25 Sensational Small Bathroom Ideas on a Budget

Discover high-design dos for low cost from design experts.

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October 12, 2016

Photo By: Balance Design

Photo By: Athens Building Co.

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: MGB Interiors

Photo By: Jake Laughlin

Photo By: Alice Cramer Interiors

Photo By: Patti Wagner

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: Eanes Foster Design

Photo By: Eanes Foster Design

Photo By: Credit: Dwell with Dignity/Thomas S. England

Photo By: Christopher Oquendo

Photo By: Dwell with Dignity/ Thomas S. England

Photo By: Home Tour America

Photo By: Susan Sully

Photo By: NKBA/ Mark Lohman

Photo By: K_Souki Design Studio

Photo By: Christina Wedge/Julie Montgomery Interiors

Photo By: NKBA/Russtanna Lutt

Photo By: NKBA/ William Lesch

Photo By: Susan Sully

Photo By: Dwell with Dignity/Thomas S. England

Photo By: Dwell with Dignity/ Thomas S. England

Photo By: Dwell with Dignity/ Thomas S. England

Keep It Simple

By using a modest color palette with just a pop of color from the red chair, this bathroom demonstrates simple elegance in a small area. If possible, avoid buying window treatments to create an illusion of more space.  “A minimalist look eases the budget,” says Stephanie Andrews of Atlanta-based Balance Design.

Use Floor Space

Maximize the space underneath your sink with baskets. Cloth & Kind, which has offices in Georgia and Michigan, perfectly placed wire baskets underneath a vintage cast-iron sink in this modern farmhouse-style bathroom, built by Athens Building Co. The wire baskets add texture and style to this minimalist bathroom and provide necessary storage for towels and other linens in a space-saving way.

Streamline Your Sconces

Remove the shades from sconces in order to streamline the style and the space, says Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, architect and designer with Terracotta Design Build in Atlanta. Then, instead of a cabinet, use fancy open shelves with baskets to hold toiletries and corral clutter.

Perfect Paint Job

Paint the ceiling for a cohesive designer look. For this small bathroom, Atlanta designer Michele Gratch used Benjamin Moore’s Habanero Pepper, which matches the reddish tones in the chinoiserie wallpaper. Also, she had the seagrass rug custom cut, which she says is not that expensive, and added a border with a yard of fabric that coordinated with the wallpaper.

Add Design Appeal With Shiplap

Let shiplap stretch the appearance of a small bathroom. The chic wall treatment doesn’t have to be relegated to a farmhouse or rustic-style space, either. In this powder room, Atlanta designer Michele Gratch painted the shiplap a brighter white to match the ornate mirror and graphic floral designer wallpaper in navy. The elegant crystal sconces with polished nickel arms look expensive but are affordable, at less than $80.

Find the Right Spot

For no cost, something as easy as a strategic placement can offer a beautiful reflection and color in a small bathroom, says Atlanta interior designer Alice Cramer. In this powder room, she placed the mirror in just the right spot to reflect a piece of art for an eye-catching result that added depth and interest.

Change Shape

For a budget bathroom update, Patti Wagner and her husband replaced the damaged green floor tiles with inexpensive hexagon-shaped white tiles in their Minneapolis home. “The white floor really makes the room look bigger,” says Wagner, a senior product designer for Target. They also maximized the small space by keeping the existing pedestal sink and large medicine cabinet. Towel hooks also are great for small bathrooms, because they don't take up much space and you can place them anywhere, she says.

Take a (Stylish) Seat

If you have extra space in your bathroom, bring in a stylish chair, like this ghost chair in lightweight acrylic. It can serve as a seat and even towel storage when you don't have room for a large vanity. Just make it look deliberate, says Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, architect and designer with Terracotta Design Build in Atlanta.

Expand Your Mirrors

In this bathroom, Terracotta Design Build in Atlanta surrounded an existing recessed medicine cabinet with sheet mirror on the top and both sides, says Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, architect and designer with Terracotta Design. This glamorous extra is easier and more affordable than it looks and makes the room appear much larger. 

Go Bold With Knobs

For funky, chunky bathroom knobs, head to arts and craft supply stores. If you’re redoing a small space and just looking for a couple of knobs, you can find an affordable selection, says Atlanta designer Jennifer Foster. She found lightweight painted resin knobs that matched the Benjamin Moore Coastal Paradise paint on the walls. The wave series of paintings were original, no-cost pieces by Foster and her daughters.

Try This Art Hack

Here’s a designer hack to get oversized artwork, when you can’t afford an original painting for the entire wall. Buy two of the same pieces of abstract art (these floral pieces were discounted at a home goods store), and then hang one upside down, says Atlanta designer Jennifer Foster. It looks like a diptych and takes up a large amount of wall space for maximum effect, she says.

Layer on a Mirror

A circular mirror with a bright turquoise frame over an existing mirror is a bold choice by Atlanta designer Steve McKenzie. This is a great way to draw the hues of a bedroom into the bathroom, and can easily be installed in a rental. The small bathroom makeover was part of a Dwell with Dignity home update for families dealing with homelessness and poverty. 

Maximize Every Nook and Cranny

The creative design, by interior designer Jenn Ryan, in this Atlanta bathroom, features a niche with a towel bar and tucks in shelves for towels in an otherwise-neglected spot.

Amplify Your Mirror

An interesting mirror really packs a punch in your decor. Even if you are in a rental and can’t completely replace your mirror, like in this Dwell with Dignity apartment update, adding a border or stencil to a mirror can take your bathroom from plain to fabulous.

Fake a Rug

Make a tile “area rug.” If you’re already switching out the tile on your floor, adding this decor detail doesn’t cost you any extra -- but it can go a long way toward bringing you the stylish bathroom you want. Although this is a large bathroom by Atlanta designer and builder Nancy Keenan, the technique she used can add visual interest in a smaller space as well.

Get Quirky

Tell a story about the place you live and love. This bathroom is in the former whaling town of Sag Harbor, N.Y. The harpoons over the door and the blubber spade in the corner, along with an eel trap and shellfish basket, reflect the town’s history. “Make it a little tiny museum made of interesting objects,” says author Susan Sully

Go Glam With Gloss

You could get the look of these costly acrylic cabinets at a fraction of the price by alternating white and black high-gloss paint. California designer Laurie Haefele adds that using hardware that screws into cabinets or no hardware at all would be significantly cheaper than the recessed drawer pulls she used. This bathroom is a 2016 National Kitchen + Bath Association Competition winner.

Create a Shelfie Spot

A shelf is the perfect solution to storage scarcity in smaller bathrooms. Place one over the tub for towels, candles or shower gel or near the toilet for spare toilet paper and hand towels. Atlanta designer Karina Bryant has a set of shelves wired for music or a TV hookup for bath time relaxation in her home, built by Imery Group

Make It Monochromatic

In small bathrooms, simplicity can be elegant. Atlanta designer Julie Montgomery used contemporary sconces and a curved vanity with marble top for her clients. “I love white walls, but if I wanted to make a dramatic yet affordable change, I'd paint the walls, trim and ceiling the same color,” she says.

Tweak the Vanity

Make your storage do double duty as decor. While the vanity cabinet in this 2016 National Kitchen + Bath Association-winning powder room is custom made, a standard vanity without doors on either side can add decorative storage to any small bathroom, says designer Stephanie A. Bruntz in Nebraska. Bruntz says the diagonal slats in her custom cabinet are one of the more expensive elements, so adding a horizontal shelf or no shelf at all would be much cheaper. he adds that a stylish pendant can also create a designer look. You can buy frosted mini glass pendants for under $20, while regular sizes range from $80-$100.

Install Snazzy Towel Holders

This high-end powder room, by Arizona designer Lori Carroll, won first place from the National Kitchen + Bath Association in its 2016 design competition. To snag a bit of this style, use individual hooks or towel grabbers to display hand towels, instead of a towel bar.

Curate a Wall Collection

Create interest and texture with a collection of everyday and vintage bathroom items. This Victorian Gothic wall cabinet is filled with vintage cosmetic jars, ivory grooming implements, shells, sponges, towels and soaps. “If you have glass-fronted shelves, use it as an opportunity not just for storage but for display of interesting objects,” says author Susan Sully. Sully also recommends painting the back of a cabinet a dark color to make light objects really stand out. 

Create an Optical Illusion

Use mirrors strategically to make a small space look bigger and to amplify decor you love. Got a new shower curtain that is completely your style? Mirrors nearby can help spread the pattern throughout your small bathroom, so you get more visual impact with your decor. This bathroom was done as part of a Dwell with Dignity makeover to help families who are struggling with homelessness and poverty.

Enhance the Entryway

Art adds the final flair to this cozy bathroom, matching the turquoise and blue from the bright master bedroom, also designed by Steve McKenzie as part of a Dwell with Dignity home makeover.

Replace Your Shower Curtain

Because this was a rental space, Atlanta designer Steve McKenzie couldn’t make any structural changes. Instead, he spruced up the small bath with an affordable colorful shower curtain from Target and a new mirror. This makeover was part of a Dwell with Dignity project, which works to help families who are struggling with poverty.

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