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How To Survive Life In A Small Bathroom

If you have a small bathroom and you’re thinking of spending the half-term holidays changing how it looks, then the next 5 minutes of your life could be crucial.

Various studies over the last 3 years have shown that we Brits have some of the smallest houses in Europe.

Because of this, we are inevitably going to have smaller bathrooms than most.

But smaller bathrooms or not, us British have never been the sort of folk to turn our backs on adversity – oh no, we stare adversity in the face and do what we always do – complain about it briefly and then make the best of a bad job . . .

Now I’m no great orator, nor do I profess to be a spokesperson for the entire British population, but I would wager that if you have a small bathroom, you’ve done everything you can to maximise what little space you have in there and just got on with it.

And good on you for doing so!

A small bathroom doesn’t mean that you have to scrimp on style and substance. Some of the most tastefully stylish and irrepressibly impressive bathrooms that I have seen, have been smaller than most people’s cars!

Contemporary Bathroom by Sydney Home Builders AN Builders Pty Ltd

That said, some small bathrooms do make you feel like you should shed a few pounds before you enter them, but that shouldn’t put you off trying to change it up a little bit.

Trying to get everything to fit into a pokey little space can be a little like doing a giant crossword puzzle with half of the clues missing; virtually impossible and half way through you’ll find that you’re pretty much making it up as you go along.

Despite the various challenges though, maximising your space needn’t be a thankless task and this small bathroom survival guide I’ve put together is designed to help you to conquer the seemingly impossible.

So let’s start solving that crossword puzzle . . .

The Best Small Bathroom Colour Scheme

Before you start pulling out fixtures and fittings, a good way of changing the way you see your bathroom is to start with the colour scheme.

Colours (and the shade of colours) can help to alter the perception of a room’s size with minimal effort – so choose them wisely.

Traditional Bathroom by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers Gast Architects

To help you to create the illusion of more space, you should consider using more neutral and pastel shades for the main colour palette of your small bathroom.

It could be argued that softer pastel colours are often quite dull and less inspiring, but there are no rules stating that you have to stick to the bland beige of a bygone era, so change it up a bit.

Try to keep everything the same colour tone throughout the space – don’t go for dark walls and light tiles (or vice-versa), as this will chop up your space visually and make it seem much smaller than it already is – try a bright, clean white tiling scheme.

If you are dead set on having some kind of contrasting colour theme, try to limit your choice to a colourful object in the space – like a snazzy light fitting, a low lying cabinet or even something as simple as a piece of art or a sign.

Shabby-chic Style Cloakroom by South West Events, Media & Bloggers Torie Jayne

This object will stand out as a feature and help everything else blend and recede into the background – think of it as recession = expansion (of space) or something.

To accentuate this even further, invest in some bold, vibrant coloured towels and accessories to add that all important final touch to your space.

Painting Your Small Bathroom

Paint your ceiling the same colour as your walls – particularly if you have an unusually shaped or oddly angled ceiling.

Giving the entire bathroom the same tone of colour will disguise those unusual angles and help your space to visually expand (recession = expansion).

This will create a much cleaner and more expansive upper portion of the room, thus providing a greater feeling of space.

When you have a flat ceiling, it may be a better idea to go one or even two shades lighter (but still keep the colour the same if you can), because ceilings always appear a little darker than walls.

Contemporary Bathroom by Toronto Kitchen & Bathroom Designers Toronto Interior Design Group | Yanic Simard

Tiling A Small Bathroom

There are a number of things to consider when it comes to tiling your small bathroom, from the colour scheme to how far around the room you should tile.

Let’s take a look at how the professionals do it . . .

BLENDING

Transitional Bathroom by Thornhill Interior Designers & Decorators Avalon Interiors

Imagine if there were tiles with contrasting colours in this shower in the picture above.

Tiled in that way, this room would be visually cut in half, making the shower appear to be a completely separate space.

Despite the use of differing textures and tile styles, by not straying too far away from the colour of the other walls and blending the tiling with the wall colouring, it all reads as one much larger space.

WHERE TO TILE YOUR SMALL BATHROOM

Though there are no rules as to whether you should tile your entire bathroom or not, I’m firmly of the belief that wherever you do decide to tile, you should take them all the way up to the ceiling (unless it’s a border or something like that).

It always amazes me when I watch design shows and they stop the tiling an inch or so from the ceiling, then go to the trouble of trimming out the edge of the tiling and even bull nosing the edges.

This process is not only more time consuming, but is more than likely going to be much more expensive than just tiling right up to the join of the ceiling.

The point is, going all the way up to the ceiling and tiling as much of your bathroom as you can means that there are fewer contrasts and transitions, less of which will inevitably lead to a more expansive feel.

Although the tiling in the image below is a much darker colour than you would perhaps normally want to use (and goes against what I advised above), it still makes the space look larger as the tiles go all the way up to the ceiling – I really love this space.

Contemporary Bathroom by London Architects & Building Designers Chris Dyson Architects

 

Small Bathroom Colour Transitions

Modern Bathroom by Long Island City Architects & Building Designers Narofsky Architecture + ways2design

The key to proper transition in any room is to minimise the change of colour and material from one area to the next.

If you can try and bleed a material from one area to another without stopping and starting it, that space will appear less busy and appear to be exactly what you want most spaces to be – spacious.

In the picture above the tiling runs across the back of the sink and into the shower, making a single, seamless backdrop.

Note – the tiles also go all the way up to the ceiling too!

Now just imagine the same space with the tiles stopping at the shower – this would have the effect of chopping the room space in half and leaving it feeling pokey.

The Best Small Bathroom Style Tips

Now you have the background colour and theme of your small bathroom in check, it’s time to take a look at what furniture, fixtures and fittings are best to really maximise the space in your freshly decorated abode.

Contemporary Bathroom by Victoria Interior Designers & Decorators The Sky is the Limit Design

GLASS, MIRRORS AND NATURAL LIGHT

Barring a solid gold toilet or perhaps a dashing man servant dispensing cologne, nothing can make a bathroom feel as grand and as decadent as a mirror that reaches all the way to the ceiling.

Expertly trimmed out in an attractive wooden or tiled finish, a large oversized mirror with an integral light fitting on top – or hanging in front of it – will help to make your space grow.

Remember – Breaking up space is a big no-no, so don’t go putting any double mirrors over side-by-side sinks – not that they’d fit in a small bathroom anyway. . .

Mirrors are only as good as what they reflect.

That’s not to say that if you are an average looking chap like myself, that your mirrors are useless.

But the strategic placement of mirrors in your small bathroom can help you to really expand the space.

One great idea – that you may already have thought of – is to place your mirror across from a window in the room.

Scandinavian Bathroom by London Architects & Building Designers TG-Studio

In the picture above, it’s clear to see how this optical illusion can help to make a room appear more spacious.

This technique will give the illusion of more space and mean that you reflect more natural light back into the bathroom.

High mirrors that encompass the entire room can also help to add a feeling of space and reflect even more natural light.

Placing mirrors high and all around the top of a small bathroom space helps to open it up and give the impression that there is far more space than is actually available.

Contemporary Bathroom by London Interior Designers & Decorators Celia James

NATURAL LIGHT IS GOOD

Contemporary Bathroom by Brooklyn Architects & Building Designers Ben Herzog

Who doesn’t want to see more natural light in their bathroom?

Let’s face it, nothing quite beats the feeling a getting out of your bed, stumbling blearily to the bathroom and being greeted by rays of glorious sunshine (my lady wife also insists that it helps her with her make-up too).

Many people (and I have been one of them) make the mistake of covering their bathroom windows with some form of shutter or maybe a black-out blind.

Although I certainly  understand the need for privacy in a bathroom, covering an already frosted glass window with a blind or shutter is tantamount to bricking it up!

Victorian Bathroom by Greenville Interior Designers & Decorators Panageries

What we should all be doing instead – according to design experts the world over (and I don’t in any way mean me) – is covering windows with translucent window shades, or investing in stained glass windows that tie in with the rest of the room.

Doing either of those things will mean that you can benefit from that all-important privacy and the natural light that your bathroom window brings.

If you are one of the many people that have a bathroom without a window, perhaps it could be an idea to invest in a solatube or a skylight and take even more advantage of the natural light.

Products by Vista Lighting Solatube International, Inc.

“Though you may not be able to see the view from them, Solatubes work better than windows by bringing in more natural light and, becasue of the technology they use, they also bring in more light from above than a much larger and more expensive skylight.”

 

Cabinets, Shelves And Small Bathroom Storage

 

Traditional Bathroom by Novato Home Builders Rasmussen Construction

Incorporating shelving into a small bathroom space can often prove to be a tricky process, but one that should be approached with a will to succeed.

It’s important to realise that there are a number of spaces in larger bathrooms that often remain redundant because there is more space elsewhere – in a smaller bathroom, these spaces are gold dust.

Adding a shelf above a sink – or even burying your bathroom cabinet into the wall – will help to make the best use of space that would perhaps have been overlooked as a storage solution in bigger bathrooms.

The dead space above the toilet is another candidate for additional storage. Adding a shelf, a cabinet or even a simple basket there, is an easy and convenient way to store reading materials and toiletries.

SPICE RACKS ARE NOT JUST FOR THE KITCHEN

For those of you with a massive amount of make-up (like my lovely lady wife), why not try putting some spice racks up in the bathroom like in the image above.

This will not only provide you with ample storage space for all those little bottles of magic, but the very nature of the design of these clever pieces of kit means that whatever you put on the shelf (provided it’s not too tall), shouldn’t fall off and will be kept well out of the way, neat and tidy.

DON’T IGNORE THE BACK OF THE DOOR

Another great way of saving space – and one that shouldn’t prove too difficult to implement – is putting towel rails (not heated ones obviously) on the back of your bathroom or ensuite door.

Modern Bathroom by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers John Lum Architecture, Inc. AIA

Sometimes, finding enough available wall space in a small bathroom can prove problematic; putting towel racks and coat hooks on the back of doors can remove the issue all together and help to give your bathroom a more clean-lined look.

PUTTING SHELVES UP HIGH IS GENIUS

Contemporary Bathroom from Calir on Houzz.co.uk

Equally, a shelf placed above the bathroom door could also make life a little more stream-lined.

Provided that you aren’t too short to reach above the door and don’t put anything up there that kids might need, this is a great way of saving space in a small bathroom.

UNDER THE SINK IS PERFECT FOR STORAGE

Coastal Bathroom by Monmouth Beach Interior Designers & Decorators Sheila Rich Interiors, LLC

Pedestal sinks are commonplace, and can often be difficult to make use of for storage.

There is an increasing trend amongst designers to make use of the space under sinks as a storage area and I have to agree that squeezing as much storage out of your small space is a must.

In the image above, a simple shelf placed under the sink can not only make an incredible difference to the available storage, but also to how the space looks too – the chrome of the waste, shower and other fixtures ties in beautifully with the simplicity of the shelf under the pedestal.

Your Small Bathroom Survival Guide Checklist

 

  • Choose small bathroom colours wisely
  • Avoid dark walls and light tiles
  • Accessorise with art or a light fitting
  • Recession = Expansion of space
  • If possible, keep ceilings the same colour as walls
  • Blend colours from space to space
  • Don’t chop up areas of your room
  • Tile all the way up to the ceiling
  • Minimise colour changes
  • Get long mirrors
  • Use natural light
  • Get more shelves
  • Don’t waste space

So there you have it, our top small bathroom survival tips.

I’m sure you have more that you have come up with yourself, so why not share them in the comments below.

We’d love to hear from you and how you’ve made the most of your small bathroom space.

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Good luck with maximising what you have!

All images have been collated from various users of www.houzz.co.uk

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John Lawless: A blogger and social media expert with a penchant for interior design and DIY projects. I write for a variety of websites, but love to focus on making and breaking stuff!