Small Bathroom Planning

Small Bathroom Design Requires Using Light Colors and Small Plumbing Fixtures

By Mark J. Donovan

When the square area footprint of your bathroom is limited, proper bathroom design is critical. For example, if not planned properly you could end up with a bathroom door that literally bumps into a toilet or bathroom vanity when opening the door. Upfront small bathroom planning is essential for ensuring a bathroom design that is both functional and aesthetically attractive, and it goes beyond just the walls and plumbing fixtures.

Small Bathroom Planning – Lighting

Often small bathrooms have limited natural lighting. In some cases a small bathroom may not even have a window.

Consequently proper and sufficient artificial lighting is essential for ensuring a light and bright bathroom. Like any bathroom there should be general overhead lighting as well as workspace lighting. Like general overhead lighting, task lighting is often placed overhead near work areas. Make sure, for example, that any canned light fixtures near the bathroom sink are placed forward enough and over the sink such that no shadows will be created when a person stands in front of it.

Paint Choices for Small Bathrooms

Use light colors in small bathrooms. Light colors will make the bathroom feel brighter and roomier than it actually is. Even for the main background wall color, stay light, e.g. nothing less than a light beige color. Also, consider using white accent paint for the trim and moulding.

Bathroom Toilet Roll Holders and Towel Racks

Another key element of small bathroom planning is where to place toilet roll holders and towel racks. This can be tricky with limited wall space. Consider using towel racks with two or three bars.

Planning a small bathroom remodeling project.

This way with only one towel rack you can hang up to three towels. Make sure however to locate the towel rack such that you can secure it to wall studs, and not simply into the drywall. Otherwise you may find the bathroom towel rack and towels laying on the floor one morning when you walk into the bathroom.

Also select bathroom toilet roll holders and towel racks with bright finishes, again to make the bathroom feel brighter. Moreover, avoid large and ornate wall fixtures as they consume both extra wall space and area in the bathroom.

Plumbing Fixtures for Small Bathrooms

When planning a small bathroom look for small plumbing fixtures for the toilet, sink and shower/tub area. For sinks, you may want to consider simply going with a pedestal sink or vessel sink with a limited base, or even a corner sink. If you’re only planning a shower in the small bathroom consider installing a corner shower unit as they take up less wall space. For toilets, select round toilet bowls versus elliptical shaped ones.

Bathroom Remodeling Bid Sheet
Bathroom Flooring

Like your paint choices, select a light color ceramic tile or vinyl flooring in a small bathroom. Both are easy to clean and maintain.

Small Bathroom Planning and Bathroom Doors

Instead of the traditional swinging hinged door, consider installing a pocket door as they take up less space and will not impinge upon the limited bathroom footprint area when the door swings open and close.


For help on your bathroom remodeling project, see my Bathroom Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Bathroom Remodeling Bid Sheet provides a request for quote checklist section that you can provide to prospective bathroom remodeling contractors. It also includes a comprehensive bathroom remodeling cost breakdown table, in Microsoft Excel format, that allows the contractor to include his projected remodeling costs for every phase of the project.

Related Information

Additional Bathroom Remodeling Design Resources

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