9 small bathroom must-haves that will feel like lifesavers, according to interior experts

These small bathroom must-haves should be on your list

@sundayharris bathroom photo of white walls and sink with woven baskets underneath on a peach background
(Image credit: @sundayharris)

Small bathroom must-haves are simply that. You can't be mid-blow dry with a medicine cabinet on the verge of imploding and sopping-wet towels soaking up bacteria on the floor. 

The chaos of an overcrowded W.C. is unacceptable, and it's time to put an end to the madness. To make your space feel fresh and functional, interior experts reveal their secrets to keeping things running smoothly, even in cramped quarters. 

While you're mapping out a plan, these genius small bathroom ideas will help you find the zen vibes you've been searching for. Now, would someone hand us our essential oils? Please and thank you. 

Small Bathroom Must-Haves: Quick Menu

Small bathroom must-haves, according to designers

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While no space is exactly the same, there are definitely universal non-negotiable items for creating a clutter-free, efficient environment. (And you'll need a handful of cute bathroom decor buys, obviously.) You'll want space to put your toiletries, adequate lighting for makeup application, and accessories that make the functionality of the space feel effortless. 

9 small bathroom must-haves

Advice from the experts

As is the case with most rooms, prioritizing space-saving maneuvers for the bathroom is key. 

"Hidden storage space is the ultimate essential for a small bathroom in order to keep the space functional and clutter-free," says Vivianne Chow, owner and interior stylist at Viv and Tim Home. "You have to be smart about utilizing medicine cabinet mirrors and making sure your vanity has drawers and cabinetry below for closed storage."

Vivianne Chow and her husband Tim on the couch
Vivianne Chow

Vivianne Chow is an interior stylist and founder of the home decor blog, VivandTimHome.com. She's passionate about sharing the best modern home decor to buy and recently built a dream custom home with her husband Tim. Together they're tackling decorating room by room and sharing design tips and ideas along the way!

This seems like a given. (Where else are our skincare needs supposed to live?) What might not be as much of a focus, however, is the bathroom's lighting. There are plenty of ways to brighten up a small bathroom, and considering this is the space where you get ready in the morning or before an evening out, you don't want to strain your eyes.

"Something as simple as adequate lighting temperature will enhance the space and significantly impact how large and open the bathroom feels," says Leah Tuttleman, certified Allied American Society of Interior Designers for Re-Bath. "Switch out your incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs and right away, your bathroom will open up and feel more spacious."

As you begin to gather all the goodies you require and find homes for your beauty buys and toiletries, keep in mind the small bathroom storage mistakes you don't want to be making, lest you find yourself with a product and no place to put it!

Leah Tuttleman
Leah Tuttleman

Leah is a certified Allied American Society of Interior Designers for Re-Bath, an exclusive full-service bathroom remodeling brand. 

How we chose

After taking the experts' advice, we perused our favorite retailers for affordable finds with positive customer reviews. From there, we considered how much room a product would take up in a small bathroom, likely one that might be shared with a roomie.

Where to shop bathroom must-haves

Looking to stock up? We're right behind you. But fair warning: you're going to want to learn how to organize a small bathroom before hitting "add to cart." None of us have time for returns.


How can I make my small bathroom useful?

A small bathroom will be useful when all of the essentials have a place to live and you have room to utilize the area. That means you're going to have to tidy up and get situated. 

"A solution is to use wall-mounted shelves, cabinets, or baskets to maximize the available space," says Bernadette Cuaycong, design delivery manager at Block Renovation. "You can also consider using a vanity with built-in storage or adding storage above the toilet."

Designer Chantelle Hartman Malarkey suggests you choose a "mirror that fits the space and makes a statement" and opt for high-quality lighting. 

Should you keep towels in the bathroom?

If a linen closet is out of the question, you'll likely keep towels in the bathroom, but make sure to switch 'em up every week so that it's fresh. Plus, you'll want to keep a few out for decor purposes.

With Hand towels, bath towels, and bathmat, pick a good texture or interesting pattern to add some visual interest to the space," Hartman Malarkey says.

What to avoid in a small bathroom: what's a no-go?

In a small bathroom, you should try to avoid an unorganized storage system, as it'll make the space feel more crowded, and you should stick to light color tones, as dark ones tend to make a space feel cramped. Designers believe these small bathroom storage mistakes will keep your space incredibly neat!

Bernadette Cuaycong

Bernadette Cuaycong is the design delivery manager at Block Renovation, which helps families "simplify the chaos and cost of construction by accessing vetted contractors, digital tools, and range of optional support packages—all in one place."

Chantelle Hartman Malarkey
Chantelle Hartman Malarkey

Chantelle Hartman Malarkey, a.k.a. the Lifestyle Alchemist, is an interior designer, photographer, home chef, hosting expert, and blogger who shares ideas about family travel hacks, beauty must-haves, delicious recipes, among other topics, with her followers. 

Giving your W.C. a little TLC? Before you get started you may want to pick your design scheme first, so all your choices can complement each other. To get started, designers spill on the worst colors for a small bathroom that should definitely be avoided.

Danielle Valente
Content Editor

Pleasure to meet you! I'm Danielle, a content editor at Real Homes who loves scoping out interior trends. I've specialized in lifestyle writing and editing for 10 years with a focus on events, food, and books, among other areas. When I'm not working, I'm usually cooking, reading, or searching for a new project for my apartment.