Small Bathroom Design in Grand Style

White ceramic tile helps this bathtub enclosure feel bigger than it actually is; mirrored finish on the front of the tub also helps open up the space.

Lack of space is so common in a bathroom that it barely registers as a design challenge, but now that bathing is an act of self-indulgence as much as a daily routine, the room itself must reflect its dual role.

A well-planned layout, careful use of color and some ingenious design tricks will stretch the limits of a compact room, making it seem comfortable but never cramped.

Space Planning in the Small Bathroom

Take advantage of and emphasize any architectural details available. Wainscoting, crown molding, paneled doors, coved or angled ceilings, even interesting wall paneling or baseboards can give the room more distinction. Subtle variations of form, pattern and color can help connect your small bathroom to the style and feeling of adjoining spaces, naturally giving the sense of a larger space with visual cues and refrains.

If the room doesn’t offer much, add moldings and a wainscot (even a painted wainscot) and put in very architectural mirror, tailored draperies, or bolder framing for the window. Decorative trim work will add style and elegance in the small bathroom and can be cost effective since so little materials are required.

Steer away from overdone themes; every detail, image, or color has more presence in a small bathroom and each element must be carefully considered. The sailboats and shells and wavy patterns can become tiresome over time and with close proximity; in a small space less is always more! On the other hand, you can use seasonal accessories, fresh or silk flower arrangements and decorative items to help freshen the look of your small bathroom periodically.

If two washbasins can be squeezed in, it is a plus during the morning rush hour. But double sinks are not an absolute requirement when space is tight. It’s best to have more countertop space than trying to squeeze in an extra sink. A bigger countertop will also make the room seem larger.

In a tight space, it is best to round off countertops and smooth off any surfaces you may be bumping into. Shower door handles, if any, should be flush with the door. Put towel bars and robe hooks where they won’t collide with your body.

Blue and white, accented with goldenrod; go vertical to maximize use of all availalbe space in a small bathroom.

Small Bathroom Color Schemes

A mixture of pale colors, clear glass and reflective surfaces can create an illusion of space in a small bathroom. Cool, light colors such as pale blue, lilac and aqua seem to recede, making a room seem larger.

Try decorating the bathroom entirely in one single color or shades of the same color for a monotone color palette. Continuity adds to a calm, relaxed atmosphere and bathing is all about relaxation and the restorative powers of water, which is why Mediterranean blue, sea green or aqua make great bathroom colors.

If you prefer warmer tones, go with subtler shades of yellow, beige or off whites with brighter highlights in red, orange or gold. Avoid too much of the bright stuff or you may feel crowded in a smaller bathroom as though you’re in a carnival funhouse.

Fixtures for the Small Bathroom

With improved plumbing and specially designed fixtures there is no reason why compactness should preclude efficiency and elegance. The way fixtures are arranged within the bathroom will affect how spacious it seems.

As well as making a floor plan, it is worth drawing an evaluation of each wall so you can take the height and bulk of the fixtures into account as well as the ground space they occupy. It is tempting to find room for all the fixtures on your wish list but sometimes the layout works better, and the room feels more open, if you compromise by having an over-bath shower instead of a separate shower enclosure or install a large shower instead of a bathtub.

A less crowded room will feel relaxed, look better and be more convenient to use; keep it light, open and airy as much as possible. Light, air circulation and accessibility are the keys to effective small bathroom design.

Adding Scale to a Small Bathroom

Visual devices to make a small bathroom seem bigger include allowing light to flow through the space by choosing a frameless shower enclosure glazed with clear toughened glass; or even abandoning enclosures and partitions altogether in favor of a wet-room where all surfaces are waterproofed.

Every inch of space can be used to make the small bathroom functional.

You can effortlessly make your bathroom appear more spacious with these ideas:

  • Wall-mounted fittings make the floor area appear larger, and cabinets or vanity units that are on raised legs have a less bulky look.
  • In a tall, narrow space, the perceived height can be reduced by tiling the walls to a level that stops short of the ceiling.
  • To reduce the apparent length of a long, narrow room, the bathtub can be placed across its width at one end and an open shower area across it at the other.
  • Arranging the fixtures along one wall between them will give an impression of space at the centre of the room, which can be accentuated by putting mirrors on opposite sides of the room and hanging a lamp centrally over the area.
  • To give a more streamlined look, replace hinged doors with sliding pocket doors. Unlike track-mounted doors, which slide over the wall they open into, pocket doors are fitted in double-thickness walls and, when open, disappear into the space between the leaves of a wall.
  • Long, lined curtains can be bulky. Generally, avoid real wood blinds, which may warp and crack in the humid conditions of a small bathroom space. Use easy-to-clean materials that do not tend to absorb moisture and lead to mildewing. Plastic is a great thing in a small bathroom!
  • If you have a tub/shower combo unit, use a curved shower rod to make your shower more accessible and roomy.
  • Visually ‘open out’ the space with mirrored panels and/or framed mirrors. Mirrors are important not only for function, but for giving a small space a more expansive feel, allowing light and pattern to repeat and virtually enlarge the room.
  • Accent your decorative scheme with well-planned lighting inset into the ceiling and/or above the basin. Good overall ambient light is important, along with careful placement of specific task lighting in shower and vanity areas.
  • Scale up rather that down: large pictures or objects make a room look more spacious, while costly materials such as marble, polished wood and brass are more affordable in small quantities and add a touch of luxury. One of the big advantages you have in designing the small bathroom is being able to splurge on materials without super-inflating your budget!

Storage for the Small Bathroom

In a compact space, cupboards and drawers are preferable to open shelves because they allow you to reduce the amount of clutter on view and make use of otherwise dead areas under the basin, in alcoves and behind any panels you many have to conceal plumbing and pipe work. Follow these leads when planning your small bathroom design:

  • If you have a vanity, add generous drawers and added roll-outs where possible.
  • Recess cabinets and storage niches between the studs in the wall; cut outs for soap and shampoo in the shower enclosure are a must.
  • Use the back of the door or any available space to mount bars for hanging towels, robes and clothing.
  • Place a towel rack above the bath, and perhaps at one side of the shower away from the spray. A nice towel heater will be warm and comfy when the weather gets colder.
  • Install wall shelves about the counter. Install a wall cabinet out of the way to hold toiletries, hand towels and brushes. Think of how to make use of every nook and cranny where you might conveniently store something and/or hide bathroom paraphernalia from view.

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