8 Great Ways to Make a Smaller Bathroom Feel Large and Luxurious
Besides the kitchen, having a spa-like bathroom is near the top of homeowners’ renovation lists, especially if that space is small and needs creative ideas on how to make it feel more expansive, functional and inviting.
Design experts say homeowners can update a smaller bathroom through quick, simple fixes like paint, tile and storage solutions. But if the budget allows, experts agree that updating the layout, adding high-end fixtures and boosting the level of style are great ways to make sure the entire family loves their bathrooms for years to come.
Think Simple With Small Bathrooms
Among the many tips he shares with homeowners, Octavio G. Estrada tells his clients who have smaller bathrooms to avoid busy patterns on surfaces, including the floor, shower tile and bathroom walls.
“Simplicity is your best friend when designing a smaller bathroom. If you feel like you’re doing too much, you probably are,” says Estrada, a senior architectural designer at Block Renovation in New York, an online platform that works with homeowners and contractors to manage major renovation projects.
Estrada recommends painting the ceiling the same color as the walls in a tight bathroom to create the illusion of space. Adding a floating vanity is also a great investment, says Estrada, as it can make a bathroom feel airy and clean. He suggests placing baskets in that open space below the sinks to boost bathroom storage, something smaller rooms always need.
“Great design always brings value,” Estrada says. He encourages homeowners to consider open shelving with staged accessories such as rolled towels as well as shower niches to show off bath products in beautiful bottles.
Updating your bathroom in large and small ways makes sense for your home’s value as well. Leah Tuttleman of Re-Bath in Scottsdale, Arizona, says the average return on investment on a bathroom remodel is 62%, which means not only is it cost effective when it comes to selling someday but the homeowner will also get to enjoy the space for years to come.
8 Ways to Make a Small Bathroom Feel Bigger
Here are some more tips and tricks for homeowners who are looking for ways to make a petite bathroom feel comfortable for everyone who uses it.
Replace outdated fixtures
Tuttleman, who has been the corporate designer for Re-Bath since 2017, has seen hundreds of bathroom remodels. She says updating plumbing fixtures is a smart move in any renovation to avoid aging problems. She recommends starting with a neutral white toilet. Next, she suggests adding the latest in bathroom technology, such as a motion-sensor faucet. Homeowners should also consider ambient lighting and task lighting, adding energy-efficient LED bulbs as they go.
Continue the same bathroom floor tile into the shower enclosure to help make a space feel more luxurious and bigger. That effect gets even better if you add a glass wall, says Floor360 interior designer Courtney Wollersheim in Madison, Wisconsin. “Continuous flooring between spaces in a bathroom is a modern design approach that homeowners are embracing when it’s time for an upgrade. It’s especially effective if you have a small space and want to maximize a patterned floor tile or layout,” Wollersheim says.
Go luxe with the floor
If you are doing a major renovation, consider adding radiant heat, also known as in-floor heat, according to Russ Eisenberg, vice president of business development at Portland, Oregon's Gold Heat, a custom manufacturer of electric radiant underfloor heat mats. “Ideal for smaller spaces, radiant heat rises up from the floor, providing consistent warmth throughout the bathroom. That means no hot or cold spots,” Eisenberg says. “Most importantly, radiant heat eliminates the need for clunky radiators or visible heating units, making it possible to bring all-over warmth into the bathroom without eating up usable living space.”
Use a clear shower curtain
“Skip the liners all together and instead opt for one clear shower curtain that allows for more light to filter into the shower itself,” says Kara Harms, co-founder of lifestyle blog Whimsy Soul and vacation rental brand Whimsy Homes in San Francisco. “In my personal bathroom, I have a clear orange-tinted shower curtain – this helps bring in a color element while also adding light to my small space.”
Swap out sliding doors
“Often, doors are an overlooked aspect to efficient space design,” says Tysen Gannon, business development and marketing consultant for AD Systems in Seattle, Washington. “Sliding doors reduce the need to plan for swing arc trajectories, making small rooms more space efficient and thereby making them appear larger.”
Maximize doors in other ways
“You can buy storage bins that adhere directly to the door or a hanging system to clear counter space,” says Raychel Klein, a Seattle-based professional organizer and founder of Raybaybay Home Organizing. “Bathroom counters can easily feel crowded even with just a few items. The back of the door is a great space to store extra items.”
Update your lightbulbs
Harms says not all design solutions need to be complicated; something as easy as putting in new light bulbs can be a major change. “For my Whimsy Homes cabin, we had a small upstairs bathroom that felt very dark and dingy despite having plenty of vanity lights. The issue ended up being the lightbulb temperature,” Harms says. “The previous owners used 2700 K light bulbs, which is very dim. I swapped it out for 3500 K, which is more neutral and the room instantly felt elevated and bright.”
Klein says people need to be more prudent about the amount of bathroom products they keep on hand. This includes a simplified skincare regimen as well as buying smaller quantities of products, such as toilet paper. “It can be tempting to buy things in bulk, but in reality the amount of product you have to store will be a constant burden.”