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DIY small bathroom renovation

Updated on February 8, 2014

Small bathroom ideas on a budget

Got a small bathroom? Or just looking for ideas to make your bathroom look bigger than it is? Its frustrating living with a small bathroom isn't it? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then fear not, there is hope. Keep reading for below and you should be able to pick out the nuggets of golden ideas that can help you transform your bathroom into something truly special, without blowing your budget.

The trick to transforming a bathroom (or any room for that matter) for minimal outlay is to follow a process. The first part of that process is to do a gap analysis. A gap analysis is simply gaining an understanding of what you currently have and what you would like to have. In the case of a small bathroom, you want it to be a big bathroom, or at least feel like a big bathroom. Maybe you also want modern conveniences, or simply your bathroom is run down, taps leak, bowls are split, paint or tiles are falling off the walls, there's mold everywhere, and the list goes on. The point is make sure you understand how much work is involved, how much money you need to spend vs how much money is in you budget, and what will make you happy.

Before we move onto details lets just stop to consider two words from the last sentence above, budget and happy. As much as you might be on a budget my experience has been that long after the money was spent you are still looking at the result. I have found that if you have to spend a little bit more than you would like you will soon forget the extra dollars, but you are using your bathroom every day. If you get the right result because of a few extra dollars it certainly makes the bathroom makeover worthwhile as opposed to cutting a few corners and then being reminded every time you take a shower or brush your teeth because you could only afford a basic bathroom vanity, or a cheap shower curtain instead of a glass door.

OK, rant over lets move on. So you have an idea about how much you can afford to spend on a bathroom renovation. What sort of items would you like, and more specifically how do you make you bathroom look its best, and by best i have found that usually means big.

You are no always / usually going to be able to know down walls in any bathroom renovation, if you are thinking that then think carefully. It may be better to just move house.

The tricks to getting your bathroom to look bigger are numerous.


Keep your bathroom tidy

In the planning stage make sure you understand that everything you do to design your new bathroom is engineering to how you will use the bathroom. What you probably don't want to do is have a bathroom that encourages you to leave a pile of dirty clothes on the floor next to the shower, of hair products on the vanity top.

A bathroom should be easy to keep tidy if its designed well. A simple clothes basket work if you are the sort of person that doesn't immediately take your clothes to the laundry after a shower. I have to admit i'm a little lazy, and i have a clothes basket in my bathroom. Just make sense to me because as i take my clothes off to shower they go straight into the basket. I can do this for a few days before taking the basket to the laundry and upturning the basket straight into the washing machine. No mess, no fuss, and it works for me.

Another tip to keep your bathroom tidy is to make sure you don't purchase too many products. Have you ever opened a bathroom cabinet and seen 5 - 6 hair brushes, 10 bottles of perfume, 5 bottles of deodorant multiple tubes of half empty toothpaste, first aid equipment, medicines, and anything else you can care to think of that just doesn't get used.

This may take a bit of effort but make sure before you start your bathroom design that you get rid of all the stuff you don't need, or use very often. Once you have got rid of all the junk you will be able to see what you need to store. It is simply a waste to renovate any room of the house to try and fit in stuff you don't need. Let to throw junk out.

Keep your bathroom clean

This point really goes with the above, and just like the above its more a behavioral issue than design. You should aim to clean your bathroom at least once every week. Water marks, soap buildup, and mold attract attention. If you can see something that draws you eye if tens to have an effect of making the room smaller. This is because your brain starts to sub consciously think that if your eye can see something then it must be close enough to see. If you are trying to make your bathroom look larger than it is then you don't want to be able to pick out any flaws.


Pick the right coulour and your bathroom will look bigger

Shine and light colors work best in a bathroom. Don't try and get to fancy with colors Dark colors tend to close an area in, this is because dark colors don't reflect light as well as lighter colors This is also why you want shiny surfaces, if your budget allows you to tile all the way up the walls from floor to ceiling then do it. The shinier the tile the better. By allowing light to bounce around the room on shiny light colored surfaces light will get into the furthest corners of the room making the room appear naturally bigger.

Lighting the bathroom

Speaking of light, don't skimp out here, get as much light into the room as you can. If you can get natural light that is great. If you bathroom windows is situated such that it offers privacy then don't put a blind on the window, you need to get the light in there. You could also try a sky light.

If natural light is a problem then don't skimp on artificial light. A high powered bright light is the way to go, use compact fluorescent or led lighting if you are concerned about power bills. The aim here though is to create as much light as you can without having to squint your eyes.

Direction of tiling can make the bathroom look bigger.  Source Sira Anamwong @ freedigital photos.net.
Direction of tiling can make the bathroom look bigger. Source Sira Anamwong @ freedigital photos.net.

Tiling your bathroom

OK, i already mentioned about tilling up the walls with light color and shiny tiles. What i haven't mentioned yet is tile size and shape. Do not ever, repeat, ever use small tiles or bold patterns. The larger the tile the room a sense of space you will create. If using a rectangular tile, lay the tile long ways from the point of entry into the bathroom. This tricks the eye into thinking the room is long than it really is.

Shower design for small bathrooms is essential

Always try to use glass for the shower, make it clear glass, and frame less if possible. Clear glass means you can see the wall behind the shower, obscured shower glass will naturally make the room look smaller as will a shower curtain even if its clear. A clear shower curtain is never as clear as clear glass, and it will get worse with time. Shower curtain also need rails, apart from looking ugly shower curtains define space.

Also try not to build a hob in the shower, some showers have fiberglass hob and others are built up with a row of bricks. If you have wooden floors you might not have a choice other than to use a fiberglass shower base, but if you floor is concrete you can usually get away without a hob if you can get the enough of an angle towards the drain and away from the main floor, this will again go some way to making the bathroom look larger.

Don't try to store too many bottles of soap, shampoo and conditioner in the shower, you also don't want to stop scrubbing brushes face washer razors either, see above about clutter and junk. However you do need to store a few things in the shower, soap and shampoo etc, and there are a few ways to do that. Corner shelves are great because they don't take up too much space and you can install 2 of three vertically, if made from glass it wont be immediately obvious that they are there and therefore wont close the room in. The other way to fool the eye into thing the bathroom is bigger than it really is is to build a small ledge into the wall. Simply cut out part of the wall and tile into the wall cavity, it doesn't have to be a deep ledge, just enough to fit a shampoo bottle.


Slimline bathroom vanity with protruding basin can add a touch of class, stop you leaving junk on the vanity top, and make the bathroom look larger. Source keerati @ freedigitalphotos.net
Slimline bathroom vanity with protruding basin can add a touch of class, stop you leaving junk on the vanity top, and make the bathroom look larger. Source keerati @ freedigitalphotos.net

Bathroom vanity and storage ideas

Take your time selecting these parts, shop around and make sure you are getting both a good deal, and something that makes the area look bigger. I always select slim line vanity with protruding bowls. This tends to encourage me to not leave stuff on the vanity top, simply because of the lack of room but it also become obvious when you leave something out. The bowls on top of the vanity top just have this look about them that makes you think you cant have anything else stored on top of the vanity.

As for vanity cupboards, you can make the most of the available room by taking care in how the plumbing is arranged. Carefully routing the plumbing lines towards to back of the cabinet will allow shelving to be installed in front of the plumbing pipes.

More bathroom storage can be had by a slimline mirrored cabinet. Make the mirror as large as possible. Large mirrors will reflect images, the bigger the image the bigger the room will appear.

A good trick with making spaces appear larger than they are is to install open shelving, place some items, usually decorative on some shelves and leave other shelves unstocked. You need to make sure you have enough room to start with that you can afford to 'waste' some storage space but if you can pull this look off it make the eye think that you have space to spare. Once again appealing to the subconscious and creating the illusion of a larger bathroom.

Storing towels in the bathroom

I recommend only storing towels in the bathroom that are the current towels you are using. If you have a linen closet keep your other towels in there. Once again if you shop around you will find some innovative towel storage solutions. You can even incorporate heating into your towel rails for minimal costs these days.

Having said that, the one thing i can recommend for a color contrast in the bathroom is towels, keep the tiles and cupboards, and paint white or neutral color and add a bright contrast with towels, looks a treat.

More ideas for small bathrooms

The last pointer i can give is to look through as many home magazines as you can, inspiration and that one great idea is only a photograph away.

These are some ideas i have used a few times in renovating bathrooms myself. If you have any more ideas please leave a comment below, and happy renovating.

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