Trying to fit everything into a tiny bathroom is the interior design equivalent of a crossword puzzle: It takes a lot of thought to make all the separate parts fit together.
A full bathroom remodel — even when it’s a small space — can be costly, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to make the smallest room in your home one of the most visually appealing. Here are affordable tips and tricks for an Instagram-ready small bathroom you’re going to enjoy spending time in.
Try A Tray
A tiny bathroom, like any small space in your home, needs to be kept tidy or it will seem even smaller. When organizing and setting up a small bathroom, interior designer Sarah Cousins loves to use trays.
“I just bought a small hide tray that will sit on the back of the toilet and hold the tissue box and any other small essentials,” she said. “If you have enough counter space, you can layer a much larger tray with a smaller one inside or some pretty vintage bowls.”
Vanity trays are available to suit all styles and budgets, and you can add small decorative elements for a sophisticated finishing touch, such as interior design company Black and White Projects’ zen ensemble, captured by photographer Venita Wilson.
Put Up Shelves
If floor space is tight, make use of your walls!
Shelves add more space for you to store towels, toiletries, cosmetics, toilet rolls and anything else you’d usually find in the bathroom. Replace lower cabinets (or any other storage that makes your bathroom feel cramped) with a tall shelf or a series of individual shelves installed on one side of the bathroom only, to create an illusion of bigger space.
Some shelves come with hooks attached underneath for hanging towels and robes. Shelves can also be used for decorative elements like vases, framed pictures and candles, to add personality to your small room. Don’t be afraid to personalize your shelves — Instagram user @kks_diynest spray-painted her Target shelf black.
Hang A Mirror
A mirror always makes a space seem bigger and lighter than it actually is. It’s also a great decorative feature, whether it complements existing decor or stands out as an interesting focal point.
In a really tight space, extending the mirror across the whole wall maximizes the illusion of space and can allow two people to use it at once. Although large pieces in very small spaces are usually best avoided, a generous mirror is an exception to this rule.
The best shape is oval or oblong, which appears to stretch upwards, making low ceilings feel taller and small bathrooms feel bigger, as shown by DIY enthusiast Alicia (@ourvintagenest) on Instagram.
Stick To Necessities
“If you have cabinets behind a mirror or something shallower, it’s really important to edit what will be stored there,” said Cousins. “Packing that eye-level storage with things that aren’t necessities will make it look messy, and you’ll have a harder time when you’re rushing out the door. Leave a little space between each bottle or container, and make sure all labels are facing forward.”
Instagram user and skincare connoisseur Steff (@flo.and.edie) shows how it’s done.
Step Up Your Bottle Game
When you’re designing your tiny bathroom, every little detail counts. Cousins recommends putting all your shampoo, body wash, conditioner, bath salts, etc. into clear matching bottles — take inspiration from NYC dad Tyler Moore (@tidydad).
Not only do they take up less space on the edge of your tub or shower, but they also look more stylish than a bunch of mismatched containers in different sizes. Another tip from Cousins is to switch out your bar of soap for a pretty soap dispenser, and put your toothbrushes in a matching cup instead of leaving them on the counter.
Fit A Floating Sink
Most modern sinks are slim and sleek, but even a small pedestal sink can be too obtrusive in a tiny bathroom. On the other hand, a floating basin sink (one that’s attached to the wall with no support structure underneath) saves space and looks stylish.
Options include stand-alone sinks (without a vanity) and sinks embedded in or placed on a countertop vanity. To free up even more space, go for a corner sink and position it across from the toilet instead of across from the shower to avoid an awkward walk-around set up.
For a statement piece, go for something custom-made from an innovative company, like Iowa-based live edge slab supplier The Lumber Shack.
Don’t Neglect Space Under Your Sink
If you have a floating sink, don’t forget to utilize the space underneath.
To double your under-sink storage, go for collapsible metal shelving or a tiered wire rack that lets you easily store towels, makeup baskets, bulky bottles, toilet rolls, etc. If you have a sink with a vanity, you can store small items you use every day and need easy access to in bins that attach to the inside of cabinet doors, says Cousins.
A freestanding piece can be invaluable if space is really limited, as you can transfer it from bedroom to bathroom when required.
Streamline Your Toiletries
If your toiletries are taking over your bathroom, chances are you can say goodbye to some of them.
Professional organizer Jane Stoller suggests having a quarterly bathroom clear-out. After you’ve tossed old cosmetics, skin care products, medicines and other toiletries, she recommends arranging everything that’s left into categories, such as “Everyday Use,” “Weekly Use” and “Spare Products.”
If space is still too tight, consider storing toiletries you don’t use regularly in a different room altogether. Professional organizer Joy Loving Home shows how it’s done on Instagram.
Switch The Shower Door
If your shower door opens out into the bathroom, this is interfering with your limited space. Replace it with a sliding door, which ensures that your door doesn’t bump into your basin, toilet or cabinets. It also makes your bathroom look more contemporary without spending a lot of money. Sliding shower doors come in a wide range of materials, designs and colors.
Add A Shower Curtain
A more affordable, versatile alternative to a sliding shower door is a shower curtain. But forget basic, boring plastic and use it to give your bathroom personality. In an otherwise plain bathroom with no wall space for decorative features, you can make your shower curtain your art statement. It’s super-easy to install and you can switch it out whenever you want to change the design.
Stick To A Color Palette
The color palette in your small bathroom can have an enormous impact on how spacious it looks. “When I walk into a smaller space, there are a few things that I instantly consider. First and foremost is color. Paint is the easiest and most cost-effective impact you can make to a room,” said interior designer Lauren O’Donnell. She recommends using soft hues and brighter colors in a small bathroom to instantly make it feel bigger and more inviting. Pale pink can look incredible in a contemporary bathroom, as shown by interior designer Maurizio Pellizonni in this London apartment. For a stylish, polished look, maintain your color palette throughout your towels and accessories.
A touch of green can bring any space to life — and adds a holistic vibe, if that’s your thing — and certain plants thrive in moist bathroom environments.
“If you’ve got a window, throw a hanging succulent in there — the steam from a shower creates a nice environment for those guys to thrive, in my experience,” said Cousins.
If you’re not a plant person, or your bathroom doesn’t get a lot of natural light, consider a low-maintenance air plant, which doesn’t even need to be watered.
Let The Light In
Windows instantly make a room more spacious, so make the most of them.
“Time and time again I see draperies and treatments hanging in windows and blocking the light — get those out of there! ” said O’Donnell.
If you want to use drapes or treatments to accentuate a window, she advises keeping them outside of the frame. If you’re designing a small bathroom from scratch and don’t have space for a window, consider a skylight — or have both for even more natural light.
Get Clever With Drawer Space
Drawers in bathroom cabinets are great for storage, but if you don’t keep them tidy and organized, the contents will probably end up all over the counter anyway.
The simplest solution is to place shallow baskets and dividers into drawers to keep everything where you want it to be, says interior designer Anne Michaelsen Yahn. (You’ll save time as well as space, as you won’t have to spend half an hour looking for the one product you need.)
If you have a large family sharing a small bathroom, give everyone their own section for their personal items.
Replace Dark With Light
A recent shift in vanity trends helps create the illusion of more space, says O’Donnell.
“In recent years color, materials and height of vanities have all shifted,” she said. “People are updating their bathrooms by removing darker, more traditional woods, and replacing with either a painted option (with a large focus on grays and whites) or a lighter wood, such as teak or white oak.”
This keeps things brighter overall and opens up the overall space.
Get Rid Of The Tub
If you have a separate bathtub and shower in your bathroom, getting rid of the bathtub is one of the biggest space-savers as it frees up so much room for storage. If you can’t — or don’t want to — get rid of the tub, remove the walk-in shower and install it over the bathtub, as in this design by luxury bathroom installation company MJP Plumbing and Heating. It’s is a better option for resale value, says design-build home remodeling firm Synergy Design & Construction, because most home buyers want a bathtub — or at least the option of having one.
Bathe Japanese Style
If you really can’t live without a bathtub, consider taking inspiration from Japan (and interior designer Irene Turner) and adding a Japanese soaking tub. Rounder and deeper than regular bathtubs, they come in a range of sizes, meaning you can squeeze one into even the smallest of spaces. Who says you need a large bathroom to recreate your very own spa retreat? If you have the necessary budget, a soaking tub set into the ground will create a more contemporary vibe and an even greater illusion of space.
Be Inspired By Hotels
Towels are a bathroom essential but can also be a headache when space is at a minimum. For deep towel storage, go for hotel shelves, says remodeling specialist Cristina Miguelez. These are designed to hold towels, while standard shelves may not be deep enough. Interior designer Samantha Sullivan shows how effective this is on Instagram. You could also mount a towel bar on the shower door to ensure you always have a towel close by to dry off with, and store the bulk of your towels in a linen closet.
Use Your Door Wisely
An over-the-door shelving unit can store everything you need in your bathroom. With styles available to suit every budget and decor theme, this is one way to guarantee all your toiletries and other bathroom essentials are in one place. Some units simply hook over the top edge of the door, while others need to be secured down the center to the door itself., like this white rack from storage design company Storage Goals.
Install A Trough Sink
An inclined trough sink might remind you of a school bathroom, but it’s actually a great alternative to a bulkier basin in a tiny bathroom. Its long, sleek, narrow design makes an impact without taking up too much space or interfering with foot traffic, and is ideal for people with multiple children who want morning and evening cleanups to be quick and hassle-free. If the bathroom is child-free but shared by more than one adult, a trough sink doesn’t waste space the way double sinks do and lets you share a sink without sharing your personal space. Home renovator Katie (@thecopefarmhouse) keeps her options open with a “fancy faucet” and a garden hose faucet.
Round The Vanity
If you’re fed up maneuvering around the sharp corners of your vanity in your tiny bathroom, go round! A curved style of vanity is less intrusive, and can even work in a square space. A vanity with a rounded front looks great in a corner, as it blends into the space much better than an angular vanity. A rounded vanity also seems more delicate than a square or rectangular vanity — another reason it’s ideal for a small space. This custom semi-circular vanity made by Chris Palmer is an elegant, contemporary example.
Choose A Large-Scale Tile Pattern
You can’t do much about the square footage of your bathroom, but you can get clever with your tiles. If you opt for a large-scale pattern, like this wide horizontal stripe, you can trick the eye into seeing magnified space.
If you go for a wide vertical stripe (you may know this as shiplap!), like husband and wife Matthew and Kenzie (@renovationrun), the room will seem taller and the ceiling higher.
This might seem to go against the advice of some experts, who claim that large tiles in a small bathroom make the room look smaller. Small tiles create more grout lines, which also make the room look small. A good middle ground is to tile only one wall of your small bathroom and paint the other walls in a soft hue.
Keep Pattern On The Floor
You don’t have to avoid intricate patterns altogether in a small bathroom. Patterned tiles give a bathroom character and make it look more expensive (while not necessarily being more expensive than plain tiles). Patterned tiles on the walls can be too overwhelming for a small bathroom, but they work well on the floor if you keep the walls all one color, preferably white or another neutral shade, like Sussan Horsley (@sussanhorsley) did with her bathroom renovation.
Play Tricks With Tiles
You can trick the eye in a small bathroom by tiling the side of the bathtub and the wall (and even the floor) with the same design, like Becky (@homesweethome_at_23) did. This makes it difficult to figure out where each element begins and ends, making the space feel larger. The glossier the tiles, the better!
Another effective tile trick for creating the illusion of space is to continue the floor tile into the base of the shower.
Recess Your Shelves
If you don’t have any more space for bathroom essentials in your vanity or on your walls, build shelves into false walls that disguise pipework for genius space savers, as designer Caroline Wilson has done. They also look great, turning your tiny bathroom into something that wouldn’t look out of place in a luxury spa.
Add spot or linear lighting to your recessed shelves for even more of a high-end look, or create an ultra-relaxing space for bathing by lining the shelves with scented candles.