Small Bathroom Design Ideas
 DIY Home Staging Tips
for a faster, more profitable home sale

Small white bathroomTall ceiling, light neutral colors, mirror, and natural lighting visually expand this space.

Applying small bathroom design ideas and clever home staging to a tiny bath can make it appear bigger and more appealing to home buyers. Just because your bathroom is small doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on storage and style!

Most home buyers consider a fully functioning bathroom at the top of their list of needs when looking for a house. 

Bathroom renovations are second to kitchen remodels as the most expensive room to renovate, and the fact is, most buyers would rather buy a move-in ready home.

A small powder room is acceptable, but what if that's your only bathroom? This puts you at a disadvantage when competing in the real estate market. 

Small bathrooms feel cramped, cluttered, and are often dysfunctional which may cause many buyers to walk away no matter how great the rest of the house may be. See small bathroom storage solutions.

Interior designers say that the eye travels more quickly through a small space. Eliminating objects that stop the flow of the eye; clutter, sharp contrasts in color, dark heavy draperies, bulky furniture, and so on, can seem to visually expand the size of a small room. 

Small bathroom design ideas with color

Small BathroomA frameless glass shower door extends the eye to the far wall.

Color is one of the keys to successful decorating— it helps to visually raise and lower ceilings, stretch or shrink space, and can even make unsightly objects, like a jutting radiator, look less visible.

Color also has the ability to effect our moods, which is something to consider when your have a house for sale. The great thing about making color changes is that paint is so affordable!-- a few cans of the perfect paint color can quickly and drastically improve your home decor.

  • To create the illusion of more space, use light neutral or pastel hues as the main palette of your small bathroom. Pale colors reflect and multiply light, and when combined with natural light flowing in, can visually expand a small bathroom.
  • A soft cool color, like aqua blue, is a great choice for expanding space and making a tiny bath feel calm and "spa-like". Cool whites, creams, soft grays, greens and blues, pale colors in general, are receding colors that reflect light, creating a feeling of spaciousness. 
  • Accent with shades of white or soft cream to unify the space.
Small bathroom interior design picturesWhite, a glass shower door and unenclosed vanity seem to create more space.
  • One of the best small bathroom design ideas is to swath an entire bathroom in white, from floor to ceiling! This creates an uninterrupted space without breaks of color contrast to prevent the eye from moving on. 
  • If an all white room feels too cold or intense, punctuate with spots of color with towels, plants and accessories. 

Most people respond positively to light, neutral colors. When you have a house for sale, your goal is to make small spaces appear more spacious. A few basic color rules:

  • Dark colors absorb and deflect light and can make a small space feel closed in.
  • Cool colors appear to retreat, while warm colors seem to advance.
  • In addition to dark colors, avoid bright, clashing colors when home staging. 
  • To create a feeling of maximum space, use the same light color palette on walls, floors, cabinets, window treatments and trim work. Employ a light hand with pops of color.

Yes, I realize that it's popular to paint small powder rooms in dark colors. The purpose is to make the room feel cozy. But this won't do if it's your only bathroom.

Best room design color scheme for a small bathroom

Monochromatic bathroomA monochromatic bathroom in varying shades of tan

The monochromatic, or low-contrast color scheme is the most successful color palette for small rooms, because it visually expands the size of any room. This is the one of the best small bathroom design ideas that you can apply!

A monochromatic color scheme creates harmony, visual cohesion, sophistication, and a sense of relaxation in any room.

This design style mixes light to dark color variations of one hue in different shades, tints, tones and textures, and is typically accented with white, in window trim, molding and the ceiling.

Any color can be used in monochromatic room design, but for home staging purposes, stick to using varying shades of white, beige, or grey. 

Jazz up a monochromatic look by incorporating variations in tones and textures. Accessorize with glass, objects from nature, like wood, metal, and greenery.

Using pattern and texture in a small bathroom

Small bathroom with patternConfine large patterns to small pieces. Open shower curtains by 2/3 to add depth to a small bathroom
    In the absence of wild patterns and bright paint colors, bringing in a little texture and pattern will add some excitement, even in a small bathroom.
  • Add pattern and texture to your small bathroom in window treatments, accessories, flooring, area rugs, and fixtures. 
  • Avoid large or busy patterns that can diminish the scale of a small space. Confine large patterns it to a small area, like a rug.
  • Vary the textures of things you can touch (tactile) and things you look at (visual).
  • Use fabrics with texture rather than pattern so as not to overwhelm a small space. Texture adds interest when light hits the uneven surfaces, creating varying degrees of lights and darks of the same color.
  • Light fixtures have texture as well. Polished chrome will be smooth, whereas wrought iron will add a rustic feel.
Bathroom with horizontal stripesHorizontal stripes elongate, while glass tile illuminates and adds depth.
  • Shiny, satiny fabrics on a shower curtain or window treatments will illuminate the space.
  • Avoid heavy brocaded fabrics, laces, ruffles in small room design.
  • Use smaller prints or solid color fabrics to create a more unified effect in a small space.
  • Horizontal stripes on the walls, floors, or bathroom tile can elongate and bring movement to a small room.
  • Vertical stripes on the walls or tile can visually add height to the bathroom. Use wide stripes, as thin ones can make a room feel smaller.

How to improve awkward spaces

One of the best small bathroom design ideas is to paint everything in one color!

If walls are broken up with doorways, poorly placed windows, nooks, or a slanted ceiling, make them less conspicuous by painting them the same color as the walls.

Electrical outlets and switch plates are also a distraction to the eye if they contrast too much with the wall color. Make an ugly radiator blend into the background by painting it the same color as the walls. This will allow them to blend in by not interrupting the flow of the eye.

Small bathroom design ideas for ceilings and floors

Ceilings

Vertical stripes in a bathroomVertical stripes can visually "raise" a low ceiling

A wide vertical pattern or stripes on a wall can visually "raise" a low ceiling. Don't do on every wall, though, as the combined effect can "shrink" the room. 

A dark wall against a white ceiling can make a small room feel enclosed.

When walls and ceilings are the same light color, it's harder for your eye to tell where they meet, so the room feels larger. Continue light tones on the floor as well for a more expansive feel. 

Low ceilings feel higher when painted a cool light color, like white or a pale blue. 

A high ceiling can be visually lowered by painting it darker than the walls.

For low ceilings, hang window curtains higher than the top of the window. This gives the illusion of a higher ceiling.

Floors

The more flooring you can see, the bigger a space will seem, as sight lines are extended. For home viewings, remove the garbage can, laundry hamper and anything else taking up precious floor space. 

Light colored flooring will make a small bath seem more open.

Continue light colored bath/shower wall tiling onto the floor to prevent a visual interruption. 

A floor with wide stripes can visually elongate a small room. Or a long rug striped rug will accomplish the same effect.

Too many small rugs in a small bathroom will look cluttered.

TASTE SPECIFIC: Your specific taste may not appeal to very many people. When selling your home, your goal is to target as many buyers as possible. For instance, because neutral colors appeal to most people, it's a good plan to use them.

Small bathroom design ideas for lighting

White bathroom with good natural lightNatural light gives a feeling of spaciousness.
  • Poor lighting will make a small bathroom feel like a closet! Dark and shadowy corners can make a room feel smaller.
  • In a petite bathroom, a single overhead fixture may be all the lighting that is needed. But if that one light is glaring overhead, it can dominate the room by drawing the eye to that one spot.
  • Add another source of light in a small space to keep the eye from fixating.
  • The formula for a shadow-free reflection in the mirror is the combination of overhead lighting and a fixture on each side of the mirror. See interior lighting.
  • Natural light is always the preferred lighting. If you have a window in your small bath,  flooding light in will create a feeling of spaciousness. 
  • Maximize the natural light that you have by keeping window treatments minimal or simply go without.
Bathroom with solar tube addedSee how much brighter this space is after a solar tube is installed?
  • For small bathrooms lacking any natural light, consider installing a larger window, skylight, solar, or sola tube. A solar tube will brighten the room without sacrificing wall space. They are fairly affordable, ranging from $140 to $300. Solar tubes can be found at Lowes, Home Depot, or www.solatube.com.
Clear lighting fixtureClear light fixtures allow a greater sense of space by extending the eye to the far wall.
  • Recessed lighting is another option for small bathrooms with low ceilings. Also handy to light up dark corners.
  • Avoid large light fixture styles like drum pendants and chandeliers, which can overpower a small space. A small chandelier can be quite charming though, and will refract light around the room. 
  • Install clear light fixtures instead of opaque ones to create longer sight lines. Remember, you don't want to interrupt the eye from flowing.

Small bathroom design ideas for cabinets

White bathroom vanityOpen storage and legs expose more floor space, giving a perception of more space

Although solid bathroom cabinets provide more storage, they can visually take up space. See small bathroom storage solutions. Revealing more floor space will make a small space appear larger. 

Swap out traditional bathroom cabinets with a console, or open-leg furniture-style. They still offer storage, yet allow you to see deeper into the room. Use pretty baskets to store towels, cosmetics and toiletries. (Note: changing out solid bathroom cabinets for an open style may require some flooring work.)

Use fewer pieces of furniture instead of a lot of small pieces that crowd the room. 

One of the best small bathroom design ideas is to use furniture with glass or lucite tops and open legs to extend sight lines. 

Bathroom pedestal sinkA pedestal sink will expose more flooring, making a small bath look larger

Replace cabinet door fronts with CLEAR glass. Your eye will be pulled into the cabinets to the back, making the room feel deeper. This staging trick only works if you keep the insides neat.

If storage isn’t an issue, swap out bathroom cabinets with a pedestal or wall mounted sink. Both styles can be squeezed into a smaller space, like a corner, freeing up more floor space. You must weigh the risk of sacrificing storage against esthetics, though.

More good small bathroom design ideas to open up floor space are to install a wall-hung vanity and toilet. 

Another option is an open-leg style sink with built-in towel bars, using no precious wall space.

Under mount sink basins take up less space on a countertop then top-mounted bowl style basins. Oval-shaped basins take up less room than square ones. If you install a bowl style basin, opt for a see-through version to extend sight lines.

A corner sink, with or without a vanity will make the most of limited space.

Decorate with mirrors and reflective surfaces

Large mirror in a bathroomThis large mirror duplicates natural and artificial light

Mirrors are one of a home stager’s favorite interior decorating objects, because they can visually enlarge a room by adding depth and light.

Mirrors give the impression of extending space by duplicating it. 

Hang a mirror opposite a window or lighting fixture to scatter and bounce light around the room.

Or position two mirrors opposite each other— this will make it look like another room exists in the small space.

If you are selling your home, don't hang a collage of small mirrors because it can look cluttered.

Big NoNo! Don't glue a huge floor to ceiling mirror on the wall! While this is an effective way to make a room look larger, most home buyers don’t like them and will only be thinking of all the work it will take to remove it.

Other small bathroom design ideas include using reflective surfaces; like glass tile, sleek cabinets, surfaces that will illuminate your bathroom by amplifying the natural and artificial light.

Select shiny bathroom fixtures for their reflective qualities. Make sure they all match—stick to one type of metal finish in a small bathroom.

Fixtures should be kept simple and compact in a tiny bathroom. 

Store necessities in glass or reflective containers—they will look light and airy. 

Small bathroom design ideas for tub enclosures

Sliding glass shower doorsOpen up a small bathroom by installing glass shower doors
  • This is probably one of the best small bathroom design ideas you can apply! Replace a shower curtain or frosted-glass shower doors with clear glass and frameless shower door. 
  • Frameless shower doors will give you the illusion of more space by extending the eye to the far wall.
  • If a glass shower door is not an option for you, stage the shower/bath with a white or pale colored shower curtain. Don't hang one of those cheap clear plastic shower curtains. They just look tacky.
  • For home viewings, keep the shower curtain 2/3 open. Keeping it closed cuts off that extra space, making your bathroom seem smaller.

Small bathroom design ideas for window treatments

No matter their size or style, windows enlarge the feel of a room if natural light is allowed to flow in. If privacy is not an issue, simply leave windows bare. 

Keep window treatments the same color as the walls to avoid contrast to the space.

Avoid complicated, fussy details such as ruffles, lace, and bows. Stay away from wild multi-colored curtains, as well.

Use a valance, window blinds or shades—aim for a clean contemporary look.

One of the best small bathroom design ideas for low ceilings is to install curtain rods higher than the window frame, even up to the ceiling. 

Create the illusion of wider windows by extending the curtain rods well beyond the width of the window, wide enough so that curtain panels don't block any light when fully open. 

Eliminate clutter before staging your small bathroom

Personal bathroom itemsMajor buyer turnoff! Stash personal items out of sight.

If you don't do anything else, do this!

A clean, tidy bathroom always looks larger and more spacious than a cluttered, dirty one.

Home buyers don’t want to see other people’s personal things; drippy wet towels, soggy soap, toothbrushes, and so on.

Real Estate surveys have shown that personal items are a huge buyer turnoff. Plus, it makes it hard for them to visualize themselves in your home

Hide all daily essentials by stashing them inside a linen closet, bathroom cabinets, inside pretty boxes and baskets displayed on open shelving, or my favorite trick, plastic boxes that slide under a bed.

Stage your small bathroom

Open shelving in the bathroom
  • Hang open shelving instead of cabinets for extra storage. Open shelving reduces visual weight and adds depth by allowing your eye to travel all the way to the wall.
  • Glass shelving can increase a room's sense of space because they appear invisible.
  • Use just a few standout accessories rather than a collection of small objects, which can look cluttered.
  • Accessorize shelves sparingly. Allow breathing space between objects to give your small bathroom an open look. 
  • A great home staging trick to keep the eye moving is to decorate shelves with objects the same color as the wall behind them.
  • Create more height by accessorizing shelves with tall objects.
  • Small bathroom design ideas that really work-- hang framed pictures of landscapes, or artwork that feels like you're looking through a window. Any kind of art that has visual perspective will seemingly add depth to the room.
Bathroom VignetteCreate a pretty bathroom vignette. One is all you need in a small bath.
  • Avoid large artwork with heavy ornamental frames, as they can overpower a small room.
  • It’s okay to have at least one element that is somewhat bold in a small space. It could be a picture, mirror, maybe a stunning light fixture.
  • Accessorize shelves sparingly. Allow breathing space between objects to give your small bathroom an open look. 
  • Limit collectibles to one or two favorite pieces, or allow one outstanding accessory to become a focal point.
  • Instead of an arrangement of flowers, display a single elegant bloom, like an orchid.
  • Use accessories with reflective or see-through qualities that will blend into the background, like glass jars and canisters.
  • Avoid artwork with heavy ornamental frames, as they can overpower a small room.
  • Small bathroom design ideas that really work-- hang framed pictures of landscapes, or artwork that feels like you're looking through a window. Any kind of artwork that has visual perspective will seemingly add depth to the room.
  • Accessorize shelves sparingly. Allow breathing space between objects to give your small bathroom an open look. 

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