Renovation 101: 14 tips to make any bathroom look and feel bigger

Aside from its obvious function, bathrooms have long been considered as a place of luxury and relaxation. While not all of us are blessed with a custom-built bath and dressing room, anyone can make a bathroom look and feel much larger—all without adding any more square footage. Find out the tips and tricks used by builders, designers and stylists:

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Go white, pale or neutral

One of the most basic tricks used by homeowners and professionals alike to make spaces look bigger than they are is to utilise light colours, particularly white.

Aside from inspiring a minimalist style, the ‘non-colour’ also reflects light and promotes a seamless finish when used for the majority of bathroom fixtures, including the tub, toilet and sink.

If you don’t like the idea of white-on-white, you can use other light colours that will promote an ‘airy ambience’, including warm beige, soft grays and other faint hues like sky blue.

Blending strong and exciting colours with pale and softer colours is not advisable as it could ‘divide’ the space into compartments, thus making it seem smaller.


Add ‘visual impact’

To add character to a light colour scheme, consider breaking the monotone by applying natural textures or statement features such as stone and wood finishes. When placed at the rear of the bathroom, this ‘visual impact’ can draw the eyes to the back of the room and further widen the perception of space.

Moreover, as the feature stands out, everything else in the bathroom recedes and blends together as a backdrop, visually expanding the room.

Aside from textural elements, you can also sprinkle in bright colours through accessories or small objects like towels, low cabinets or light fixtures.

‘Unify’ walls and ceilings

Paint the walls and ceilings the same colour or ‘unifying’ colours to make odd angles less emphasized. As the transitions and intersecting planes become less obvious, the room will look cleaner and more expansive.

If you plan to use wallpapers, do not use any patterns to cover the room in order avoid making the room feel more cramped or tighter. You can use them as an accent wall or just save them altogether for one of the larger rooms in the house.

Remember: Less colours means less transitions and less transitions means a visually larger space.

Opt for light-coloured flooring

Yes, even the floor has to follow the light colour scheme.

Using dark colours for the floors of a bathroom with light walls and ceilings is just counterproductive. Essentially, the dark colour scheme below will negate the ‘lightness’ created by the rest of the room, thus closing the space in and cutting off the bright and open flow.

Enhance the clean ambience by putting in a large, light coloured rug over the flooring.


Avoid contrasts and transitions

Apart from colours, the right tiles can also improve the perceived size of your bathroom.

First and foremost, aim for minimal contrast to create a harmonious effect within the space.

The less transitions and contrast in colours, the more spacious the bathroom will seem. In fact, experts advise homeowners to match the colours of the tiles to the colours of the walls and ceilings, if not lighter.

If possible, see to it that the floor tiles continue into the shower. Once again, the continuous style will visually expand the space.

Pay attention to shapes and orientation

Use large format tiles to avoid too much grout lines and ultimately achieve a cleaner visual line and expand the space visually.

When working with narrow bathrooms, you can visually push the walls apart by using rectangular tiles laid perpendicular to the length of the room. By doing so, you add visual width to the bathroom and make it look more proportional and balanced, ultimately doing away with a ‘tunnel-like’ space.

On the other hand, if you want to add height to the space by making the ceiling appear higher, position the tiles vertically and tile all the way up to the ceiling.


Use bright lights

Bright lighting can further enhance the visual expansion of the room caused by the ‘balanced’ light colour schemes.

A rich lighting scheme with multiple sources at different locations is advised, especially for bathrooms that don’t receive much natural lighting. Instead of a single ceiling light, opt for small grid-lined bulbs to help you avoid shadows and maintain and bright and open atmosphere.

Spotlights in dark corners, sconces that direct soft lighting up or down the wall and low-level lighting beneath floating vanities or storage can also enhance (or conceal) areas of the room and add to its ambience.

Open the windows

If you do have access to natural light, take advantage of it by leaving windows uncovered or using frosted glass or a tone-on-tone stained glass window. More expensive alternatives include skylights, solar tubes and installation of larger windows.

When in need of more privacy, you can also add translucent window shades or sheer window coverings instead of shutters or other forms of blacked-out window coverings to maximise the natural light.

Avoid overusing the space

While you brighten up the room, make sure that you’re not cramping up the space in the process as that will definitely be counterproductive.

Consider wall sconces and cove lights behind the mirrors. Aside from being functional and creating the right ambience, these fixtures don’t take up additional space as well.

If the ceiling of the bathroom is low, do not use overhead lighting to avoid bringing attention to the limited space.

Installations and storage

Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors

Completing the trinity of spacious bathrooms- after light colours and bright lights- are mirrors on the wall.

A large mirror can pretty much double the size of the room by reflecting the light in the room and picking up the existing colours and patterns. It can also add a ‘dramatic feel’ to the space and help you save money on wall tilings as well.

The larger the mirror, the better job it does at extending the space. You can opt for a mirror with a beautiful frame, which can act as the ‘showstopper’ of the bathroom, or a wall-to-wall mirror for smaller spaces.

In some cases though, a collection of mirrors arranged artistically may work better than one large mirror.

Considering the visual value that it can add to your bathroom, be strategic about its placement. Badly placed mirrors could create a reflection-within-a-reflection, which could induce a claustrophobic feel as it is unsettling to the eye.

The most traditional placement of the mirror is above the sink. If the bathroom has a low ceiling, place the mirror close to the ceiling to create a visually larger space.

Use glass panels

Clear glass shower doors help you make the room appear larger by avoiding a ‘visual wall’ that breaks up the space, which is usually created by shower curtains or opaque shower doors.

This modern installation will ultimately contribute to the light and airy feel that you are aiming to achieve as the entire square footage of the room is visible with a single look, especially when you’re in the shower.

If possible, install a sliding door instead of a swinging one to avoid taking up a lot of the limited space when opening or closing the door.

For more privacy, you can opt for a frosted or tinted glass panel, which will still allow light to filter through.

To further the benefits of the panels, avoid framing the glass as it could negate the smooth and open atmosphere within the bathroom.

Float the vanity (even the cabinets)

Floating vanities are especially helpful in smaller bathrooms as it provides storage without requiring so much additional space. While it gives you room to store daily essentials, the peek of flooring underneath also adds to the open atmosphere in the bathroom.

Alternatively, you can opt for pedestal or wall-mounted sinks to save on floor space. This could mean having to re-route pipes or wires so check in with professional builders before going for this alternative.

High-level ceiling cabinets for non-everyday items can also work as additional storage space for tall vertical units.

Use the ‘space beyond the walls’

Aside from mounting cabinets or sinks, you can install additionals storage in the bathroom by building shelvings into the walls.

Open, built-in shelves inside the walls look like that are part of the room, thus contributing to the spacious feel in the space. On the other hand, pieces of furniture that stick out tend to eat up on space and make the room feel more cramped.

Ideally, these built-in shelves will follow the same light colour schemes applied on the walls.

‘Less is more’

Avoid all unnecessary clutter and leave as much negative space as you can to make the bathroom look and feel more spacious.

While the bathroom is understandably considered as a personal space for retreat by most people, it would be harder to relax in a cramped atmosphere, so experts strongly advised cutting out on small accessories and other clutters and stick to the bare necessities.

Remember: Anything that sticks out eats on the available space and causes ‘visual obstructions’. A spacious bathroom is a clean, uncluttered bathroom.

Spend time organizing storage areas so that only the essentials are visible while other things are carefully stored out of sight.

This information has been sourced from Honey Homes, Inside Out, Forbes, Reader’s Digest, The Spruce, Zillow and Carla Aston Designed.

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