Home Decor

Design tips for small bathrooms from Sarah Richardson

When you're short on space, prioritizing is critical. Here's how to turn a small bathroom into a functional and stylish space.

Photo by Stacey Brandford

Q: We have a tiny bathroom that needs to be gutted. Since the space is so small and the tub is too short to use, should we forgo the tub and install a shower? Or should we swap the tub and toilet?
— Paula, Toronto

The problem: My tub is cramped!


1. Start with space planning.

When you’re short on space, prioritizing is critical, so I agree with the idea of ditching the tub and installing a stand-alone glass shower stall. Then you can leave the toilet where it is—and save yourself the expense of changing your plumbing. I’d also consider moving the window to the left so it’s directly above the toilet and won’t interfere with the shower. Then, if you go with the glass shower enclosure, it will make the room feel much bigger and brighter.

2. Use baskets for storage. 

An open vanity is terrific if you have room for some wall-mounted storage as well, but your space seems pretty tight so I think something that offers a place for products is key. Choose a vanity with a shelf so there’s room for baskets to store tall items or towels.

3. Add the right finishing touches. 

When it comes to lighting, I’ve never been a fan of the over-the-mirror light fixtures and prefer the look of a pendant light that hangs above the sink. You’ll get double the light from the reflection in the mirror. You might want to install pebble mosaics on your shower floor—they’re a great way to start the day and aren’t the least bit slippery. Try a white-based marble with some interesting veining on the floor. Calcutta would be perfect, and I love the watery green tones as it reminds me of crashing waves!

Get the goods:

Have fun with texture: Try pebble mosaics on the floor of your new shower stall. They’ll add a whole new sensory experience to your morning routine.

Ocean stone tiles in Turquoise, $13/sq ft, Kuda Imports.

Carve out room for storage: The open vanity (top image) offers storage below when outfitted with handy baskets on a bottom shelf. This piece is actually a garden table that my design team made into a vanity by spray-painting it and fitting a counter and sink onto it.

Branäs basket, $15, Ikea.

Add a little glam: A pretty mirror can make all the difference in transitioning your bathroom from blah to beautiful, so why not add a little sparkle to your salle de bain with a bold Venetian-inspired mirror?

Venetian mirror, $315, Sears.ca.

Hexis Widespread faucet, $749, Rubinet.