Designing or updating a small bathroom can feel like a chore but when done correctly, it will make the biggest difference. After all, having a luxurious bathroom, no matter the size, will instantly up both your daily life and your home’s resale value.
To learn the best ideas for transforming a small bathroom into a spa-like space, we chatted with a few experts. Rasheeda Gray, principal designer and owner of Gray Space Interior Design, Kelley Mason, manager of content and creative for Lulu and Georgia, and Mercedes Austin, CEO of Mercury Mosaics all reveal some of their favorite trendy and timeless small bathroom ideas.
1. Assess storage needs
First call to action: determine the smartest storage solutions for your limited space, Gray recommends. Consider shower niches, linen storage, toiletry cabinets, and more. You may even consider forgoing a classic vanity for something that floats to create more floor space where you can use hooks, baskets, or shelves. Making this assessment right away will help you maximize the function of the design so it works with your overall design.
2. Befriend light, bright neutrals
When in doubt, white works wonders in small spaces. The brightness, Gray notes, helps to make the space feel much larger and it keeps you from having to worry about the “right way” to incorporate color without shrinking your bathroom. Other light neutral tones like grays and beiges can also help small bathrooms feel bigger and warmer.
3. Liven it up with splashes of color
Color, of course, is a treat that can liven up your space. If you have sufficient lighting, whether natural or artificial, darker colors are a dramatic option that can make your design feel everything but boring. Should your light sources be a bit dimmer, softer colors can help illuminate the space.
4. Incorporate larger patterns
Though it may seem counterintuitive, large patterns work best in small spaces because they actually make a space feel much bigger visually, while small-scale patterns do the opposite, Gray explains.
5. Make use of every surface
Nothing is off-limits when space is tight, including back-of-toilet storage, or any other surface, for that matter. Use each exposed surface as a shelf (within reason, of course).
6. Include decor that doubles as functional storage
Similarly, maximize the space you do have with baskets, cabinetry, floating shelves, and the like, so each surface looks designed but can also double as storage.
7. Layer lighting
Gray and Mason both recommend using multiple light sources in a bathroom, even if it’s small, in order to make it feel more open, airy, and even balanced. Try recessed lights paired with vanity lighting, sconces, or even a chandelier for an extra-luxurious retreat.
8. Splurge on your shower fixtures
Budgeting can be stressful but if you’re looking for one area to splurge on in your small bathroom, let it be the bath and shower fixtures. “Selecting a shower head that fits your needs; handheld, body sprays, rain-head, etc. will make a huge impact on a small bathroom for many years to come,” Gray says.
9. Add floating or built-in shelves
Designing a bathroom for the first time may allow you some flexibility with custom built-in bathroom shelves. If you’re simply redesigning or doing so on a budget, though, floating shelves are an affordable solution that are equally as trendy.
10. Choose a mirror with storage
Storage in small spaces is limited so don’t sacrifice precious wall space for a mirror that doesn’t reflect your needs. Medicine cabinets or mirrors that pull out to reveal space to keep your toothbrush and other toiletries are truly a lifesaver.
11. Get creative with hooks and hangers
Build your own vertical towel rack or line the wall with a variety of hooks and hangers to allow for hanging towel storage for a more relaxed feel to a spa-like bathroom.
12. Design with a glass shower door
Showers with glass doors naturally make a space feel bigger since they don’t block the full view. Plus, they’re pretty stunning to look at (even in bigger bathrooms). If it fits in the budget, this is another place worth splurging. You can find glass door kits to add to your existing tub or opt for a clear curtain for a budget alternative.
13. Save wall space with ceiling lighting
With all your shelves, hooks, and decor, wall space can get covered up fast so ceiling lighting, whether recessed bulbs, a chandelier, or pendants, works really well in smaller spaces.
14. Design with a trendy bath tray
Harking back to the sexy storage options, “A beautiful tray helps corral a messy vanity, and can be an opportunity to add a decor item with personality,” says Austin. If your vanity isn’t big enough, you can even keep it displayed across your tub.
15. Consider wallpaper instead of wall tiles or paint
Peel-and-stick wallpaper is a particularly fun option for anyone who’s looking to jump on a trend without making any permanent alterations. Note: the pattern rule mentioned above really applies here, so Mason suggests sticking to a larger wallpaper print so it doesn’t make the space feel dizzying or even smaller.
16. Have fun with bathroom tile trends
Bathroom tile trends are seemingly evolving constantly but if you’re looking to hop on some of this year’s best, click here for even more tips.
17. Opt for large format tiles
Remember that pattern rule we discussed? You bet it also applies to tiles! Large-format tiles of about 4 by 12 inches or even 12 by 24 inches (with small grout lines) are best for small bathrooms to make them feel more open and less busy.
18. Match your wall and floor tiles
Extending your wall tile to the floor will also help to make your otherwise small bathroom seem bigger. The continuity will trick the eye into making the room visually expand.
19. Mix and match patterned tiles
The funky thing about patterns is that as long as they’re big enough, there are no other rules. Try mixing and matching your wall tiles with your floor patterns.
20. Think light and bright with white tiles
Light and bright doesn’t stop at paint and other bathroom fixtures, light tiles are especially eye-catching as they can immediately elevate a small space with little effort.
21. Go to the dark side with dramatic tiles
Whether colorful or black, dramatic tile options are definitely in. Step out of (or into) your comfort zone with a bold tile option to create a statement bathroom — just be sure to balance it out with a lot of lighting.
Never underestimate how big a difference renovating a small bathroom can make. If you’re tackling this project yourself, consider your in-bathroom needs first so you can strategically pick pieces that work for them, then make them work double-duty as both decor and storage.
From there, narrow down your wall and floor treatments. Your small bathroom’s color palette can be light and airy or dark and dramatic as long as you’re sticking to larger tiles and patterns to create the illusion of more space. Glass showers help with this, too. And remember: if there’s one thing you should splurge on, it’s the shower fixtures.