Tips & Tricks for Designing a Small Bathroom

As I have mentioned here many times before, I am a relatively new home owner having taken our first step onto the property ladder in October 2013. As first-time buyers, we obviously had to start off rather modestly and our little flat is far from the dream home that we long for. It needs a lot of work, mostly cosmetic, to bring it up to my exacting standards but I am pretty sure that in the next few years, as and when we have the budget, we will be able to transform it into a lovely little home for the next set of first-time buyers once we move on. The only problem is that we are very limited in what we can do as it is quite a small flat so there isn’t really any scope for drastic changes in layout. Nevertheless, working with what we have shouldn’t be too difficult, we just need to be particularly clever with the space that we do have.

One of the most challenging projects I will have to take on is the refurbishment of our bathroom. Now apparently the average size of a bathroom is the UK is 6ft by 8ft so whilst I thought I had a ridiculously small bathroom it would appear that it is in fact pretty average. However, we do have an unnecessarily large window on one wall which does restrict what we can do with the space, but I’m considering taking this out and replacing it with a smaller one. I ‘m also hoping to switch the position of the basin and the toilet as the basin is currently below the window meaning that we cannot have a mirror there, which is really quite annoying. Storage is also non existent in the bathroom as it is at the moment so I’m toying with the idea of replacing the bath with a much smaller one which will free up some much needed space that we can use to create some built-in storage. At the moment, I’m busy pinning all sorts of small bathroom ideas on Pinterest and I’ve created an Idea Book especially for this on Houzz. Both are great resources for keeping your inspiration all together in one handy place.

I’m not an interior designer myself and sadly I can’t afford to pay an interior designer to redesign my home. But thanks to my work I sure do have access to some of the best experts in the industry and luckily they are willing to share some of their knowledge with me. So whilst I’m busy trying to work out what to do with my own home I will be sure to pass on any advice and tips that I receive with you, as I am sure that many of you are in a similar situation. For my small bathroom dilemma I have enlisted the help of one of the UK’s leading bathroom retailers. Ripples has been creating award-winning, top-quality bathrooms for 25 years and employs over 20 highly talented bathroom designers each individually hand drawing their bathroom designs. David Smith is a Senior Designer at Ripples and he has agreed to offer his top tips and advice for designing a small bathroom and hopefully he will be able to will open our eyes to the hidden potential of small bathrooms.

Tips and Tricks for Designing a small bathroom

What is your advice for maximising the space in a small bathroom?

One important aspect is that the sanitary ware is in proportion to the room. So in a small bathroom consider using space saving sanitary ware such as corner wash basins, counter top models or sanitary ware with short projection. Look at possibly using a smaller bath with a shower above instead of being a separate item, or perhaps using a smaller basin. Rather than squeezing in a bath and a shower for the sake of it, prioritise a generous showering space to ensure the room feels light and airy. Or alternatively opt for a shower over a bath. Choosing the correct enclosure can change the impact on the design of a room; in tight spaces or access, a quadrant enclosure will provide a softer and more gentle look than a rectangular enclosure. Also using a tiled shower tray stops the need for an over powering white tray. Make sure you keep it simple and try to leave plenty of space around your furniture.

Contemporary bathroom designed by Ripples 

Storage is always an issue in small bathrooms. Any tips?

Tall units can be used where there is minimal floor space. Wall hung units give the impression of greater space by keeping everything off the floor and maximising floor space. Wall mounted products also lead the eye below making the floor areas appear even bigger. Use the space below wall mounted basins for extra storage.

One important tip is to keep clutter to a minimum. Recessed mirror cabinets are always a good way of disguising your clutter. Everyone needs a mirror in their bathroom, and what better than a cabinet disguised as a mirror. You’ve then got the option of having a hidden electric point, adjustable shelves, or a toothbrush holder. Also try and integrate recesses in stud walls or offer storage over boxing for wall hung wc’s.

Contemporary Bathroom designed by Ripples

How important is lighting in a small bathroom and what should we be looking for?

Lighting is very important and it is always a good idea to opt for carefully planned dimable ceiling spot lights. Also try to use small subtle ambient lights in niches and consider floor lights that project upwards. Under cabinet lighting also helps to give the appearance of space. These can all be placed on to different circuits to create multiple lighting states. Your mirror cabinet can also be specified with integral lights.

LED lights are a good choice for the bathroom and offer a choice of light colour. With white light there is a choice between warm white, natural white and pure white. These different light shades are assigned Kelvin ratings. A low kelvin rating is assigned to warmer shades of light, a higher rating denotes a cooler shade of light.

What about ventilation?

Getting good ventilation into a bathroom, especially where there are no windows, is very important. An electric extractor fan does the job nicely and can be wall or ceiling mounted. Noise levels are often overlooked when choosing a fan so try to choose one that is designed to be seen but not heard. A good extractor will ensure that your bathroom is a place of tranquillity removing moisture and reducing mildew.

Contemporary Bathroom by East Anglia Bathroom Designers & Fitters Ripples Bathrooms

Contemporary Bathroom  designed by Ripples

Are there any clever tricks that can be used to create the illusion of space in a small bathroom?

Mirrors are a fundamental part of any bathroom design and can be used to give the illusion of space to a small room. Positioning mirrors adjacent to windows is an effective way to maximise and reflect light. A full length mirror will create a wow factor as well as being highly functional, though many modern bathrooms do not have the space for this, so try positioning a mirror horizontally along the bath instead.

Size and proportion are important so try to keep the mirror either the same size or smaller than the basin or vanity unit, as mirrors that are larger can appear top heavy. However, if you are using side lights then the exterior limit of the lights can go beyond the basin or vanity.

When it comes to tiles, are there any tips that you can offer that will help a small bathroom look larger?

Use light coloured tiles on the walls and floor. If you must have different floor tiles keep the difference subtle and don’t use contrasting colours. Using the same tiles for floor and wall can create a seamless appearance, and open up the space. Large format tiles make a room feel more spacious as they have less grout lines and therefore look less busy. Larger tiles can also make the room look longer depending on how you place them.

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  • I really like your tip about using tall units where there is minimal floor space. My husband and I are working on redesigning our bathroom so we will have to keep these tips in mind. The space is pretty small so I think that these tips will be really helpful in maximizing space. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hey! I’ve just discovered your blog and am so pleased I have! We moved into our house October last year, so our diddy bathroom probably won’t get done until 2016. But I’ll be bookmarking this post for when the time comes as it’ll be so nice to know how to make the best of the space. Thanks for the great tips :).

    • Hi Lucy, great, thanks for stopping by! I’m really glad you found the article useful as I was really hoping to be able to offer some useful tips to people in the same design predicament as me. Such insignificant details can have such a big impact in a small space so it really is worth doing some research first. Good luck with your project though and I hope it turns out well! I’m planning a few more posts aimed at new homeowners so stop back again soon!

      • Ooh that’s great to hear, I’d already added your site to my favourites but it’s great to know I can look forward to those new home owner posts – I’ll definitely be coming back!

  • Love you tips! My bathroom is only 2.5m x 3m with the tiniest ventilator so I’m constantly battling with mildew but on the plus side, a small bathroom warms up super fast – perfect on cold winter mornings!

    • I totally know what you mean Selina, I have exactly the same problem. I’m looking into getting a new ventilator too, and preferable one that doesn’t let loads of cold air in when the wind blows. If I find a good one I’ll let you know!

  • Some great tips there! We are also doing up our house at the moment and I’d love to cover one of the walls of our bathroom in floor to ceiling mirrors to make the space feel bigger in our en suite. Good luck with your bathroom #LoveYourHome

    • Hi Gina, mirrors are wonderful things for opening up a space and bouncing light around, great for a small bathroom. Sounds like you have a plan! Good luck making it reality! I must pop by and read your blog, love the name and that is pretty much my life right now! lol

  • Good luck, sounds like an exciting project. Our bathroom was one of the first rooms we tackled in our first home and like yours its small. It was hard work, but worth it. I wanted it to be a relaxing, calm space and it is :O)