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Article: 7 Design Mistakes You're Probably Making in Your Small Bathroom

7 Design Mistakes You're Probably Making in Your Small Bathroom

7 Design Mistakes You're Probably Making in Your Small Bathroom

Gray bathroom with patterned gray and white wallpaper.

Who wants their bathroom to look smaller? Not us. We start and end our days there, we dive into self-care with a face mask and a bath there, and, even if it’s a tiny space, we want it to feel like the most relaxing spa we ever stepped foot in. 

So, if your bathroom isn’t quite on the level of supremely calming oasis and you’re wondering if it’s simply due to lack of square footage, we have you covered. We talked to design and organization experts about the mistakes they see in small bathrooms that aren’t doing any favors for these tiny spaces and how to correct them. 

However you decorate your space, it's essential that you only have items you use, need, and love so the bathroom is one you love being in.

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Thinking Everything Needs to Be White

Gray bathroom with patterned gray and white wallpaper.

This is a rumor that gets perpetuated across the home and, perhaps, nowhere is it more true than the bathroom. Power rooms will, on occasion, get a big dose of color, but that same freewheeling design sense can be applied to any small bathroom. As Desiree Burns of Desiree Burns Interiors told us, “Don't be afraid of using dark colors and bold patterns in a small space. It can make a huge impact on a small room.”

Organizer Laura Cattano adds, “If you have wallpaper, use a matching color on the ceiling instead of 'ceiling' white.” This may be a petite space, but that doesn’t mean you have to hold back.

Keeping Everything Out in the Open

Open white shelf in bathroom.

Clutter is the enemy of small spaces. It makes sense, right? The more items you have, the more things there are taking up space, and the more cramped your room will appear. Cattano adds, “A common mistake is not having a balance of open and closed storage. Having things out that aren't beautiful or inspiring, like nail clippers, toothpaste, or hairspray makes a small space feel even smaller.”

Holly Blakey of Breathing Room Organization says, “Minimize the number of items on your bathroom counter. Ideally, stick to a rule of three: a toothbrush, soap, and perhaps a decorative item like a small vase of flowers."

If you must have more on the counter, give it a home on a pretty white tray so that it all has a place and doesn't start taking over, Blakey suggests. This also creates a boundary for how much more you can add—if it doesn't fit on the tray, it needs to find a new home.

Wondering how to do that? Meg Markland of Neat By Meg offers a solution for those items that don’t make the out-in-the-open cut.

“In smaller bathrooms, you have to utilize every inch of space," she says. "The best way to do this is by taking full advantage of the space under the sink. This is always our first place to look when going into a client's bathroom, and nine times out of ten, it is often under-utilized."

Focusing on Décor Without a Purpose

Cute art pieces about toilet.

When you’re decorating a small bathroom, don’t waste precious square footage on decorative items that aren’t functional. As with all tiny spaces, you need to maximize anything that earns a place in the room. But, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice beautiful items. 

Cattano offers her well-styled expertise, “Decorative items don't have to be purely decorative. Use open storage for a display of functional items like beautiful towels. I love Japanese cotton or Turkish towels. They're soft, super absorbent, dry quickly, and take up very little room when folded.”

04of 07

Limiting Yourself to Bathroom Specific Items

Small bathroom with cute flower and art.

To let your bathroom feel like a room and not just a small space with sterile, boring items picked straight off the bathroom supply aisle, look to the rest of your house. You can give a room with limited extra space feel more intentional by decorating it as you would anywhere else in the home. 

Cattano notes, “I love using decorative items, such as art, that you would normally see in a living space. However, be careful to use pieces that can stand the humidity and avoid anything too precious or irreplaceable like photographs. I framed images pulled from an art book in my bathroom and it completely elevates the space.”

Additionally, she says, “Reuse a candle glass or small votive or vase in place of a toothbrush holder or cotton ball container. Or, for a shower stall, use a regular washable window curtain instead of a shower curtain. Hang it as high up as you can to elongate the space."

Not Thinking Beyond the Vanity

Neat inside of vanity cabinet.

Products often end up overflowing onto counters and making a space feel cluttered and cramped because storage under the vanity has run out. But, Blakely says, “Utilize wall space—you can swap out a mirror for a medicine cabinet with storage, or install some floating shelves for extra storage.”

Going Small Because the Room is Small

white bathroom with plants, wicker floating shelves holding items, toilet with painting hanging above it

Tiny rooms don’t dictate tiny items. Grouping too many small pieces within a small bathroom can create clutter and make the room feel crowded.

Cattano adds, “A common mistake with small spaces is having multiple small things instead of one large piece. Whether art, mirrors, baskets, shelves, etc. just keep in mind scale. Inches make a huge difference in a small space.”

Letting the Room Flatter You

black and wooden bathroom, white walls, wooden floating shelves

Lastly, remember that the bathroom is a space that’s all about taking a moment for yourself and self-care—even if it’s small—and that means you want to look in the mirror and feel good. Cattano says, “Be sure to use flattering colors for your skin tone. Soft pink hues are actually complementary. Plus, good lighting is a must. A dim bedroom is nice—a dim bathroom is not.”

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