interiors & styling

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger - roomfortuesday.com I’ve lived with my fair share of small bathrooms. We most recently finished our basement bathroom renovation, and I received lots of questions regarding the size of the space. That bathroom, pictured above, is around 6 feet x 8 feet, and our previous bathroom was even smaller! Luckily, no matter the size of your bathroom- it’s easy to squeeze the maximum amount of function from it, and make it appear larger than it actually is. I’m sharing my best design tricks on how to make a small bathroom look bigger. These hacks are all cosmetic and require moving zero walls… no heavy construction necessary! Click through to read all about it… 

*This post is sponsored by Lowe’s. All content, ideas, and words are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow us to create unique content while featuring products we actually use & enjoy!

#1 // Paint the Ceiling

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger - roomfortuesday.com If your bathroom has an average height, or lower ceiling… do NOT paint the ceiling white. I repeat- resist the urge to paint your ceiling white. It may seem counterintuitive, but painting the ceiling the same color as the walls (like our basement bath) or even a darker color, such as Tricorn Black (like in our previous bathroom, pictured above) will visually elongate the ceiling height, making it seem taller. Would you believe me if I told you the ceiling shown above is standard height? It wasn’t super tall, although it looks like it- thanks to my painted ceiling trick!


#2 // Keep Things Open and Airy

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger - roomfortuesday.com When designing a small space, keep the larger pieces feeling visually lighter. Installing a vanity with open storage is a good way to make a small bathroom feel bigger, while also providing function. I opted for this Silkroad Exclusive 36″ Vanity for our basement bath. It contains both open and closed storage, but feels “lighter” than a fully closed vanity.

Similarly, if you’re designing a shower, select shower glass instead of a full tile enclosure… even if it’s just partial, like my basement shower. If you’re using a shower curtain, design it so that it hangs from floor to ceiling (here is my tutorial for a DIY shower curtain), and leave it open when the shower is not in use. The bottom line? Keep things open and airy to make the room feel larger.


#3 // Choose Your Paint Color Carefully

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger - roomfortuesday.com Does your small bathroom receive any natural light? If so, that’s amazing and you can get a bit more creative with your paint color, but if not- I know everyone’s inclination is to grab bright, white paint. Much like my ceiling point earlier- resist the urge to paint your windowless bathroom white. It will end up looking dingy and dull. Choose a COLOR with a higher LRV (light reflective value) that isn’t white. I prefer mid range tones for these types of spaces… like the warm beige hue in my basement bath. It’s called Kilim Beige from HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams, available at Lowe’s. I applied the paint to all of the walls AND the ceiling.


#4 // Run Your Tile Vertically Up The Wall

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger - roomfortuesday.com This works well with smaller or medium scaled tile, such as this Emser Carrara Marble Subway Tile. Install the tile in a vertical direction running up the wall, rather than horizontal running bond. The upward linear movement will draw your eye up toward the ceiling, making the space seem taller and larger. It’s an easy design trick that just takes a bit of planning.


#5 // Add Drama or an Attention Grabbing Element

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger - roomfortuesday.com Whether it’s incredible plumbing fixtures, a custom vanity, patterned tile, millwork, wallpaper, beautiful art, or impeccable details- adding attention grabbing elements will automatically gain eyes… rather than the small space itself. Making tiny bathrooms extra special or interesting is the best way to play up small spaces and make them feel extraordinary without extra square footage. Small spaces are the perfect place to get creative, be bold, and try something new. In our guest bathroom water closet, I experimented with a vintage looking black toilet seat by Kohler and brass hardware from Delta. These retro looking pairings and high contrast elements make the water closet feel unique and not as closed in.

Ready to see a couple examples of how these tricks work in action? I’ll share some side-by-side images of our previous bathroom and our basement bath we just finished! It’s pretty amazing to see the visual difference…

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger - roomfortuesday.com Above, isn’t it interesting how the ceiling height looks SO much taller and the overall room feels a lot brighter? This is all because of the intentional design decisions mentioned throughout this post! Below, things also feel much more thought out and the shower makes better sense in terms of use of space, than the previous bathtub.

How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Larger - roomfortuesday.com Have you used or implemented any of these design tricks in your small bathrooms? If you have any questions at all- let me know in the comment section below! I’d be happy to help. Small spaces can be tricky (especially high functioning bathrooms), but they also force us to get more creative… and because of that, I honestly think they’re the most fun to design.

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  • Reply
    Peggi
    April 8, 2020 at 5:35 am

    All of these tips make perfect sense! I’ve never lived in a house with a large bathroom; some model homes I’ve visited felt like you could hold a soccer match in the master bath! Mostly, I think of ours as medium-sized. I guess I focus primarily on what I find beautiful, so your suggestions meet that criteria. Attention-grabbing details and nary a white surface would probably be my signature.😉 All of your baths really showcase a genius use of tile! If I ever get to tile a bathroom, you’ll be my inspiration, for sure! So, so pretty. Happy…whatever day it is. Thanks to you and my breakfast brownie, I’ve got a good start! (PS I found the yummiest egg-free recipe!)😋💖

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 8, 2020 at 9:32 am

      Our master bath is exactly- GIANT, and it makes zero sense. I hate having all of that wasted negative space that feels like a soccer field. Haha! Then again- I’ve only ever lived with tiny bathrooms until now, so there’s that. I do love experimenting with tile- thanks for noticing :) Day made! A breakfast brownie?!! You’re speaking my love language- I’m a little jealous. Sweets for breakfast is what Emmett and I do best. Ha! Have a great day, Peggi! xo

  • Reply
    Beth
    April 8, 2020 at 5:48 am

    Thank you for these tips–super helpful! I will be using the paint the ceiling trick and installing tile vertically trick for sure in my 2 new small bathrooms. How do you find the LRV value on a paint color–I would like to use that trick as well as our bathrooms will be windowless. Thanks so much!!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 8, 2020 at 9:34 am

      So happy the tips were helpful, Beth! I love hearing that. You can find the LRV on the back of the paint swatch. I know Sherwin-Williams states the LRV, along with a “low, medium, or high” rating. I like to stick to the medium / high range for small windowless bathrooms. Hope this helps :)

  • Reply
    Lauren
    April 8, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Yes Sarah!! This is what I’ve been needing!! I’m in a tough spot with my own bathroom renovation. We have a medium sized master bath, with two large windows; average height ceilings. I painted the walls bright white, because the previous color was such a hideous brown. But the choice hasn’t sat right. It is brighter, and does look bigger, but I think I may end up painting the walls the color I originally chose for the vanity (creamy mushroom by Behr). My question and challenge is this: how do you keep the bath and room cohesive when they open up to each other? Our master sits in front of our master bath; there is no door separating one space from the other. It’s a huge challenge when it comes to things like wall and ceiling paint. Where is the cut off? Also, do you use the same paint finish on the ceiling as you did for the walls? I almost feel like our water closet is easier to plan than our bathroom; it’s completely self contained! These tips are super helpful! I have two smaller bathrooms that have no light, both needing updating down the road. I will have to keep this post in mind when I hit the planning phase for those! Thank you for sharing; as always your tips and rooms are impeccable and really showcase your design talent. I hope I can create a space half as pleasing!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 8, 2020 at 10:08 am

      Yay!! So glad it was helpful and timed appropriately, Lauren. Great question on keeping elements in your combined master suite cohesive. I like to repeat design choices: color, textiles (maybe they share the same window treatments, etc), light fixtures, flooring material, etc. They don’t have to match, but they need to feel like they belong together or are apart of the same family. To answer your question about ceiling paint- I do NOT use the same finish on the walls and ceiling. Ceiling paint is typically very flat / matte. I think since your master is larger, you have room to play. I’d maybe apply the majority of these tips to your smaller baths in the house :) Hope this helps!! xo

  • Reply
    Julie S
    April 8, 2020 at 10:42 am

    Our cramped 5×7 full bathroom budget remodel has been a long time coming (because of slowly saving and because my husband is a reluctant though very capable remodeler). We have the funds now and are just on pause because of the pandemic… but I’ve spent well over a year studying small bathrooms, pinning, and learning the details you line up in this post! I seriously considered a black ceiling after your example but it feels too dramatic for our natural-style California ranch house – and I do love a light and airy bathroom! It has a smallish window, so I’m doing a pale greige paint that’s light but not white on vertical paneled walls and the ceiling, handmade-look wobbly, glossy white subway tile in the shower/tub, a hanging plant above the toilet to draw the eye up and add more organic texture, and a stained wood vanity. OMG I cannot wait to get started.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 8, 2020 at 12:04 pm

      I think your paint color choice is perfection! It will be perfect in that space. The vertical wall panels are also a smart move to make the room look taller. It sounds like it’s going to be beautiful, Julie!! xo

  • Reply
    Laura
    April 8, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Perfect timing for this post! I’m currently debating what to do with our small windowless bathroom. We’re doing a phase 1 refresh. I painted the vanity white, we removed the big ugly medicine cabinet, replaced with a nice flat mirror, new lighting, and we’re installing some open shelving above the toilet. I’m toying with painting the entire room Hale Navy, or would it be better to do 2/3 vertical shiplap in white and then do the Hale Navy on the top 1/3 and ceiling?

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 8, 2020 at 7:09 pm

      Woohoo!! Perfect timing, Laura :) If it were me, I wouldn’t break up the wall with millwork in a short / small room. Segmenting it like that will actually make it feel smaller. Your best bet is to run the shiplap from floor to ceiling rather than on thirds, and keep it the same color. Hope this helps!

      • Reply
        Laura
        April 8, 2020 at 8:05 pm

        Oh that’s a good point… Maybe we should go without any wall treatment? Do you think a dark navy is too dark for a small windowless room though?

        • Reply
          kraesmom
          April 9, 2020 at 12:34 pm

          Maybe the navy would be a good choice for the ceiling as above and use a lighter color on the walls?

  • Reply
    Michelle
    April 8, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    I can’t believe how amazing Kilim Beige can look! Our previous home was a new build and everything was painted Kilim beige. I thought it was the definition of ‘builder beige.” I actually repainted 75% of the house because I disliked the color. I stressed over needing white ceilings. Now I see that it wasn’t the color, but all the other warm brown/tan tones and surfaces that just made the house feel boring.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 8, 2020 at 7:06 pm

      Isn’t it crazy how a paint color can look TOTALLY different depending on the home and its surroundings? That’s why I never recommend paint colors virtually… you really have to be IN the space to determine what works best. You make such a good point, Michelle- sometimes it’s not the paint color that is “off”, but the other materials, finishes, and furnishings. Hope this post helped :) xo

  • Reply
    Hanna
    April 8, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    The black ceiling looks like it’s closing in on you. Bloody awful.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 8, 2020 at 7:04 pm

      I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, Hannah! No hard feelings.

  • Reply
    Judy
    April 8, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Sarah, I love the look of the dark ceiling trick! How dark do you have to go?

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 8, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      Thank you, Judy! You don’t have to go super dark like mine, but I’ve found the darker the better for making the ceiling height LOOK taller (black and navy also tends to hide imperfections while elongating).

  • Reply
    Tim
    April 9, 2020 at 5:09 am

    I completely agree with the black ceiling making a room seem taller. We did NOT finish out basement ceiling and just painted it black. Rafters, wires, pipes all of it. It looks amazing and everyone who comes down for the first time really like it and comment on how tall it looks. We also did two accent walls of very dark blue to extend the width, visually. Looks great. We love it… But with that said, in the bathroom too? Not sure I can do it in the bathroom. We are getting ready to paint this weekend and picking out colors. We already have the vertical tile, so that’s a no brainier. The tile has blue in it and will look really cool on the wall. White tile on the floor, laid the same direction as the tile in the shower (going long ways from door and continuing up through shower). We are looking at a light blue for the walls to coordinate with the shower… To much blue yet? For the ceiling I was going to do the normal white, but after reading was thinking dark. I don’t think I can do a black ceiling, or at least I don’t think the wife will like it as it won’t gel with anything else. Can I do a dark blue (again to much blue) or a dark brown to match cabinets? I don’t see that working. Thoughts? We have opened up the shower, so wall to wall shower, glass doors. Will do a couple of fun pieces for the wall. Just stuck on the lightness if blue for the wall (unless you can think of a different color, not grey) and the ceiling color. Thanks for the thoughts!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 13, 2020 at 9:56 am

      It’s really an amazing trick, Tim! The basement or an unfinished ceiling is the perfect application for this. So happy to hear it worked well for you! I’d keep your ceiling the same as the wall color, so there isn’t a hard edge. I love a good, monochromatic space.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    April 9, 2020 at 8:48 am

    Hey Tim what about a deep dark navy? Done right it could be some serious monochromatic bathroom inspo! I think it all sounds lovely!

  • Reply
    Ardith
    April 9, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Yup, these are genius tips and advice. The before-and-after photos speak volumes as to just how genius they are. I hope those of you working toward or on such remodels enjoy the process as much as the results. Cheers to everyone, Ardith

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 13, 2020 at 9:30 am

      Thanks so much, Ardith :)

  • Reply
    Natasha
    April 9, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you for the tips! What about tile work versus paint in the small bath? Is it okay to tile half wall only? What should be color scheme (dark versus light ) if tiling is some on the half of the wall?

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 13, 2020 at 9:23 am

      Typically, you want to avoid taking anything halfway up the wall- especially in a small space. I’d either tile the entire thing (floor to ceiling) or paint it. Hope this helps, Natasha :)

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