Small bathroom design: make the most of your space with these ideas

Working on the perfect small bathroom design? We have you covered with our practical advice and inspiring ideas

Small bathroom design: make the most of your space with these ideas
(Image credit: Ikea)

Small bathroom design is a challenge that most of us face. But don't fret because you are in the right place for expert advice and ideas that will transform your smallest room successfully.

Good small bathroom designs are key to making what is usually the tiniest room in your home work for you. And to make sure your small bathroom is everything you want it to be – luxurious, functional and simply a pleasure to be in  – you'll need to think outside the box. 

We have you covered with our expert advice below. Starting with all the practical know-how you need to successfully design (or re-design) a small bathroom from scratch, followed by a brilliant roundup of inspiring ideas on how to make the most of your space, both visually and in a functional sense too. 

For more inspiration, check out our bathroom ideas page for all the latest looks that you'll want to recreate in your small bathroom.

How do you maximize space in a small bathroom?

To successfully maximize space in small bathrooms you need to be completely familiar with what you've got to work with. Draw up a wishlist of elements to include in your bathroom, but be prepared to compromise if space will not allow. 

Always begin your small bathroom design project by getting accurate measurements of the room and getting it down on to graph paper (or an online planner tool). From here, you can ascertain what you will actually have room for.

A white bathroom with black industrial-style shelving and a monochrome patterned vinyl floor


(Image credit: Katie Lee)

What is the best layout for a small bathroom?

Small bathroom design with patterned flooring and wooden unit

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Naturally, the layout of your small bathroom will be determined by its unique size and shape, but, here are some general tips and key pointers to help you get it right:

  • Can you move the waste pipe? A small bathroom design will usually be governed by the positioning of your waste pipe and therefore the positioning of your toilet; it can, of course, be moved to make more room, but this will up the cost.
  • Have the door opening out from the bathroom if possible so it does not use the internal footprint, or collide with sanitaryware when opened. Or perhaps you could fit a pocket door that slides into a wall cavity?
  • Save space to dry yourself or move around. Don't cram the space with fittings that make it impossible to use the bathroom comfortably.
  • Underfloor heating will save valuable wall space that radiators may use, but a slimline heated towel rail is a nice touch for warming and holding towels. If you do include a heated towel rail in your design, position it so that you can fit a cabinet to the side, or choose a short rail that you can put a cabinet above.
  • A over-bath shower is ideal if you want a shower and a bath. Avoid doing away with the bath in a family bathroom, especially if it is your only decent-sized bathroom – it is a necessity for bathing children and a small bath with overhead shower can sometimes be more space-efficient than a shower. 
  • Choose a wall-hung sink and loo to create a feeling of greater space. 
  • Same goes for wall-hung storage: leaving the floors as free of clutter as possible will make the space feel larger.
  • Look for smaller fittings where practical: shorter or narrower baths, corner sinks and loos designed for small bathrooms are all available.

What is the best colour for a small bathroom?

Small bath by The Albion Bath Company

(Image credit: The Albion Bath Company)

While a light, bright palette will help reflect light and make a compact bathroom feel bigger, avoid going overboard with white which can make the room feel cold or clinical, so consider more adventurous bathroom paint colours

Use patterned wall tiles or colourful accessories to bring warmth and interest to the space. The odd house plant looks great in small bathrooms too and will thrive well in the warm, humid environment.

16 small bathroom ideas to make the most of your space

Here are some of our favourite and more creative small bathroom ideas. There's advice and inspiration for everything, from choosing the right storage to picking the best space expanding paint colours for a bathroom. 

1. Keep small bathroom designs minimal 

honed gloss black slate natural stone in a compact bathrooms

(Image credit: Topps Tiles)

Our first, and probably the most important of all our small bathroom designs is about paring back. Really think about what you need in your space. Stick to the bare essentials so you have as few built in or bulky items in there as possible – if they're taking up that precious floor space, they'll make the room look smaller. All you really need in a small bathroom is a toilet, a sink and a bath or shower. Storage is vital, too, but think about how this could be built around your basin or choose wall mounted cabinets that won't take up any of that floor space we mentioned. 

2. Opt for wall-hung fittings to enhance space in small bathrooms

bathroom with white herringbone tiles with rounded corner mirror and freestanding sink

(Image credit: Fired Earth)

Wall-hung sanitaryware is one of those clever small bathroom ideas that creates the illusion of a larger bathroom, precisely because you can see the floor beneath the fittings. Further exaggerate the effect by picking minimalist, back-to-the-wall fittings, and choose flooring in a light colour.

If you need any more tips on choosing the best bathroom flooring, check out our handy guide. 

3. Pick a frameless shower in a small bathroom

Monochrome bathroom with industrial black-framed walk-in shower, hexagonal wall tiles and a white vanity unit and sink

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Give the illusion of more space in compact bathrooms by cutting out a bulky shower tray and inclosure and go for a frameless glass shower. This will reduce the visual clutter in a small space and allow light to easily flow around the room. Frameless, walk-in showers also give a really lovely, luxurious feel, as well as being a really practical small bathroom idea. 

You can see here how to the tile continuity both on the floor and the walls really stretches the space and doesn't break up the room. Placing a huge mirror above the sink massively helps too. 

4. Consider an unfitted look in a small bathroom

How to choose the best shower

(Image credit: Ikea)

While fitted bathroom units are a great option if your priority is maximising storage, they can make a small bathroom feel boxy. An unfitted look not only has the power to make a small bathroom feel spacious, but also creates a more relaxed feel. 

Like the idea of making a statement with an unfitted vanity? Browse our pick of the best vanity units.

5. Pick slimline bathroom fittings

Pendant light ideas: Broch. Bathroom with marble-effect tiles halfway up the wall, a round mirror framed either side with bare bulb pendant lights, and a wood-effect flooring

(Image credit: Darren Chung © Future)

Just as if you were working with a living room, small bathroom designs need to address scale of furnishings, too. So, if space is at a premium, consider scaling down sanitaryware and opting for slimline solutions. Whether that be a slimmer model of toilet, towel rail or bathroom storage, gaining a few extra inches and reducing the 'packed in' feel will make all the difference in a small bathroom. 

Find out what you need to know about choosing a bathroom sink

6. Maximise vertical space with a ladder shelf

a wooden ladder leant against the wall with towels hanging over

(Image credit: Dunelm)

A small bathroom design must include clever small bathroom storage solutions and we love the addition of a ladder shelf to a small space which, in addition to being slimline and maximising vertical space when propped up against a wall, it creates an attractive design feature. Basic ladder shelves are great for towels, or choose one like this with shelves to max out the storage opportunities.

7. Expand a small bathroom space with floor tiles 

Small bathroom with sunset tiles

(Image credit: Meir)

How cool is this bathroom? And it's actually a pretty small bathroom too, it's just been made to look bigger with the clever choice of floor tiles. The fading colours draw the eye to the end of the room, giving the illusion that the room is longer than it is and running the tiles up the side of the bath only adds to lengthening the room. We love the sunset colours used here but if you are more into a monochrome bathroom this would work really well fading black into white. 

8. Choose furniture that makes the most of dead space

small bathroom design idea created with white subway tiles and wooden finish fittings by Ikea


(Image credit: Ikea)

Making use of even the most awkward of nooks and crannies is something we all have to face with a small bathroom space. Be sure to consider furniture that can fit into what might otherwise be dead space – such as an awkward corner – and you'll be surprised with what you can find, and what looks good too! 

9. Consider a pale colour scheme to boost natural light

Peachy coloured small bathroom from Norsu


(Image credit: Norsu)

If a small bathroom is not designed effectively, a lack of natural light can quickly bring any dark and dingy features forward. For an easy and effective solution, consider a pale scheme, complete with either fitted or unfitted sanitaryware that (almost) blends in with the rest of the space. 

This compact bathroom uses natural coloured and white tiles as the basis for its scheme. If you like the look, you can find more inspiration in our small bathroom tile ideas feature.  That said, the same space-enhancing effect can be achieved with white or another pale paint, in which case you might want to take a look at our pick of the best paint for bathrooms.

10. Opt for open shelving to avoid a 'boxy' feel in small bathrooms

Fritz Fryer light in bathroom

(Image credit: Fritz Fryer)

Open shelving is another effective small bathroom design worth considering if you're worried about fitted units making a small bathroom feel boxy.

With a relaxed, unfitted feel, it not only offers ample storage, but makes for a stylish design feature if styled with house plants, folded fresh towels or other attractive small bathroom essentials. Opting for recessed shelves, as seen below, also helps make the most of an awkward shaped small bathroom, with shelves blending into a scheme if painted in the same shade as the rest of the bathroom.

If you like the look of this on-trend, atmospheric scheme, you'll find plenty more inspiration with our black bathroom design ideas.

11. Pick a roll top bath with compact proportions

Lucy Kemp (Dec 19):

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies © Future)

Desperate for a stylish roll top bath as part of your small bathroom design? And why not – they look good, and, because they're not boxy like standard fitted baths, therefore, they can enhance a small bathroom space.

If you've always dreamt of a bath for your small bathroom, browse our traditional freestanding bath design ideas, which includes some small bathroom-friendly models.

12. Choose the right sized tiles for your small bathroom design

small bathroom design idea, a shower with a combination of blue and green patterned wall tiles and white metro tiles with wall recess by drummonds


(Image credit: Drummonds)

Getting the right tile size for a small bathroom, whether for walls or floors, will have a big impact on making your small space feel bigger and brighter. A small bathroom can actually benefit from a large tile. With fewer grout lines the walls and floor are less cluttered and the room visually expanded. 

Using smaller tiles, such as mosaics, will give you lots of grout lines, which can give walls a grid-like appearance that can promote the feeling of being boxed in – making your already small bathroom feel ten times tinier.

This doesn’t mean you have to completely rule small tiles out. If you've fallen for some beautiful mosaics, you can mix it up a bit by using different sized tiles in different zones of your bathroom, with smaller tiles being limited to the showering area, a larger format tile used in the majority of the room, and mosaic tiles in alcoves or recesses (spaces you don’t expect to feel generously-sized).

If you need more advice then use our guide to help you choose small bathroom tiles.

13. Exaggerate space with a mirror

Alex and Sam Reid put their DIY skills to the test, transforming a dilapidated 1950s house with reclaimed wood, upcycled furniture and vintage French finds

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Here's one very easy small bathroom idea to give the illusion of space. Simply hanging a large mirror in a small bathroom will help it feel more spacious, especially if you've chosen a dark and dramatic colour scheme. Picking a round mirror will create a softer feel than a square or rectangular one, and choosing one that's frameless will add a more luxurious element to the room also. 

Find our pick of the best bathroom mirrors in our stylish buyer's guide.

14. Install good bathroom lighting

Small bathroom design by Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

It's very likely you'll be making use of this small bathroom space when it's dark. So, ensuring the lighting is good – and not just relying on a single overhead bulb – will make it feel bigger when it's dark outside and when you can't rely on natural daylight. 

Find more bathroom lighting ideas advice and inspiration in our specialist guide.

15. Add pattern to a small bathroom with wallpaper

Bathroom lighting ideas by Ikea lighting

(Image credit: Ikea)

You can enhance your small bathroom visually with a colourful wallpaper, and this is a particularly good option for awkwardly shaped compact bathrooms as the pattern will take the focus away from the smaller size of the space. You can be bold with your choice, as a wallpaper that has a lot going on can actually visual expand the room and add that grand element of drama sometimes missing from a tiny bathroom. 

Like everybody else, we love Cole & Son's Jungle wallpaper

16. Make a small bathroom feel taller with panelling

How to paint a bath with Rust-Oleum furniture paint

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum )

Making your bathroom ceiling feel taller can create the illusion that the room is bigger. A really easy way to do this is panelling, or if panelling isn't an option, painting your wall half way up. If you go for a slightly darker colour for the lower section and keep it light on you create the feeling that there is a larger distance between the half way point and the ceiling. 

You can even DIY the look with just some decorative beading and wood glue, easy peasy. 

More inspiration for small (but mighty) bathrooms