10 Tips for Designing a Small Bathroom

Renovating a small bathroom on a budget? Here are 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 with this small bathroom remodel and hopefully some inspiration and small bathroom ideas…
UPDATE: Sources and/or similar products are listed below, but for more details (as well as bonus budget tips!), click here. 🙂

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

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- Maison de Pax
master sink before- Maison de Pax

The room is only 6’x7′. That’s pretty small square footage for a master bath, but it doesn’t feel small any more, and I think these are some of the reasons.

10 Tips for Designing a Small Bathroom

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 fixtures. The lighter color palette opens the wall space and gives you room to breathe. (Wall color is Sherwin Williams Krypton, and the gray-blue hue is so calming.)

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax
Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure.

2. Consider a single sink.

Even if there’s room for two, consider a single sink to increase counter space. We could have just barely fit a 60″ vanity with two sinks in this small bathroom layout, 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. (Note: the vanity we purchased appears no longer to be available, but I’ve linked a similar one at the end of this post.)

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

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 for toiletries and decor, including these cute baskets, keeping your vanity clutter free. And hanging the cabinet above the toilet keeps it out of your way. Minimum space used, maximum storage provided.

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax
Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

4. Use mirrors.

Like I just said, mirrors reflect natural light and make a space feel more open… Use them!  Using large mirrors above the sink or a mirrored medicine cabinet is a great way to naturally add to your space.

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax
Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

5. Try open shelving.

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 accessories, too. Open storage is perfect for that (we made these shelves simply and affordably using brackets similar to these).

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 storage space for all those not-so-pretty bathroom essentials.

White subway tile in a bathroom- Maison de Pax
Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

6. Create usable space.

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 bathtub 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 creates the illusion of open space, while 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).

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

7. Gain tub space.

Gain tub space and luxury with an extra-deep but normal width soaking tub.  We chose this soaking tub that is 19″ deep but still only 32″ across. The depth provides a luxurious soak without taking up any more precious space!

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax
Small Bathroom Design Ideas- Maison de Pax

8. Minimize visual obstructions.

Instead of shower doors or a curtain, we installed 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 or regular glass shower doors.

This left us either with the option of a curved shower curtain all the way around the tub (which eats up SO much floor 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 instead of a shower door. We had a similar one in our apartment in Paris, and though there is some spray out of the tub, it is really minimal. We hung the shower head extra high so that it sprays down instead of outward, allowing a bathmat to catch all that matters. I highly recommend this to anyone struggling with space.

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax
Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

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. And white subway tile is such an affordable, classic option for this look.

10. Keep it simple.

You’ll notice that we used only three materials, really: white subway tiles (with gray grout), gray and white marble (we found 12×24 pieces at a local stone yard), and slightly antique white wood. By focusing on quality and simplicity, we were able to make the space feel elegant but not over-crowded.

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax
Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

Get the Look:
floor tile | vanity | wall tile | soaking tub | medicine cabinet | towel bar | toilet paper holder | sink faucet | light | shower faucet

I hope these 10 tips for designing a small bathroom 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.

Small Bathroom Renovation Ideas- Maison de Pax

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        1. Hi

          Love your bathroom what color is the gray grout in subway tiles. I don’t want to go too dark with grout.

          1. I’m so glad you like it! I’m afraid it was several years ago and I don’t remember for certain, but I think we used Delorean gray from Home Depot.

          2. I was wondering about the color too, it’s so beautiful, of course krypton! I have that color in a spare bedroom and I got it from reading your blog a couple of years ago. It turned out great, I love it, thank you!!

    1. So beautiful! I am going to redo my master bath soon and I want to do the same thing with my tub/shower combo. Are there any other pictures that showcase the tub and shower better? Or is that the best due to the space limitations? Thanks so much – just found your blog, your home is absolutely gorgeous!

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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 🙂

    1. 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!

  6. 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?


  7. 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?

    1. 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. 🙂

  8. 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!

    1. 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?

      1. 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!

  9. 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.

    1. 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!

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  11. 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.

    1. 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! 🙂

  12. 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!

    1. 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. 🙂

  13. 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?

    1. 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!

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  16. 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? 🙂

    1. 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!

      1. Great point about the door swing. I think I’m going to dive in and just do it. Thank you for your help!!!!

  17. 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

    1. 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. 😉

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

    1. 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!

  19. 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!

    1. 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!

  20. 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.

    1. 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!

  21. 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!

    1. 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! 🙂

      1. 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 🙂

  22. 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

    1. 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!

  23. Hello,
    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!!

  24. 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!

    1. 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!

  25. 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!

    1. 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!

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

    1. 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!

  27. 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!

    1. 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!

  28. 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!

    1. 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!

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

  30. I am loving your tips! I just came across your bathroom redo while in the beginning stages of renovating my smaller bathroom. I will be using your guidance to finish strong…and sane! Thank you kindly! Judith

  31. Beautiful use of the space, Rachel. I have shifted your ideas to my masterbath refresh. It isn’t small, but the ideas you suggest are practical and fabulous. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh Susie, I’m thrilled to hear that you found it all helpful! I hope your master bath reno goes well!!

  32. LOVe your site! Please can you tell me where I could get hold of the gorgeous medicine cabinet? It would go perfectly with the tiles and grout we have picked. Thank you

  33. I have a bathroom that is extremely similar to yours and I read that painting the cielling the same color as the walls makes a space feel bigger. I debated doing it for a few years aa I thought it would look weird. Anyways one day I finally did it and it really does help!

  34. I am having my small bathroom redone and I absolutely love this – I want mine to look exactly like this (with maybe the exception of the marble floor). I am just nervous about the half glass wall in the shower. Is this really doable? I am sick of shower curtains and I really hate shower doors but I love the idea of a half glass wall!

    1. I’m with you about shower curtains and doors… And though we no longer live in that home, we loved our half glass wall. I will say, though, that there are a few factors that help: first, we hung our shower head quite high and angled it more down than out. That cuts down the overspray beyond the glass wall. Second, we had a particularly deep tub, which also cut down on the overspray that escaped. And third, we just accepted that there would be some spray to dry up after a shower. Once we came to terms with that decision, we truly loved what we did.

  35. I did our bathroom in a similar style. Same wall color, floors, and white cabinets and such. Problem is I have no clue what to repaint the rest of my house. Everything is tan except this bathroom and my daughters room which is a light pale blue. The bathroom is off the kitchen and dining room. Honey oak floors white cabinets grey countertops….help!?

    1. I used to have a lot of beige in this home! I suggest something like Agreeable gray to blend with all of those colors.

  36. Inspirational & educational as always Rachel. Enjoyed reading the blog above, really explains everything in detail, the blog is very interesting and effective.

  37. Great tips and what a pretty space. Glad you highlighted this and resurfaced in your email newsletter (which is such a fantastic resource).

  38. I know this is an older post, but we’re about to remodel and gut our master bathroom, it’s very small but we are making one large shower…the issue? I HATE grout lines in the shower, I can’t stand how dirty they get over time with water on the grout, etc, so I want to do a surround. Do you have any good suggestions for something like that, looks luxurious but isn’t individual tiles? Just caulked together without grout?

    1. I’ve seen some surrounds that have a marble appearance. I can’t remember the names of them, but you can probably find them through search. It wouldn’t be my first recommendation aesthetically, but you have to do what you love! As an aside, light gray grout is a great recommendation for grout lines because it doesn’t yellow like white grout. Also, you can wipe down the shower after using it and it will preserve the grout lines longer.

  39. Rachel Hi
    I just recently discovered you and all of your great ideas because we are renovating. We do have 1 bathroom that is small and although this was posted 10 yrs ago. I still love everything about this bathroom. The Krypton is just timeless as well as everything else. I do have a few questions. Did the vanity have legs and was it a problem to clean underneath? And second, I notice that you seem to always used brushed nickel or chrome faucets. Is there a reason or is that just your preference? I’m gravitating towards burnished brass and black matte, but I want it to be cohesive through out our home and also timeless. Any ideas/tips are welcome because I’m becoming anxious about choosing my metals.

    1. Hi Leah!

      This bathroom was from my home in the early 2010s! I use a lot of brass and polished nickel. You can see my most recent bathroom renovation here to see more of my updated style: https://www.maisondepax.com/marble-bathroom-master-bath-reveal/
      I also have a post on mixing and matching metals: https://www.maisondepax.com/mixed-metal-bathroom-design/

      I hope this helps! And yes, sometimes vanities that have legs get dirty underneath. Ideally, they would be enclosed with a toe kick so you don’t have to clean underneath.

  40. I almost forgot! I’ve read several places that painting the ceilings the same as walls in a small space makes the room seem larger. Would that work with Krypton – ya think?

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