If you search online for luxurious bathrooms, you’ll see image after image of bathrooms the size of a cruise ship. But suppose you live in that average-sized apartment or small house, and your bathroom fits more into the category of tiny to small. In that case, these photos can leave you feeling discontented, especially if you were looking for ideas for your own bathroom make-over.
Is luxury really synonymous with square footage?
To make a small bathroom feel luxurious on a budget:
- Get smart with your storage
- Buy new linens
- Showcase your bathroom window
- Make mirrors work for you
- Replace or repaint bathroom hardware
- Update your shower curtain or shower door
- Layer lighting in your small bathroom
- Give your tiles a facelift
- Use paint to your advantage
In this article, I’ll show you how to make your small bathroom as decadent and stunning as any picture you see online without over-extending your budget. It’s easier than you think!
You may not be excited to clean out the bathroom. But few things are less luxurious than clutter. It makes any space—but small spaces especially—feel incohesive, shabby, and even more cramped. And guess what? You’ve got a small bathroom, so you can probably declutter the whole thing in just a few hours:
- Throw out all your old jars and bottles.
- Remove any items that do not belong in the bathroom (such as shoes or books or cleaning supplies that belong in other rooms).
- Go through old medicines, check expiration dates and discard accordingly.
2. Get Smart with Storage
If you already have sufficient storage, great! Now, make sure you are using it wisely.
Baskets, lazy susans, cutlery trays, and other organizers can help to ensure efficient use of your bathroom cupboards and drawers and make them easier to navigate. No more digging to find what you’re looking for.
If you don’t have enough storage space, here are a few things you can do to remedy the situation, and none of them need to send you into debt:
Install a Bathroom Vanity: New, Restored or Repurposed
You can buy new, refinish an old vanity, or even use another piece of household furniture as your bathroom vanity. (This last option, by the way, is very on trend.)
New bathroom vanities don’t have to be expensive to look expensive. Plus, you don’t always have to buy a whole vanity. Maybe just a new countertop and sinks will do the trick.
Price them out bathroom vanities a couple of different stores. Dark wood vanities will add depth and give a lush feel in a neutral-colored bathroom. Alternatively, warm woods will add subtle elegance.
You don’t have to stick with a wood look, though. You can also paint your upcycled vanity. Painting it to match your walls will give the room a sleek and spacious look, especially in a white bathroom. Painting it in a rich color will turn it into a great feature.
For a really cheap way to make your small bathroom feel luxurious, find an ornate second-hand dresser or shelving unit that can be converted into a unique vanity. You may even already have something that you can use. Read much more about repurposing furniture in this about how to save big money (I’m talking thousands!) on a bathroom remodel.
No matter how you come by a bathroom vanity, make sure that it’s size-appropriate for your bathroom. Large items will be overbearing in a small space and will draw attention to the limited area—very un-luxurious!
Install a shelf above the door.
What makes this technique great is that the space above the door is out of direct eyeshot, and it’s high enough that you won’t feel like the extra shelving is making the room smaller (as long as you don’t make the shelf too deep).
The shelving supports should sit right next to the doorframe to give it a tidy look. Additionally, the shelf and supports should be the same color as the doorframe so that it blends in nicely.
Keep things in storage baskets on your handy over-the-door shelf to make it look neat and to make accessing stored items easier. This is a great option for your extra toilet paper and towels.
Install a wall cabinet.
Wall cabinets are usually quite modest in size and shallow, so you get extra storage space without making it seem as if the walls are closing in, and you don’t use up valuable floor space.
Add a few floating shelves.
Floating shelves are inexpensive and simple to install yourself, which means there are no handyman (handyperson?) fees. You do not want to cover your walls with shelving, especially because not everything that needs to be kept in your bathroom is display-worthy. But a few extra shelves can make a big difference.
Use the wall space that is often wasted, like the area above the bathtub. Alternatively, put a shelf above your sink if you have a small vanity counter.
3. Buy New Linens
Thread-bare, stained, and mismatched towels are going to make any bathroom look shabby, no matter the size. Invest in a new set of bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths to give your bathroom that luxury feel.
You can go with hotel-white for a traditional, ever-classy look. If white is not your style (too hard to keep clean), you can choose a bold color like emerald green, deep crimson, or even black.
If you decide to spend the money on the towels, arrange them so that they double as decoration! Store clean towels neatly folded or rolled on a shelf. Hang in-use towels on racks or hooks mounted on solid-colored walls to provide dimension and spots of color.
Don’t forget about the floor! If you can’t afford to update your tiles, an oversized bath mat can make this a non-issue. Just make sure that whatever bath mat or rug you select will clean and dry easily.
4. Showcase Your Bathroom Window
Most bathroom windows are small, but don’t ignore them! Natural light streaming into a small bathroom immediately lifts the feel of the room. Furthermore, the light will draw your eye to the window, so make it something worth looking at.
Consider Frosted Glass Instead of Curtains
Step one: ditch the lace or net curtain! This will give your bathroom a dated look, and it’s just not luxurious.
Next, if your bathroom is positioned in such a way that people can easily see in, then replace the clear glass with frosted glass. You can also try a spray-on frost or opaque adhesive stickers. You can frost the lower panes and leave the top panes clear to maintain maximum light infiltration and create dimension through different textures.
If you prefer not to frost your glass, but privacy is an issue, then rather hang semi-sheer curtains that will serve the same purpose as a lace curtain but with a modern twist.
Elongate the Wall with Full-Length Curtains
When hanging curtains in a bathroom, don’t make them the same height and length of the window itself. You can ramp up the luxury and elongate the wall in which the window sits by running a full-length curtain on either side of the window.
Raise the curtain rod so that it sits halfway between the top of the window and the ceiling. You can even push this a little higher if the layout of your bathroom allows it. Then make sure that your curtains are long enough to reach the floor.
To make this even more affordable, buy fabric and make your own curtains—they’re one of the easiest things to sew, especially if you have a curtain rod instead of a curtain rail.
Paint the Window Frames
Don’t stop there, though. A dash of paint or varnish will make your window frames look new, and you can jazz up your windowsill with a potted plant or a row of colorful vases that will catch the light.
Add Bathroom Plants on Window Sills
Another way to make your window more of a feature is to bring the outside in with a few fake or humid-happy plants. A plant that drapes over a high shelf creates a beautiful effect, and a tall, slender potted plant tucked into the dead space behind a freestanding tub will look amazing.
Read about the very best plants for the bathroom, even a bathroom with little to no light. Personally, I have a pothos ivy in my small, no-light bathroom and it really makes the space come alive!
5. Make Mirrors Work For You
Mirrors do wonders for a small bathroom. They catch and distribute natural light, making the bathroom appear brighter, and they also create the illusion of space. Plus, you can probably find a great one in a second-hand store for next to nothing.
Adding a big mirror onto one of your bathroom walls will immediately make it appear more luxurious, especially with the right frame. You can also put mirrors on more than one wall so they can bounce light off of each other.
Backlit mirrors are always going to give you that expensive, Hollywood feel, and they are functional. Once you experience shaving or putting on make-up in front of a backlit mirror, you’ll never go back! Find out much more about bathroom lighting techniques that can really glam up your bathroom mirrors without too much expense.
Alternatively, you can install a shallow cabinet mirror. This will improve the light, create an illusion of space, and provide extra storage.
6. Replace or Repaint Bathroom Hardware
Giving your bathroom that five-star hotel feel may be as simple as replacing your hardware. This includes your drawer and cabinet door handles, towel racks and hooks, toilet roll holder, toothbrush holder, showerhead, and faucets. In this case, a small bathroom works to your advantage because you will have fewer items to replace, and so it will cost you less.
You Can Mix Finishes in a Small Bathroom
Silver is classic, and you can’t go wrong with it. But gold, brass, copper, rose gold, or black can take your bathroom to the next level. When changing the color of your hardware, don’t forget about the curtain rail and shower rod and rings. While in a larger bathroom, it’s okay to mix finishes, in a very small bathroom, you need to be careful but not boring.
And if you already have a shower frame (rather than a curtain) that can’t be changed out cheaply, then consider using the same metal finish that’s on the shower door frame in most—but not all–of your bathroom.
Bathroom designer Kathleen Finley says, “In a very small bathroom, there’s less space to play with finishes, so consider one focal point like your pendant lights. Use one metal for the pendant lights and another throughout the rest of the bathroom.”
A Large Showerhead Is Luxurious
Consider replacing your old showerhead with a large one. Nothing says luxury like a massive, shiny showerhead that sprays a steady stream of warm water that reaches you from any spot in the shower and can be adjusted to whatever pressure you choose. Try this high-pressure luxury chrome shower head for about $30.
Or amp up the luxury factor even more with an aromatherapy showerhead that releases essential oils to nourish your hair and skin. These are less pricey than you might think.
Painting Hardware Is the Cheapest Solution
However, replacing all your hardware is a little out of your price range, try painting it. A variety of metallic paints are available these days, which are designed for just such purposes. I did this on the hinges of the cabinet doors in my bathroom. It looked great for years. I do touch them up every so often, but this is a small price to pay for the face-lift it gives to my bathroom.
7. Update Your Shower Curtain or Shower Door
If you’re already installing a new shower, or you have the option (and budget) to upgrade your shower, go with clear glass every time. This will open up the bathroom, making it look bigger.
If you have a bathtub shower, look into replacing your shower curtain with a frameless glass shower screen that extends half the length of the bathtub. Not only will it improve the look of your bathroom, but it also won’t stick to you while you shower—a definite bonus!
If you can’t afford to install glass, then a good quality shower curtain in a neutral color with some texture can add a touch of glamour and richness to your overall design
8. Layer Lighting in Your Small Bathroom
This is one area where you can make a huge upgrade in the luxurious feel of your bathroom and still keep it cheap. Designers talk about layering lighting—this is the art of using different types of lighting for different functions in the bathroom. This includes task lighting, mood lighting and statement lighting.
Choose the Right Bulbs
By educating yourself on the Secrets to Bathroom Lighting, you’ll be ready to make small, inexpensive changes that can create a whole new feeling in your small bathroom. For example, just by using the right light bulbs for your space, you switch from a utilitarian harsh ambiance to one that is more warm and glowing.
Sconce lighting adds loads of luxury, especially if they are on a different switch to your main lights. A warm and gentle yellow light emanating from wall-mounted sconces while you soak in the tub will make you feel like a million bucks. But if you don’t have sconces already, search second-hand stores. And if you do have sconces, ask if they’d look better with a new coat of metallic spray paint.
Don’t Forget the Dimmers
Finally, adding dimmers to the various lights in the bathroom can make a huge difference to the overall feel in your room. This may seem like a small addition, but it truly can make all the difference.
In my opinion, tackling new lighting is where you can get the best bang for your buck in a small bathroom upgrade.
9. Give Your Tiles a Facelift
You don’t have to chip up your tiles to make them look great. You should start by giving the grout a good scrub. Clean grout will make your tiles look like new.
Sometimes grout is stained, especially in old bathrooms, and no matter how much elbow grease you put it, it’s never clean. In this case, you can replace your grout. It takes a bit of work to chip it out, but a new bag of grout is so much cheaper than new tiles. If you previously had a grey grout, try a white grout and see how much difference it makes!
If your bathroom tiles are in good condition, but the color is undesirable, you still don’t have to pull them up. You can get a tile paint and cover the old color with a new one of your choice.
Alternatively, you get tile adhesive stickers, which can transform your old tiles and are quick and easy to apply. These come in a big range of colors and patterns. You can also use these to create a tiled look on an old linoleum bathroom floor.
10. Use Paint To Your Advantage
Repainting your walls, ceiling, door, and cabinets can go a long way to making your bathroom look lush. Classic white is always a good choice. Tones of gray or beige are also classy but with a twist. Typically, light and bright colors are best for a small bathroom because they keep it open. But definitely use a variety of textures.
Designer Kathleen Finley says that using natural, neutral colors can help create a spa-like feeling. (Check out 12 Elements Of A Spa Bathroom for more great ideas on how to use color and texture to bring Zen to your bathroom.)
And why stop at the walls? In about 4-6 hours (plus a day or two to dry), you can repaint your bathtub. Here are step-by-step directions for how to change the color of your bathtub or reglaze a neutral-colored tub to make it look new.
More Ways to Make a Small Bathroom Feel Bigger
Watch the video above to take a tour of two small bathrooms that are luxurious and feel much bigger than they actually are. You’ll see the tricks the designers used to accomplish these illusions.And if you’re shopping for the best small bathtub, read my post on the topic. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the great small bathtubs you can find.
Cheap Ways to Make a Small Bathroom Luxurious
No demolition or hectic remodeling is necessary to make your bathroom into the restful retreat for you that it should be. If you pick just a few suggestions from this list, you should be able to make even the smallest bathroom feel much more opulent. Moreover, you don’t have to have a massive bathroom and loads of cash to enjoy a luxurious bathroom.
Here are some more resources to help you with your bathroom makeover:
If you want your small bathroom to have a tranquil vibe, be sure to read 10 Zen Bathroom Ideas on a Budget.
If you want to make your bathroom eco-friendly, check out my post 16 Tips to Make a Bathroom Energy Efficient (& Save Money!).
And if you are planning a bathroom remodel anyway, read my post about 18 Small Bathroom Tile Ideas to Make Your Space Feel Bigger.