Small Bathroom Design & Decorating Ideas

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Overview

Every home has at least one small bathroom. You might be lucky enough to have one large, luxurious, and spacious bathroom, but your guest or hallway bathroom may be significantly smaller.

If you have a small bathroom, you might be wondering about the best ways to make your small space appear larger. You might be wondering whether you should stick to neutral colors, and you may be hesitant to experiment with wall décor such as large mirrors, sconces, and hanging lights.

Break away from the stereotypes that you associate with having a small bathroom, and embrace your space for what it is. Ignore words like cramped, chaotic, and tiny, and instead, focus on words like cozy, elegant, eclectic, and personable. Size doesn't matter - your space is what you make of it. Even the largest bathrooms have their problems and design flaws. Just as a small bathroom can appear cramped and chaotic, large bathrooms are prone to the equal and opposite effects of seeming desolate, cold, and awkward. By all means, a small bathroom does not put you at a design-disadvantage.

No matter your space, the trick is so strike a balance between functionality and aesthetics. With small bathrooms, you should think of functionality and aesthetics as one in the same. Be a minimalist: only include what you need in your bathroom. It's easy to fall into a mindset where you feel like you "should" have something. No need to overburden yourself with more than your bathroom can handle.

Humidity & Ventilation

Bathrooms of any size are moist and humid environments. Smaller spaces can become even more humid because of air flow limitations. When you take a shower or run hot water, your bathroom may feel muggy and hot. You might also notice that your space is prone to mildew or bacteria that can be difficult to clean. 

Because of humidity, you need to make sure that your bathroom is well-ventilated. Several solutions can help you help air flowing through your small space. The first is as simple as the window that you already have. Open it. If you're worried about bugs flying in, install a screen. If you're renovating your windows, consider installing a larger or multiple windows that open to the outside. Open the window when you're done with your shower, and let the space breathe. A second option is to install overhead skylights that you can open and close to allow air to flow. Skylights may not be ideal because they are difficult to open, but you may find them manageable and aesthetically pleasing. A third option is to install an electrically powered overhead exhaust fan. These are available for $100 in addition to the cost of installation. Open your bathroom door to keep air flowing in and out as much as possible. Your bathroom will feel cleaner and dryer, and you will feel much more comfortable with a more functional space.

Form & Function

With an impractical design approach, a small bathroom can easily transform from cozy to chaotic. The best way to streamline your design is to adopt a minimalist mentality. Don't buy more hardware that you need. Avoid covering your countertops and walls with decorations. Instead, choose faucets, cabinets, paint colors, and floors that are aesthetically pleasing in themselves. Where form meets function, the beauty is in the everyday. Do you really need a bathtub, or will you be equally happy with a standing shower? Do you need a large vanity, or will you have enough space with trimmed down dimensions? Instead of installing lots of shelves, can you work with the drawers that you have? Can you keep less stuff in the bathroom - buy less, keep it in another room, or throw it away?

Yellow Bathroom White Corner Bathroom Small Bathroom

If you need a bathtub, choose one that is deep as opposed to wide. Keep rims as narrow as possible, and install the bathroom in a corner rather than in the middle of your room. Try to maximize your floor space that you can walk through your bathroom with ease.

Clutter

It's too easy to buy beauty supplies on impulse. You may decide that you absolutely need five different kinds of shampoo and conditioner, or you may need two different flat irons in addition to a blow dryer. What about your collection of hairbrushes? You need to keep those in the bathroom as well. Eventually, your cabinets will overflow, and you will start storing stuff on your countertops. When you let things lie around, you're infringing upon already-limited space. Go through your arsenal of beauty supplies and reevaluate what you should and shouldn't keep in your bathroom. Throw away old products, and keep the others somewhere else. It makes sense to use your accessible cabinets for their intended purpose - to maximize your counter space. A simple clean-up can instantly transform your bathroom from chaotic and cluttered to cozy.

Storage Space

If you need more storage room, consider making space under your sink, installing drawers in your vanity, and optimizing how you use your corners. If you install corner-shelves, you will avoid problems of structures that project into space that is already limited in the middle of your bathroom. Other options include wall-hanging and mirrored cabinets. Mirrors, especially, serve a triple function as a hidden storage space, functional decorative element, and tool to make your small bathroom appear a little bit more comfortable and spacious.

 Bathroom Cabinet 

Keep only what you need in your cabinets to prevent junk from accumulating. The way that you store your makeup, shampoo, and everyday beauty supplies should make sense. Keep the stuff that you need at an arm's reach.

Doors

Hinged doors can occupy substantial space for clearing. Instead, choose sliding doors for your shower and bathtub. Use clear partitions instead of solid colors that can make your bathroom look smaller than it actually is.

Lighting

Maximize how much light enters your bathrooms. Use mirrors to reflect natural light, and keep your windows as big as possible. Bright fluorescent lights tend to be better than incandescent bulbs for smaller spaces. Incandescent bulbs radiate heat that is more pronounced in a smaller space.

Vanities and Mirrors

A bathroom vanity can take up a lot of space. Instead of letting it overpower the entire room, be strategic about where you keep it in your bathroom. If possible, keep it in a corner. Choose a vanity that gives you enough space in between structures. Know your desired measurements accordingly, and stick to them. If you are installing a vanity in between two corners, make sure that the edges are flush with surrounding structures.

Colors

No need to shy away from dark colors. Just try to keep them as bright as possible. Mix and match bold and neutral colors to add character to your room. If you want a bright pink wall, consider painting one accent wall instead of the entire bathroom, corner to corner. Add lots of subtle effects such as a light or dark contrast trim to keep your bathroom looking interesting. Avoid colors that clash, and instead, choose colors that complement one another - no matter their shade.

Last Updated: January 29, 2013

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About Ritika Puri Based in California, Ritika Puri has worn a number of professional hats ranging from blogger to quantitative researcher, martial arts instructor, and cartographer. No matter what she does, she loves to write and specializes in topics related to home improvement, personal finance, and business. She writes regularly for Investopedia.com's Financial Edge section, and her work has appeared on SF Gate, Yahoo! Finance, and The Chicago Sun Times Online. She holds a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. in Demographic and Social Analysis from the University of California at Irvine.  

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