Small Bathrooms Big on Beauty

Just because a bathroom lacks square footage doesn't mean it can't be both functional and beautiful. Turn to these small bathroom pictures for inspiration.

By Alicia Garceau

Make the Most of Your Floor Plan

A challenge with any bath, but particularly a small one is the placement of the toilet. "It can be very difficult and expensive — and sometimes impossible — to move a toilet from its current location," says Rob Bennett, an Indianapolis, Ind. remodeler. If the layout has to stay the same, you can still make the floor plan more functional. If there is a separate tub and shower, Susanka advises clients to scrap the tub in favor of a super-sized shower stall since it's used daily.

Lengthen the Countertop

Get creative when square footage allows for only a single, small vanity. Sarah Susanka author of Not So Big Remodeling recommends extending the countertop material over the toilet to create a shelf. It may only be a place for a box of tissues or container of cotton balls or another decorative item, but it creates the illusion of more surface area.

Trick the Eye

One of Susanka's favorite ways to make a room feel larger involves lowering the ceiling over the sinks and tub. "What happens is that creates more spatial variety. It's paradoxical, but it actually makes the whole room feel bigger," Susanka says. "This is because your eye and your body experiences contrast between the middle of the room and essentially these alcoves that have the lowered ceiling."

Extend Floor Space

Beverley Binns, a designer with Binns kitchen + bath design in Ontario, Canada, recommends using wall-hung vanities in contemporary baths and furniture-like vanities with legs in traditional rooms. Doing so visually extends the floor space. Along the same lines, Binns often continues the floor material into the shower to make the room appear larger. "If you see more of the floor it's going to feel like a more spacious place," she says.

Reflective Quality

Add a mirror. "You can make the experience of that room much bigger because your eye then believes the room is twice the size than it really is," Susanka says. "It's such a simple solution, but it really truly makes such an enormous difference." In her designs, Susanka likes to specify a window adjacent to a reflective surface such as a mirror or light-colored wall. The goal is to increase the amount of natural light that bounces around the room.

Creative Storage

Storage in small baths is essential to a functional space. Susanka encourages homeowner to get innovative in small baths. Walls, which are typically four inches thick, offer a place for additional storage whether it's a recessed medicine cabinet or open shelving. "Little indents in walls can be great for all the stuff you have in bathrooms like soaps and shampoos," Susanka says. "We don't often think of it, but it's space and it's there and it's easy to use."

HGTV. Small Bathrooms Big on Beauty, [Online]. Web address: (Page consulted on July 11 2011)