10 Tips for Designing a Small Bathroom

I shared a tour of our new master bathroom last week, and you all seemed to love it!  So I wanted to share a few tips on how we got there…  I’m still collecting my source list details, so please be patient.  I’ll share those soon.
UPDATE: Complete source list and budgeting tips available here. :)

I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com

First off, I told you I’d share some before pictures.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a wide angle lens at the time, so these are actually from the listing of the house… but trust me when I say that it was WAY worse than it looks:

master shower before

master sink before

The room is only 6’x7′.  That’s pretty small for a master bath, but it doesn’t feel small any more, and I think these are some of the reasons.  So, without further ado, here are some suggestions for designing small bath spaces:

  1. Use light colors.  This is one of those go-to design ideas, and I think it’s especially true in a bathroom where you have so many built-in features.  The lighter colors open the space and give you room to breathe. 
    I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com
  2. Even if there’s room for two, consider a single sink to increase counter space.  We could have fit a 60″ vanity with two sinks, but that would have cut our usable counter space down to the 25″ or so in between the sinks.  Instead, we opted for a 52″ vanity that gives us liberal counter space on either side of the sink, allowing us to get ready in the morning at the same time if we want to.  Realistically, I think most people use the counter space more than the sink when they’re getting ready.I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com
  3. Hang a medicine cabinet above the toilet.  I think this is a great alternative to large, built-in cabinetry.  A true Johnny cabinet can make the room feel small, and a medicine cabinet above your sink cuts off your personal space (not to mention doesn’t allow you a big, beautiful mirror, which further reflects light and helps your space feel bigger).  But a medicine cabinet is the perfect depth to allow decent storage, and above the toilet keeps it out of your way.I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com
  4. Like I just said, mirrors reflect light and make a space feel more open… Use them!  A large one above the sink or a mirrored medicine cabinet is a great way to naturally add to your space.I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com
  5. Use open shelving to store towels or other pretty essentials.  There needs to be space for towels and toilet paper, and plenty of people have pretty bath salts and such, too.  Open storage is perfect for that.  There is almost always a spot for a shelf or two, even if a full cabinet wouldn’t fit… And by moving pretty things to the open shelves, it frees up your cabinet space for all those not-so-pretty bathroom essentials.I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com
  6. Create usable space that doesn’t take up visual space with a tub ledge.  Obviously, this is dependent on the layout of your bathroom, but I have found our little half-wall tub ledge (below the shelves above) to be wonderful.  It was actually my contractor’s idea, and I wasn’t sure at first because I felt the space under the ledge was “lost” or “wasted.”  However, I am so glad we decided to do it.  Since the ledge is well below eye level, it doesn’t feel like it takes up space, and it offers a place to sit and/or a ledge for books, candles, or whatever.  In a tiny bathroom where a chair is not really an option, it’s nice to have a built-in place to put your shoes on or paint your toenails.  Plus, it allows for a double towel bar (which, honestly, in a small bath can often feel like they’re sticking out way too far into the room… this way, it only protrudes above the ledge).
    I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com
  7. Gain tub space and luxury with an extra-deep but normal width soaking tub.  We chose a soaking tub that is 19″ deep but still only 32″ across.  The depth provides a luxurious soak without taking up any more precious space!  I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com
  8. Minimize visual obstructions with a glass shower wall.  This was hands down our best decision on the bathroom.  Our bathroom has a very strange layout (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a bathroom in the original house plan) with a huge window located as to preclude any chance of a normal, built-in, enclosed tub/shower combo.  Which left us either with the option of a curved shower curtain all the way around the tub (which eats up SO much space) or a glass-enclosed tub/shower.  Since the previous bathroom had a nasty plexi-glass enclosed shower, I was pretty sure I didn’t want walls like that partitioning off the small room.  So we opted for a simple, stationary, glass half wall.  We had a similar one in our apartment in Paris, and though there is some spray out of the tub, it’s really minimal.  A bathmat catches all that matters.  I highly recommend this to anyone struggling with space.I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com
  9. Take your shower tile all the way to the ceiling.  In a small space, horizontal divisions can break up your space, making it feel smaller and more partitioned.  By taking the tile all the way to the ceiling, it adds a feeling of height and draws your attention away from how close the walls are.
  10. Keep it simple.  You’ll notice that we used only three materials, really: white subway tiles (with gray grout), gray and white marble, and slightly antique white wood.  By focusing on quality and simplicity, we were able to make the space feel elegant but not over-crowded.
    I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com

I hope these tips help in some way!  I promise to give a source list soon…  UPDATE: Source list and budgeting tips from this remodel now available!  Please let me know if you have any questions.

I love this bathroom! Gorgeous finishes and brilliant ideas for space-efficient solutions at maisondepax.com

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  1. Beautiful!

  2. These are great tips! I’m moving in a few weeks and love the “less is more” feel of things – it creates such an open and relaxing environment. These tips were very helpful and I love the color you chose!

  3. Great tips! Your bathroom is a breath of fresh air…so lovely!

  4. I am thrilled with joy after reading your post because I want to change my bathroom style and thus need some help. Rachel…I know paint totally transform the look but I am always confuse on the selection of colours. Thank you so much for this helpful post, I will keep in mind these tips but with this I am also curious for your next list of details. Hope you will update this ASAP.

  5. Fabulous tips and Ilove all the pics. Thanks tons for linking to Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

  6. What is the name of the color you used? I love it!

  7. Sharon Neumann says:

    Hi Rachel,
    What a lovely redo. It’s crazy but when I first saw this on Pinterest, I couldn’t believe how much it looks like my guest bath, which I’m in the process of redoing too. I have a pedestal sink right now and want to put in a vanity sink for the counter space. I love yours. Can you share where you got it?
    Thanks so much.

  8. This is beautiful, bright and open, I love it! I love the glass on the shower but does it get too much water everywhere or does it contain it pretty well? Seriously thinking of doing this in our bathroom since its the same layout and size.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you so much, Madalyn! We have not found that much water escapes. If we don’t use a bathmat, we can see the splatter, but it’s never so much that the mat feels wet afterward. I think it helps that we hung the showerhead rather high, making the angle of the water more down than out.

  9. Catherine says:

    Is there a way to frame a bathroom mirror without it being permanent ? Bc we rent a house and can’t make permanent changes to it . Thanks :)

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Great question, Catherine. Is your current mirror glued to the wall or just hanging on a nail? If it’s just hanging, then put it in a closet somewhere and find a thrift-store or Home Goods mirror for a decent price and hang it in its place. It would be easy enough to put the original one back when you move. :) If it’s glue to the wall, then you can search for an open frame (Hobby Lobby sells them… probably other craft stores, too) that fits the mirror and try hanging it on top. Hope this helps!

  10. Love your bathroom. I’m in the process of redoing my bathroom.
    I’m looking for a medicine cabinet just like yours. Can you tell me where you bought your?


  11. Crystal says:

    What a fantastic make over! A great bunch of tips too. I love the look of the subway tile – do you find it is hard to keep clean?

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you, Crystal! I’m so glad you like it. Thankfully, I haven’t had any trouble keeping the subway tile clean. The dark grout helps because it doesn’t show dirt. :)

  12. Love everything, especially the marble countertop except for one thing. Overhead lights are very unbecoming and problematic when putting on makeup. Sconces on either side would have been much better! I have this problem in my bath and powder rooms, too , and can’t wait to change them!

    • rejoicing says:

      This is such a lovely bathroom.
      I am looking to use this soft blue in my bathroom which is a bit larger than yours.
      What is the brand and color of this paint?

      • Rachel Paxton says:

        Thank you so much! I’m so glad you like it. :) The blue is Krypton by Sherwin Williams. You can find the rest of the sources for this bathroom here. Hope this helps!

  13. I love your glass shower wall. Any ball park figure as to how much it cost with install? Did your general contractor install it? It looks amazing- simply like it’s resting on top of the tub without any hardware. I am a DIY kind of girl as well, but that looks out of my league, though I would LOVE to have it in my bathroom. Any info would be appreciated.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Hi Angie! Thank you so much for your kind comment – I’m so glad you like it. We love the shower wall, too; I kind of think it makes the bathroom. If I remember right (and please don’t quote me on this – it’s been over a year!), it was $650ish. My contractor outsourced it to the glass company (the glass and the installation), but I think that was the budget allotment we gave to the glass wall. That price included the glass, a special clear protective coat (to keep it from getting water spots), and the installation. I hope that helps!

  14. Cecelia Becker says:

    I am coming very late to the discussion; however, I would like to ask if the grey grout works for you? I like white groat but the upkeep! Also did the tiles to ceiling pose a cleaning problem? Anything has to be better than my peeling paint above the tile! Thanks for sharing your great ideas.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you for your kind comment! We do love it. The gray grout is one of my favorite aspects – no problems with discoloration. And the tile to the ceiling has been maintainance free so far! :)

  15. Hi!

    I’m so relieved to have found this little bathroom re-do! I’m pretty much going to use all of your ideas and so I really appreciate all of your work!

    I have one question: Are you still happy with the vanity and everything about it, or would you look for something different now?

    Thank you!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Hi Staci,

      I’m so glad you found our bathroom remodel helpful! And yes, we love the vanity. The top is marble, so be sure you’re ready for that. We don’t do anything special to it, and I love how it looks, but you do have to be prepared for etching. Honestly, I don’t even notice any, but I’m sure that at certain angles you can see it because that’s what marble does… But yet, we love it! Probably my only complaint is that it’s really hard to clean underneath it, but that’s the case with any furniture-style vanity. Hope this helps! And good luck on your remodel. :)

  16. I really like your small bathroom ideas. We are getting ready to redo a bathroom in our house and I love your colors. Can you tell me where I could find the medicine cabinet with the mirrored doors?

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you so much, Laurie! We found the cabinet at Lowe’s. You can find a full source list and a link to the product at the bottom of this post here. Hope this helps!

  17. I love what you did to this bathroom!! I have a similar size bath but I’m struggling with the vanity. I want to do a furniture one like yours, but I don’t want to block the door/traffic area with a vanity that is too deep (right now there is a pedestal sink there, which is not useful at all because of lack of counter space and storage). Can you tell me how close the door is to the vanity? Does it swing out or in? And did the larger vanity make the bath look smaller? :)

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you so much, Shannon! I don’t mind the depth of the vanity at all. Of course, it fits entirely in the space to the left of the door as you enter. If it protruded into the doorway, that would definitely make a difference in my mind. And we actually changed the door so that it swings out; that makes a big difference. If it swung in, it would conflict with either the vanity or tub. I think the size is perfect, and the fact that it’s white helps the brighten the space. I hope this helps!

  18. Julie Mills says:

    Hello! Just wanted to say I love your bathroom – and I used it as a template for mine and just finished! My dad was not initially thrilled about me placing the “medicine cabinet” over the toilet (nor thrilled about me taking off a “perfectly fine” mirror and replacing it with something of more class), but I showed him your site and he then understood! I think it is now my favorite room in the house. I will say, I have gray tile/countertop and wanted a shade of gray paint and did not realize how difficult that would be to get just the right color because whatever hint of color is in the paint will show up when painted next to the tile/countertops even though they looked a nice gray on the swatch. So I had samples making my walls initially blue, then rose, beige…one of the guys at SW helped me out, by adding a little color to counteract the “hidden color” now I’m so pleased with my color and glad I persevered through it! But anyway, love your website, your ideas and your bathroom! Just wanted to share! :) Julie

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Oh Julie, that’s my favorite kind of comment. I LOVE knowing that this little blog has helped others make their home perfect for them. Thank you so much for sharing!! Enjoy that new bathroom. 😉

  19. love the bath redo. really like the mirror over sink, where would you find one like that ?
    thanks for sharing :)

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      I’m so glad you like it, Donna! I found that mirror at HomeGoods (though it was black when I bought it). You can find a full source list for the bathroom here. Hope this helps!

  20. LindseY says:

    This is so gorgeous ! Thank you for posting. One quick question, do you find the step into the deeper tub to be difficult? I adore the shower wall, but since it’s a permanent fixture, I guess you enter the tub from near the end? We are in great shape, but will eventually sell this home, and I don’t want to deter an elderly buyer. I suppose I could do a standard tub in leu of a soaker tub. Any thoughts? Again, beautiful design. Ironically I just remodeled one bath in a similar design prior to seeing this, and love it so much I plan to do another bath with the same concept:) thanks again!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you, Lindsey! You are so kind. I completely understand your concern, and I’d say it’s 50-50. We actually have ours raised a bit higher even than required because we built it up to sit directly under the window (about 24″ off the floor). You could probably get a smaller soaker tub and still only put the final height around 20″ off the floor which might help. We have no problem getting in and out, but I could see how it might make an elderly person nervous… I hope this helps!

  21. Hi! I love this marble, where did you purchase it? Everyone I have found marble tiles they are upwards of $8 a square foot but maybe prices have just increased since you wrote this.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Hi Casey, so glad you like it! Unfortunately, my contractor found it for me, but I recently saw some affordable and gorgeous marble tiles at FloorAndDecor.com Hope this helps!

  22. Chérie says:

    I’m planning to renovate my daughters bathroom sometime this year. I love subway tiles. They’re timeless! My question to you is about the gray grout. Do you regret not having chosen a white grout? Does the gray grout make the shower appear dirty? In our master bathroom I considered using gray grout but went with white because I was afraid the gray would always look dirty. Now I’m afraid the white will discolor. Bleach, bleach, bleach!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Hi Cherie,
      How exciting about your daughter’s bathroom – renovations are hard work but so fun and rewarding! I personally LOVE white subway tile with gray grout. I’d like to think I’m a decent housekeeper, but never in my life have I seen white grout that truly stayed white. I like the contrast that the gray grout provides, but I also like that it doesn’t show any dirt at all. After two years, it has stayed crisp and clean (at least it looks clean!). Hope this helps! :)

      • Chérie says:

        Thank you so much for responding! I appreciate your feedback. It always helps so much to receive advice and the opinion of those who have experienced first hand. I’m going to go for it and use gray grout for my girls bathroom! The color scheme I’ve chosen is gray and white (with faux crystal (real if it’s afforable) lighting for a little pizzazz) so I think the gray grout will work beautifully. Thank you again! Have a wonderful day! Chérie :-)

  23. What color paint did you use? I love it!

  24. i love this bathroom it’s gorgeous. can you share the name of the marble you used for the floor? i want it for my new bathroom! thanks

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      I’m so glad you like it, Sasha! Unfortunately, I don’t have a name for the tile. My contractor found it at a wholesale place, but it’s essentially a polished gray and white marble in 12×24. I hope this helps!

  25. What color is this paint and where was it purchased?

  26. Donna Gregory says:

    I would love to know what color you used in the bathroom. It’s beautiful! Please let me know via email if you are willing to share!
    Thank you!!

  27. Hi: I really want a glass half wall in my even smaller bathroom but it must also serve as the powder room for guests. What do you suggest in that situation? Thank you!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      The tricky thing there is that you can see everything… Can you keep the tub/shower neat enough all the time? If so, then I say go for it! Even as a powder room, a light, bright space that doesn’t feel cramped is a great relief. :) Hope this helps!

  28. I am obsessed with your bathroom! This is perfect for my space. Does the stuff on the ledge in the shower get wet?

    I know this post is like 3 years old but I hope you still see this!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thanks, Alicia! We have since moved from that home, but in my memory… somewhat. The water didn’t pool there or anything (unless I did something weird to spray it over there like trying to wash a dog in the tub), but it definitely received some overspray. I think it helped that we hung our shower head rather high (because my husband is 6’2″). This allowed the water to spray down on top of us rather than out at us. Does that make sense? Hope this helps!

  29. Rosaleen says:

    Beautiful….I am currently doing up my Bathroom and it’s much the same as this. May I ask the color on the walls?

  30. Can you tell me where you got the medicine cabinet for above the toilet?

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Hi Adrina, it came from Lowes. You can find a direct link to it and all the other sources in the bathroom in this post. Hope this helps!

  31. Hi Rachael,
    I just love everything about your remodeled bath. I have always had shower curtains, but really love your glass half wall.
    I have questions about it:
    Is it fixed or does it swing out? If fixed, I’m wondering if you can reach around it to turn on the water or do you have to step in the tub?
    Thank you, and again, thank you for sharing your beautiful bath!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Hi Shelley, so glad you like the bathroom! We ahve since moved out of that house, but the shower door was fixed. I didn’t find it difficult to reach in and turn the water on (until I was about 9 months pregnant… at that point it became tough to reach!). I hope this helps!

  32. Hi: I think you mentioned you have now moved from this house but I have to compliment you on a lovely “redo” of your bathroom. I am also impressed with the fact that you respond to every question your readers ask. I follow a very popular blog which gives many decor tips but the blogger rarely answers questions so I commend you on this fact! I hope you won’t take this as criticism (please don’t, okay?) but … is there a reason you hung the bathroom tissue under the window? I see that done in many US decor blogs and have often wondered why. If it were my bathroom, I would have hung it on the side of the vanity (the right side of the toilet when seated) So that it doesn’t show. However, perhaps you have children and worried that they may yank the holder out of its fastening screws if screwed into the vanity. Just curious in Ontario!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Haha… It’s ok, Elaine. A totally fair question. :) Honestly, my kids have been known to tear those things out of the walls before, and I was worried that if I put it in the vanity and it got torn out I wouldn’t be able to repair it very well. Sheetrock is much easier to mend!

  33. Thank you for replying so fast and for not being offended at my question! My kids were rough on those things too! lol!


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