Most of us want to know how to make a small bathroom look bigger because most of us have small bathrooms. Historically, the humble bathroom has been one of the smallest rooms in the house – 5ft x 8ft being the common size – creating more space for the living spaces and bedrooms. Go back even further and the bathroom wasn't even inside the house but outside in the back yard.
Nowadays, we want our bathrooms to do more than just provide a space where we clean. We want a space we can relax and wallow in, a space that looks as beautiful as it is practical; a haven of indulgence, luxury, and relaxation.
Unfortunately, we often can't magic up more space but there are plenty of small bathroom ideas that will drastically boost your bathroom space without the need to knock down walls or move house. So how do you make a small bathroom bigger? From the floor and walls to lighting and storage, here are ten top tips to help create the illusion of more space...
10 expert tips to make a small bathroom look bigger
1. How to make a small bathroom look bigger - tie the scheme together
Whether your small bathroom layout is the main family bathroom, the downstairs shower room, or the guest bathroom tucked in the loft eaves, keeping the scheme uniform will help make it feel bigger than it actually is.
'Opting for the same tone of bathroom tiles throughout the scheme is a popular choice for small bathrooms - a uniform look will give the space continuity and make it look larger. Choose polished, matt and bush hammered options so that you have texture throughout,' says Yousef Mansuri, Director of Design at C.P. Hart
'When planning a bathroom, it is important to create a sense of openness even if your actual space is limited,' he adds. 'Revealing as much floor as possible gives the impression of a larger room, so consider wall-mounting your basins, WCs and radiators. This will also make cleaning hard-to-reach areas much easier.'
2. Replace your bath with a shower
A bath takes up a huge chunk of space – for smaller bathrooms this could be around a third of the available floor space. Removing the bath and going for walk-in shower ideas instead can offer a practical solution that immediately generates more bathroom space.
You will have to weigh up the pros and cons of removing the bath from a personal perspective, as baths are great for family households and those with dogs too. The other consideration is that if you’re renovating to sell the home, a bath is a potential buying benefit,' explains James Roberts, Director of Sanctuary Bathrooms.
'If you’re looking to just have a shower in your space, consider a walk-in design. The fact they are built for easier accessibility makes them advantageous when it comes to extending the room so it looks bigger, compared to a standard shower enclosure, which blocks out an area of the room,' he adds.
'Some people choose to build their walk-in shower using the same flooring as the rest of the bathroom, which provides a continuous pattern or style. If this isn’t possible or not to your taste, some shower trays can create the illusion of more space with the entire bathroom floor being on a similar level.'
3. Make the bath a feature
We all aspire to have the best free standing bath in the middle of a large room with a massive chandelier hanging over the top. However, most bathrooms, even in large houses are pretty modest. So, with limited floor space, plan carefully and you can still create a stunning result.
'With a smaller bathroom, the trick is to maximize the visible area of the floor, so use a free-standing bath on feet or a plinth. If possible, position your bath so it’s the first piece seen when you open the door. Bathtubs are now considered decorative as well as functional, so use the bath as a feature piece,' explains Phil Etherden, Mangering Director at The Albion Bath Co.
'When it comes to deciding where you’re going to position your bathroom fittings, the best tip is to think about how they're used and in what order. With this in mind, we would often recommend that the sink or basin is placed closest to the door, as it is often the last stop in most bathroom routines. The toilet and other fittings can then be further into the room. This not only provides more privacy but saves you from walking through puddles left behind by people stepping out of the bath of shower.'
4. Wall-hung or wall-mounted?
The way we hang a basin or toilet can make a massive difference to how we perceive the space. 'Wall-mounted basins ensure that all the pipes and fixtures are within the wall – removing the bulky ledge at the back of the sink from the bathroom space, while wall-hung basins don’t create space, but the free floor area beneath it creates the illusion of a larger room,' says interior designer Katie Thomas, founder of KTM Design.
'In order to make a small bathroom feel bigger, you need space to walk around. Ideally, a person needs around 1m in front of a bath and 0.7m in front of a toilet to feel comfortable in the space,' she adds. 'You should look for furniture that fits the space, such as short projecting toilets, compact baths and showers, and narrow sink basins.'
'Corner basins that can slot into tricky spaces are useful for smaller spaces. For example, the corner behind the door can be a space saver and leave you with more floor space. You can also combine the basin with a storage cupboard for a multipurpose item,' says Katie. 'And like sinks, wall hung toilets free up floor space and create the vision that the room is larger.'
5. Avoid a shower curtain
When it comes to small bathroom shower ideas, a big tip is to ditch the shower curtain. They might be more affordable, but they could be making your bathroom look smaller than you might want it to.
'Shower curtains may seem like a cheaper and more practical solution to adding extra space in your bathroom. However, they can impact space more than you’d think,' says James Roberts, Director of Sanctuary Bathrooms. 'The main purposes of shower curtains are to help keep moisture and steam in the area and to maintain privacy. It could be argued that the curtain will only be shut when in use but in reality, even when open if they are colored or darker, they can be a distraction.'
'If you keep it shut when not in use, then it becomes another barrier, increasing the sense of claustrophobia,' he says. 'You could ditch the shower curtain, install a door lock and open the window to let air in for moisture to escape and maintain visibility to all walls of the bathroom. If you’re certain on having some protection against spillages while the shower is in use, then installing a clear, see-through shower screen is a sturdier compromise without closing off the entire bath area.'
Jo Oliver, Director, Stone & Ceramic Warehouse agrees that 'a great way of adding to the feeling of space in a bathroom is to use a glass panel. A clear glass shower screen or panel will reflect light effectively and will open up the space allowing you to see the whole bathroom without any barrier, instantly making it feel larger.'
6. Use large format tiles
When considering tiles in your new bathroom, there are plenty of small bathroom tile ideas out there to help create the illusion of space. 'Pale colored tiles can make a small bathroom look bigger as they reflect more light than darker colors, giving an airy and spacious feel,' says Jo Oliver, Director, Stone & Ceramic Warehouse. 'Using the same tiles on the walls and the floor will enhance the feeling of space by creating a continuous look. We’ve seen a huge increase in the popularity of slab or ‘large format’ porcelain tiles in recent years. These large-format designs mean fewer grout lines, and therefore less maintenance and cleaning. Slab tiles are ideal for creating a striking, high-end look, and can often make smaller rooms appear larger thanks to their seamless appearance.
Laura Davie, Marketing Manager at Cosentino UK adds that 'extra-large tiling is a great way to play with proportions in a smaller bathroom and this can be taken one step further by using surfacing coverings to clad entire walls. Predominantly a design option seen in high-end hotels, this style offers plenty of practical benefits – for a start, oversized tiling means less awkward grouting to keep clean! Pair with an oversized shower head and a generously sized shower screen – the result will be a luxe, wow-factor look even in a smaller space.'
7. Be bold with color
White tends to be the main go-to color for the bathroom, but there are so many fantastic small bathroom color ideas out there to choose from.
'Often the smallest room in the home, the bathroom has for too long become the victim of the ‘all white makes it look bigger’ design philosophy. Thankfully upcoming trends embrace a more creative and bold approach to what can be the most exciting spaces in the home,' says Justyna Korczynska, Color Consultant at Crown.
'Color drenching, especially when using darker brave colors, works best in small spaces like a hallway, a corridor, or small bathroom. By enveloping a small space in a color, the focus shifts from noticing the size of that space to just appreciation of the shades that surround us,' she says.
'If white bathroom ideas seem too sterile for your taste, greys are extremely versatile and will work perfectly in your bathroom. Crown’s Soft Steel is a light grey hue and will give the room more texture than a white,' says Justyna. 'Crown offers a wide range of white and grey shades in their bathroom range, as well as bolder and brighter colors if you are feeling brave. Each paint is specially formulated with built-in anti-mold technology to keep bathroom walls looking fresh and cleaner for longer.'
8. Get organized and clear the clutter
Storage is key when it comes to keeping a bathroom space feeling calm, clutter-free and feel bigger than it actually is. Small bathroom storage ideas will help you rethink the way you organize your bathroom bits – interior designer Katie Thomas suggests using corner storage hung on the walls will save space, use mirrored doors to create the illusion of a bigger room. A large wall hung mirror over the sink will make the room feel bigger and finally, install towel rails on the back of doors to free up wall space and once again, make the space feel larger.'
If it's open shelving you're after, then making sure they're styled beautifully will not only add personality but will provide functional extra storage in your bathroom. 'At String Furniture, we celebrate individual journeys and we believe that our shelves should be a reflection of our personalities and exhibit the objects that we have collected throughout our lives,' says Peter Erlandsson, Co-Owner, and Director of String Furniture.
'When it comes to styling my own shelves, I have found that selecting just a few beautiful pieces to display can make the most decorative impact and be the most sentimental. Coordinating different colors on your shelves is another simple and effortless way of making these pieces stand out and decoratively tie a room together. Many forget that storage can be part of the interior design scheme and by displaying and styling our objects, we can merge function with decoration.'
You can always make use of a few handy bathroom organizers to carry your clutter and hide toiletries and towels out of sight — or in plain sight but in style. Whether floor space is premium in your bathroom or you've plenty of it to use, an organizer can help maximize the storage potential in this space.
9. Pick a clear screen and continuous floor
A compact space doesn’t have to look cluttered or cramped if a few clever design tricks are employed. 'A low-level shower tray is just one example of the type of product that enhances a smaller bathroom, especially when combined with a frameless glass screen to create a walk-in, wet room style shower area,' says Ben Bryden, Sales and Marketing Director at RAK Ceramics UK
'Large format tiles that minimize grout lines and make small spaces appear bigger than they are, sanitaryware with curves and, of course, furniture with plenty of storage space, are all solutions that will create a sleek, sophisticated look that actually makes the bathroom look and feel bigger than it really is.'
10. Always include a mirror
Mirror mirror on the wall... will make a huge difference to how big or small your bathroom feels.
'When decorating a small bathroom, fixed mirrors on a long wall will double the illusion of space. A floor standing mirror can be moved around to create different moods within the room which is great when light isn’t so key and you want to create ambience with candles,' says Juliette Thomas, Founder & Director, Juliettes Interiors.
'The bigger the mirror the better. A small mirror in a large space will look skimpy, upsetting the balance of the whole room. However, wall mirrors should never be wider than the piece of bathroom furniture below.'
What color makes a small bathroom look bigger?
So what colors make a bathroom look bigger? Light colors such as white, cream pastels and gray tend to be the popular picks for creating the illusion of more space, while yellow will visually expand a room and dark colors can make a room feel smaller.
'White tends to be the main go-to color for the bathroom. Some think that all-white can be too clinical but having a lighter tone will open up the space and make it feel brighter,' says Justyna Korczynska, Color Consultant at Crown. 'Bathrooms are often the smallest room in the house and a dark color can make it feel too closed unless you are lucky enough to have a large space with lots of natural light.'
'Milk White from Crown is a perfect color for your wet room, it has a creamy quality to it which will create soothing tones and avoid looking too harsh. White also works well with brass accents as it will allow them to stand out against the background. This is also true for colored bathroom ceramics or accessories, painting the wall a light color will help them stand out and be the focal point of the room.
How do you brighten up a small bathroom?
Interior designer Katie Thomas, founder of KTM Design shares her tips on how to brighten up a small bathroom. 'Firstly, light-colored tiles or paint gives the illusion of a larger space as light bounces off it. Additionally, paint the ceiling the same or a slightly lighter color than the walls and tiles to give the feeling that the room is taller and overall, larger.
'Also, look for shower baths – this way, you can have the luxury of having both without using additional space. 'If your shower is not combined with your bathtub, sliding or bi-folding doors that open inwards can create more space. Corner showers can also save space, with a curved door that has a shorter projection than a rectangular shower. Use a clear screen to create the illusion of more space, as opposed to a curtain or Crittall glass,' she says.
How can I make my small bathroom luxurious?
Bathrooms are the ultimate place to unwind and enjoy some self-care, so making them feel luxurious is a popular desire. Marble bathroom ideas as a starting point never fail to turn a basic bathroom into something ten times fancier.
Interior designer Katie Thomas, founder of KTM Design explains that the size of tile used can make or break a bathroom; 'ensure your tiles fit the size of the room. Although it may seem logical that smaller tiles will fit the room better, it actually creates a busy and chaotic look due to the number of grout lines. Large floor and wall tiles are actually great for a small space. It is best to go with one consistent light tile that is fairly plain to open up the space.'
'You could also use the same tile on the walls and floors to create calmness and consistency while creating a feeling of a larger room – many luxurious spas do this. It creates a crisp look and leads the eye across the whole room, opening it up,' she says. Plus, 'natural lighting always gives the effect of opening up a space. Lights that are flush to the ceiling or short hanging pendants are great for maximizing the sense of space because they are simple and do not hang down into the small space.'
Phil Etherden, MD at The Albion Bath Co Ltd finishes 'don't be tempted into cramming large items into a small room. The effect will be to lose all aesthetic value while making the room look small and cluttered.' So for a luxurious look, keep tiles large, add marble and keep the space clutter-free!
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As the Houses Editor on Livingetc, Rachel has been obsessed with property ever since she was a kid. With a diploma in interior design and more than a decade working on interior magazines under her belt, she feels very at home sourcing the best contemporary houses the world has to offer for Livingetc. It's not just the day job either, she admits she's spent a scary amount of her own time researching schemes for her own renovations - scrolling Instagram, stalking Rightmove and Modern House, flicking through magazines and snooping in other peoples' windows - so she really does live and breathe houses on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Before Livingetc, Rachel had a stint finding homes for Ikea Family magazine where she was lucky enough to gallivant around the world on shoots meeting and interviewing interesting people, all with a very keen eye for blending high-end design with everyday items from Ikea. It inspired her to not be afraid of mixing new and old, expensive and affordable, vintage and modern and so Rachel's current Victorian terrace in north London is very much an updated, contemporary take on a period property; think open-plan modern kitchen with concrete floors, feature fireplaces and her grandmother’s paintings on the walls. Rachel is currently crushing on reeded glass, large gingham prints, squishy curved furniture; like Buchanan Studio’s Studio chair, and vintage wall sconces; she especially adores Retrouvius for sourcing antique finds and feels inspired by Lonika Chande, Beata Heuman and Matilda Goad and already can’t wait to start planning her next home, wherever that might be.
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