Is your bathroom size-challenged? You’re not alone. With the rise in mini apartments, more and more Americans are embracing the studio life. But your small space should never force you to compromise on taste. Aesthetics are everything, especially in a bathroom. No one likes cleaning up in a room that looks old or dirty. The challenge with a tiny baño is a lack of storage space and the challenge of fitting everything in. That’s where chic multipurpose pieces and stylish storage come into play. It’s like putting a puzzle together: Each piece has its place and purpose. You just have to be very selective about what those pieces are.
Not sure where to start? We tapped talented New York–based Australian designer Tali Roth to share her expert insight and handy tricks to turn a pint-size bathroom into a pretty one. Oh, and they’re all super affordable, too. You’re welcome.
MYDOMAINE: What are some simple yet affordable updates you can make to a small bathroom?
TALI ROTH: There are a few things, actually…
1. Replace your mirror. Go get a funky round leather trimmed mirror or a gorgeous gilded vintage mirror. It will really jazz up the space.
2. Replace the lighting. Is there an opportunity for a fancy flush-mount or a small pendant? Perhaps you can add a wall sconce to add a point of interest.
3. Buy a new shower curtain. I personally don't like the feel of shower curtains but so many homes and rentals have them, so when I moved into my latest apartment, I went out and purchased these funky Martinique print curtains from eBay. They're lighthearted, and they bring a little of me into the space too.
4. Paint the door faces of the vanity. Either replace them or sand them down and paint them in a fun bold color.
MD: What sink shape/style do you recommend for small bathroom?
TR: There is no rule, really. It’s about personal preference and whether you’re a hard-edge or soft-curve kind of person. A sink that sits on top the counter offers more storage with the cabinet below, but it’s messier to deal with. Often things that look gorgeous aren’t always super practical in spaces with little to no storage.
MD: What are the best sinks/vanities for small bathrooms?
TR: The best thing that can happen to a small bathroom is storage. I love the look of a pedestal sink. I think they’re gorgeous and classic, however, there’s nowhere to put your hair dryer, curling iron and selection of your favorite cosmetics. I think a wall-mounted vanity with two large drawers is both aesthetically pleasing (it will float above the ground, giving a sense of space) but also practical because it provides sufficient storage. If you are space-poor, I would definitely recommend a vanity that has a toilet-roll holder and a towel ring as well to save precious wall space.
MD: What style of side table works in a small bathroom?
TR: If you just need a little something extra to house a couple of candles or some hand towels, then a side table is a welcomed addition. I like vintage, ornate, or solid wood side tables rather than plastic, metal, or white side tables that look accidental and impermanent.
MD: What is your advice for pattern and color?
TR: I strongly recommend color and pattern in small bathrooms. Whether it’s paint or wallpaper, I think these tiny spaces carry it well. I did a project in Carol Gardens where we painted the bathroom gray and then loaded it up with mismatched artwork all relating to his gorgeous basset hound. When you walk into this space, you forget that it’s small and only think about its character.
Another Homepolish designer, Benedetta Amadi, worked with iconic wallpaper by Eskayel to bring a unique perspective to this tight space. It has so much drama and a high-end feel. New York designer Shelly Lynch-Sparks also employed a banana-leaf wallpaper that took her project to another level.
MD: What are you favorite multipurpose bathroom hardware pieces?
TR: These small details are all you have in a small bathroom, so ensure each design decision is calculated and thoughtful. If your budget is holding you back, there are plenty of DIY options for interesting hardware. Schoolhouse Electric does gorgeous hardware in black, brass, and copper. Firm Living does the sleekest hand towel holder as well as a toilet-roll holder.
If you don’t have space for everything, find beautiful items to hang your towels, such as this leather-and-oak ladder. It would be a welcomed addition to any bathroom. It also doubles as a magazine holder for those who love a bathroom read.
Made Measure is my favorite hardware company ever. It’s Australian based, and it has some of the most beautiful craftsmanship I have ever seen. The retailer ships internationally too.
MD: What’s the one thing you should never do in a small bathroom?
TR: I love white bathrooms, but if you inherited a slightly run-down white one, it can feel tired and dirty. A coat of paint and updating any removable items is always a good idea. Otherwise there are no hard-and-fast rules, but I will say a white floor-towel is never a good idea. Also, update your shower curtain as often as you can so that the staining isn't obvious.
I love Farrow & Ball paints. They have the most divine selection of colors curated by color geniuses, so you can never go wrong. I love a dark, moody charcoal or black-powder room. I also love the idea of dividing the space in half horizontally and painting the top half lighter than the bottom half.
MD: Do you have any favorite storage that’s also stylish and affordable?
TR: A beautiful trash can is always a good idea. This Tom Dixon hexagon copper bin is a winner. I think the IKEA chair/towel rack is so cool too. The design is super sleek and would look pretty with most color schemes.
The Sur La Table glass jars with wooden lids are handy for cotton balls, cotton buds, and hairpins. If you want a more contemporary look, CB2 offers a range of black rubber-coated small-storage and bath accessories.
Finally, I have loved these cross medicine cabinets for years. They are so cute and funky. They have a higher price point, but this IKEA version has a similar vibe, although a little different but significantly cheaper. And one more thing: This IKEA shelf combined with a towel hook is perfect for any small space.
MD: What lighting do you recommend if there’s little to no natural lighting?
TR: If you have no natural lighting, you need a combination of lighting to make the space more functional. Under-cabinet LED-strip lighting for makeup application, overhead recessed lighting, and a decorative wall sconce above the mirror or on either side will be more than sufficient to make up for it.
MD: What are your tricks for making the room appear larger than it is?
TR: I think that hanging small-scale artwork, wallpaper, molding, and decorative lighting is always a clever design tactic, as it distracts the eye from the space.
MD: What style of mirrors do you recommend?
TR: For small bathrooms, I will always recommend a medicine cabinet with storage. It’s ideal if you can recess it, but if not, that’s okay too. I like this IKEA medicine cabinet. It's sleek and not too bulky. Pottery Barn has this vintage recessed mirror that also has wide appeal and feels very sleek to me.