Design ideas for small bathrooms

If there’s no possibility of extending into a landing or spare room, it’s vital to plan your small bathroom space in detail to ensure a successful renovation project

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The average small bathrooms in the UK measures just three square metres, but as they are one of the most used rooms in the house, it’s essential to ensure that all of the space is utilised in a redesign. Small rooms can be restrictive but, if you are imaginative, there are ways to make the most of the space you have.

Minor alterations, such as raising a windowsill to fit a bath or basin below it, or adding a pocket or folding door, can help. Even rehanging a door to open outwards rather than inwards can save vital inches, meaning that the smallest room can feel more spacious.

Here are ideas and examples to help you make even the smallest of spaces feel relaxing.

Eclectic en suite

Don’t shy away from using colour and pattern in a small space. In this en suite in a family home in Brighton, a focal point has been made of the floor with Moroccan-style tiles. This adds interest to the room without needing to overwhelm the walls with décor, which can make a small room feel narrower.

en suite with moroccan floor tiles and blue panelling

Contemporary grey bathroom

To make the most of a small bathroom, Jane and John DeBono installed a pocket door (out of shot) in place of a standard opening. They also ordered a bespoke mirror running the width of the room which helps make the space feel bigger and brighter.

contemporary small grey bathroom

(Image: © Katie Lee)

Compact sanitaryware

Invest in a suite specially designed for smaller spaces, including small basins, reduced-length baths, corner WCs and compact shower cubicles. However, don’t attempt to shoehorn too much in – ideally you will need at least 60-70cm in front of the WC, 70-80cm around the bath to get in and out and about 70-80cm in front of the basin.

A shower over the bath will save room; look for D- or L-shaped baths with one end deeper to make showering easier. Where there’s space for a separate shower, try a quadrant model with curved sliding doors, or build a stud wall against the end of the bath to form one side of the shower cubicle.

Maximising space in a small bathroom

A remodel allowed the addition of a new bathroom in this flat in London. To maximise wall space, a slot window at ceiling level has been used to bring in natural light. An alcove in the wall provides storage space, avoiding toiletry clutter.

marble tiling around a bath in a small white bathroom

Walls and floors

Don’t shy away from large-format tiles. They require fewer grout lines, avoiding the grid effect that standard tiling can lead to which might make a small bathroom feel boxier.

Glossy surfaces will reflect light around the room, but take care that floor tiles have a non-slip surface.

Dark shower room

While the idea of using dark colours in a small space might seem like a bad idea, as this atmospheric space, designed by Granit Architects, shows, it can elongate the room if done well. Glazed metallic tiles and black metro tiles reflect plenty of light in this shower room.

bathroom with black metro tiles and glazed metallic tiles

Glamourous en suite

The owners of this en suite stole space from an adjoining bedroom and corridor to ensure they could fit a shower and bath in the narrow bathroom. The couple opted for iridescent glass mosaic tiles in Incense and Riverbed floor tiles in Spey from Fired Earth to give their space a luxurious look. The glossy tiles also help bounce light around the room which has no windows, aside from a light tunnel in the ceiling.

Metallic mosaic bathroom

(Image: © Simon Maxwell)

Lighting choices

Natural light is always best in a bathroom and adding frosted film will allow light in, yet maintain privacy if the room is overlooked. High windows are another option and mean you are left with plenty of wall space to hang sanitaryware.

Recessed downlighters in the ceiling are more flexible than a single light in the centre of the room. In bathrooms, there are restrictions on where you can place lighting fixtures depending on their proximity to water, so the correct fittings with the right ingress protection rating will need to be used.

Either fit a pull cord inside the room or a switch outside. Adding a dimmer will allow you to select different light levels depending on your mood.

Shower in a loft room

A bathroom has been added under the sloping roof of this master bedroom in a loft. By putting the shower under the highest point they have been able to utilise an awkward space, and placing the sink under the rooflight ensures those using it have enough head room.

sloping ceiling bathroom in a loft master bedroom

Showers and wetrooms

If space is tight, then a shower room or a more contemporary wetroom could be the answer, although the latter will be a more expensive option. Be aware that the room must be completely tanked (lined with waterproof membrane) to ensure there are no leaks.

Be careful when adding fixtures and fittings, as a WC, for example, will need to be wall-hung or fixed with adhesive, as fixing to the floor with screws will compromise the membrane. If you don’t want to create a full wetroom, mimic the look with a walk-in shower.

Bathroom with bespoke furniture

Bespoke furniture from Barbara Genda has maximised storage space in this L-shaped bathroom. Ladder shelves (which can be moved) and the open vanity unit allow the storage to be a feature, while cupboards have been included to neatly stow away clothes and tiles.

bespoke fitted bathroom with grey open vanity unit

Essential storage

As with kitchens, you can never have too much bathroom storage, but make a list of what you need to store in there before planning storage. Vanity units below basins or behind a wall-hung WC will provide much needed space in a small room and can also be used to conceal pipework. Tall wall-hung units will free up floor space, which will, in turn, make the room feel bigger.

Adding a cupboard for towels at the end of a boxed-in bath is a good use of space, as is a cabinet over the basin with a mirrored finish, which has the added benefit of reflecting light, to help give the illusion of space.