Our small bathroom design may only be 160 x 170cm, but for me, it’s perfectly formed in every way. You can reach both arms across and touch either side of the room, but that’s not actually what you immediately notice when you step through the door. Instead, you see a generous frameless skylight flooding the space with natural light, a wall of tactile sage green tiles and the unusual choice of a green sink paired with an off white floating vanity unit. I spent so long considering all the little details – from matching my grout to my silicone, to lining up the tiles perfectly – that size, here, really doesn’t matter.
There’s a lot I learnt during the process of designing my own small bathroom design, so I thought I would share all my lessons and top tips in case you’re planning a space of a similar size. We don’t all have huge mansions, bedrooms we can convert into bathrooms or space enough for a roll-top bath and a shower. Most of us are working with tricky layouts and tight floorpans, trying to maximise the space we’ve got. Don’t be disheartened with your small bathroom, there’s a lot you can do to make it feel light, airy, uplifting and inspiring.
[Ad – This post is created in collaboration with VitrA Bathrooms]
All images Cate St Hill
Storage is everything
I think storage is something you can easily forget about in a bathroom, while getting distracted by pretty tiles, tap finishes and bath tubs. But it’s perhaps the most important thing to consider in a small bathroom design.
There’s always going to be bottles, medicine, plasters and makeup brushes you’re going to want to hide away. Don’t let storage be an afterthought. Integrate it into the design from the beginning and you’ll create a smart, functional space that will be really easy to use and keep tidy on a daily basis.
In our bathroom, the Voyage washbasin unit – designed by Arik Levy – provides two generous drawers that I’ve organised with translucent MUJI boxes. There’s also a compartment under the sink to store loo paper and a few cleaning products. Just outside the bathroom on the landing, we’ve added a taller Voyage unit to really maximise the amount of useable storage. The cabinet is really shallow so can fit into the smallest of alcoves, even behind a door if you had the space. It feels like an extension of the bathroom. Really, you can never have too much storage!
Elevate your furniture off the floor
You can also lift furniture off the floor to give a feeling of space in a small bathroom design. Being able to see the full floor space will trick the eye into thinking the room is bigger than it actually is. This could be a wall mounted vanity unit, like the one here, or a freestanding bath tub, or a wall hung toilet. I think it helps to give a light, airy feel to a space, rather than having everything looking heavy and cumbersome.
Choose large format floor tiles
There’s a little rule of thumb I like to use for a small bathroom design – tiny tiles on top, bigger ones on the bottom. I think large format floor tiles help give the illusion of a larger floor print. So keep your mosaic tiles, kit kat tiles or decorative finishes to the walls or bath/shower area. It also makes the floor much easier to clean with less grout marks. Here I’ve used VitrA’s Cementmix light grey floor tiles in a 60 x 60cm size.
Make use of niches and alcoves
I think it looks so much more streamlined if you integrate niches into your bathroom walls rather than having tacky bathroom shelves drilled in later down the line. It feels so much more intentional.
This is something you should really set out right at the beginning of the design, so your builder can integrate the niches into the stud work of the bathroom before they plasterboard and tile the space. Even better if they can set out the niches and tiles so everything lines up neatly! A niche only really needs to be as deep as a shower bottle, so you can add them into walls where the builder will already be making space for pipework, for example in shower enclosures, at the ends of baths or on the same wall as a concealed cistern for the WC.
Think about the height of your niche – you want it to be easy to reach and not set in an awkward place. The niche here is just high enough that if you were lying in the bath you wouldn’t hit your head on it. In a shower you want it to be at a comfortable height for using a shampoo bottle.
Maximise the amount of light in the space
Light is your best friend in a small bathroom design. Maximising both natural light and artificial light will help make a space feel more generous, and also inviting! Lighter colours will always make a room appear bigger, so I would recommend choosing pale, neutral colours rather than darker, heavier tones. Keep it bright and airy – you can also use mirrors to bounce light around the space and give a feeling of depth, making a space feel wider or longer.
In our bathroom the game changer was adding an openable rooflight above the shower. It makes the space feel light and uplifting, even on a grey day. I love that you can lie in the bath and look up at the clouds moving in the sky or the rain pattering on the glass. Being openable, it also allows much needed fresh air and ventilation. We also went into the pitch of the roof to give the bathroom a greater sense of volume and height. Even though floor print is very small – 160 x 170cm – it doesn’t feel like a tight, restrictive space to be in.
Consider your lighting plan
Creating a good lighting plan is also key to a small bathroom design. You want to think about how you use the space throughout the day, so you can give yourself different lighting options depending on the use or mood. For example, late at night when you’re brushing your teeth or going to the loo in the middle of the night, you might not want to put on the harsh ceiling light. You probably want something a little softer. You might also want to consider lighting around the mirror to help with shaving or putting on makeup. Having lights either side of the mirror is much more flattering on your face than a light coming from above.
In our bathroom we have two recessed spotlights in the ceiling, a Flos glo ball on the wall and the illuminated mirror. The Prime round mirror from VitrA is mounted slightly away from the wall, with an LED strip running around the back perimeter of the mirror. It comes on with a sensor at the bottom of the mirror, so when you go to put the tap on it automatically comes on. It gives a lovely soft diffused light which gives the space a cosier feel in the evening.
Stick to a simple colour palette
I think in a small bathroom design you don’t want to overcomplicate things. Less is more is always my motto, but I think that’s even more the case in a space like this. You don’t want to give your eye too many things to look at, because then it could start to look cluttered and overcomplicated.
I would stick to a simple colour palette of 2-3 colours to help create a sense of cohesion and fluidity in the space. This could mean two different types of tiles or picking out one accent colour that will pop out against a neutral backdrop.
Here I’ve used sage green as my accent and used it as a thread that runs through the whole space. You might notice that I’ve colour matched my towel rail, sink, grout and even my silicone to the green of the Liquid Line Decor tiles by Tom Dixon. I think repeating that colour helps create a seamless feel so your eye doesn’t focus so much on the size of the space.
Prioritise streamlined finishes
I think all the little details can add up to create visual clutter in a space. Here I’ve been careful to choose streamlined finishes and unfussy details to create a feeling of expansiveness. For example, I’ve chosen a frameless pocket door that doesn’t eat too much into the space, floating storage with handleless doors, a tiled bath panel, a matching tile trim to my tiles, the list goes on! Practically speaking, it also means it’s an easy space to maintain and keep clean.
You want a small bathroom design to stand the test of time and last for a good 10 years or so – it pays to think about the practicalities so you can get the most out of the space. Consider finishes that will last, shapes and designs that will endure and not go out of fashion, and functional details that will make your bathroom a joy to use every day!
Source list [*indicates press product]:
Tiles: Liquid Line Decor tiles by Tom Dixon in Sage Glossy and PRO Color Ultra White Matt tiles, Cementmix light grey floor tiles
Brassware: Origin collection in brushed nickel
Basin: Plural basin by Terri Pecora in matt moss green
Vanity unit: Voyage washbasin unit by Arik Levy
Mirror: Prime round mirror
WC: Sento back to wall WC in matt white
Bath: Neon rectangular bathtub, 160cm
all above: VitrA Bathrooms*
Bath screen: Drench Showers *press discount
Shampoo and conditioner holder, Etsy* [affiliate link]
Towel rail: Terma Simple in RAL Moss Grey, Radiators Online
Towels: Vallasån, IKEA
Bath mat: Lina recycled polyester bath mat, OYOY*
Radiator valves: Talus Bold Silver Nickel, UK Radiators*
Wall light: Flos Mini Glo Ball
Tile trim: Antique White Matrix tile trim, Topps Tiles
Grout and silicone: Mapei River Grey 115 [affiliate link]
Pocket door: Eclisse flush pocket door system and a Howdens plain door
Skylight: Roof Maker