When you’re shopping for a home, you may be more concerned about the number of bathrooms than the size of each one. And as long as your master bedroom is en-suite, you’ll put up with a lot more flaws. However, once you’re settled, the tiny bath can start to feel claustrophobic.
Fortunately, there are lots of simple ways to ‘expand’ your bathroom, both in look and feel. Sometimes, it’s about changing the mood to ensure you don’t feel cramped. Other times, you can tear down the walls for more drastic results. Here are some suggestions you could try.
1. Choose the right color
Ordinarily, warm colors (reds, yellows, etc.) can make space look bigger while cool colors (blues and greens) can shrink it. It’s an interesting point because the latter is a popular choice for bathrooms. When you’re dealing with limited square footage, those cool hues are bad for you.
Instead, veer towards pastels. If you can live with white, it’s the best option, because it broadens your room and reflects light, which is even better. If white feels too stark, go for beige, or set it off with darker doors. But use the same shade for your décor to create uninterrupted flow.
Having one color flowing from floor to ceiling develops unbroken patterns that stretch your eye-line. This could mean painting your bathroom roof the same color as your floor slabs and wall tiling. You could also raise the perceived ceiling level with lattice paint.
2. Utilize your mirrors
To extend the effect of your light-colored surfaces, have wall-to-floor mirrors installed. Think of the stereotypical dance studio, and how those mirrored surfaces make the room go on forever. Use this trick in your bathroom as well. Set your mirrors at 90° so they bounce off each other.
If you can only afford smaller mirrors, position them opposite one other so they catch each other’s reflections. You can also install ensconced lighting behind your mirrors. The light will catch the glass, spreading illumination and creating the illusion of a larger room.
For this reason, you want to use as much glass in your bathroom as you can get away with. Large mirrors are easier to style, but they can be more expensive. So you can use a series of smaller mirrors arranged in a flowing feng shui pattern. This will help enlarge the room for less cash.
3. Add a lot of sparkles
Complement your mirrored surfaces with reflective tile and metallic fixtures. These could be basic – chrome handles, sparkling faucets, stainless steel lights, or even a metallic bathroom sink. These gold, silver, and glossy gray tones create clean lines that elongate the room.
They also provide a clean, minimalist, low-fuss effect that makes any room look bigger. They’re functional too. In a room full of steam, there’s bound to be a lot of scum and potential for mold. These metallic taps and trinkets are far easier to clean, and they look good too.
Don’t mix golds with silvers, and don’t be tempted by vintage brasses and bronzes. They look good, but they’re not as reflective as their more shimmering cousins. Also, check that your choice of metal isn’t tinged with silver, because it may tarnish, and requires more care.
4. Opt for simplistic décor
Along the same lines, don’t make your bathroom too cluttered. You may like flowery motifs and patterned wallpaper, but these noisy prints only serve to shrink your room. The same applies to countertop trinkets and decorative pieces. All they do is take up space.
As a rule of thumb, keep your counters and other surfaces clear. If anything can go into a drawer or be recessed into the wall, it should be. Do a bathroom audit, noting all your bath products and fixtures. Takedown anything that’s unnecessary, and get rid of all bathroom clutter.
You can also shift storage piles. A tissue box in the corner could be replaced with a DIY crate that sits on your cistern. After all, you only need three or four rolls of toilet paper at a time – the rest can always be stored elsewhere in the house and refilled as needed.
5. Invest in airy fabrics
If you have any bathroom drapery, whether they’re window shutters or shower curtains, consider replacing them with something light and billowy. Ruffles are good, and quick-drying materials are better. If they flutter under the fan, they create the illusion of space.
You could get a clear, see-through shower curtain for added space. Use an adequate number of shower hooks so that you can easily pull the curtain open. Your instinct is to keep the shower curtain drawn and maintain separation, but leaving it open broadens your space.
In other rooms (like the kitchen), free-flowing fabrics can create a fire hazard. But because you rarely use flames in the bathroom (except for bath time candles), it’s not as big a risk. Just be sure the fabric you select is quick-drying, or take it outside after every shower to prevent mold.
6. Go for glass doors
Alternatively, you could ditch the shower curtain altogether and replace it with a frameless floor-to-ceiling glass door. This works especially well if the flooring in the shower matches the rest of the bathroom. It creates a continuous line that makes your small bathroom bigger.
Clear glass works best, but you can also use two-way mirrored glass so that the reflection enlarges the bathroom while still affording you some privacy. If your budget allows it, use the kind of high-tech glass that can go from tinted to clear when you clap or touch a button.
Avoid stained glass or smoked glass, because they’ll simulate a wall, and that closes off your room even more. If you must use a translucent or opaque door, install a sliding one. That way, you can leave the shower door open when the shower cubicle isn’t in use.
7. Remove all your space-hogging fixtures
Step out of the shower and look around. How many drawers, cabinets, or shelves do you have in your bathroom? Tear them all out – they’re just taking up space. Replace the shelves under the sink with a pedestal washbasin. ‘Push’ medicine cabinets into the walls so they don’t stand out.
This will involve redoing the walls themselves, but it’s worth those extra inches and it opens up your bathroom. Take out any portable wardrobes or shelves and opt for recessed open shelves. This limit clutter too, because you won’t store stuff that could get damaged by moisture.
You can only do this type of refurbishment if you own our home – or if the landlord is okay with extreme redecoration. Be careful about tearing down any walls or built-in furniture though, because you could end up bringing the whole house down. Let professional plumbers help.
8. Replace them with off-the-ground storage
Getting rid of excess cabinets and drawers makes your bathroom look much bigger, but where will you keep all your bathroom items? There are lots of space-saving options, and many cost less than $10 at your local hardware. Get creative. A wine rack makes a great towel holder.
In place of drawers and towel racks, use single hooks that can hang towels vertically. As for the towels themselves, ensure they’re quick-drying so they don’t make the room feel stuffy. This closed-in feeling can make your bathroom seem smaller, and it may encourage mildew.
Other handy hints include soap dispensers that eliminate your endless bottles of shampoo. Some of these dispensers are pretty basic, with screws or suction cups you can press onto the wall. Ensure they’re waterproof, and use scum-free soap foam where possible.
9. Simulate natural light
Sunlight makes any space seem larger. Unfortunately, bathrooms often have tiny windows, both for privacy and practicality. But there’s no rule saying you can’t make your windows bigger, so knock some holes in the external walls and widen your window width. Clear glass is ideal.
Like your shower door, you could make the glass reflective to maintain discretion. If your bathroom has no outside-facing walls, work with the roof instead, building in some skylights. Solatubes are a helpful option too because they mimic natural sunlight.
Smart lights can be a helpful choice as well. Certain make-up mirrors can simulate daylight and be operated by voice-command through Siri or Alexa. Other fixtures use motion detectors. The more lights you have the better because they minimize shadows, which makes the room bigger.
10. Get a smaller toilet
Small bathrooms indicate a general lack of square footage in your home, which means your bathtub and toilet are probably in the same room. Consider shrinking the size of said toilet. You can get a smaller commode that drains through the wall rather than the floor. It frees up space.
You may worry about the toilet height being too low, but the deeper squat is actually a healthier way to go, as proven by science and toilet stools. It gives your excretory system a more ‘ergonomic’ curve for your Number 2s, reducing the chances of constipation and hemorrhoids.
The advantage of these miniature commodes is they often come without a cistern. Instead, their piping is hidden inside the wall. This frees up a lot of room, plus there’s some floor space under the ‘s-curve’. It’s not necessarily usable space, but it does make your small bathroom look bigger.
11. Replace your tub with a shower cubicle
While we’re on the subject of bathroom ceramics, do you really need that tub when your bathroom is the size of a closet? Yes, ‘tiny houses’ have miniature tubs, but squeezing one into your already minuscule space just makes everything feel more squashed. Save the tub for later.
Take it out altogether and put in a shower cubicle with glass doors, chrome trimmings, and a recessed shower that ‘sprinkles water out of the ceiling’. These flat shower fixtures are stylish and modern. Plus, you can combine them with shower jets that spurt through the walls.
If you own your home and feel too put out by the absence of a bathtub, you could construct a mini-spa in your back yard. Some manufacturers sell small above-ground pools that double as Jacuzzis, so that’s a good way to get your bubble bath in without squashing your bathroom.
12. Make the space cozier
When your bathroom is too crowded, you don’t want to spend a lot of time in there. (The lack of ventilation doesn’t help either.) So while improving your bathroom ambiance doesn’t increase your perception of size, it can certainly make your bathroom seem less ‘tight’.
Building a spa-like atmosphere helps, so consider scented candles and bath bubbles if you have a tub. You can also get a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. This lets you play soothing music in the shower, and that one small step could pleasantly expand the mood of your bathroom.
Just check your internet and connectivity to ensure your WiFi can reach the bathroom. Also, ensure any appliances you install are well earthed. You don’t want to risk shocks or electric fires – they can be embarrassing to explain to paramedics when you dial 911.
13. Consider marble – real or fake
Marble is a popular choice for bathroom walls and floors because it comes in neutral block colors with subtle striations. This creates a continuous effect that makes the room look bigger. It’s also a reflective stone, so it seems to bring more light into the room.
Polished marble is the brightest and glossiest, but it can also be slippery, so a matte marble can do the trick. If genuine marble is beyond your budget, you can buy ceramic tiles and slabs that have faux marble patterns on them. Opt for white grout, because black will shrink the space.
The marble (or faux marble) you install should be sealed to prevent water from damaging the surface beneath. After all, natural stone is porous and non-slip, so it’ll let the steam and water right through … where it could saturate the plaster below and bring everything crashing down.
Put the finishing touches
We’ve discussed various techniques to make your small bathroom look bigger. They range from DIY crafting tips to complete bathroom overhauls. The changes you make will depend on how much time and money are available for your bathroom project. In summary, here’s what you do.
Pull out unnecessary standalone furniture and opt for open shelves, recessed cabinets, and floating fixtures. Use lots of mirrors and metallics to open up the space. Keep clutter to a minimum and ditch your tub in favor in a shower. Any more tips? Tell us in the comments!