Small bathroom ideas to maximise compact spaces, cloakrooms and shower rooms

Clever storage options and smart finishes means that even the smallest of bathrooms can be stylish as well as practical
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  • A small bathroom doesn’t have to be limited when it comes to style or practicality, with the right know-how and thoughtful small bathroom ideas it can be stylish and space-efficient.

    Big bathrooms are a luxury many of us can only dream of, however true that may be, we think compact bathrooms can be just as glorious. You have to be smarter with bathroom design ideas, but there’s plenty of potential in even the smallest of spaces.

    Small bathroom ideas

    A small space doesn’t have to look cluttered or feel cramped when you incorporate a few clever tricks of the trade. Your compact bathroom can soon ooze style and sophistication, even if all you have is a shower room idea to experiment with.

    A couple of space-saving tips mixed in with a splash of gorgeous accessories will turn the most modest of bathrooms into an enviable space in minutes. We show you how to create the small bathroom of your dreams.

    1. Create a sense of space by defining zones

    Small bathroom idea with wood panel behind toilet and black tiles behind sink

    Image credit: Britton Bathrooms

    Use the method of zoning to make a small space feel more generous. This smart bathroom is small and simple but feels much bigger, thanks to the clearly defined zones. The toilet is less than half a metre from the sink but thanks to the wood wall panelling and the tiled splashback the two areas feel very separate, which helps to put a sense of distance between them.

    2. Position taps on the side of a sink

    White rectagular sink with brass tap on the side

    Image credit: Britton Bathrooms

    Don’t let a narrow bathroom space mean you struggle to get the look you want – simply think outside the box. Choose a slimline, oblong sink that allows for plenty of volume, without taking up as much space due to its width. Adding taps to the side will help to eradicate any problems you might encounter because of the slim width, because the water will run away to the longest length.

    3. Create the illusion of space with an oval bath

    small bathroom ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Chris Snook

    Don’t shy away from including a freestanding bath in a small bathroom. An oval bath cuts corners to boost the impression of space. A shallow shelf to hide waste pipes is also handy for adding extra surface space to display bath salts, bathroom plant ideas and more.

    4. Think like an expert

    Small bathroom with open glass shower enclosure marbled wall tiles and patterned floor tiles

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    Architecturally and visually, it is best to keep a small bathroom feeling open by not crowding too many things into it. Edit your amenities often, hang your towels on bars or hooks, keep pattern to a minimum, and generally, make it simple.

    The room will feel bigger if you use a pedestal sink rather than a bulky vanity, a clear glass door rather than shower curtain and reflective surfaces such as glossy ceramic tiles in a large scale.

    5. Work in a wall-mounted unit

    White bathroom wall hung wooden vanity unit

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    Wall-mounted modular furniture remains a favourite for storage, due to its fuss-free, streamlined look. Available in a range of heights, widths and depths, it means that you can create semi-bespoke furniture that best suits your space.

    You’ll find a wide range of colours, from soft hues to strong brave tones, available too, as well as plenty of different textures.

    6. Utilise wasted wall space for a towel rail

    white bathroom with elevated heated towel rail

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachel Smith

    Elevate your radiator to free up floor space, but go one further and position it above your bath or toilet to make the most of an otherwise unused section of wall.

    ‘We’re always being asked how to make the most out of a small bathroom,’ says Dan Nezhard, director at UKRadiators.com. ‘Our first recommendation is to look at investing in heated towel rails, or wall radiators in general. If you can remove a bulky, low-sitting radiator, it’ll open up a lot of space and instantly make the room feel bigger.’

    7. Keep colours light for awkward layouts

    narrow white bathroom

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Emma Lewis

    The general rule of thumb for small award layouts is to keep your colour pallet light and bright. ‘If you want to make your bathroom appear bigger than it is, opting for lighter colours on the walls is going to work in your favour’ says Dan Nezhard. ‘Lighter colours will reflect the light and in turn, make your bathroom feel more open and airy.’

    Lighter shades of whites, neutrals and greys are all ideal to open up awkward narrow and small layouts, to bounce the light onto all walls to avoid any dark corridors or corners.

    8. Reflect darker paint choices

    Slate grey bathroom with mirrored wall tiles behind bath

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme

    While the general advise for small spaces is to decorate with white to create a bright and airy feel, there’s no denying how fabulous on-trend darker paint shades can be. There’s also an element of cocooning and ambience that comes from using darker paint colours in smaller rooms, so it is very much a choice of personal taste.

    When using dark paint and tile choices the use of reflective surfaces can be invaluable for welcoming light to bounce around the space, to stop it feeling too flat and restricted – because dark colours absorb light, making the room feel more closed in and smaller than it really is.

    9. Make use of an awkward corner

    small bathroom ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    If you don’t have a space tall enough for a shower in your small bathroom instead opt for a freestanding bathtub with a bath shower mixer tap. If you’re short on storage a bath tray will keep your bath time supplies within easy reach, and save valuable shelf space.

    10. Be design savvy with glass

    pale pink bathroom with grey marble wall tiles and open glass shower enclosure

    Image credit: Future PLC

    A walk-in shower with frameless panels looks barely there in this elegant bathroom, helping to create the illusion of space. Grey marble wall tiles g and brass fixtures and fittings gives the small space a dash of glamour, without overpowering.

    11. Add alternative decoration with tiling

    Small-bathroom-ideas-hexagons

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    Avoid overwhelming a small space with too many different decorating themes. But that doesn’t mean your bathroom has t be devoid of personality. This pairing of hexagonal and Metro tiles adds interest without overwhelming this small room with pattern. The owners have used hexagons in the porch and kitchen, too – as a subtle link through the house.

    12. Close in the gap between fittings

    attic shower room

    Image credit: Future Publishing Plc

    When space is really tight closing the gap between the elements is a savvy idea. In a tiny ensuite look to make the space a watertight wet room where the toilet is directly opposite the shower, using the space wisely. Use any awkward ceiling heights to determine the best layout.

    13. Work in a wet room

    Small bathroom wet room shower partition walled toile cubicle

    Image credit: Future PLC

    A stylish wet room  idea can make the most of a small space and add value to your property. If you’re converting an attic, consider a wet room instead of a bathroom. It’s a great way to make the most out of a small space and when it’s beautifully finished like this designer-style one, it’s stunning.

    Ventilation is key as a build-up of moisture could lead to condensation and damp problems, so install a good extractor fan. Underfloor heating doesn’t take up any space but will add warmth and help to dry surfaces quickly. A partition wall helps add purpose without closing off different areas.

    14. Double the size with mirrored wall

    small bathroom with mirrored wall reflecting light

    Image credit: Future Publishing Plc

    Ok, so it’s not doubling the size in literal terms but it is creating the illusion of doubling the space. Mirrors can completely transform the look and feel of a room, as they reflect light and create the impression of space. It’s a winning style trick that interior designers use a lot to maximise space. Whether you install a sheet of mirror to cover an entire wall or simply hang a large mirror, the reflection is guaranteed to brighten your bathroom.

    15. Stay inline

    White panelled bathroom wall and bath panel

    Image credit: Future PLC

    The old green striped wallpaper was stripped out of this room and replaced with a smart tongue-and-groove wall panelling painted in white and repeated on the bath panel idea for a streamlined approach. The old carpet was swapped for an industrial-look lino flooring, which is more hygienic and pleasing to the eye.

    16. Use clever paint effects to create an illusion of height

    Attic bathroom with blue paint wall panelling and freestanding bath

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes

    Paint halfway up a wall to create an illusion of height, as this bathroom has done with a blue painted wall panelling idea. By lowering the eye with a darker paint shade you create a distance from the upper portion of the wall. If the wall was all one colour the room wouldn’t have as much depth. This clever, yet simple paint trick is a great way to make a small space appear larger than it really is.

    17. Wall-mount the taps

    wall mounted taps in small white bathroom

    Image credit: Perrin & Rowe/@simplyscandikatie

    Wall-mounted mixer taps work well in compact bathroom designs as the pipework can be hidden without the need for a bulky basin pedestal. You can use that freed-up space to house shelving or a laundry basket for smart bathroom storage ideas  to keep the space neat and tidy. 

    18. Wallpaper a cloakroom

    Tree wallpaper feature wall in bathroom with heated towel rail

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    One of the best ways to disguise a small bathroom is to create interest and a striking wallpaper is ideal for this. If you have a bath or shower in the room (rather than it being a cloakroom), make sure you buy one that’s made specifically for bathrooms, which will cope with the damp, warm conditions.

    19. Buy freestanding and multi-functional furniture

    Marbled wallpaper wall and free standing bath

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Brittain

    A limited footprint shouldn’t impact on your creative flair. If your bathroom is verging on the small side, consider using freestanding furniture that you can move around at a moment’s notice.

    Going for freestanding storage and seating allows you to move your scheme around whenever you like and, unlike fitted bathroom units, you can take freestanding pieces with you when it’s time to move out.

    20. Trick the eye with tiles

    grey bathroom matching marbled tiles on walls, bath panels and floor

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Paul Raeside

    The amount of space you have and what the eye perceives aren’t necessarily the same thing. Play with the boundaries of perception by tiling the side of your bath and the wall with the same design – it makes it hard to distinguish where each begins, thereby making your space feel larger.

    Marble is particularly effective here for a smart bathroom tile idea , as it looks almost like one huge sheet and the individual tiles aren’t very obvious.

    21. Invest in tall tiered storage

    Stack them up

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Trevor Richards

    Freestanding pieces are a godsend in small spaces. Tiered wire storage keeps luxuriously packaged lotions and practical wash bags on show and easy to grab. If space is limited, you can take the stand from bedroom to bathroom when needed.

    22. Use the same tiles on the floor and walls

    Small bathroom matching stone tiles on walls and floor

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes

    A clever trick to making a small bathroom look bigger is to use the same tiles on the walls and the floor. ‘Use wall panels or matching floor and wall tiles in large-scale sizes for a seamless look,’ suggests Nicky Taha, Visual Stylist, VictoriaPlum.com.

    Not only does the natural stone in this family bathroom add a spa-style touch, but the continuous run of tiles creates a spacious feel, along with the wall-hung fixtures that save on floor area.

    If natural stone feels too neutral, you can easily pep it up with strong colour pops with your towels, storage and accessories – an on-budget way to add personality to your bathroom.

    23. Make the most of a sloping roof

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Brent Darby

    Use every inch of an attic space by building a bath into the eaves. If you have an awkwardly shaped ceiling – like this loft bathroom – turn it into a decorative feature.

    Paint the ceiling white to contrast with the statement wallpaper behind. It’s a great way to add character in a confined space. Consider adding a skylight, if possible, to open up your bathroom and create a light and airy space.

    Your bathroom lighting ideas are key. Include task lighting next to mirrors and dimmable options in alcoves or behind a bath to create drama and mood. Make sure all light fittings have the correct IP rating for safe use in wet areas.

    24. Furnish to scale

    Pack on the personality

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme

    Large items of furniture can dwarf a small room so always buy pieces that suit the scale of your space. In a small bathroom, stick to the basics of a vanity unit and storage rack that you can either hang on the wall or rest on the edge of a bath. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t pack on the personality. Paint a vanity unit in your favourite colour and opt for patterned tiles on the floor.

    25. Choose furniture and accessories wisely

    Choose furniture and accessories wisely

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Tim Young

    Bring a nostalgic touch to the bathroom by upcycling a narrow console table to incorporate a small basin. Space-saving wall-mounted taps provide a neat solution. The more of the floor you can see, the more spacious your bathroom will feel, so go for a freestanding basin unit.

    Plus, you can pop a few baskets underneath if you’re short on storage space.

    26. Tile halfway up the wall

    White and grey bathroom with grey metro tiles and grey freestanding bath

    Image credit: Future PLC

    Unsure how to tile a sloping ceiling? Then try tiling halfway up the wall. It’ll save on tiles and make the space feel larger. Choose a dark neutral tile and paint the ceiling above it white to maximise brightness from roof lights.

    27. Add a hint of colour to a white suite

    White bathroom with pink feature wall and blue tiled splashback

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    While a white bathroom colour scheme is the best choice for opening up a small space, it can sometimes feel a little stark if the whole room is white. That’s why a hint of colour on the walls is the perfect compromise: light enough to create an airy feel, but with bags more character.

    Here, the storage alcoves were built from tongue-and-groove panelling, then painted in white to contrast with the raspberry walls and striking cobalt-blue tiles.

    28. Accessorise white with black or blush

    white bathroom with black mirrors

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Woolley

    If you don’t have the budget to give your entire bathroom a makeover, accessories will do wonders for a compact space. Choose a theme – monochrome is bang on trend and easy to implement, or you could choose blush tones for another up-to-the-minute look.

    Apply the style of your chosen trend to lighting, mirrors, smaller accessories and soft furnishings and instantly transform the space.

    29. Invest in made-to-measure fittings and fixtures

    Bathroom with window shutters

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Veronica Rodriguez

    A well-thought-out design can fit all the essentials into as little as two square metres for a bathroom and even less for a shower room. The key is not to squeeze too much in.

    If you only have a small space, it’s much better to make a focal point of a walk-in shower or a beautiful bath, rather than ending up with a cramped bathroom.

    30. Distract from the size with feature wallpaper

    Flamingo wallpapered cloak room

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachael Smith

    Wallpaper will make a statement in any room and the bathroom is no exception. A downstairs cloakroom is a prime space to use a quirky bathroom wallpaper idea, as bathrooms with a shower or bath will require specialist paper to prevent steam damaging it.

    Opt for a unique, bold or interesting print to maximise the impact in a small space like this. Fit a sheet of Perspex as a splashback behind the basin to prevent water damaging the wallpaper.

    31. Reposition your shower valve

    Small bathroom with shower over bath with black tiled feature wall

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    Where space is tight, opt for an over-shower bath that delivers the best of both worlds. Rather than positioning your shower against the short side of the bath, try placing it along the longer side for a more luxe feel. Use a bold tile design around the bath to contrast with the rest of the room.

    32. Stick to a monochromatic palette

    Bathroom white metro tiles with black grout

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Oliver Gordon

    Keep to a monochrome scheme and add colour, texture and pattern with out-there accessories. White will open up a bathroom like no other colour, making it feel as spacious as possible. White tiles and black grouting can be a winning combination in a small bathroom.

    34. Characterise with accent colours

    White bathroom with yellow shower screen

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Matthew Williams

    This compact modern bathroom uses a number of techniques to create real wow factor, despite the small square-footage. Add a hearty dose of colour to inject vibrancy and personality into a white bathroom otherwise at risk of feeling clinical and characterless. A bright yellow ceiling and shower screen give this small bathroom a real focal point, while downlighters and white tiles keep the space feeling light and bright.

    35. Have recessed shelving built in

    Bathroom recessed shelving built in next to sink

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Parmiter

    Recessed shelves are a great space saver, both practically and visually, keeping toiletries neat and off the surfaces. Building the shelves into false walls that hide pipework is a clever use of a necessary feature. Also consider recessed light fittings – either spot or linear.

    36. Keep it simple

    round bathroom basin on wooden vanity unit

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Cleveland

    If you’re in a quandary over how to decorate your small bathroom, just keep it simple with soft, natural shades. Choose furniture and accessories with clean lines and keep the room as clutter-free as possible to create a feeling of space.

    37. Make it appear larger with mirrors

    small bathroom with mirrored Metro tiles behind freestanding bath

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Richard Gadsby

    Tile a wall in mirrored tiles to add reflections and light, while also adding design details. These metro tiles offer a fragmented take on a mirrors, which feels more design focused than a flat sheet of mirror would.

    38. Make your bath the star

    Cottage bathroom with slipper bath

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes

    Go for a freestanding bath – it can work really well as a focal point in a small space. They’re not all as big as you think and you can even buy smaller versions that will fit into tighter spaces.  Add a pretty stencil on the wall above to draw the eye up and create the illusion of space.

    39. Place a shelf for storage above panelling

    Bathroom with wall panel shelf

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Matt Cant

    Tongue-and-groove panelling visually frames the bath and the handy shelf at the top acts as a mantelpiece to a host of trinkets, toiletries and accessories. The eau de nil colour is a relaxing choice for the bathroom, and adds interest to this compact space.

    40. Fit a sunken bath

    attic bathroom with sunken bath

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Brent Darby

    If you’re renovating your bathroom or en suite, consider installing a sunken bath. Provided you have the space for it below your floorboards, a sunken bath will streamline your bathroom, giving it a luxurious, hotel-style feel.

    41. Make space beneath the eaves

    Make space beneath the eaves

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Brent Darby

    Compact fittings are a big help in awkward-shaped loft spaces. Don’t worry about trying to fit a bath – go for a luxurious glass shower enclosure instead. It’s common with loft conversion ideas and attics to box in parts of the room that have a reduced ceiling height for storage. But instead, why not look at ways to work around the reduced heights? A toilet or basin is a smart idea.

    42. Be smart with furniture

    Small white bathroom with tall mirrored cabinet

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachael Smith

    Make the most of space in compact bathrooms and opt for a tallboy unit that reaches up to the ceiling for maximum storage. Choose a mirrored unit that will give the illusion of space to a compact bathroom.

    43. Factor in a slipper bath

    Neutral bathroom slipper bath

    Image credits: Future PLC/ Tim Young

    If you can’t squeeze a standard roll-top bath into the bathroom, consider a shapely slipper bath – many come in short versions and they’ll let you rest your back in style. And if you crave traditional fittings in small space, the latest roll-top baths are available in smaller dimensions.

    44. Draw the eye with statement tiles

    statement tiles in a zig-zag pattern with a black freestanding bath and ladder tower rail

    Image credit: Simon Brown

    Having only a small area to decorate really opens up your options with wall coverings that may be out of your price range in a larger space. These chevron bathroom tiles dance across the wall, creating a bespoke pattern behind the bath.

    45. Keep clutter at bay

    small bathroom sink with plant, gold mirror and bathroom accessories - Jo Henderson

    Image credit: Jo Henderson

    Choose a couple of large decorations to adorn your small bathroom and keep the rest of the bathroom clutter-free to create the feeling of more space. The shape of this curved countertop basin adds an interesting focal point without dominating the basin area, and when teamed with a striking houseplant the space becomes full of interest.

    46. Be bold with a dark colour

    grey bathroom with ornate mirror, houseplant and bookcase - Chris Snook

    Image credit: Chris Snook

    In a small room it’s tempting to use pale shades to bounce the light around for the illusion of more space. However, dark colours like these grey bathroom walls create an intimate feel (which is just what you want in a tiny bathroom). In this space bright books, mirrors and decorations break up the solid blocks of colour and light marble slabs break it up to prevent the room from feeling stifling.

    47. Confined spaces and sloping ceilings

    attic shower enclosure

    Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez

    Make the most of all areas in your home by creating a shower enclosure under an angled piece of ceiling or hidden bit of space. This shower has bespoke Crittall style doors designed to fit in with the sloping roof of this house, but teamed with lots of plants and concrete it still works as a tiny, zen-filled bathroom.

    How to plan a small bathroom – need to know

    Kitting out a tiny bathroom might seem a challenge, but there’s no need to comprise on style. Decide what bathroom features are important to you, be that a bath or extra storage. Then draw out a scale plan, allowing space around the fittings for moving around the room.

    Keep the loo in place if possible as moving the soil stack can be a costly job. Don’t forget to include those luxurious touches, such as statement tiles or underfloor heating for chilly mornings.

    Is it better to use small or large tiles in a small bathroom?

    ‘While larger tiles help to open up a space thanks to the need for less grout lines, we believe that homeowners should embrace smaller rooms and if they love a smaller tile, then go for it’ advises Hamish Smith, creative director at Ca’ Pietra.

    ‘A small tile, perhaps with a pattern or interesting detail will add personality to a space, if you want to embrace a small space, you also shouldn’t be afraid of smaller darker coloured tiles either, dark colours add depth to a room which can actually make them feel larger’.

    Will a bath fit in a small bathroom?

    small bathroom ideas

    Image credit: Ashley Morrison

    As we mentioned earlier, a freestanding bath can be a good option, as these also come in smaller sizes. D-shaped baths also get the look perfectly but have one flat side, which butts up against a wall. In bathrooms with a tricky layout, a corner bath could work well.

    Can I squeeze a shower in a small bathroom?

    Shower enclosures come in all shapes and sizes, including space-saving quadrant designs, which are a neat fit for a tight corner. Or, go for a wet room with a tiled floor or a low shower tray. A glass panel separates the space and contains any splashes, making the room feel bigger too.

    If you can’t live without a bath fit an over-bath shower, or a smart shower bath for more room.

    How do I maximise space in a small bathroom?

    Fitted furniture will unlock storage potential dramatically, adapting to the most awkwardly shaped spaces. Fitted furniture can also conceal pipework. For a boutique hotel vibe, go for a wall-hung loo and basin unit with drawers and tall cabinets to match. This will free up floor space, giving even the smallest bathroom a clutter-free feel.

    Don’t let a compact room be a barrier to creating your dream scheme – we’ve got all the tips, tricks and expert advice you’ll need. Let us know how you will be visually expanding your bathroom. Will you be using any of these small bathroom ideas?

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