Design tips for small bathrooms

A small bathroom must contain all the elements of a large one in less space. That’s why planning a new one or remodelling your existing one can be such a challenge. You have to think about function, appearance, fixtures and storage, along with how much room you have—and how much you can afford to spend. When every centimetre counts, you might want to consider getting professional design help. Most bathrooms which we renovate are in small challenging spaces. Here are some tips to help make the most of the space you have.


Using a shorter but deeper tub at our House Brown project, created space for a walk-in shower.

First investigate whether it is possible to increase the floor area, even if only by a small amount. Taking space from a neighbouring room or under-used wardrobes can make the difference between a cramped layout and one that is more workable.

Design concept

In planning the design concept, keep decorative schemes simple and co-ordinated. Consider a neutral scheme using light or neutral colours on your walls, floor and ceiling. If you find monochrome boring, try playing with textures and finishes. If you want to add colour, use towels and other accessories to do this. Vertical lines give the illusion of height and horizontal do the same for width, so do consider this when choosing furniture and deciding which way to place tiles.

Natural light

Natural light is your best ally in creating a spacious, airy look that will expand even the tiniest bathroom. If you have a window or skylight in the room make the most of it so that you get some views and so that natural light comes into the space. In this way the eye travels out of the room and this always makes a space seem bigger. Use clear glass with a tilted blind, if necessary, for privacy. A mirror opposite or close to your window will help maximise the sunlight too.

Uninterrupted floor and ceiling

Use wall hung WCs and basins (with no pedestal) as this keeps the floor clear and creates a more spacious feel. If using an under-the-basin vanity unit, keep this raised off the floor too. A walk-in shower with minimal, if any raised base, will have the same effect as will a freestanding bathtub which allows the eye to travel rather than being blocked by a bath surround. Keep the ceiling as a simple flat plane if possible.


Try to create different layers of lighting to give a sense of depth and hence space. Materials such as glass and metals can be used to reflect the available light.  LED down lights – which are energy efficient and give a comfortable light – can be placed around the perimeter of a room to increase the sense of breadth. Task lighting from an illuminated mirror will give yet another layer.


The busier your bathroom looks the smaller it will appear, so do all you can to keep it looking tidy. Don’t keep any items on display that aren’t used on a daily basis and don’t keep anything in the bathroom that is not essential. Bespoke or built-in furniture is often more expensive than unfitted, but it’s the best way to maximise space. Fit deep, easily accessible drawers to hide away clutter. Make sure you have enough storage, and keep cupboards off the floor. Placing a cabinet above the toilet, or shelves in a corner or over your mirror or window can be good ways to add storage space without crowding the room.

Go for a deep tub

When every inch is at a premium a shorter but deeper tub is a good option. When you’re climbing into a small tub, the taps need to be negotiated carefully. The best place to fit them is centrally on the wall above the bath, so you can get in easily and relax in comfort at either end without obstruction. If this is your only bathroom, install your shower over the bath and be sure to have a clear glass screen or transparent shower curtain so you’re not closing off any of the space.

Using corners

Corner tubs tend to take up more room rather than less, so avoid these. But a corner sink could be a good option, or even a corner toilet. Newer toilets are generally more compact than older models, so it could be a good idea to upgrade even if you’re leaving it where it is. If you have another bath in your house, you might want to consider having just a shower enclosure instead. Curved shower enclosures are a good option as they fit into the corner, but have a curved third edge, instead of a corner jutting out into the room.


A door opening into a room can take up a fair bit of space. Is it feasible to reverse the hinges so it opens the other way? If not, installing a sliding door can be a great way to save floor space. These doors can either run against the wall, or if the structure of your building allows, disappear into a wall cavity. In the case of an en-suite, enlarge the entrance to the bathroom and leave it open. The WC can be sheltered from view if necessary, using a frosted glass panel for privacy.