Turn a small, cramped bathroom into a streamlined sanctuary with a few simple design techniques
Smart design will see you take advantage of every inch of available bathroom space
Bathrooms are often the smallest and yet the busiest room in the home, making a good layout both essential and a challenge.
Maximising a compact floorplan means using modern fixtures to open up the room and streamline the space without sacrificing form for function.
The first rule of small-bathroom design is to forget the tub and go for a frameless glass shower screen.
Focus on creating the illusion of more space with lighting, mirrors and windows. Glossy surfaces reflect light and add a luxury feel, while colour is used to highlight not dominate.
Bring in light
Skylights and clerestory windows are a great way to flood a bathroom with natural light, and they’re even more useful if wall space is at a premium.
Take advantage of high ceilings to include as many windows as possible, using opaque glass for privacy.
Mirrored cabinet doors trick the eye into seeing a bigger room, while downlights are a good unobtrusive choice for low ceilings.
Wall recesses provide storage for toiletries without taking up valuable floorspace, and keep the vanity clear and clutter to a minimum.
A part-wall or single glass panel can be used to screen the shower and avoid closing off a corner of a small room.
Keep it white
Older houses typically have lots of features that seem to go against the modern design ethos of sleek shapes and shiny surfaces. But with minimal work, you can turn old-fashioned features into small-space assets.
Choose white and another neutral or light colour for the walls, finishing panelling and plasterboard with paint designed for wet areas.
Use the same colour for all trim, including mirrors, dado or picture rails, skirting and window frames.
Keep all fixtures white and strip back any lino or other flooring to reveal original floorboards.
Don’t cram in furniture and accept that the bathroom doesn’t have storage space for supplies of toilet paper or stacks of towels.
Tile it bright
In a small bathroom, fittings should be kept simple to prevent clutter, with colour being introduced through tiles, such as an eye-catching feature wall or a mosaic floor or wall strip.
Mosaic tiling is an easy way to add glamour, and iridescent tiles help reflect light. The tiles come in sheets, which cuts down on installation time.
Team coloured wall tiles with white flooring, or add visual depth by taking the tiles up the walls.
Keep the look seamless with a trayless shower and freestanding towel rail, so the walls are clear and the tiling is still visible.
Add a wall-hung toilet and sink to bring the room bang up to date.
Trim it right
Sometimes, it’s the layout rather than the square metres that make a bathroom feel small. Part-walls or internal powder rooms can make design difficult.
The most budget-friendly solution to overcome floorplan obstacles is to work with, not against, an architectural style, and avoid moving plumbing or knocking out and building walls.
For a traditional home, cornices, skirting, doorframes and window shutters are best left in a bathroom, as removing them may make the space feel clinical, not contemporary.
Glass shower screens are essential to keep the room open, but vanities can be older-style with a solid benchtop and doors with a decorative profile.
White ceilings are a must to keep the room fresh and light, but they can be panelled. Walls should simply be painted or tiled in one colour.
TIP An awkwardly shaped space may present an opportunity to put in a tub.