Small bathrooms are a fact of life for many of us. But just because your bathroom lacks square footage doesn’t mean it has to feel cramped and claustrophobic. The key is to avoid these common design missteps when designing a small bathroom.

George Nicola, an interior designer from TALLBOX shares that certain elements that can make the space feel cramped or chaotic. There are three main mistakes to avoid in small bathrooms. First is to avoid using dark, heavy tiles, as they can make the a bathroom feel smaller and more enclosed. Instead, opt for light, reflective materials to brighten and open up the space.

Second most common mistake is cluttering the bathroom with too much furniture or decor. Keeping the bathroom organized and minimalistic not only looks better but also makes it easier to move around. Utilize clever storage solutions to keep everyday items neatly tucked away.

Third is to select fixtures and fittings without considering their impact on the room’s limited space.

Oversized toilets or sinks can dominate a small bathroom, leaving little room for comfort. Instead, select compact shower enclosures and efficient fixtures that maximize the area without sacrificing functionality. By following these expert tips, anyone can transform their small bathroom into a more spacious and inviting retreat.

Picture of George Nicola
George Nicola

George is a seasoned interior designer and property marketing strategist with over 13 years of experience. He specializes in transforming properties into visually stunning spaces, helping clients recognize the potential and beauty in each property. With an impressive international client base of exciting projects throughout Europe and America.

Dark and Heavy Colors

To create a compelling listing that captures the attention of potential buyers, start by defining who is the buyer type; first-time, second-home and luxury buyers look at different details and adapting them defines how the listing would look like.

The most important types of shots that are the core of UPS of a property are:

A woman stands smiling in a modern black-tiled bathroom, showcasing efficient use of space in a small bathroom with a pristine white sink and toilet.
A woman stands smiling in a modern black-tiled bathroom, showcasing efficient use of space in a small bathroom with a pristine white sink and toilet.

The Fix: Embrace light and bright! Whites, creams, pastels, and even soft grays will reflect light and create an airy atmosphere. Think about painting your entire bathroom in a light, cool color, or use white or light colors on larger surfaces like walls and the ceiling.

You can add a touch of warmth with light beige or taupe tones. If you can’t resist a bolder color, consider using it strategically. Paint an accent wall in a soft blue or green, or bring in pops of color with your towels, bath mat, artwork, or other accessories. Just be mindful of not using too much color, as this can overwhelm a small space.

Walls:

  • Crisp White: This is a classic and timeless choice that will instantly brighten your bathroom and make it feel more spacious.
  • Pale Sky Blue: A soft, calming color that evokes a sense of serenity and openness.
  • Light Greige: This versatile color combines the coolness of gray with the warmth of beige, creating a sophisticated and airy feel.
A modern small bathroom with dim lighting, featuring a wall-mounted sink, a towel rack, and sleek dark tiles offers excellent space-saving ideas.
A modern small bathroom with dim lighting, featuring a wall-mounted sink, a towel rack, and sleek dark tiles offers excellent space-saving ideas.

Floors:

  • Classic White Tile: White floor tiles will bounce light around the room and make the entire space feel larger.
  • Light Gray Stone: A natural stone tile in a light gray shade adds a touch of luxury while still keeping the space feeling bright and open.
  • Soft Beige Tile: A beige floor tile can add warmth to your bathroom without overwhelming the small space.

Accessories:

  • Chrome or Nickel Fixtures: These metallic finishes add a touch of shine and sophistication without feeling heavy or bulky.
  • Woven Baskets in Natural Fibers: Natural woven baskets add a touch of texture and visual interest while providing storage for towels and toiletries.
  • Greenery: A small potted plant or two can add a touch of life and color to your bathroom without taking up too much space.

Bonus Tip: Use pops of color strategically with your towels, bath mat, artwork, or other accessories. Stick to lighter colors like pale yellow, sea green, or lavender, or add a touch of contrast with a navy blue or charcoal gray. Just be mindful of not using too much color, as this can overwhelm a small space.

Need a Professional Touch? At TALLBOX, we specialize in turning even the tiniest bathrooms into stylish, functional oases. Contact us for a free consultation and let our expert designers work their magic on your space.

Large, busy patterns

Large, busy patterns or very intricate designs can be overwhelming in a small bathroom. They create a sense of movement and complexity that can visually shrink the space, making it feel cluttered and even dizzying.

Opt for smaller, more subtle patterns instead. Think simple stripes, tiny geometrics, or even a soft, all-over texture like a honed marble or a handmade ceramic tile.

Modern small bathroom with beige tiled walls and floor, large mirror, vessel sink on a floating vanity, glass-enclosed shower, wall-mounted toilet, and recessed shelving—ensure you avoid cluttering the space to keep it airy.
Modern small bathroom with beige tiled walls and floor, large mirror, vessel sink on a floating vanity, glass-enclosed shower, wall-mounted toilet, and recessed shelving—ensure you avoid cluttering the space to keep it airy.

Walls: Avoid large floral prints, damask murals, or busy wallpapers. 

Instead, consider:

  • Classic subway tile in a light color with a thin grout line. This timeless design adds visual interest without overwhelming the space.
  • Vertical stripes in a soft color can create the illusion of higher ceilings.
  • A small, geometric pattern in neutral tones can add a touch of personality without being too busy.

Floors: Busy mosaic tiles or large-scale stone patterns can overwhelm a small bathroom floor. 

Opt for:

  • Light-colored floor tiles in a solid color or a small, inconspicuous pattern.
  • Herringbone pattern in light-colored wood or tile can add visual interest and warmth to your bathroom floor without making it feel smaller.
  • Penny tiles in a neutral color can add a touch of vintage charm and texture to your bathroom floor.

Bulky Vanities and Fixtures

A massive vanity might offer tons of storage, but it can dominate a small bathroom. In a small bathroom every inch counts. The same goes for oversized fixtures like toilets and tubs.

Modern small bathroom featuring a glass shower with built-in shelves, a round mirror above a floating sink vanity, and warm ambient lighting. A toilet and towel are also visible, making clever use of space to avoid clutter.
Modern small bathroom featuring a glass shower with built-in shelves, a round mirror above a floating sink vanity, and warm ambient lighting. A toilet and towel are also visible, making clever use of space to avoid clutter.

The Fix: When it comes to vanities, think slim and sleek. A streamlined, wall-mounted vanity with a narrow profile is a great space-saving choice. It minimizes the visual weight in the room and creates the illusion of more floor space.

Consider a pedestal sink (a sink with a base that doesn’t touch the floor) or a corner model to maximize every inch of usable space.

Look for compact toilets and showers designed for smaller bathrooms. These space-efficient fixtures are often just as functional as their larger counterparts, but they won’t overwhelm your limited square footage.

Bonus Tip: Maximize natural light wherever possible. A well-lit bathroom always feels larger. If you don’t have windows, install bright, layered lighting to mimic sunlight.

How to Read Bathroom Floor Plans and Spot Red Flags?

If you are buying pre-construction or older property, understanding bathroom floor plans is crucial for planning a successful renovation or ensuring a new home purchase meets your needs. If the space is on a smaller side, prioritize essential fixtures and features. Compare the importance of each element, such as the toilet, sink, and shower or bathtub. The main goal is to ensure that the fundamental needs are met within the limited space. 90% of the bathroom’s design should revolve around these core functions.

Here’s how to read them effectively and spot potential problems.

Floor plan showing a bathroom layout with two sinks, a toilet, and a shower. Caption notes that a double vanity requires a minimum width of 60 inches (152 cm) and suggests small bathroom design tips to maximize space.
Floor plan showing a bathroom layout with two sinks, a toilet, and a shower. Caption notes that a double vanity requires a minimum width of 60 inches (152 cm) and suggests small bathroom design tips to maximize space.

Key Elements of a Bathroom Floor Plan: 

Scale: Usually indicated as a ratio (e.g., 1:50), the scale represents the relationship between the drawing and the actual bathroom size.

Walls: Solid lines depict walls, while dotted lines may indicate proposed changes or optional features.

Fixtures: Symbols represent standard bathroom fixtures:

  • Toilet
  • Sink/Vanity
  • Bathtub/Shower
  • Door (with swing direction)

Plumbing: Lines or symbols may indicate the location of pipes for water supply and drainage.

Electrical: Symbols may show outlets, switches, and light fixtures.

Dimensions: Measurements are typically shown for walls, door openings, and distances between fixtures.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

  • Insufficient Space: Ensure there’s enough space around fixtures for comfortable use. The standard clearance in front of a toilet is 21 inches, and in front of a vanity, it’s 24-30 inches.
  • Poor Layout: Consider the flow of traffic and ease of access to each fixture. Avoid layouts where the toilet is the first thing you see upon entering or where the door swings into the shower area.
  • Check the door swing and clearances: Evaluating accessibility and convenience. Ensure the door doesn’t hit fixtures when opened. Opt for outward swinging or pocket doors if the layout feels tight. 90% of surveyed homeowners prefer doors that don’t interfere with the bathroom’s usability. 
  • Awkward Fixture Placement: Check if the placement of fixtures makes sense. For example, a vanity placed too close to the shower door could cause inconvenience.
  • Inadequate Storage: A small bathroom might lack sufficient storage for toiletries and towels. Look for floor plans with built-in cabinets, shelves, or niches.
  • Limited Counter Space: Ensure there’s enough counter space around the sink for daily tasks like brushing teeth or applying makeup.
  • Poor Ventilation: Bathrooms need good ventilation to prevent moisture buildup. Look for a window or an exhaust fan symbol on the floor plan.
  • Inaccessible Plumbing: If you’re renovating, check if the floor plan’s plumbing layout aligns with existing plumbing to avoid costly changes.
  • Overlooked Electrical Needs: Consider the placement of outlets for hairdryers, electric toothbrushes, and other appliances. Ensure adequate lighting, especially around the vanity.
  • Non-compliant with Building Codes: Check if the plan adheres to local building codes regarding clearances, ventilation, and safety requirements.

Additional Tips

Visualize the Space: Use online bathroom tools or apps to create a 3D model of the bathroom from the floor plan. This helps you better understand the space and spot potential issues.

Consult a Professional: If you have doubts or questions, consult an architect, interior designer, or contractor for expert advice.

Consider Future Needs: If you plan to age in place or have family members with mobility issues, consider a layout that allows for easy access and maneuverability.

How to achieve focal point in a small bathroom?

Even in the most compact bathroom, a well-defined focal point can elevate the entire space, adding visual interest and a touch of personality.

Here’s how to achieve it:

Statement Vanity:

  • Unique Design: Opt for a vanity with distinctive features like an ornate frame, intricate carvings, or an eye-catching color.
  • Bold Material: Choose a vanity top in a luxurious material like marble, granite, or quartz with unique veining or patterns.
  • Unusual Shape: Consider a vanity with a non-traditional shape, such as a round or oval design, to make it stand out.

Accent Wall:

  • Tile: Create a stunning focal point with a tiled accent wall behind the vanity or in the shower area. Choose tiles with bold colors, geometric patterns, or interesting textures.
  • Wallpaper: A vibrant or textured wallpaper can instantly transform a plain wall into a captivating focal point.
  • Paint: A contrasting paint color or a unique mural can also create a visually striking accent wall.
A modern bathroom design features a round basin with a wall-mounted faucet, a large mirror adorned in floral designs, a soap dispenser, and a lit wall sconce. Ideal for small bathroom tips and small space ideas, this setup maximizes style and functionality.
A modern bathroom design features a round basin with a wall-mounted faucet, a large mirror adorned in floral designs, a soap dispenser, and a lit wall sconce. Ideal for small bathroom tips and small space ideas, this setup maximizes style and functionality.

Mirror Magic:

  • Size: A large, oversized mirror with an ornate or uniquely shaped frame can become the centerpiece of the bathroom.
  • Placement: Position the mirror strategically to reflect light and create an illusion of space.
  • Multiple Mirrors: Consider a grouping of smaller mirrors in different shapes and sizes for a unique and eclectic look.

Lighting as Art:

  • Statement Fixture: Install a dramatic chandelier, pendant light, or a pair of sconces with an eye-catching design.
  • Backlighting: Highlight a mirror or a niche with backlighting to create a warm and inviting glow.
  • LED Strips: Use LED light strips under cabinets or along the baseboards to add a modern touch and accentuate architectural features.

Artistic Flair:

  • Artwork: Hang a large, captivating piece of art on a prominent wall to create a focal point and infuse personality into the space.
  • Sculpture: A small sculpture or decorative object on the vanity or a shelf can add a touch of whimsy and interest.

Additional Tips for Small Bathrooms:

  • Keep it Simple: Avoid cluttering the space with too many accessories or decorations. A few well-chosen pieces will have a more significant impact.
  • Play with Texture: Introduce texture through materials like wood, stone, or woven fabrics to add depth and interest without overwhelming the space.
  • Utilize Plants: A strategically placed potted real or faux plant can bring a touch of nature and vibrancy to a small bathroom.