How to Squeeze Every Inch out of Your Small Bath (And still be stylish)

Despite what you might see in home magazines or trendy home makeover shows, we all don’t have unlimited space in the bath. The average US bath is about 40 square feet, particularly if your home was built before 1980.


Bath shelving
Photo credit: House Beautiful

Add shelves in strategic places. Sometimes it’s not just adding shelving – it’s where you add the shelving that matters.

For example, when you’re short on space, try adding a small shelf above your sink – particularly when you have no room for counters.  A tiny shelf in just the right place can be handy for the miscellaneous bathroom paraphernalia.

However, that’s not the only place to look – especially if you have a need for “deeper storage” — things that you only need occasionally, or a place to store multiples of.


Bathroom shelving
Photo credit: Martha


In this case, we recommend looking up — as in up above your door — for new storage space. A simple shelf above your door, maybe crafted in the same theme or design sense as the rest of your home, can be both functional as well as a novel architectural feature of your home.

But just because it’s “out of sight” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider style elements: wicker containers, apothecary jars, etc can make even your storage area visually appealing.



Bathroom furniture
Using a piece of furniture with legs can give your bath a sense of living room luxury – while still being sensitive to space constraints. Photo credit: Rod Foster/One Week Bath


Try a piece of furniture. Yes, you read that right: furniture.

Remember, the hot trend is to use elements from your living spaces in your bath, thus evoking a more “living space” feel, which then also evokes a sense of luxury.

But you’re not just using any old table or cabinet. There’s a reason why designers use tables or cabinets with legs – even spindle legs.  The illusion of “space” under the table top evokes a sense of “spaciousness” — and the added illusion of taking up less space, recommends Matt Plaskoff, founder of OneWeekBath, and former consultant to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.






Small bath, pedestal sink with shelf
There are all kinds of “pedestal sinks” out there. If storage is still an issue, consider this alternative form of a pedestal sink — one with a shelf — that allows you to stow away towels or other toiletries. Photo credit:


Remove any visual barriers. Instead of using shower curtains, try clear glass doors or walls for your shower area. They’ll still evoke a sense of “spaciousness” visually – while containing any water spillage concerns you might have.


Choose smaller vanities or sink areas. Another consideration is to rethink your vanity selection. “Bathroom vanities tend to be either 21 or 18 inches deep,” Plaskoff explains. If you’re trying to create a sense of spaciousness or roominess, opt for the more shallow depth cabinet, which will show off more floor space.  If floor space is really tight, consider a pedestal sink, wall mounted/free floating sink, or a corner mount.





Large format tiles
Photo credit: The Chatwal New York

Cut the clutter.  When it comes to tile in small spaces, consider larger tiles with fewer visual distractions. If your heart is set on details – consider trim, backsplash or even the shower floor area for smaller pieces.  More pieces of tile, means more grout lines, and more grout lines mean more visual distraction, explains Joel Freyberg, general manager of The Chatwal New York, a high luxury hotel and honoree for Best Bathroom at the 2011 Hospitality Design Awards.

That extends to your paraphernalia around the bath too. Add storage to the inside of your cabinet doors with hooks – a place to hang hair dryers, small containers or toothbrushes – can get the clutter off your counters and keep your bath area visually lovely.





Small bath glass wall
Your shower/bath combo doesn’t have to have a “door” A clear glass dividing wall will maintain a sense of spaciousness while still protecting your room from water. Also consider small, inset “niches” for small storage (yet visually unobtrusive) areas. Photo credit:

Eliminate any protrusions. “In a small space, cabinets and shelves protruding from the walls just box you in,” Plaskoff says.

That means thinking through storage needs carefully, and limiting anything that takes up floor space or extends from the wall.

For example, if your heart is set on a medicine cabinet, Plaskoff recommends using a medicine cabinet that is set into the wall, as opposed to sticking out from it.

Using recessed spaces also help to provide storage space – and yet minimize any protrusions.






Use lighting strategically.  While good lighting is important for things like makeup and plucking eyebrows, your bath doesn’t have to be glaring with brilliant light. Home decorating expert Noa Santos, recommends considering an overhead light set at “half light” (as on a dimmer or smaller wattage bulb) and using sconces around your mirrors, which will also create a more romantic, relaxing feeling.


Out of sight, out of mind.  We love a great area rug or bath mat in the bath area, but it can sometimes chop up the bathroom If you’re tight on space and want that visual feeling of openness, consider tucking the bath mat out of the way when it’s not in use, such as hanging it over the side of the tub or under a table.


Small Bath Pedestal sink
Don’t be afraid to use a pop of color in your small bath. Blue and white is a classic, calming color combination. Also, don’t ignore lighting: include sconces around your mirror to “fill” your area with soft lighting. Photo credit: Thinkstock, via



Trick the eye. There’s a lot of good reasons to use shower curtains: they create a softer feeling in the bath area and can bring a pop of color or drama to a small space. If you do decide to go this route, the placement of your curtains is important.  Hang the shower curtain as close to the ceiling as you can: the illusion will make the ceiling seem higher than it really is.










For more reading:

From Around the Web – 22 Small Bathroom Remodeling Ideas 

Affordable Ways to Spruce Up Your Bath

What is Tile “Refinishing?”

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