Tricks to Help Small Bathrooms Seem Larger

From on October 25, 2013 in Tools and Tips

Walk into a home built in recent years and you’ll likely find the kitchen and living room are the largest spaces in the house. While we aren’t here to dispute the fact that a big kitchen is a fantastic gathering place, have you given much thought to the smaller nooks of your abode, such as the bathrooms?

Modern homes often have several bathrooms, including powder rooms, that are smaller in terms of square footage but don’t need to be diminutive in style! Decorating your bathrooms to appear more spacious and to reflect the aesthetic of the rest of the house is not only a great family project, but your guests and family members will comment on how the rooms of your house fit together in harmony.

Wall Paint

Possibly the most important thing you can do to make your bathroom feel spacious and full of sunlight is to give the walls the correct shade of paint. Home magazines and blogs often rave about brighter shades and rich colors to make a room more appealing, but the bathroom is a different story; too much color can make it simply feel like a box. If you want your bathroom or powder room to feel as spacious as possible, avoid paint colors such as these:

  • Reds or maroons
  • Dark blues
  • Black or gun metal gray
  • Purple or eggplant
  • Dark green
  • Brown

Perhaps you are furrowing your brow at the idea that anyone would paint a bathroom deep red or brown - but you’d be surprised. Many people take the color palate of their home and continue it right into the bathrooms, not considering the fact that the bathroom is smaller, and thus, needs lighter colors to reflect more light.

Try pastels and neutrals to make the walls seem farther apart. Light-enhancing paint shades can include:

  • Pastel blues, greens, pinks and yellows
  • Neutrals such as cream or beige

Is Matte or Gloss Better?

Whether you choose matte paint or glossy paint for your bathroom walls is up to you. In general, glossy paint finishes perform better in high moisture areas such as bathrooms, and they reflect more light. The finish is also easier to wipe down for cleaning.

However, a glossy finish can show more flaws on the wall and prove harder to touch up than a matte finish.

You may want to consider your family’s lifestyle (for example, do you have small children who may make dings and marks on the walls?) before choosing which type finish is most practical for the bathroom.


Painting your walls is just the first step to a spacious bathroom. You can also tweak the bathroom fixtures to create the illusion of a bigger room. Try these tips:

  • Install a compact toilet with an elongated seat, rather than using a traditional, two piece toilet. Often, newer toilet models also include the bonus of using less water per flush.
  • Downsize the bathroom vanity or install a wall-mount bathroom sink.
  • Instead of an opaque shower curtain, try installing a glass door for the shower or tub to encourage depth perception.

Shelf Space

Now, what about the shelves and cabinets in your bathroom that store everything from electric toothbrushes to hairspray? If you’ve gotten rid of a bulky vanity in an effort to save space, you might need new ideas for keeping items neat and organized in the bathroom. Here are some pointers:

  • Install additional shelves over the toilet.
  • If you choose to keep cabinets, consider using doors made of glass rather than wood or another material. Of course, this means cutting down on clutter, since everything in the cabinets will be visible!

Decorative Accents

Just because a bathroom should be clutter-free to create space does not mean it has to be boring. Put decorative accents in your bathroom to harmonize with the rest of your home and your personal style. You might want to try:

  • Silk flowers arranged in a vase
  • Lightweight -not bulky - lotion and soap dispensers
  • Rugs in a neutral or complementary hue
  • Warm light bulbs

Tricking the eye so a small room in your home appears larger is not as difficult as you might think - and does not have to mean tearing out the bathroom and remodeling from scratch. With a few changes to the decor, you can have a bathroom that feels both luxurious and peaceful.

Jay Harris, a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago area, is a regular contributor on painting and home-decor craft supplies for the Home Depot website. Jay also writes extensively on bathroom decor topics, providing tips to homeowners on DIY projects.