Planning a bathroom
Small bathroom ideas
By Kate Martin
Article 4 of 6
Small bathroom ideas
Tips and inspiration for tiles, bathroom suites and accessories that will help you make the most of your space.
Just because your bathroom is small it doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style or function.
From compact baths to clever storage ideas, read on for design suggestions to help you create a space that meets your needs without feeling cramped.
Small bathroom designs
Small bathroom suites and shower rooms
If you’re pushed for space, look for smaller fixtures. Compact sinks and slimline toilets both start at about 30cm wide. You can also get corner sinks designed to fit into tiny spaces.
Standard baths are usually 1.7 x 0.7m, but you can buy tubs measuring 1.5m, 1.4m or even just 1.2m long. If you're considering a small bath, take a look in a showroom first to make sure you can comfortably fit in it.
If your room is too small for a bath, fitting a shower cubicle instead will free up a lot of space.
A wet room is another alternative. But if the room is very small, you might need to use a screen or curtain so that your towel, toilet and loo roll don’t get drenched every time you take a shower.
If you’re buying a new bathroom suite, find out which the best and worst bathroom companies are, as rated by thousands of customers.
Floating basins and toilets
If you’re replacing your bathroom suite, consider a floating basin and toilet, with the plumbing recessed into the wall. The extra floor space on display will give the impression of more room.
It’s a good idea to speak to your plumber or bathroom fitter first to find out how much work will be needed to install a floating sink and toilet in your bathroom. It could be an expensive job if major changes need to be made to your plumbing.
You should also make sure that the design includes access panels to reach the concealed pipework, in case any repairs are needed in the future.
Read our guide to hiring a bathroom installer for tips to find the right person for the job.
Folding shower screens
If your shower is over a bath, look for a sectional shower screen, with hinged panels that can be folded up to save space.
If you have a shower enclosure or want to squeeze one into a tight space, consider using sliding doors instead of a pivot door.
Use light colours
Stick to lighter shades for your walls, flooring and bathroom suite. These will reflect light and trick your eyes into thinking the room is more spacious.
This doesn’t mean you have to settle for a boring bathroom though. If your base colour is neutral, you can inject some fun with bright accessories, towels and window dressings.
Built-in furniture and vanity units, which go around or under a sink, are a good way to make sure you’re using every inch of space.
Combination units that join a sink and toilet together use the often-wasted space between the two. Look out for 'cloakroom' units, as they are typically smaller than standard-sized units.
Wall-hung units will save floor space and give the impression that the room is bigger than it is.
If you’re a Which? member, log in to find out which companies were rated the best for bathroom furniture.
Tile ideas for small bathrooms
Think carefully about the colour and size of your tiles. Generally speaking, lighter colours will open up the space more.
Although darker colours might look dramatic, if they’re used across a large area, they could make the room feel smaller.
Try fitting large oblong wall tiles in a landscape orientation to make your walls look longer.
Add lighting and mirrors
Make sure your bathroom is well lit to create a sense of space. You could upgrade your existing light fitting or add additional sources of lighting in key areas, such as around the sink.
Strategically placed mirrors can make a room feel bigger and bounce more light around. Hang them opposite a window, or opposite each other in narrow spaces, for maximum impact.
Small bathroom storage ideas
If your shower area feels cramped, try getting niches cut into the wall to create recessed spaces where you can store shampoos and shower gels.
To make cupboards feel less bulky, swap them for shallower cupboards or find out whether it’s possible to set them into recessed spaces in the walls.
Adding hooks, rails and shelves – especially floating or glass shelves – can increase your storage options without overcrowding the room.
Ladder shelving, where the unit is deeper at the bottom and shallower at the top, can create lots of vertical storage space without using as much room as a conventional shelving unit.
Opt for underfloor heating
Underfloor heating doesn't come cheap, but can avoid the need for bulky radiators or heated towel rails, as well as making it much nicer to walk on tiled floors in winter.
You can choose from electric or water underfloor heating.
Read our guide to underfloor heating to find out about the different types, and see the pros and cons.
Knock down dividing walls
If your bathroom is split so that the toilet is in a separate room next door, consider knocking down the dividing wall to create one larger space.
This may also be an option if you have a cupboard you don’t need next to the bathroom.
Creating a new small bathroom
Adding an en suite or extra loo can make a big difference when you have visitors, not to mention adding value to your home. Look for dead space in your home that you aren’t using for anything important and, ideally, that is near the waste pipe.
For example, you could use the space taken up by fitted wardrobes in a bedroom, or divide a big room with a partition wall. Another option is to take space from two rooms rather than one – easier if the walls between them are partitions rather than structural.
If you want an extra loo downstairs, the space under the staircase or an area divided off from the kitchen or utility room are popular places to build one.
Many bathroom companies provide online tools that enable you to design or mock up a new bathroom to see what it could look like. See our bathroom brand guides to find out what tools each brand offers.