How to update an outdated small bathroom — 7 ways to make your space sparkle again

We've spoken with design experts to find out how to update an outdated small bathroom

It's always useful to learn how to update an outdated small bathroom. Here are three pictures - one white bathroom with a curved black mirror and wooden sink unit, one with two arched golden mirrors with a light blue splashback and navy blue sink unit, and one white bathroom with white and pink marble tiles and a large curved white freestanding tub
(Image credit: Amalia Gal Interior Design / @jess_isaac / Hyperion Tiles / Walls and Floors)

Finding out how to update an outdated small bathroom is useful whether you're renting an older home or have moved into a place that needs some love.

To scope out what to do, we've chatted with interior designers who have all re-designed bathrooms to see how they've approached the task. Adding contemporary fittings and elevating the color palette are just a couple of stylish tricks in their wheelhouses.

If you're looking for small bathroom ideas and are looking specifically to turn the old to the new, we've found out everything you need to know.

How to update an outdated small bathroom

When you're organizing a small bathroom or changing up the decor, taking this room from outdated to on point is a wonderful idea.

Where our experts have recommended any useful buys to do this, we've shopped their suggestions so you can start zhuzhing up your space.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article. 

1. Choose space-saving fixtures

A corner of a terracotta tiled shower with an in-built shelf with three toiletry bottles, black and white stone tiled flooring, and a glass door with a metal handle

(Image credit: Custom Home Design by Nina Lichtenstein / GKP Construction / Brian Madden)

For those who own their homes and can knock out any bulky units, we highly recommend doing so.

“I like to opt for a pedestal sink, wall-mounted vanity, or narrow-depth vanity to open up floor space,” explains Nina Lichtenstein, principal home designer and founder of Nina's Home Design.

A picture of Nina Lichtenstein, a woman wearing a green jumpsuit
Nina Lichtenstein

For close to a decade, Nina has showcased her in-depth construction and design expertise. Nina believes that home design should capture a family’s unique spirit by how it serves daily needs while nourishing the soul. She has been celebrated for designing, renovating, and updating elegant homes.

She also says to consider a compact, corner shower to maximize available square footage or examine whether the shower can be enlarged with empty wall space.

2. Elevate the color palette

A bathroom with two gold arched mirrors on the wall, a blue and white flowery splashback, and two dual sinks with white basins and a navy blue rectangular base

(Image credit: Hyperion Tiles)

The best paint colors for small bathrooms can completely change the vibe of this space, providing different moods and atmospheres.

“Go for light and neutral tones to create an illusion of spaciousness,” suggests Nina.

She adds, “Consider a soothing palette of whites, soft blues, or pastels to infuse a fresh and airy vibe.”

These breezy shades are sure to make a small bathroom look bigger.

3. Decorate with tiles

A bathroom with a wall of green curved tiles, a curved pink mirror, a glass green pendant light, a geometric pink and gray splashback, and a sink with a black tap and white geometric sink

(Image credit: Ca' Pietra)

Bringing in beautiful small bathroom tile ideas is a quick way to refresh and add shine. 

“Introduce eye-catching tiles to add character. Bold patterns or textured tiles can create visual interest, making the bathroom feel more dynamic without overwhelming the space,” Nina explains.

For those renting, you can bring in peel-and-stick tiles to add damage-free style. For example, these Mi Alma Peel and Stick Tiles from Wayfair would add major drama as a small bathroom splashback idea.

4. Bring in modern finishes

A white bathroom with a glass shower with a gold shower head and built in shelves, a white toilet with a dark wooden shelf with plants on over it, a white unit next to it, and gray marbled flooring

(Image credit: Amalia Gal Interior Design / @amybarnardphotography)

There’s nothing wrong with a vintage-vibe aesthetic — in fact, it’s one of the top TikTok interior trends for 2024 — but for a modern look, you’ll want to upgrade your fixtures.

“Update traditional fixtures with up-to-date replacements featuring modern lines and sleek design — the transformation of the room will feel instant,” says Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight.

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem Kropovinsky is an interior design expert and founder of Arsight, which has twice been honored as finalists in the international SBID Awards and acknowledged in the NYCxDESIGN Awards. He has a decade of extensive and global residential and commercial interior design experience.

If you want to make your small bathroom look luxe, chic metallic shades are the way to go.

“Brass or gold-toned fixtures will update any outdated bathroom and give a small bathroom a more spacious feel,” adds Amalia Gal, interior designer and founder of Amalia Gal Interior Design.

A picture of Amalia Gal, a woman with dark brown frizzy hair wearing a beige top and black skirt sitting on white steps with a beige runner rug in the middle of it
Amalia Gal

Amalia Gal is the interior designer and founder of Amalia Gal Interior Design. Her mission is to create beautiful, innovative, and functional spaces her  my clients. As the owner of a boutique commercial and residential interior design firm, she works in a wide variety of modern, traditional and transitional styles.

5. Switch to heated flooring

A white bathroom with a white and pink marble wall, a curved white freestanding bath tub with a gold tap, a white freestanding sink unit with a gold circular mirror above it, and brown parquet flooring

(Image credit: Walls and Floors)

Have you ever been to a hotel and fallen in love with the heated flooring? You can make your small bathroom feel like a spa by bringing this into your own space.

Nina explains, “Embrace the luxury of radiant heat flooring in small bathrooms — a perfect match where the modest floor size not only offers coziness but also makes the investment exceptionally cost-effective.”

These are also a lot more energy-efficient than other heating methods since they don’t lose heat via air leaks and don’t require a lot of energy to run, either.

6. Hang up a mirror

A bathroom with cream colored walls with a window and curved black mirror, a marble sink with a gold tap and wooden base, and a toilet to the left and glass door shower to the right

(Image credit: Amalia Gal Interior Design / @jess_isaac)

While you may already have a mirror in your small bathroom (how else are you going to get your face ready for the day?), you’re going to want to make it a big one.

“Mirrors are your secret weapon in a small bathroom,” Nina explains. “Install a large mirror to reflect light and give the illusion of a more extensive area.”

She suggests experimenting with unique mirror shapes or framed designs for added style (this wiggly Waverly Framed Mirror from Urban Outfitters matches both these points and is so eye-catching).

7. Go for greenery

A white bathroom with a glass shower, a dual wall sconce with a wooden rectangular mirror underneath and a metal hook with a white and blue towel, a light wooden sink with a marble surface, and a white toilet with succulents on it

(Image credit: Custom Home Design by Nina Lichtenstein / GKP Construction / Brian Madden)

Some of the best indoor plants thrive in humid conditions, making them an ideal way to update an outdated small bedroom.

Nina says, “Consider low-maintenance options like succulents, air plants, or African Violets to add a touch of nature without overwhelming the limited space.”

This Shop Succulent Store Plant Pack on Amazon has over 7,000 five-star reviews and the plants can be placed on top of the toilet, along the bath rim, or used to liven up small bathroom wall storage ideas.

Thoughtful choices and strategic updates can make a significant impact in a small bathroom, creating a space that feels both modern and comfortable.

Nina finishes by saying, “By integrating these design inspirations, you can breathe new life into your small bathroom, turning it into a chic and inviting oasis.”

Want to carry on glowing up your home? Learning how to update an outdated small bedroom will help you create a dreamy space to relax.

Eve Smallman
Staff Writer

Hi there! I’m a staff writer at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses.