of the walls and ceiling.
Keep Things Bright in a Small Bathroom
Some may say its boring, but an all white bathroom makes any tucked away space feel bigger and brighter (just look at this one by Shapeless Studio for proof). With interesting materials—like a natural stone countertop and corresponding trim, light wood cabinets, and graphic floor tiles—ensure plenty of style. And if you can, work with your designer and contractor to come up with a strategic layout that works with the odd shape of your space.
Designer Celerie Kemble’s daughter’s bathroom is long and narrow, so she made sure to keep proportion in mind when shopping for extra storage pieces and decorative items (tall and slim plant stands and a skirted shelving unit to be exact). To keep the shelving inline with the dainty floral theme, she found a tablecloth from eBay and turned it into a shelf cover.
If you need a big tub or yours just happens to take up all the space between the two walls, then make sure you’re saving space elsewhere. Incorporate built-in shelves and niches into the wall behind the bathtub for towels and products. Robert McKinley used the same Heath tiles throughout so it blends right in.
Hide Your Storage With a Curtain
For a powder room this small, a mirror hung at an angle above a corner sink maximizes every inch (and clutter can be stashed behind the fabric skirt). The Wedgwood plates and round accent table help counteract the boxiness, and add charm. And add a small table for your extras, just like Thom Filicia did. Choose a small table with an open base so it doesn’t close off space. It’ll give you a spot to set magazines, flowers, or candles.
Get Creative With Storage
There’s a clever small-space solution everywhere you look in interior designer Shaun Smith’s New Orleans bathroom. From the extra storage created by placing a tray over the hamper to the towel bars and soap dish, this bathroom proves you can go big in a small bathroom.
Innovate With Colorful Bulbs
So you want your bathroom to be bright and unique without the hassle and commitment of paint. Well, here’s a fun hack that won’t overwhelm a small space: Take note of this powder room by Breegan Jane, where circadian-rhythm color lights turn the cream walls temporarily pink.
Opt for Ledges over Furniture
If your bathroom doesn’t have a built-in vanity, opt for a ledge right above the sink. This will hold all your daily essentials (toothpaste, soap) but won’t take up as much floor space as a big piece of furniture. Install a floating shelf above the sink for your décor, essentials, and other small knick-knacks, as Leanne Ford Interiors did here. This is especially convenient for anyone who doesn’t have a hidden cabinet behind the bathroom sink. You could also arrange a few floating shelves above the toilet, if space is an issue.
Choose a Fun Wallpaper for a Small Bathroom
In a small powder room without much access to natural light—for example, a windowless space under the stairs—embrace the moodier, edgier atmosphere with darker tones and dim lighting. In this powder room designed by Tamsin Johnson, the concrete floors, inky marble sink and modern wallpaper by Kelly Wearstler set the right mood.
If you have open shelves, keep organized with wicker baskets and bowls. Shelves are sleek, but the lack of cabinetry cut down on storage space, but bins will do the trick. Having pretty linen towels like these in a bathroom designed by Katie Hodges doesn’t hurt either.
Work Around Your Windows
No walls to hang a mirror? No problem. Just hang it in front of the window, which creates privacy with a purpose. Or, if there’s a slim strip to secure an accordion mirror to between windows.
Add a Skylight Over a Window
Natural light is the key to making a small space feel bigger. Skylights are a great option for when windows aren’t enough, like in Maxwell Ryan’s Hamptons home. Paired with a window just below, it allows daylight to stream in from all angles.
Stash Bottles in Niches
You could add a bulky shower caddy, but little cubbies look so much cuter. Alcoves keep soaps and sponges within arm’s reach. Take note from this one by Justina Blakeney.
Continue Floor Tile into the Shower
Run tile from the bathroom floor straight into the shower stall, like Alla Akimova did here. It makes the room feel so much larger.
Try a Floating Basin Sink
Skip bulky cabinets and install a floating basin sink to save space. Plus, it looks incredibly chic.
Don’t be afraid of large pieces in a small bathroom. A big claw-foot tub is actually a very efficient use of space—the curtain hangs right above it, plumbing fits within it, and essentials can be stored in a caddy that sits right on top. The giant mirror over this tub creates the illusion of a larger space, and earns style points, too.
Towel bars = the best way to save surface space. If you can get a washstand with towel bars, it’ll look even sleeker. Just slip them over the metal to dry and tug them off when you’re ready to use again.
Natural light is too important for cramped spaces to block with a dingy shower curtain. Instead, opt for clear glass doors instead. See more at Sarah Sherman Samuel .
Lean a ladder right up against the wall behind your toilet to provide extra room for hanging linens or a shower caddy. See more at Jenna Sue Design Co.
Go With a Sliding Door
Instead of a door on a hinge that, when open, takes up space in your small room, opt for a door on a rail that stays parallel with the wall at all times. See more at Shades of Blue Interiors.
Small Bathroom Design FAQs
How do you design a small bathroom?
Consistency is key. Extend a tile wall all the way across the room, as in this bathroom by Lucy Harris in a New York State home. All-glass shower doors—or even no shower doors, if the rest of the room is rendered in waterproof surfaces—keep it feeling open and breezy. Don’t forget to add a spot for a medicine cabinet. So much room for stashing toiletries out of sight!
What’s the best color for a small bathroom?
“Think about the night sky,” says designer Shavonda Gardner. “It’s expansive; there’s no end in sight. Your eye doesn’t stop at the line between dark walls and a white ceiling; it just keeps going.” This is precisely the reason designers love going with dark colors in a small room—it genuinely opens things up!
Is it better to use large tiles or small tiles in a small bathroom?
Size isn’t as important as pattern and color when it comes to tiling a bathroom. Whether you go for subway tile, huge marble square, or tiny penny tiles, the key in a small bathroom is to keep the surface as streamlined as possible. Match your grout to the tile, or create a simple pattern that doesn’t overwhelm the space or create visual clutter.
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