Small bathroom ideas: how to design a fabulous space

three small bathroom ideas

Small bathroom ideas are essential, as the average UK bathroom would barely fit a king size mattress. (Though why you’d be putting a mattress in your bathroom, we have no idea!) Here are design tips from talented interior designers for your small bathroom, ensuite or cloakroom.

Small bathroom ideas? We’ve got you covered. I’ve interviewed two bathroom pros: interior designers Dee Gibson of Velvet Orange Design and Karina Bondarevska of Mond Design, and have also got some tips for you from The Albion Bath Co’s Phil Etherdon and Marketa Rypacek from Industville. Are you ready for them? Then let’s go!

Compact baths help save space. Tubby Torre plinth bath, from £2541, Albion Bath Co.

Small bathroom ideas from Dee Gibson of Velvet Orange Design

I asked Dee what kind of factors she takes into account when first recceing a space.

“After considering what the client wants to keep, I look at what you can see when walking past an open door,” she explains. “I love to create a feeling of space, so if a door can remain open I’d prefer to move the WC so that a sink and mirror are on view. It’s not always possible, but I try to prioritise that.

“After that, no matter how small a bathroom, it can pack a punch. If there’s no steam from a shower, use some incredible wallpaper. Alternatively, work with tiles and lay them in interesting ways to get a little sliver of a powerful view. This room does not need to keep the door closed if it is gorgeously presented.”

a small bathroom idea by Dee Gibson
A small bathroom design by Dee Gibson. Photography: Janie Airey.

Any more small bathroom ideas? How does she go about designing a bathroom layout? 

“Consider all the facilities,” Dee advises. “Some clients don’t want a bath, others want both. If you can’t get both in separately, can you combine the two? (Not so common these days.) This is the room where clients transform themselves from sleepyheads to go-getters for work. Or they want to relax and treat themselves to a luxury bathing experience. It’s key to get clients involved.”

Insider tips and tricks

What insider tips and tricks would she advise our readers to use when renovating their small bathroom?

“Firstly, if the layout doesn’t work, change it. Moving a WC can be expensive but sometimes if it is killing the space, it is worth trying to do. Secondly, walk in showers are all the rage. Make sure that any fixed panes are big enough to keep water in the wet area and ensure the drainage is bullet proof. Thirdly, get your lighting right around the sink area. Windows, bathroom lights and so on are key factors to consider especially during our UK winters. And lastly, make sure you have good extraction in the bathroom to get rid of steam and bathroom smells.”

a basin by Dee Gibson
Part of a small bathroom by Dee Gibson. Photography: Janie Airey.

More design tips by Dee Gibson

What are some clever ways to create storage space in a small bathroom?

“If you have any stud walls, speak to your contractor about using some of the cavity spaces to create nooks for storage,” Dee suggests. “Use vanity units with storage underneath and, if you can, keep them wall mounted to increase the feeling of space.”

And she has more small bathroom ideas: “You can also consider bathroom mirror storage units above the sink for all your small products. Some of them come with electric toothbrush chargers inside, so you can tidy away these items daily. Little slimline shelves in key spots, featuring candles and glasses of wine, are also cute ways to style a bathroom. Then you can relax in the bath.”

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Sleek Edison 1-wire pendant in Pewter, £35, Industville. Photography: @mossley_hill_home.

Small bathroom ideas from Karina Bondarevska of Mond Design

I asked Karina for her small bathroom ideas. What does she typically consider when recceing a space?

“Firstly, I study the existing layout of the bathroom to see whether it has to be reconfigured,” she tells me. “Most of the time it can be improved; however, you do need to consider all the pipes and drains. The design has to be realistic!”

She adds: “Many bathrooms lack natural light, so artificial lights have to be planned carefully. The size of the room and the ceiling height also play an important role.   

“I always ask clients about their ‘must-haves’, ‘hates’ and ‘dreams’. If they have visual references and are very passionate about them, this also helps me better understand the look and style we want to create. However, very often at the beginning of the journey, clients are not entirely sure which style they want. So these questions are very helpful.

“If there are any existing fittings the clients want to keep, I make sure I integrate them into the new design.

small bathroom ideas from Mond Design
Mirrors make a small bathroom feel more spacious. Design: Karina Bondarevska of Mond Design.

Ask the right questions to establish design parameters

“Secondly, to design the best layout, I ask my clients several questions:

“Who will be using the bathroom? Do you want a shower or a bath, or both? How much storage do you require? What else do you do in the bathroom? For example, some clients apply makeup in the bathroom, so we have to consider lighting and mirrors, etc. Other clients like to listen to music while taking a shower, so we have to plan a built-in speaker.

“Once I understand the clients’ needs, I can plan the new layout. I always ask the client what finishes they prefer, however, most of the time they are open to suggestions and seek advice.

small bathroom ideas from Mond Design
Designed by Karina Bondarevska of Mond Design.

Small bathroom ideas: tips and tricks

“If you don’t know where to start the process of designing your bathroom, begin by collecting your favourite images. Include surface finishes, decorative material, and images of bathrooms you like. This will be your concept board or your tool guide. The concept board will help you better understand what look and feel you want to design.

“Think about improving the existing layout. Try to visualise what you will see first as you come through the door. Perhaps you can make a small freestanding bath your focal point?

“Be practical. A towel rail or hook needs to be close to the shower or bath so you don’t have to walk to the other side of the room.  

“Don’t forget about lighting. Aside from general lighting, you will need to a task light for styling your hair, shaving, etc. You may also need some low-level floor lighting for evening and nighttime. 

“Consider the material and textures you’ll use. Some textures reflect light differently (for instance, gloss vs matt tiles).  Also, textures can be rough or smooth, opaque or transparent. You have to take this into account when designing.  

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“And don’t forget about under-floor heating.

clever use of storage space in bathroom
A clever use of storage in a small bathroom. Design by Karina Bondarevska of Mond Design.

More tips and tricks from Karina Bondarevska

“Next in my list of small bathroom ideas, there’s storage. Decide whether you’d like to display items on open shelves and niches, or whether everything needs to be hidden away. Bathrooms can quickly become messy and cluttered, so you have to consider from the start how much storage is needed. 

“For a bigger bathroom, there are many options for ready or bespoke furniture. However, for smaller spaces, you have to be more creative when planning your storage. I’d recommend having a vanity unit with doors or drawers, a wall-mounted mirrored cabinet, or some clever built-in cabinetry.”

small bathroom ideas
Design by Karina Bondarevska of Mond Design.

Thoughts from Phil Etherden of The Albion Bath Co.

Here are some small bathroom ideas from Phil, managing director at The Albion Bath Co.

“The trick with a smaller bathroom or cloakroom is to maximise the visible area of the floor,” Phil explains, “as this creates the impression of space. With this in mind, wall-hung units are an ideal solution. High-level toilets are also great, as the cistern is above eye level, creating more visible space.

“We would also recommend including some kind of storage in your design, such as a cabinet or console basin, as this provides somewhere to hide away clutter and keep your cloakroom looking clean and sleek.

“Today there are a wide selection of bathroom products available for smaller spaces, including short-projection furniture, compact baths, wall hung units and corner basins. Here at Albion we offer a wide selection of designs which will help make use of every available inch of space.”

compact bath illustrating small bathroom ideas
Tubby Torre duo bath in Burnished Bronze, price on application, The Albion Bath Co.

Tips and tricks from Marketa Rypacek from Industville

Managing director Marketa from lighting specialist Industville gave us her lighting ideas for small bathrooms.

“One of the most common mistakes when it comes to bathroom lighting is not providing enough of it. That said, people will often counter this issue with a plethora of fixtures on the ceiling, which can look busy and overcrowded.  Consider combining decorative lighting with LED lighting strips that provide functional light, especially in areas around mirrors.  This will create a design that’s spot on in terms of both the look and the functionality.

“In terms of bulbs, LED vintage bulbs are an excellent choice. With their clean, minimalist style, LED energy-saving bulbs look great in the bathroom, and they are as practical as they are decorative, as you won’t need to replace the bulb for years. The increased wattage of modern LEDs provides a warm and relaxing glow that can be used in combination with incandescent bulbs for a polished finish.”

small well-lit dark bathroom
Brooklyn Bathroom Globe wall light in Pewter, £90, Industville. Photography: @sheffieldsemi1930s.

And finally…

We hope you’ve enjoyed these small bathroom ideas. If you’re looking for tiny basins, there are lots on the market, so we’ll leave you with one of our favourites.

small basin from London Basin Company
The Mini Aubrey basin is only 30.5cm diameter and 13cm deep, perfect for little bathrooms. £599, London Basin Company.

Want more? Check out these compact baths for small bathrooms.

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