How To Design A Small Bathroom To Maximize Space

Most homeowners find that their bathrooms don’t have enough space or sufficient storage areas. Even if it’s average-sized, it can sometimes still feel uncomfortable or cramped. Some even resort to sacrificing functionality and design for a little extra room.

But a bathroom doesn’t have to be huge to be more stylish and functional. With proper planning and designing, you can maximize the space of your small bathroom. You won’t need to compromise on storage anymore, check out these tips on how to make the most of every square inch you've got as well as make your bathroom feel bigger. 

Wall-Hung Toilets

Two-piece or one-piece toilets take up a lot of space in the bathroom. With an unsightly tank and base, it cramps up the bathroom and makes it look stuffy as well. So if you want a space-saving alternative, you can get a wall-hung toilet.

Aside from being tankless and baseless, wall-hung toilets hide the plumbing and keep other parts out of sight. Not only does it take up less space and looks sleek, but it also makes everything more convenient. It will be easier to clean around - and even below - the toilet since there won’t be a base in the way. You also won’t have to bend or have your face near the bowl when cleaning the area around it.

Another advantage of wall-hung toilets is its flexibility - not literally, of course. For ordinary toilets, you really don’t have an option with its height. These often come in a standard size, which is probably not the perfect fit for your height, leaving your legs hanging or bent. With wall-hung toilets, you can get it adjusted to the exact height you want, making it more comfortable.

On the other hand, this type of toilet can be difficult and expensive to install. It can be quite expensive to retro-fit since it requires heavy reconstruction. That’s why it is recommended to get a wall hung when you’re doing a new bathroom or doing a complete renovation.

Floating Vanities

Freeing up a few inches below the toilet can make the bathroom feel bigger - so if you want to add more floor space, you can get a floating vanity. If you’ve seen the top bathroom remodel trends of 2020, then you already know that this was one of the popular designs this year. 

With floating vanities, a small bathroom can look brighter and feel more spacious. You can opt to keep the bottom of the vanity empty, which will make it easier to clean. But if you need more storage space, you can place some baskets or boxes, making everything organized as well as look stylish. This will leave you with little to no floor space, but you will always have the option to remove them if you want to free up the area.

Another advantage of getting a floating vanity is that you can adjust the height. It will be more comfortable to use, making it suitable for those who have children or elderly. You won’t have to worry about them not being able to reach, pulling their back, or falling from stools, which is possible in a slippery bathroom.

  • Expert tip: If you find that your countertop or vanity is always filled with clutter, add some extra room with wall-mounted faucets. Not only does it provide more surface area, but it looks sleek and makes the back of the sink easier to clean.

Doors Aren’t Just Doors

Most people would think that doors are not that significant when it comes to the bathroom. As long as it complements the overall look, then that’s good enough. But if you have a small bathroom, a few changes with the main door and even the shower door can go a long way.

For the main door, the first thing you need to do is redirect it so that it opens outward. Don’t waste precious bathroom space by getting a door that swings inward. If you’re planning on a major renovation, you will also be able to maximize the space better when you’re not limited to the area where the door doesn’t open. You won’t need to adjust the fixtures and other items inside so that the door doesn’t bump against them. Another option is to get a sliding or pocket door - just keep in mind that it might be more difficult or take more time to open.

The door area is also often wasted space in a bathroom. This includes the space above the door and the door itself. You can utilize these spaces by hanging door pouches or installing a shelf above the doorway. These are perfect for extra toiletries or towels since you won’t need to use them every day.

Utilize the Vertical Space

As mentioned in the previous section, the area around the door is often wasted - the same can be said about the vertical space of our bathrooms. The bathroom and shower walls, areas above toilets and vanities, and tight corners are all spaces that are waiting to be used. Here are some tips on how to use these barren spots for extra storage room:

Shelves: High, Low, and Recessed

Shelves are one of the best ways to add more storage space in a small bathroom. It can be easily added to vertical surfaces, high or low. 

It’s recommended to use narrow open shelves for lower or eye-level spaces to prevent making the room feel stuffy. You can use deeper shelves in higher places, but it will make it more difficult to get the contents. I suggest placing everyday essentials on the lower shelves and storing bulkier items like towels on top, so it would be easier to get. Don’t forget to get a stool, hopefully, one that can be folded or stored out of sight so you don’t get injured!

You can also utilize the floor space with lower shelving. If you have a pedestal sink, you can add small shelves beside it. Another option to maximize space is by using recessed shelves. But there are requirements and factors to consider to safely install this type of shelving. Hire a professional to prevent ruining your bathroom wall.

Cabinet Doors, Hooks, And Magnets

In my opinion, open shelves are better than cabinets. It’s easier to get items, especially those high up, and I think cabinet doors take up space.

But if you prefer having cabinets, then you can also use the door space, similar to the main bathroom door. You can attach small baskets, hooks, and magnets for bathroom essentials, hygienic products, grooming tools, and more. Just make sure to test if the cabinet or vanity door can still be closed after arranging the items.

Hooks and magnets are not limited behind the doors. You can install them on the walls to hang clothes, towels, and robes. The shine from these hooks may also add some sparkle to the room. You can also hang organizers to have small pouches for items you can’t hang.

On the other hand, magnetic strips will be useful near the vanity. These can hold safety pins, hair clips, nail cutters, tweezers, and other small magnetic tools. You can also attach magnets directly to bathroom products and non-metallic tools so you can still hang them on the strip. This is a great solution for those who have trouble with their countertop space.

Other Storage Hacks

If you can use the space above the doorway, you can also utilize the spot above toilets and the shower. You can add a shelf for extra toilet paper, a rod for towels and clothes, or hooks to hang loofahs and small caddies for shampoo and conditioner. For toilets with a tank, you can add a basket on top for books, magazines, and other items.

Other wasted spaces in the bathroom are the area beside the toilet and the corners. If it is too narrow, you can place some repurposed ladders. This will allow you to hang towels and small baskets for other small and light items. For the corners, you can install shower caddy-like storage.

If you don’t have space for shelves or cabinets, you have no choice but to make use of temporary storage. A portable cart can slide into open spaces, and when it feels too cramped, you can wheel them out of the bathroom. You can use this for items you rarely use - maybe a dye kit or cleaning supplies if you don’t plan on cleaning every day.

Of course, we can’t forget about medicine cabinets. This mirror and storage area combo is a must for small bathrooms. Dual-purpose fixtures or furniture can help maximize the space of the bathroom or any other room in your home.

Open Up The Room With Clear Glass and Mirrors

Make your bathroom look more stylish and spacious by replacing shower stalls and curtains with clear glass. Since there is no more wall-like divider separating the shower area, it will feel as if it’s part of the entire room, giving the illusion that there is more space. Opening up the shower area will also allow more light to come in, which is why you can opt for a clear shower curtain if you prefer not using glass shower walls. But do note that it is easier to clean glass shower doors than curtain liners.

Another way to maximize visual space is to use mirrors. When the light reflects on these mirrors, it adds more depth to the bathroom. If you really want to trick the eye, you can install two mirrors on opposite sides of the bathroom. But having too many mirrors might not suit your taste, so you can try having shiny cabinets, shelves, vanities, or countertops with reflective surfaces to give the same effect.

Lighting, Color, and Decor Tips

As mentioned in the previous section, lighting can help make the room feel bigger. Aside from reflective lighting, you can also use natural lighting to maximize visual space. If you’re fortunate to have a window and sun shining into your bathroom, this will give off an open and airy feeling. If not, then you will have to settle for artificial lighting.

I suggest trying recessed lighting instead of decorative since having too many light fixtures can make the bathroom feel more stuffy as well as warmer. Avoid using suspended lights, that’s why I recommended recessed or cove lighting since it won’t overwhelm the room. If you do prefer decorative lighting, go for simple and unobtrusive designs. 

For colors, going monochrome can increase the visual space of a bathroom. If you don’t want it to be too bland, you can use one color of different shades or add a secondary color just to accentuate. It is also recommended to use a neutral and soft color scheme to give an illusion of space as well as make the room brighter. Pale and light colors are also associated with cleanliness, and using dark colors can make the bathroom look even smaller. But if you really want to use bolder colors, do it in small splashes and for accessories and decorations. You can also use it for walls or floors, but add a glossy sheen to contribute to reflective lighting.

Another way to introduce a secondary or darker color is by using it for the ceiling. This will make the eye move upward, which will take the focus away from the small room. It doesn’t have to be a color as you can use decoration and accessories to establish a focal point. An unobtrusive yet appealing light fixture, mirror, sculpture, painting, or plant is a good distraction that can also make the room more appealing.

If you want to check if your local contractors can do any of these, head on to Networx. You can find trusted and reliable bathroom remodeling professionals in your area. All the contractors here need to be licensed and insured to join the platform.

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Kenneth Wilson
November 13, 2020
Bathroom Remodeling, Remodeling

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done.