19 Clever Decorating Tricks to Make a Small Bathroom Look Bigger
We're sharing the space-saving tricks only top interior designers have up their sleeves—until now.
Choose functional, space-saving lights
“If space is limited in a bathroom, the correct lighting is essential,” says Daniel Jensen of NYC Interior Design. “Wall sconces mounted on the mirror and cove lights installed behind the mirror are functional options that create the right ambiance, without taking up any additional space. If the ceilings are low or the bathroom is small, overhead lighting should be avoided.”
Avoid patterned wallpaper
As much as we all dream of making our home bathroom look like it belongs in a trendy hotel, small bathrooms cannot be covered in wild patterns. “Avoid patterns of any sort,” says Jill Shadek Homepolish designer. “Save that fun wallpaper you’ve been dying to use for a larger room or an accent wall, as it’s certain to make the already small space seem even tighter.”
Definitely buy a statement mirror
If there’s one item you need to get right in a small bathroom design, it’s your choice of mirror. You may think that a dainty or modest mirror will enlarge your wall space, and a massive mirror will overwhelm the cramped space, but the opposite is actually true. “One of the best ways to have a bathroom feel more open is to install a large mirror above the sink,” says Jensen. “In rooms with low ceilings, placing the mirror closer to the ceiling will create the illusion of a larger space.
Make sure the floor tiles continue into the shower
Covering a small bathroom’s floor with a single, continuous tile style is an easy and effective way to trick the human eye into seeing a larger space. “Sectioning off the bathroom with different patterns and tones can make a small space feel smaller and more crowded,” says Alyssa Alon Homepolish designer. “Instead, have the floor tile continue into the shower floor so it gives the illusion of a bigger space.” Here’s how to clean a bathroom fast.
Build any shelving into the walls
Jensen says that many small bathrooms “have wasted space beyond their walls.” So if you want to know how to make a small bathroom look bigger, “install open, built-in shelves inside the wall that look like they are part of the room, rather than sticking out as a separate piece of furniture,” Jensen advises. “Ideally the built-in shelves would be painted the same color as the walls for a seamless integration.” Keep this in mind the next time you want hang bulky shelves above the toilet! Instead, choose built-in shelves that can store flowers that keep your bathroom smelling fresh.
Match the color of your walls and ceiling
If your bathroom ceiling is white while the walls are dark blue, the white up top will only make the low ceiling more pronounced and noticeable. Instead, an excellent small bathroom idea is to “match the tile color as closely as possible to the walls and the ceiling. The closer you can get the colors, the less transitions there will be and the larger the space will appear. This same trick works if you paint the ceiling the same color as the walls,” Shadek says. Check out tips for how to make your bath towels last longer.
Install a hanging toilet
When space is scarce in a small bathroom, Alon says a great way to open up the room is to install a wall-hung toilet. Even if the area beneath the hanging toilet isn’t going to be utilized, being able to see the floor tile instead of a bulky, porcelain throne creates the illusion of space.
Ditch the idea of a bathtub
As much as we all love to soak after a long day, a small bathroom doesn’t afford enough space for a comfortable, freestanding tub. And, let’s face it, the tubs built and tucked into walls aren’t large enough to comfortably use either. So instead of forcing a small tub to fit, Jensen recommends ditching the tiny bathtub altogether, and instead choosing a stand-up shower with glass walls. “Stand-up showers with floor-to-ceiling glass partitions are the best choice when designing small bathrooms,” he says. “Bathtubs are often too large or take up a lot of space in bathrooms and are therefore not the best choice for smaller rooms.” Here are 11 ways to make the most of your shower.
Pay attention to the scale of your fixtures
In a small bathroom, the last thing you need are fixtures that further crowd the space. “Select bathroom fixtures that are the right scale for the space is important,” instructs Jensen. “Often bathtubs, sinks, and toilets are the wrong size or are too large for bathrooms. If you are redoing a bathroom it’s helpful to draw the items in the space to be able to visualize how they will look.” Keep them sleek and minimally sized for best results. For serious inspiration on transforming a small space, check out this couple that created a mini guest house.
Recess your medicine cabinet
You may not mind the look of a protruding medicine cabinet, after all, it will only take up a few extra inches of space, right? Well, as Shadek points out, even fixtures as thin as medicine cabinets can clutter your sink area or take up precious walk room. “Recess storage into the wall. Building the medicine cabinet into the wall will decrease the amount of clutter elsewhere in the room and create the illusion of a larger space.”
Hide or store unnecessary products
“A cleaner bathroom and storing your bottles will always make a bathroom feel bigger,” advises Alon. Does your shower really need ten bottles of shampoo cluttering its corners? Can your makeup brushes be kept in your medicine cabinet instead of on the sink counter? Filling your bathroom with products is an easy way to shrink the size of the room even further, so keep it as clean as you can. With fewer products cluttering your space, you’ll also speed through your morning routine.
Work in a few extra mirrors
“Use as many mirrors as possible,” instructs Shadek. “Have you ever been in a bar or restaurant with tons of mirrors, and thought the space was twice as big as it actually was? You can use the same technique fun houses use—called the infinity mirror technique—to create the illusion of a larger bathroom. Large mirrors help, as do mirrors on multiple walls. I personally have a mirrored, sink vanity in my own bathroom to achieve this effect.”
Compromise storage with a floating vanity
Be honest, do you really need storage cabinets underneath your bathroom sink? Can you keep your cleaning supplies elsewhere? If so, Jensen encourages you to consider a floating vanity. “Vanities often take up a lot of floor space under sinks, and the storage space isn’t always needed. A floating vanity will add more open floor space if you are willing to compromise on less storage.” Particularly if your home has a supply or linen closet, you really don’t need a vanity.
Tile as much surface area as possible
“The larger a space you can tile, the better,” says Shadek. “Instead of just tiling the necessary spaces in the shower, tile one whole bathroom wall, or continue on to the ceiling of the shower with the tiles. It’s also wise to continue to the tile all the way to the top of the wall, some showers stop a few inches short of the ceiling, which will not do your small bathroom any favors.” When it comes to cleaning your tiles, we’ve got you covered on how to get rid of any mildew.
Choose light, soft paint colors
No matter how much you love deep greens, blues, and grays, it’s important to remember this guideline: Dark colors close a space, while light colors open them. As such, make sure to paint your small bathroom in a shade that makes it appear larger. “Painting the walls a light, soft, and neutral color or soft pastel color opens up any small room,” Alon confirms.
Break from the norm with a corner sink
If you’re stuck with a tiny bathroom, it’s a great idea to think outside the box on how to best design it. Although having a standing or floating sink is the norm, why not consider a corner sink? Ceramic options can be just as stylish and seriously space-saving! “It’s OK to break the rules a little,” reveals Alon. “You don’t always need to put a sink where it usually is unless that’s the only choice you have. Instead, test a corner sink to make more room in the space.”
Use stripes to your advantage
You know how you avoid wearing horizontal stripes on days you’re feeling bloated? Well, the ability stripes have to enlarge an area can actually work to your advantage in a small bathroom. “Horizontal stripes with the same distance between each stripe widen short walls,” says Alon. This can be a great tool if you want to wallpaper an area that looks extra narrow. However, Alon wants to remind you that if you do want stripes, stick to horizontal patterns, because “vertical stripes with the same distance between each stripe create a shorter, smaller room height.”
Your tiles should be strategic
Your bathroom is the ideal place to get creative with your dream tiles, but there are some rules you need to follow. For one, Shadek says to “steer clear of using black grout for the subway or floor tiles in the shower,” as this will make the room look extra small and closed off. Next, you need to choose the right size. Alon says that bigger tiles in softer tones can help give the illusion of a larger space.
Consider a frameless shower door
We hope this goes without saying, but there’s no room in a small bathroom for partitions that divide the toilet and shower. “Rather than dividing the shower with another wall, opt for a frameless shower door to make the small area feel bigger,” says Alon. As we said earlier, the less space you dedicate to the shower, the better. So ditch the tub attachments and stick to a thin, glass barrier that slides instead of swings.