Small bathrooms are the ideal place to have a little fun with decor, and you certainly don't need to stretch a small budget to make a big impact; in fact, small bathroom ideas on a budget can have a profound effect at elevating the space.
Katie Lion, Interior Designer at Kitesgrove (opens in new tab), says: 'Retaining and refurbishing your existing materials, and adding low-cost but effective complementary details such as a tiled splashback is a great way to renovate your small bathroom on a budget.
'Another idea could be to change the fixtures in your small bathroom: details such as light fixtures and taps can seem insignificant but changing them can have a big impact on your bathroom’s overall look.'
Budget small bathroom ideas for an affordable stylish update
From using recycled materials to adding a lick of paint or bold patterned wallpaper, we've rounded up a host of top expert tips on budget small bathroom ideas for a beautiful bijou bathroom that doesn't compromise on style...
1. Tile the panels of a fitted bath
The humble fitted bath has come in for a lot of style slack over the years but, rest assured, there are ways to make it look chic if you can't fit in a freestanding bath.
'While freestanding baths are usually the top of everyone’s wish list when it comes to bathrooms, a standard fitted bath can be just as interesting when it comes to bathroom design, particularly if you decide to dress it up with tiles,' says Barrie Cutchie, Design Director at BC Designs (opens in new tab).
'Bath panel tiling is exactly what it says on the tin; it is adding tiles to the side of your bath, whether in the same or contrasting style as the rest of your bathroom. The process involves using specialist tile backing board which won't warp and requires a bit more effort than using standard bath panels, but it is often worth the extra effort.
'It is a really cost effective way of making a statement bath. It also means, as long as you get a panel that can be tiled, you can spend not very much on the actual bath.'
2. Include oversized artwork
Artwork doesn't have to cost a fortune (there are plenty of affordable art fairs or vintage stores to rummage around) and is a lovely way to add color and visual interest to a small bathroom.
'Bathrooms are the perfect place to have fun with decoration, adding a hit of pattern and bold color brings warmth and depth to a scheme,' says Tom Cox, of HÁM Interiors (opens in new tab). 'That’s why we like to add large scale artworks, they bring so much personality and give an unexpected pop of color. It’s an affordable way to create an impact.'
3. Use recycled drawers as a vanity unit
You certainly don't need to break the bank on a super-expensive vanity unit - an upcycled alternative can look even better than a high-end brand new one.
BC Designs' Barrie Cutchie says: 'Some of the nicest vanity units I have seen have been second hand pieces of furniture that have been lovingly brought back to life and used as a base for a basin.'
A good small bathroom storage idea is to buy one with a bottom shelf that can double up as storage for towels and necessities.
4. Hang a printed shower curtain
It's time to get rid of that plain old shower curtain and upgrade it for a bold and beautiful one.
‘The humble bathroom is so often overlooked when it comes to color, pattern, and print and yet it’s one of the best spaces to easily embrace bold design,' says Jamie Watkins of Divine Savages (opens in new tab).
'Why can’t you blend serious style with practicality? Adding a luxury shower curtain emblazoned with a decadent design to a bathroom is a relatively low-cost way to make a bold style statement.'
And interior designer Fiona Duke (opens in new tab) agrees, adding: 'Accessorising with a bright patterned shower curtain will add a little something to a neutral and small space.'
5. Utilise stylish large mirrors
'Hanging large mirrors is a classic trick to make a small space look bigger,' says Linda Holmes, Interiors Director at LuxDeco (opens in new tab). 'Mirrors are a key element to a small bathroom and they have the power to either make or break a space.
'For smaller rooms, mirrors do a fantastic job of creating a larger perception of space.'
Of course, you don't have to splash too much cash to recreate this chic bathroom mirror idea as there are so many chic options online and in store that are perfect for a budget update.
Emily Rose, of Walls and Floors (opens in new tab), adds: 'Large mirrors give an increased sense of space perception in smaller rooms. Circular mirrors have become increasingly popular over the years due to their ability to add depth and shape to a room.'
6. Install floating shelves
Save floor space in a small bathroom by installing wall-mounted floating shelves. Storage is always an added bonus, and a decluttered space can mean it stays hygienic.
'Floating storage solutions are ideal as they don’t take up floor space and can be slotted in at the most practical height for the family,' says Rebecca Quinlan of LaRedoute (opens in new tab). 'Rattan is the perfect way to bring some on-trend natural materials into the bathroom and keep all your essentials at hand.'
To save even more money, you can even use recycled materials for your shelves.
Interior designer Brooke Copp-Barton, of @home_at_brookes (opens in new tab), created the stylish bathroom above, and comments: 'Perhaps the first step would be to consider what you can re-use and upcycle before stripping everything out - in this bathroom we saved money by keeping the original roll top bath and just painted the underneath a deep red to work with the floor tiles and contrast against the paneling - which gave it a complete facelift.
'We also used off-cuts of the iroko wood worktop in the kitchen (made from reclaimed school laboratory desks) to make additional shelves in the bathroom - a cost-effective solution.'
7. Switch up fixtures and fittings
An easy way to add verve to a small bathroom is by changing your light fixtures and hardware. Brass and matte black taps are an on-trend choice, while wall sconce styles are endless - choose from a cool fluted pendant for a little vintage industrial style or add a pleated fabric option for a cottagecore effect.
Xander Shreenan, interior designer at Dowsing & Reynolds (opens in new tab), says: 'Switch out handles on units for a quick refresh and choose unique finishes and textures to make the space feel more expensive.
'If you have chrome fittings, one way to change the feel of a small bathroom on a budget is to change the tap. Choose a matte black finish to create a chic hotel feel.'
8. Embrace bold printed wallpaper
'As one of the smaller rooms in your home, a bijou bathroom is the perfect opportunity to have fun and embrace bold pattern and print,' says Jamie Watkins, Divine Savages.
And any worries you've got about using wallpaper in a bathroom are easily quelled. Jamie says: 'So many people come to us asking whether you can use wallpaper in a bathroom. Will it be it ok with the humidity and moisture? Fear not! We say, yes, of course you can. Indeed you totally should use wallpaper in a bathroom. A properly ventilated bathroom will happily accommodate wallpaper, and you can easily avoid the ‘danger areas’ by adopting some sensible design choices.
'You can also varnish your bathroom wallpaper, which provides a highly durable, clear finish that protects against finger marks, water, stains, scuffing and color fading. You simply apply it over the wallpaper using a brush or roller to ensure your bathroom wallpaper stays fresh and fabulous for years to come.'
And the good thing for anyone on a budget? 'You’ll find you probably only need a couple of rolls to make that big statement,' says Jamie.
9. Add a lick of white paint
We love small dark bathrooms for an intimate, cozy atmosphere, but if it's a larger look you're after, light or white paint will work wonders.
'For a quick update, a lick of paint can always make a space feel brand new and doesn't have to be expensive,' says Xander Shreenan.
And Emily Rose, of Walls and Floors, says: 'A white palette is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about decorating a small bathroom, and there’s a reason; light colors create the impression that a room is much bigger than it is.'
In the chic small bathroom by Fiona Duke Interiors above, we love how a white painted ceiling blends seamlessly with zellige tiles to create a textured space that also looks bigger than it actually is.
Speaking about the design, Fiona explains: 'Layout and design are key in a small bathroom. In this small room we also had sloping ceilings to contend with.
'We chose a bath on legs so that the patterned flooring could be seen throughout the entire floor space and create the illusion of a bigger floor area.
'The walls were covered in zellige tiles and we matched this tonally to the ceiling so it would blur the lines and the slope wouldn't feel too overpowering. Accessorising with a bright patterned shower curtain added a little something to the neutral space and a large mirror also created the additional feeling of space.'
10. Don't forget the fifth wall
Extending a bold patterned wallpaper onto the ceiling in a bathroom is an ultra-pretty way to make the space appear larger while remaining warm and cozy.
'Enhancing your walls with a bold, floral print will add personality,' says ’ Jamie Watkins of Divine Savages. 'For the more daring, embrace the fifth wall, look up and paper the ceiling - it will help blur the line between the wall and ceiling to create a feeling of space.'
We love the beautiful bathroom by Raili Clasen (opens in new tab) above, which perfectly shows how a beautiful bold wallpaper can add a sense of space while also being inviting and fun at the same time.
How cheaply can you renovate a small bathroom?
'If you're prepared to shop around and do some of the work yourself, you can renovate a small bathroom for as little as $1500 (£1000),' says BC Designs' Barrie Cutchie. 'Using second hand furniture for your vanity unit is a stylish and affordable idea.
'The main piece of advice for those on a budget is to pick one focal item where you spend the main part of your budget, and choose either a bath, brassware or tiles. Any of these items can really lift the room and make cheaper products feel more expensive.'
Dowsing & Reynolds' Xander Shreenan adds: 'An important consideration when planning a budget bathroom makeover is to factor in any labor costs upfront. This is where the majority of your budget could get spent so think about which jobs (if any) you could do yourself.'
What's the average cost of a small bathroom?
'The cost of having a small bathroom fitted is subjective to what products you pick,' says Barrie Cutchie. 'A small bathroom can still cost more than a medium or even a large bathroom, if you decide to go with high-end products.
'Many manufacturers offer smaller versions of their larger products, for example, small footprint copper baths which can cost in excess of $5,500 (£4000) still.
'Having a smaller bathroom doesn’t mean style or design has to be sacrificed. If we are working on an average for a small bathroom, you’d be looking to pay between $1500 and $5500 (£1000 to £4000).'
If you choose higher end finishes and can't do any of the jobs yourself, you may be looking at a higher cost margin.
Interior designer Brooke Copp-Barton says: 'When budgeting for a small bathroom I would usually suggest allowing $13,500 to $20,000 (£10,000 to £15,000) - this may sound like a lot, but once you have added up the sanitary ware, brassware, tiles and fittings (expensive purchases in their own right) you need to take on skilled plumbers and builders to bring it all together.
'Bathrooms are technical and fiddly and in my opinion, it is well worth the money investing in experienced tradespeople to do it properly.'
Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.
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