6 Simple Designer Secrets for Making a Teeny-Tiny Bathroom Chic, According to Experts

published Dec 7, 2022
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Credit: Lula Poggi

What should your game plan be if your bathroom is super-small? I got you. As a renter in New York City, I’ve had my fair share of little loos over the past decade. Unfortunately, bathrooms short on square footage often aren’t just cramped, but they also contain other undesirable features, like dated-looking tiles — or tile that goes all the way up to the ceiling, making it harder for quicker fixes like paint or wallpaper.

Perhaps your bathroom isn’t only minuscule, but maybe you also have to share the space with a partner or roommate? That might make your space even more challenging to deal with. That’s why I spoke with designers who weighed in on tips and tricks for making life with a small bathroom less burdensome and more stylish. Read on for their helpful hints below.

Replace your hardware.

Okay, so maybe you can’t paint the walls or do anything about that banana yellow tile in your bathroom. But you can at least make your cabinets take center stage. “Most bathroom hardware is universally-sized, making it easy to replace with an updated version in a more luxe metal finish,” says Raleigh, North Carolina-based designer Shannon Cassell. “Just swap them out again before you move.”

It’s easy enough to source sophisticated, affordable drawer pulls from retailers including Amazon, World Market, and Anthropologie, particularly online where all three retailers have the biggest offerings.

The vanity isn’t the only area you can upgrade, either. Designer Kelly Collier-Clark of Plot Twist Design in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, designed the space above and agrees that new hardware can work wonders. “The towel ring, toilet paper holder, and the faucet (if possible) in a brushed gold or matte black finish will all make a huge impact,” she shares.

Upgrade your textiles.

Bye-bye, boring bathmat! “Think outside of the traditional bathroom rug and cover an unattractive floor in a vintage rug,” Cassell suggests. “Etsy has so many options that are readily available, and often in wonky sizes to accommodate an older bathroom layout.” The designer offers an additional tip for ensuring that a bathroom remains visually cohesive. “Use a color from the rug to match hand towels to pull the palette together,” she adds.

Embrace funky tiles with a bit of paint.

Not wild about the shade of those throwback tiles? Don’t jump to conclusions just yet. “For bathrooms with a color palette that was popular in yesteryear, I say embrace it,” says designer Jocelyn Polce of August Oliver Interiors in New Haven, Connecticut. “Find a moody color that complements the tile color, and paint the untiled walls, ceiling, and trim the same color so it blends and feels more like a boutique hotel.”

Layer your lighting.

Doubling or tripling up on fixtures will work wonders in improving the overall appearance of your small bathroom, says Dallas, Texas-based designer Chanda Kea. “Adding backlit mirrors, lighting fixtures with shimmer, recessed lighting inside a shower, or a dimmer switch not only brings elegance and style, but [it] also creates a properly lit and balanced space,” she explains. If you can’t hardwire anything, you can always bring in plug-in sconces or a small, clip-on lamp for a shelving unit.

Credit: Jo Chattman

Try an extra long shower curtain.

This is an excellent way to camouflage unsightly tile, Cassell says. “Use a high-quality temporary shower curtain rod that matches the finish on the room’s hardware, and you’ve got a lovely disguise — no one will know what is behind the curtain!” If you have an unsightly glass shower door, you can use a tension rod for this same hack. While you’re at it, why not go a bit off the beaten path design-wise? “Skip the big-box shower curtain, and add a custom option hung from the ceiling to the floor for a more luxurious feel,” Polce suggests.

Don’t forget the little details

It’s all in the little details, even in the tiniest of bathrooms! New York City designer Christina Nielsen suggests stocking up on beautiful linens for the vanity, a woven basket for towel storage, and of course, a candle. If you need to differentiate your bath supplies from a roommate’s or partner’s, opt for decorative boxes, Polce adds. Small luxurious touches like these will not only make your space appear more put together, but they’ll also make it more enjoyable to get ready for or unwind from the day.