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Big Space-Saving Ideas for Small Bathrooms


One of your goals as a designer is to bring something new and exciting to the table. So here are a few (slightly out-of-the-box) ideas for maximizing the space in a small bathroom.

First of all, no matter how small, there’s no getting around the fact that in every bathroom, there are fixtures that can’t be eliminated; like toilets, sinks, faucets, showers, bathtubs, etc. So there are really 3 ways to make the most of available space; reduce the size of those non-negotiables; eliminate or reduce the size of everything else; and create the illusion of a larger space.

Generally, rounded corners and rounded objects make a small space appear larger.  They create flow where squared corners interrupt the field of vision. A good example is a Victorian bathtub.  Even though these fixtures are free-standing and may actually take up more space than a built-in, they seem smaller. Following are a few more distinctive ideas for maximizing the space in a small bathroom and make it seems bigger.


Q:  How can I use wall treatments to make a bathroom look bigger?

A:  Here’s a great paint trick to expand a small rectangular bathroom: paint the 2 narrowest walls a shade slightly lighter than the wider walls. The easiest way to accomplish this is to add one cup of white paint per gallon of wall color. Then, instead of painting the ceiling white, just add 2 more cups of white paint per gallon of wall color. This creates a space-expanding monochromatic effect.

Instead of thinking about adding anything else to the walls (i.e. wallpaper or shelving) think about what you can subtract.  Have a look at what’s protruding from the wall surface and think about whether you can eliminate it, replace it with something less obtrusive, or just raise it. A good rule of thumb: in a very small room, everything below 6-1/2 feet needs to serve an immediate purpose.

Q:  What are the best sinks and faucets for a small bathroom?

A: Assuming your client has room for a vanity, dispensers that are built into the sink are a natural choice for a clutter-free vanity top. On the other hand, if there isn’t room for a vanity, but they need the storage, go with a pedestal or wall-hung sink complemented by a small storage unit with a solid top (not wicker) on rollers that they can roll when and where they need it.   

Slimmer profile faucets that don’t compromise on function are a great option for a small bathroom.  Or, going in the opposite direction; consider making the sink faucet a dramatic focal point—one eye-catching focal point is a visual space expander. Many of today’s faucets are works of art that can fulfill that role.  

Q:  Which toilets work best for a small bathroom?

A:  Space-saving toilet options include those with rounded bowls and those with compact elongated bowls. Compact elongated bowls offer the comfort of elongated bowls and the space savings of a rounded bowl. This space savings is accomplished by reengineering fixture elements so that the toilet is closer to the wall, but still fits a standard rough-in (meaning you can easily replace an existing toilet with one of these).

If you want to avoid replacing the toilet, make that space work harder by adding a storage rack that extends from a few inches above the toilet tank to the ceiling.  This is actually an excellent place to install a high storage rack for a number of reasons, including accessibility.  

Q:  What about structural things like doors, windows, and built-ins?

A:  Maximize the natural light by removing curtains.  Where privacy is an issue, replace the glass with frosted or privacy glass.   Make the door work a little harder by installing low profile towel racks to the inside of the door.  Among designers, there are 2 schools of thought on shower doors/curtains. On the one hand, a clear shower door may make the room appear larger, but on the other hand a thin neutral-toned shower curtain is less obstructive.  Some designers are making the tub area itself the room’s focal point with eye-catching fixtures and artful bath tile.

Removing built-in storage space isn’t easy; better to update the finish and maximize the use. For example, install electrical outlets inside built-in medicine cabinets. This will de-clutter countertops by allowing out-of-sight storage for rechargeables such as toothbrushes and shavers. A great way to add storage without intruding on space is a modular magnetic, wall-hugging storage system.


Pay extra attention to bath showroom displays— the experts that create these displays know how to make the best use of a small space. Look at the way fixtures are configured and the design elements (such as lighting) that work together to make a small space appear bigger. 

There are so many other things that will optimize space in a small bathroom. The bottom line is to think of a tiny bathroom as the command control area of a spacecraft—where the beauty is in the utility and efficiency of the design and components themselves.