7 small bathroom layout mistakes — designers say to swerve these to "maximize potential"

Make sure to avoid small bathroom layout mistakes

White bathroom with a dark wooden vanity, a dark blue bathroom with scalloped walls, and a white bathroom with a large dark blue vanity
(Image credit: Morgan Newfield / Newfield Design, Inc. / Nu Interiors / Aimee Herring Ryan)

Small bathroom layout mistakes are always worth knowing, whether you're designing a room from scratch or can't quite work out why yours looks off.

We've quizzed interior designers who have laid out bathrooms in the past to find out what you should avoid, why this, and what you can do instead. From oversized fixtures to inadequate storage, there are many things that can be wrong but are easily fixed.

When it comes to small bathroom ideas, being mindful of your layout is especially important, as every inch of space counts in this sized room.

Small bathroom layout mistakes to say goodbye to

If you're strategizing your small bathroom layout, knowing what to miss is just as important as what to bring in.

Our pros have recommended useful fixes throughout, which we have shopped wherever possible.

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

1. Overlooking ventilation

A small bathroom with white subway tiles, a black window, a white bath tub, and a dark brown wooden sink unit with a large rectangular mirror above it

(Image credit: Morgan Newfield / Newfield Design, Inc.)

We love having a steamy shower  — but all this moisture can build up pretty quickly in a small bathroom.

“Proper ventilation is essential in a small bathroom to prevent moisture buildup and mold growth,” says Nina Lichtenstein, principal designer and founder of Nina’s Home Design.

She explains, “Avoid the mistake of inadequate ventilation by installing an exhaust fan or opening windows regularly to promote air circulation.”

Good ventilation not only improves air quality but will also help maintain the condition of your beautiful fixtures and finishes.

2. Inadequate storage solutions

A bathroom with a curved recessed shelf with glass jars, floral stems, and green candle sticks above a brushed gold faucet below it

(Image credit: Wayfair)

One big small bathroom layout mistake is not properly taking into account small bathroom storage ideas. After all, where are you going to put all your lotions and potions?

“Lack of storage is a common issue in small bathrooms, leading to cluttered countertops and limited organization,” Nina explains.

She continues, “Avoid the mistake of insufficient storage by incorporating smart solutions such as recessed shelves, wall-mounted cabinets, or over-the-toilet storage units.”

By utilizing vertical space effectively, you can maximize storage capacity without overcrowding your little room.

3. Having a bath tub

A beige walk-in shower with a glass door, a silver shower head, and a recessed shelf with toiletries in it

(Image credit: Morgan Newfield / Newfield Design, Inc.)

While having a bubbly bath is lovely, if you have more than one bathroom in your place or don’t need a bath, it’s a better idea to go for a larger shower.

“As long as a house has one bathtub, you’re generally fine for resale,” explains Morgan Newfield, interior designer and owner of Newfield Design, Inc.

She continues, “If you can get away without a bathtub in a small bathroom, it’s much nicer to create a luxurious shower than putting in a step-in tub shower combination.”

If you do need that tub shower combo, Morgan says to consider going without a shower door and waterproofing with tile on the surrounding walls. 

We also recommend putting your extra dollars in a quality high-pressure shower head, as this will still make your small bathroom feel luxurious.

4. Neglecting accessibility

A small bathroom with a shower blue tiles with a gold shower head with a dark wooden stool underneath it, a gold towel rail and a white bath mat to the left

(Image credit: Roper Rhodes)

Forgetting about accessibility is a huge small bathroom layout mistake, as it can lead to major inconvenience and discomfort. 

Nina says, “Avoid this mistake by ensuring that fixtures are accessible and user-friendly for all household members.” 

She continues, “Consider installing grab bars, adjustable showerheads, and slip-resistant flooring for safety and ease of use.”

It’s also a good idea to grab one of the best bath mats with non-slip backing, such as the Slipx Solutions Rubber Bath Mat from Target.

5. Blocking natural light

A white bathroom with three mirror cabinets, a navy blue and dark wood sink unit with white base, and white subway tiles on the wall and herringbone tiles on the floor

(Image credit: Nu Interiors / Aimee Herring Ryan)

Natural light can make a small bathroom feel brighter and more spacious, which is why preventing it from flowing through can be a big small bathroom layout mistake. 

Nina says, “Avoid blocking windows or using heavy window treatments that diminish natural light.”

She explains, “Instead, embrace natural light by opting for sheer curtains or frosted glass for privacy.” 

If windows are limited, Nina suggests considering installing skylights or using mirrors strategically to reflect light and visually expand the space.

6. Poor layout of fixtures

A white bathroom with a mirror, gold wall sconces, wooden cabinet, and a sink

(Image credit: Custom Home Design By Nina Lichtenstein / Brian Madden / Crafted By Nick)

Even if your space is small, it’s still important you can walk smoothly through it without the fear of tripping over. 

“Improper placement of fixtures can disrupt the flow and functionality, which is a big small bathroom layout mistake,” Nina says.

For example, she suggests avoiding placing the toilet directly next to the bathtub or shower, as this can make the space feel cramped. 

“Don’t be afraid to consider alternative layouts that optimize space without sacrificing convenience,” she adds.

7. Over-designing

A small bathroom with dark blue scalloped walls, a circular hanging mirror, a marble sink, and a vase of orange flowers

(Image credit: Morgan Newfield / Newfield Design, Inc.)

You may be tempted to over-decorate and attempt to compensate for what you don’t have — but this is actually a huge no-no in small bathrooms.

Morgan explains, “The biggest small bathroom mistake is trying to cram too many design elements and materials into a small space.”

She continues, “You’ll be much happier with the result if you have a singular design element to bring everything together and create a sense of space.”

Morgan recommends having a designer draw your space to integrate the various elements. Alternatively, you could always do this yourself.

By prioritizing space-saving solutions, efficient placement of fixtures, and a cohesive design approach, you can create a small bathroom that is both beautiful and practical.

“Incorporate these tips to achieve a smart layout that maximizes the potential of your small bathroom,” Nina finishes by saying.

Once you’ve got your small bathroom sorted, you might want to consider your small kitchen layout next.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor 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. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.