The Best Decorating Tips For Compact Spaces
Huntley Hedworth, Rachel Whiting, Mark Bolton
Small bathrooms present a unique set of design challenges because there are several essentials – your sink, toilet, shower or bath and storage – that you need to fit in regardless of the space available to you. The layout and flow of the room must be considered before you can think about the more enjoyable parts of renovating like choosing your dream roll-top bath, picking wallpaper or settling on fixtures and finishes.
Executing a successful design scheme in a small bathroom is often contingent upon clever storage solutions, some visual trickery to make your room appear airy and more expansive, and some smart compromises.
“Be clever and think about which bathroom features you can combine into one fixture to free up floor space,” says Rikki Fothergill, style expert at Big Bathroom Shop. “For example, choose a vanity with a fixed basin and shelving or cupboard underneath where you can stack towels and toilet rolls or hide away cleaning products. There you have three key bathroom fittings rolled into one efficient unit that uses a lot less space.”
Here we look at some clever small bathroom layouts, great colour and pattern choices, and where smart compromises can be made.
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Small bathroom ideas: Miniaturised bathroom furniture
Compromises do have to be made in small spaces, but it is possible to contain all of the necessary bathroom features – your sink, mirror, storage etc. – if you’re willing to miniaturise. This clever shelving unit started life as an apple crate, whilst the tiny mirror hides some modest shelves.
Small bathroom ideas: Neutrals
“Neutral décor in the bathroom has always been popular, and even more so in smaller spaces,” says Ruth Foster, interior designer at Victoria Plum. “Adopting light shades like taupe, cream and white will create a lighter and brighter bathroom, making it appear larger than it really is. If you keep this in mind when choosing the colour of your wall and floor tiles, you can create a warm and harmonious design with timeless elegance.”
Small bathroom ideas: Under-sink storage
In small bathrooms, hidden storage will be your best friend. This blocky sink offers cupboard space below, with a weathered and worn door for a bit of character.
Small bathroom ideas: Maximalist wallpaper
The upside of a small bathroom is that you can experiment with big ideas without them being overwhelming. Blousy florals work well in small spaces – and don’t be afraid of wallpaper in a bathroom, it’s more resilient than you think.
Pictured: G P & J Baker Magnolia Wallpaper at Wallpaper Direct
Small bathroom ideas: Compact double sink
Small bathroom ideas: Embrace clutter
Clutter is just a reality of small bathrooms, and can only be mitigated so much with clever storage and stringent organisation. This bathroom embraces a bit of charming messiness with mismatched mirrors, piles of towels and lots of well-loved accessories.
Pictured: Country Living Artisan Stormy Grey Ceramic Wall Tile
Small bathroom ideas: Clever shelving
“Shelves are a great way of storing luxury products that you want to show off,” says Rikki. “Instead of wasting cupboard space intended for uglier bathroom paraphernalia, create a spa-like display with a mix of candles, body lotions, reed diffusers and plants, just ensure that everything is fit for purpose and keep on top of this. Hooks on the back of a door can come in handy for towels and robes too but remember to place too much on them as this well make the room look crowded.”
Small bathroom ideas: Use every corner
Planning your space carefully is so important in a small bathroom. Consider a corner basin – you can buy some that are just 35cm in width, or if a wet room isn’t feasible, corner showers can be as little as 70cm in depth.
Small bathroom ideas: Feature items
One or two feature items is perfectly sufficient in small spaces, so make the most of them. They can in fact become the inspiration or base for the rest of the room – like the fabulous powder blue on this Burlington basin.
Pictured: Enchanted Blue Edwardian Cloakroom Basin at Burlington
Small bathroom ideas: Tiny tubs
The sweetest solution to small bathrooms. The diminutive Tubby Tub bath from The Albion Bath Co. measures just 120cm in length, offering a small dose of luxury in even the tiniest of spaces.
Small bathroom ideas: Uplifting colour
Using colour can alter your perception of small spaces – a cheerful and uplifting yellow or sunny sky blue for instance can open up even the most cramped or claustrophobic of rooms. “Consider painting a wall a bright and happy shade – this can open up the space really well, especially in small bathrooms,” says Rhiannon Johns, interior designer and head of brand at Piglet in Bed. “If you have a favourite colour, your bathroom might be the best place to use it (particularly if it’s a bit extravagant) and doing so will create a lovely backdrop for your morning routine.”
Small bathroom ideas: Mirrored cabinets
“A mirror cupboard is a popular choice for smaller washrooms as it’s another way of combining storage with a key bathroom feature to use space efficiently,” says Rikki. “Here you can store sink essentials like toothbrushes, paste, floss and soap, consequently freeing your sink space up completely and making everything look much neater. An added bonus of a mirror cupboard is that it will help to open up the space and create the illusion of a larger bathroom.”
Small bathroom ideas: Attic bathrooms
If your bathroom has a pitched or slanted ceiling cutting into your space, a clever design trick is to choose pieces that are narrow but as tall as the room will allow – the slim kit kat tiles, long stripes on the sink curtain and tall shower pain are great examples – this will create the allusion of height where it is lacking.
Pictured: Curtain in Pickle & Bonbon Stripe Fabric at Colours of Arley
Small bathroom ideas: Ambient lighting
There is a case for leaning into the cosiness of small spaces and replacing glaring overhead lights with softer ambient lighting. “Bathrooms are often fitted with fluorescent, bright lighting,” says Rhiannon. “If you’re not a fan of stark white light in your home, swap out the fitted bulbs for some warm-toned bulbs. Alternatively, set the scene in the evening with candles. Bathing or undertaking your self-care routine in candlelight can feel particularly therapeutic.”
Pictured: For a similar marble basin, try this handmade version from Etsy
Small bathroom ideas: Decorative details
The worst thing you can do in a small bathroom is strip away all character. Some framed artwork, an antique chair to hold towels, pretty bath curtains – any decorative detailing will go a long way in making a cramped space more welcoming.
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