A Baker’s Dozen of Design Ideas for Tight Spaces

Most bathrooms account for less than 10% of a home’s total square footage, but they do more than their fair share of heavy lifting. It’s no wonder that homeowners are constantly trying to free up space in these heavily-trafficked areas. Before you start knocking down walls or even stick a For Sale sign in your yard, try these 13 clever hacks for making your bathroom feel larger.

Idea #1: Go lighter

A soft, neutral wall color can help to keep a small bathroom from feeling even smaller. Warm whites or pale shades of yellow, blue and green can lighten things up without feeling bland. Add some visual interest by incorporating different shades of your base color for movement and variety.

Idea #2: Amend and extend

Counter space is at a premium in most bathrooms. If you could use a little more, consider extending the counter over the back of the toilet. This “banjo” style countertop will create just enough space for a few essential items while still keeping the look of the bathroom clean.

Idea #3: Blow the doors off

If your bathroom door swings inward, switching to an outward-swinging door will immediately make the space feel a little larger. To get even more compact, a pocket door can “disappear” into a special crevice in the wall. Additionally, if your shower door swings open, think about replacing it with a sliding door or curtain to save space. If you’re up for a bigger change, walk-in showers are hugely popular. With no shower curtains or glass doors to clean, and a more open, airy feel, these showers are easier to maintain and create an instant refresh. Best of all, the design options are virtually endless. Choose marble for a modern, minimalist look or teak wood accents for a rustic spa vibe.

Idea #4: Bring the outdoors in

If your bathroom has a view, frame the window with wide molding and take your cues from what’s outside. If trees are plentiful, bring a bit of greenery into the bathroom. If it’s blue sky, use the same shade as an accent color. If yours is a city-scape, mimic the shapes and mood with hardware and fixtures. No window? Hang a light, breezy window treatment or wood shutters where you envision a window might be placed for a clever touch. Or frame outdoor scenes to bring a bit of nature inside.

Idea #5: Light it up

While not every bathroom reaps the benefits of natural lighting, if yours does have a window, remove heavy window coverings that block light or replace with light, airy fabrics that provide privacy while still allowing natural light to filter through. Add strategically-placed task and ambient lighting that mimics sunlight and consider replacing that outdated shower curtain with a glass shower door to let more light in and make the room appear larger.

Idea #6 Round it out

The majority of vanity counters are square or rectangular, but sharp corners and tight spaces can be a painful combo. A rounded vanity not only takes up less physical space, it gives the whole bathroom a more open feel while protecting your hips (and little heads) from bumps and bruises.

Idea #7: Nestle into nooks

Shelves, cabinets and other items protruding from the walls can make a small space seem even more crowded. However, storage space is at a premium in small bathrooms, so it’s not practical to remove these pieces altogether. One possible solution is to install recessed storage to save space and create more breathing room. Accessories such as toilet paper holders, towel holders, and medicine cabinets are all available in recessed versions.

Idea #8: Toss It

Half-filled bottles of lotions and shampoos, makeup you haven’t used in years, cleaning supplies… somehow our bathrooms seem to collect the most clutter. You won’t believe how much space you’ll gain by tossing old containers and products. Consolidate what’s left and create a dedicated space that’s organized and easy to reach. If it’s time for a tub or shower upgrade, consider adding a wall surround with built in nooks, shelves and benches – great for keeping essentials nearby but contained.

Idea #9: Contrasting views

While it may sound illogical, adding a dark or vibrant color below waist level can actually make the rest of the bathroom feel bigger and brighter. Go with a dark shade for the baseboards or vanity and then keep everything else in the space light and bright.

Idea #10: Mirror, mirror, on the wall

Mirrors are a tried-and-true design trick in small spaces, and bigger is pretty much always better. In addition to reflecting light, a sizeable mirror can make a room appear larger than it actually is. If you have double sinks, place one huge mirror over the entire counter surface, or expand it across the entire wall. Use molding to build a frame around the mirror for a more finished look.

Idea #11: Tile with style

Small, busy tile patterns make a bathroom feel smaller and crowded. Large, neutral tiles, on the other hand, can make the room feel more spacious. A natural, stone wall surround provides a seamless look without grout lines (say goodbye to scrubbing!).

Idea #12: Safety matters

If you’ve been adding safety elements to your bathroom over the years, you might find it cluttered with mismatched objects like bath mats in front of the shower and sink and grab bars near the toilet and tub. If you want to take your safety seriously, but don’t love the crowded look, it may be time to add some sleek accessibility features. Think low threshold shower bases, slip resistant flooring, seamless grab bars (that can even double as towel racks) in a stylish finish and shower benches in gorgeous natural stone.

Idea #13: Take it to the top

Create the illusion of a taller ceiling by raising the shower curtain bar as high as possible. You can also install crown molding up top and paint it the same color as your ceiling to create the visual effect of a larger bathroom. Perpendicular elements like a tall, thin mirror or high shelves can also draw the eye upward to create a sense of space.

If you like the sound of these tips but aren’t sure how they’ll look, try our online bathroom visualizer. Ready to upgrade your cramped bathroom for one that’s a bit more comfortable? Schedule a free-in home design consultation and let’s get started on the spacious bathroom of your dreams!