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Make the most of your tiny bathroom

From the Resene decorating blog

Bathrooms done well can be a real treasure of your home; spaces that are simultaneously functional and luxurious, or at the very least, a place to retreat.

A small and soothing bathroom

Smaller bathrooms need not be painted only in pale neutrals or white. In this bathroom, warm shades of teal mixed with a bit of imagination make for a soothing bathroom space. Walls painted in Resene Longitude with floorboards in Resene Midwinter Mist, vanity and splashback in Resene Juniper and monstera hooks and peg stool are in Resene Streetwise. Basin and mixer from Plumbline, mirror from Palliser, bath mats and towels from Adairs, basket, soap and sponge from Citta. Project by Melle van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

But not all bathrooms are created equal, in size at least. So how can you make the most of your bathroom if space is at a premium?

The first step in your small bathroom makeover should be to declutter. Get rid of those old containers of shampoo or unused Secret Santa bath bombs that are filling your available space. Divide your bathroom belongings into three groups: The things you must have close at hand in your bathroom; things you might need occasionally but which could be stored elsewhere and the things you can get rid of.

Once you have clear surfaces, and an idea of what you need to store in your bathroom you can plan, based on your budget. Even if your budget isn't huge, there’s a surprising amount you can achieve just by redecorating and putting some thought into what you actually need in your bathroom for it to be a delightful, well-functioning space.

Here are some other practical suggestions for expanding the impact and functionality of your bathroom, even when you're restricted by the floor area.


If tiles feature in your bathroom design, it’s not a bad idea to choose them early on. If they’re bold in colour or design they can determine other choices you make in wall colour and cabinetry. Larger tiles often work best in small bathrooms as there are fewer grouted lines breaking up the room. If you do opt for smaller, mosaic-type tiles, think about trying them in a simple colour palette and use them over a larger area, such as a whole floor or wall.

If you’re stuck with old tiles that you can’t afford to replace, you can paint over them. Prep and prime with Resene primer then topcoat in your chosen Resene colour to modernise the look.

A small blue and white bathroom

There’s still plenty of space for personality in a small bathroom like this one with the tongue-and-groove panelling and shelf painted in bold Resene Yes Please.

Back wall in Resene Elderflower, floor in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash, duckboard and tray table in Resene Mozart and vases on shelf in Resene Meditation and Resene Kandinsky. Bath, bath filler and vanity from Plumbing World. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

A small bathroom - Mondrian style

Layers of crisp white are given dramatic pop colour interest in Mondrian style.

Wall painted in Resene Eighth Black White with a grid in Resene Blackjack, colour blocks in Resene Jalapeno (red), Resene Aviator (blue) and Resene Galliano (yellow), timber floorboards in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash, duckboard in Resene Black White and ladder in Resene Quarter Surrender. Bath from Plumbing World, Resene Palazzo towels from Briscoes. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

Crisp colours

Conventional thinking has it that light, bright colours work best in small rooms, which can be true if you want to create an airy sense of space. But bold colours can also work because often they’ll recede from the eye making rooms feel larger. Match bolder shades with some texture and add mirrors and good lighting. If you do opt for crisp white and neutrals, for a clean, vibrant bathroom, consider adding blasts of one bold, contrast colour. Go monochrome with a dark contrast like Resene All Black or try a primary pop of yellow Resene Turbo or beachy blue in Resene Aqua.

Add drama, instead of space

One way of dealing with a small bathroom is to just forget about trying to make it seem bigger. Embrace the scale and go for high drama instead. How about a bold wallpaper like the exotic floral of Resene Wallpaper Collection E300163 or the pink and charcoal geometric design of Resene Wallpaper Collection FJ40511? Or go for a deep moody colour on the walls like Resene Indian Ink with contrast in the burnt orange of Resene High Five, and add trim in an oaty beige like Resene Sandcastle. Add a dramatic, over-the-top chandelier for instant bathroom glamour.

Turn your petite bathroom or standalone loo into a tiny art gallery by framing a range of prints and lining the walls. Just ensure your art is taped up tightly, and you have good ventilation to avoid moisture staining your prints.

Shine a light

Light is everything in any bathroom, but particularly important in small bathrooms, so they don’t end up feeling like a gloomy closet.

Whether you’ve opted for a deep, bold colour scheme or a light bright style, you’re still going to want to make sure the space is well lit. Bathrooms are functional spaces so you want to make sure you can see what you’re doing.

A mix of natural and artificial light is ideal if you can manage it. If you’re short on windows you could investigate the possibility of a skylight. Connection to the outdoors is another effective way of making a small space seem larger.

A mix of different lighting is also a good way to make sure your bathroom works for different moods. Bright spotlights or downlights are great for functional light, but adding a softer, feature light means you can also opt for moodier lighting when you’re soaking in the shower or bath.

Wallpaper adds drama to this small bathroom

Wallpaper adds drama and interest to a small bathroom. Feature wall in Resene Wallpaper Collection E384534, with tongue-and-groove lower half painted in Resene Bunting, front wall in Resene Pewter, floor in Resene Coconut Cream, bamboo ladder, duckboard and stool in Resene Apple Blossom, tray in Resene Coriander, soap dispenser, tumbler and textured vase in Resene Coral Tree and large vase in Resene Bunting. Stool (painted Resene Apple Blossom) from Mocka, mat from Bed Bath & Beyond, stem from Freedom. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Storage, storage, storage

Add nooks, crannies, baskets, bins and shelves wherever you can to maximise bathroom storage. Building inset shelves, with or without doors, into the wall cavity is a very smart way to add storage space. Floating shelves and freestanding shelving units that wrap over cabinets and toilets are another way to eke out extra storage.

Go open plan

Where possible use glass as dividers in showers, or even on shelving or cabinets. It all helps make small bathrooms feel less cluttered and more streamlined. You could even go all the way, and turn your space into one open plan wet room, with no shower doors at all. Just be wary that it takes some careful planning so you know exactly where water from your shower will spray, so towels, clothes and toilet rolls don’t get soaked.

Quick tips

You might need to let go of getting everything in your small bathroom. Overstuffing the room so every bit of space is filled will only emphasise how small it is. Do you need that second loo? Or a freestanding bath? Make the most of the space you have, rather than forcing it to fit more than is realistic. Maybe try an outdoor bath instead!

Resene Elderflower

Resene Meditation

Resene Yes Please

Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash

November 19, 2021

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