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Small Bathroom Design Advice


Small Bathroom Design Advice
bathroom designed by dawn falcone

This Bathroom Design Comes From Dawn Falcone Lifestyles

Image © Dawn Falcone Lifestyles
Here at About Home Renovations, we have a conflicted view of small bathrooms. On the one hand, because they are by nature compact, you save money on materials because you are using less. On the other hand, well...they are small, and no one likes being cramped.

That's why we contacted twelve decorators, designers, architects, and remodelers for their advice on how best to remodel a small bathroom.

1. Go For Smaller Bathroom Items (And Be Careful With Lighting)

Advice from designer Dawn Falcone is...
  • Avoid having anything that sticks out from the walls especially in very narrow bathrooms. This means that maybe you forgo a towel bar and mount one on the back of the door. Go with built-in toilet paper holders and magazine racks. Even try to avoid decorative shelves. All of this takes away precious square footage.
  • Open up the room with glass. If your bathroom only has a shower stall consider not only a glass door but partially taking out another wall & replacing it with glass. Even a small tub area will benefit from some clean, clear glass doors. If glass is not an option then use clear shower curtains that will allow light in.
  • Choose smaller bathroom vanities. Many companies now make "apartment" size vanities. Or go with a simple pedestal sink or wall mounted sink.
  • Place floor tiles on a diagonal. This will give the room the illusion of being larger. Larger tiles with thin grout lines will also give the appearance of more square footage.
  • Pay attention to lighting. Dark bathrooms look smaller. Recessed or ceiling lights and something placed over the sink area are a must.
  • Tiling the walls all the way up to the ceiling will make the ceilings appear higher. Place a colored or decorative tile near the upper wall and ceiling line to draw your eye up.
  • Many designers will suggest lighter, pastel paint colors or whites or grays for small bathrooms. Yes, these colors are easy to work with and will make the space feel light and airy. But, you can choose a deeper hue as long as you go with a semi-gloss finish. The sheen in the semi-gloss paint will reflect light and help the room look bigger.
  • Keep it simple. Busy wall paper, too many paint colors, patterned fabrics and accessories will make the room feel cluttered and smaller. Two colors will work great in a small bath. One for wall color and another for accessories.

Dawn Falcone Lifestyles

2. Clear Shower Enclosures

Pam Faulkner tells us:

I recently finished two small bathrooms and can pass along several things to keep in mind. The homeowner and designer have more choices than in previous years so the "quest" to find resources has been made easier. To give the illusion of more space eliminate as much visual clutter as possible when selecting fixtures and materials: Clear shower enclosures with minimal hardware; swinging doors rather than bypass if possible

Hanging or "floating" toilets and vanities reveal more floor space giving the room a more open feel.

Light and bright flooring with a simple but interesting pattern. Large tiles set on the diagonal help to visually expand the floor area. Take advantage of "dead space" by placing these fixtures in corners, if possible. Use corners to conceal built-in hampers and for glass shelf storage.

Longer "medicine cabinets" are available to take advantage of vertical space behind bathroom doors.

When selecting materials, be aware of the cumulative effect of patterns. Veining and designs in tiles and flooring, decorative details on hardware and cabinetry can "crowd" a room. On the other hand, using only small scale patterns can emphasize that the room is small. Incorporating larger scaled moldings or architectural features sparingly can give the room more importance.

Adding art to the walls can also increase the sense of space. Landscapes in particular can give the walls dimension. Finally, lighting effects can highlight architectural features, illuminate "dead" corners and art and make the room more comfortable and functional.

Faulkner House Interior Redesign, LLC

3. Get Storage Under Control

Storage and organizing expert Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO tells us:

Storage must-haves: towels, toilet paper, daily supplies (teeth supplies, cleansers, makeup, etc.). Wasted space: Pedestal sinks (beautiful, but not functional if you have limited space). Consider: Behind the door hooks for towels and robes or over the door pouches for holding small supplies (hair, makeup) and medicine cabinets and/or shelving set inside the walls, in between the studs.

Living Order

4. This Weird Lighting Trick Enlarges Bathrooms

Lighting designer Emily Wilde says...

You can use design tricks through lighting to visually enhance the space in a small bathroom. To make the room appear larger, try up-lighting the ceiling with wall sconces or cove lighting. It will create the impression of higher ceilings and a more expansive space. For a narrow room, illuminating one wall with light will give the illusion of a more open area.

Pegasus Lighting

5. Scents and Details Help Finish Off the Design

Jill Vegas, author of "Speed Decorating," says to:
  • Consider color. Plain white can be blah. Repainting or adding wallpaper is one solution, but you can also add colorful accessories and art to brighten the space.
  • Lighten up. The lighting should be flattering. When you look in the mirror, you should feel good about yourself. If you don't, shop for a new fixture and put it on a dimmer so that you can see yourself in the best possible light. I always love a chandelier in the bathroom for instant glamour.
  • Add a scent. Is the fragrance in the room pleasant? A beautifully scented candle with natural aroma such as grapefruit, verbena, or cedar creates a fresh ambiance.
  • Keep up with the tiny details. Keep the hand towels crisp and clean. Fresh flowers make the room feel loved. Keep a stash of special soaps just for company.
Jill Vegas

6. Create Storage Spots When Little Storage is Available

DirectBuy of Tinley Park says that...

There are a number of secrets to optimizing space in a smaller bathroom. DirectBuy of Tinley Park Kitchen and Bath Designer John Ryan says that you can create more space with simple, subtle touches like over-the-toilet storage units, hooks and towels bars, mirrored medicine cabinets, etc.

7. Cabinets and Mirrors Aren't Just For Magicians

Courtney Cachet says:

Go simple, stick with minimal, modern designs. Think about storage and make sure your sink has some underneath. Cabinetry with mirrors will help make the space feel bigger and give you more storage! It can look bigger, fabulous and doesn't have to hit your wallet that hard.

Courtney Cachet

8. Correctly Scaling Elements Can Make or Break the Small Bathroom

Says Natalia Smith:

Paying attention to the lighting. Well lit space always looks larger, so if the budget allows smart redistribution of lights and placing them on the dimmer or preset mood control will create desired ambiance. Eliminate pendants that dangle at the head/eye level, they typically "drop" the ceiling and make the room look even smaller. Wall mount fixtures are usually the best decorative application for a small bathroom, just make sure no one will bump into them.

Second is [the] most obvious one, the fine balance between the function of vanity as of storage vs. vanity as of lavatory function. If the space really small, a free standing pedestal lavatory or even wall mount will provide considerable leg room and expend the space. Necessary storage can be accommodated by installing a recessed into walls shelving where possible, or positioning a corner shelf or a storage table.

Scale of other elements; depending on the precise size of the room installing too large or too small tile all over will look out of proportion to the room's parameters and thus accentuate its small size. Accent small tiles work well, just make sure you pay attention to the main floor or wall tile size that is installed. For modern/transitional places installing rectangular tile vertically will visually increase the height of the room; glass tile 4x6 or similar size also create a nice depth to the walls and when used in calmer shades extend the room's size.

Idée Chic Designs

9. Wall-Hung Toilets and Cabinets Are Great Space-Savers

From Banner Plumbing Supply...

A great way to maximize a small bath's space is the use of wall hung cabinetry and toilets with oversized floor tile. Today's product offering in both of these arenas are much more expansive that in years past and there are styles to suit everyone's taste and decor.

The wall hung toilet and cabinetry show more of the floor and give the illusion that the room is larger than it appears.

Another great space saver is a fully mirrored recessed medicine cabinet. Once installed the cabinet looks like a stylish flat or beveled mirror, but has hidden storage of 4 inches which is the depth of a standard wall. These cabinets come in a variety of heights and widths to accommodate most applications and the best part about the cabinet is its fully mirrored inside so you can easily see what product is behind the bottle of mouthwash!

Banner Plumbing Supply, Chicago and Buffalo Grove

10. Choose the Right Kind of Door for Your Small Bathroom

Says Pamela Bayer...

Be sure your bathroom door swings out, not in. Or, better yet, use pocket doors.

Do a pedestal sink instead of a vanity to make the room feel more spacious.

If you need storage, use medicine cabinets or storage above toilet to protect floor space.

Always make sure you have an exhaust fan, no matter how small the space. Exhaust fans eliminate extra moisture that could cause damage.

Pamela Bayer Interiors

11. Find Extra Space in Niches

Matthew D. Berman's advice:

Keep the palette neutral and cover all the surfaces (floor and walls - and even ceiling) in the same material. This will transform it from small to spa-like.

Bring in texture, not color, to add interest without it getting too busy. Add one unique element --a cool mirror, a unique piece of art, a funky sink. One carefully chosen focused piece can transform it from small and boring to cute and chic.

Incorporate cabinets and niches into wall cavities to create extra storage. The space will feel larger if you can carve into the walls as opposed to having shelves and cabinets project out of them.

Create an entire "wet room" so that you don't have to use shower doors or curtains to divide the space and make it feel even smaller.

Put an outlet inside the medicine cabinet so that your tooth brush can stay plugged in and out of sight.


12. And A Potpourri of Advice

Interior designer Merri Cvetan has plenty of tips...
  • If there isn't much space, make sure the door doesn't open in front of the toilet. It's better to open towards a wall than the toilet if possible.
  • Although cabinets under sinks allow for much needed storage, a pedestal sink makes the room look bigger. The floor you see, the bigger the space appears.
  • Flooring should be monochromatic to give the appearance of a bigger space. Grout should match the tile. Avoid patterned flooring.
  • Fabric shower curtains will make the space feel closed in and actually make the room smaller when closed. Install shower doors instead. Clear glass gives the illusion of more space.
  • Never skimp on style just because a space is small.
  • Hang a beautiful mirror.
  • Install fabulous lights. Look for something unexpected like a mini chandelier or sconces in an unexpected finish.
  • Paint the room a bold color.
  • Paint the ceiling a bold color.
  • Hang a beautiful painting. Just make sure it isn't valuable since water and humidity can damage art.
  • Install glass shelves and display a favorite collection.
  • Invest in luxurious towels. Small does not have to mean cheap or skimpy.
> MEC Design Studio

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