Small bathrooms used to demand a compromise – often requiring homeowners to do away with a bath or a separate shower, not to mention issues arising from lack of storage. But the latest modern fittings can create a luxurious bathroom from minimal square footage.
A bathroom has many demands put upon it, not only to be a practical, user-friendly room but also as a tranquil place to relax.
Good storage ideas are essential to making both these aspects of the bathroom work, but limited or awkward-shaped space can create a challenge when it comes to making the best of any bathroom.
However, items that need storage, like bulky towels and numerous toiletries, can also add to the decorative look of the bathroom, so it's worth thinking about how you can show them off to their best advantage.
Small bathroom storage
- For more bathroom ideas, see: Bathroom ideas – decor ideas for wet rooms, shower rooms and more
1. Incorporate wall-hung furniture
‘Keep the furniture wall-hung to create a sense of space and give a sleek, ‘floating’ look,’ says interior designer, Deana Ashby.
‘Although hidden storage is practical, don’t be tempted to shut everything away; instead use a combination of slim projection cabinets and shelving to provide plenty of storage but without enclosing the space.’
Wall-hung sanitaryware and furniture will leave the floor visible to create the impression of a much larger room, plus they make cleaning much easier.
2. Plan according to size
Avoid furniture with deep drawers or cupboards in a small bathroom. ‘At face value, a large under-basin cupboard may look like it offers heaps of storage space, but often waste a lot of space if the shelves are too far apart because most cosmetics and toiletries are quite small,’ says Deana Ashby.
‘Narrow-depth drawers or more shelves installed closer together will give maximum storage potential and make it easier to see everything at a glance rather than rooting around in the back of the cupboard.’
3. Create an entirely bespoke scheme
Bespoke furniture is an ideal solution in any room, but particularly in a bathroom where space is usually at a premium.
‘In short, you will maximize storage by being able to manufacture furniture that makes the most of every niche, nook and cranny,’ explains Susan Cunningham.
‘This is particularly useful in a home where there is a “quirky” corner or slanted ceilings, which make off-the-peg furniture an impractical option. You can also choose the finishes, internal features such as partitioned leather-lined drawers, handles and even the hinge design.
Generally bespoke storage can be more expensive, and can involve lead times up to 12 weeks depending on the manufacturer’s order book, but you can save by selecting less expensive materials and keeping the design simple.
For example, walnut is less expensive than macassar, Carrera White marble is less expensive than Statuarietto – there is usually a more affordable version if you know where to look.’
4. Invest wisely when designing a small bathroom
‘I would recommend a third of the budget goes towards storage,’ advises interior designer, Monita Cheung.
‘If you invest well, furniture can easily become the main focal point. A key piece in every bathroom is a basin – therefore incorporating under-counter furniture is essential.’
‘A large vanity unit underneath the basin with an additional internal drawer always helps to hide the daily clutter.
A jumbo drawer base unit provides storage for large towels and tall bottles, while a sleek mirror cabinet can be used to hide the electric toothbrush/shaver, keeping surfaces clear.
If there’s money left, a tall storage unit is always handy, especially if it can be semi-recessed into a stud wall to provide really deep storage but with a sleek exterior.’
5. Use a moveable table
A trolley or side table is a simple but effective way to gain extra storage.
Find a basket or box to fit underneath to keep hand towels or body brushes in order and use the top of the table to keep more immediate toiletries to hand.
The best thing is that it can be moved to wherever it is needed or pushed against a wall out of the way.
6. Stack in pretty jars and containers
Face towels and soaps can float around in your bathroom so make the most of their pretty packaging and tactile qualities by showing them off in stylish glass containers.
These jars are invaluable for storing odds and ends and make it easy to see what’s there. Vary the scale and design of the container to make a more interesting display and keep it all in order on a tray.
7. Decorate with a classic color palette
Many people shy away from classic styles as they assume that they can crowd a room and can be too oppressive, but this isn’t the case.
‘By using light colors and tones and embracing traditional fittings such as an Art Deco style, you can achieve a period look in your bathroom despite its small size,’ says Dan Cook, Designer, CP Hart.
8. Go big in a small space...
Don’t shy away from making a big statement in a small space. Striking furniture will make an impact and hard-working pieces that conceal storage or double up on function will maximize your home’s efficiency.
Natalia Miyar, Design Director at Helen Green, suggests a bold approach.
‘Proportion is so important; I like to use large-scale furniture as it makes a space seem bigger and more luxurious,’ she says. ‘The key is to choose carefully. Buy a few large, impactful pieces rather than cluttering a space with a lot of small items.’
Bespoke or standalone shelving is a simple way of creating storage, as well as acting a room divider. Open shelves can also inject a sense of spaciousness in compact bathrooms.
9. …but know when to downsize
In the bathroom, look for smaller than standard baths, swap a full-size basin for a compact cloakroom version, opt for a corner WC and have the shower over the bath. Wall-hung fittings that expose more floor area will make the room seem bigger and will be easier to clean too.
10. Balance the look
Family bathrooms need to store a lot of stuff, and there’s really no such thing as too much storage here.
Shelves can look good if they are kept tidy but to hide clutter, cabinets with doors are a better bet.
And never underestimate the designers’ favorite trick – a light, bright decorating scheme and decent lighting never fails to enhance the sense of space.
11. Build in storage
Plan ahead during the bathroom build, and create built-in wall recesses that are perfect for storing essential toiletries and displaying pretty trinkets. These recesses keep the room streamlined by eliminating the need for traditional shelves.
- For more kitchen storage ideas, see: Small bathroom ideas – stylish solutions for tiny spaces
How do I add storage to a small bathroom?
Wall-mounted modular furniture remains a favorite for storage, due to its fuss-free, streamlined look. Available in a range of heights, widths and depths, it means that you can create semi-bespoke furniture that best suits your space. You’ll find a wide range of colors, from soft hues to strong brave tones, available too, as well as plenty of different textures.
The finish you choose depends on what kind of statement you’d like to make. Gloss has recently become less prominent, with Kerlite, an ultra-thin stoneware porcelain plate, taking centre stage. This modern material gives a matt, almost stone-like finish and works well on a wide range of bathroom furniture.
Other popular textures and finishes include linen prints and wood grains, while gray remains a favorite color choice. When applied well, especially with the help of strategically placed uplighters, it can create an appealing sense of cocooned comfort in a small space.
According to interior designer, Deana Ashby: ‘Your first port of call would always be a good mirror cabinet. Not only is it useful for those smaller everyday items, good cabinets are full of loads of extras to help you stay organized; internal drawers and compartments and even magnetic strips to hold your tweezers and scissors.’
How do you store towels in a small bathroom?
Storage is central to creating a relaxed atmosphere – look for storage opportunities at every level. A generous vanity unit can host deep drawers for towels, mirrored cabinets can conceal toothbrushes and make-up and include shelves or niches in the shower for shampoo. Also look for freestanding or wall-mounted slimline cabinets that slot neatly between sanitaryware.
How can I organise a bathroom without storage?
‘Architecturally and visually, it is best to keep a small bathroom feeling open by not crowding too many things into it,’ advises Barbara Sallick, Co-founder, Waterworks.
‘Edit your amenities often, hang your towels on bars or hooks, keep pattern to a minimum, and generally, make it simple. The room will feel bigger if you use a pedestal sink rather than a bulky vanity, a clear glass door rather than shower curtain and reflective surfaces such as glossy ceramic tiles in a large scale.’
Mirror and other reflective surfaces will help boost the sense of space. ‘Mirrored cabinets recessed into the wall will create useful storage, which doesn’t protrude into the room,’ says interior designer, Sophie Paterson.
‘Wall-mounted vanity units and WC’s leave the floor free to make the room feel larger, while under-mounted basins tend to be better than surface-mounted ones because they leave more countertops available for pretty soaps, candles and diffusers.
Transform “dead” space under sloping ceilings with fitted storage to maximise space for toiletries and towels.’
According to Susan Cunningham of Studio Cunningham: ‘You should always think about the items that you hope to store in the bathroom, and make sure that you have thought through the design as to where you will house these items to ensure everything is close to hand.’
‘The spare toilet paper needs to be near the WC for example, but preferably out of sight. If you have children, allocate space for cleaning agents and other harmful chemicals that’s out of reach.
Don’t overlook integrated lighting, it will help you view contents more easily and can also be used for design effect.
In small rooms, choose mirror-fronted furniture to create a spacious feel and don’t waste the area around the sink waste – built-in drawers will conceal them and are perfect for washing essentials. Also decide early on if you will use the bathroom to store spare bedding, extra towels or a laundry bin.’