9 Designer Tips to Maximize Small Bathroom Design

By Jean Nayar | Updated Sep 28, 2020 10:49 AM

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Small Bathroom Design

Photo: Lawrence Duggan

Small baths can live large when designed with care. Choosing the right materials, fixtures, and fittings is key, as is thoughtful spacing planning and a considered emphasis on scale. For ideas on how to make the most of a compact bathroom, we turned to interior designer Lawrence Duggan, principal of Manhattan-based, full-service residential interior design firm LD Design, which specializes in custom kitchens, bathrooms, and built-in cabinetry. Here’s a roundup of his recommendations:

1. Establish a focal point.

“Keep color, pattern, materials simple,” says Duggan. “Do not load up with details, but do introduce one element that is bold or intricate, such as an elaborate mirror or pendant fixture, to create a focal point. As well, original artwork can have a huge impact in a small space.”

2. Include clever storage.

“Use a wall-hung vanity rather than one that sits on the floor,” says Duggan. This type of unit not only creates an airier feeling in small space but also eases maintenance. “Recessed medicine cabinets and toiletry niches also take up less visual space,” he says. “I even recessed a small magazine niche in the wall next to the toilet in one bath. It was very functional and took up no space.”

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Small Bathroom Design - Wall Mounted Vanity

Photo courtesy: Lawrence Duggan

3. Opt for frameless shower doors.

“Use clear glass to maximize visual space,” Duggen recommends. “They are also easier to clean than shower curtain liners.”

4. Add interest with a mix of tile sizes.

“I like to use large (24″x24″ or larger) tiles with minimal grout lines that match the color of the tile,” says Duggan, noting that a consistent tone gives a sense of more room. “That said, I also like to mix it up by using small tiles on the floor with large tiles on the walls or vice versa. The juxtaposition keeps things interesting.”

5. Employ both direct and indirect lighting.

“Use recessed lighting if possible over the tub or shower and sconces or wall lights at the mirror,” Duggan suggests. “Decorative lighting should be slim-lined. Try to find fixtures that have subtle details that won’t overwhelm.”

6. Use a variety of materials.

In addition to tile, Duggan likes to layer in marble, wood, metal, and paint to bring in subtle textures with polished and honed finishes. “Polished tile walls work well because they reflect light,” says Duggan, who recommends selecting a honed stone countertop for balance.

7. Stick to one type of metal finish.

“Mixing brass hardware with nickel faucets is not clever,” says the designer. “It’s just confusing.”

8. Be judicious with color.

“The color palette in a small space should be simple—using one main color in a variety of shades throughout is soothing and calm,” Duggan notes. “In fact, I prefer all painted surfaces to be the same color—even the ceiling. If you introduce a secondary color, do it in small splashes.”

9. Go vertical.

“When space is tight, put a hotel shelf above the door or high in the shower for towels,” says Duggan. “Or, in the bath of one of my clients, who stood 6’6″, I created a custom recessed medicine cabinet that measured 24″ wide and 50″ tall. He could reach those high shelves!”

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