Creative Ways to Keep Small Spaces Looking Cool


As January comes to a close, I am still finishing up my regular first-of-the-year cleanup, freshening up, and purge of the house.

As I was going through the rooms, I was reminded that I (like many others) have some pretty small bathroom areas. This isn’t a complaint, but it did make me recall the types of weird little tricks I’ve used to make it seem less cramped. I have never claimed to be an expert in interior decorating, but I do like to get a little creative with my “theming.”

My front bathroom, the one my kids and guests use, has been getting a low-key Haunted Mansion/New Orleans Square overhaul over the years, and I am always trying to find ways to make it more pleasant and livable without going overboard in cost or DIY projects.

If anyone is planning on doing any sprucing up this spring (or earlier), I feel now is a good time to share a couple of my own personal ways of making small spaces like bathrooms look cool.

Don’t Cheap Out on Your Shower Curtain

Not all bathrooms need shower curtains, but if you have a small one that does, it will pretty much dominate your space. I like to save money in as many areas as I can, but if you need to spend a little extra on decorating, a nice shower curtain is worth the investment. When we first moved into our house, we found the least expensive curtain we could, and it made the entire room look pretty run down. We had it for at least eight years, and finally, I decided to drop about $60 on one of those custom-printed curtains in a pattern that complimented the room. It looks better and has so far lasted without any wear.

When you have a little bathroom, your shower curtain will often dominate your space. Make it something you want to look at and it will stay nice for some time. All images: Lisa Tate

Don’t Display Your Whole Hygiene Routine

I know a bathroom counter is for bathroom items, but you don’t have to put everything on top of it. Soap, toothbrushes in a nice holder, facial tissue, and a couple of other items are often convenient essentials to have within reach, but every single facial product or pill bottle or lotion tube doesn’t have to stay piled around the sink. There’s a reason most bathrooms have drawers and cabinets. If you can, use them.

An uncluttered and cleaner counter, as shown in the difference between the pics. Not everything needs to be on display.

Smaller Art Looks Nice in Smaller Spaces

Just because it is a bathroom doesn’t mean you can’t have cool art or wall items. People spend time there every day, so you want to at least be surrounded by something visually appealing. When I first set up my bathroom space, I looked for bigger pictures or prints to fill walls, but as time went on I discovered clusters of smaller and medium-sized items give a space character, and in a way almost make the space seem bigger. There are a couple of bigger items that serve as focal areas in the room, but there’s a nice gallery feel to seeing smaller items on a wall.

Darker Colors Hide Dirt

Yes, the bathroom gets dirty, and you have to keep it clean. Smaller spaces with high traffic tend to get dirtier faster (at least in my house), and that means more frequent cleaning. However, you can’t always get to it right away. When the front bathroom was more of a plain-walled space, I was noticing dust and dirt every time I turned around. It made me cringe just to walk in the door. I painted the walls a darker color, as well as the inside of the door, and the dust is so much less noticeable. I still make sure I clean the room regularly, but I’m not getting everyday reminders of the need to do so. There is a tendency for people to “go light” in bathrooms from white or ecru, yellows, or pastels, but deeper, richer colors sometimes feel cleaner. They can also give a space a little “upscale” vibe.

dark color
When it is time to dust lighter colors (above left) get dingier faster. Darker colors look cleaner. Also, try mixing in some smaller art with larger prints or posters.

Look Up… and Build Up!

Remember, your wall goes all the way to the ceiling, regardless of whether it is low or high. You don’t need to just place your art or other items just at eye level. It is okay to add some items a little higher up. Place some cool artifacts or trinkets on a small shelf built over the doorway, or hang some small lanterns or plants from the ceiling. Less space is wasted, and you get a more immersive feel to your room.

high up
Don’t have space to spread out? Work your way up!

I hope one or two of these tips gave you some inspiration for making the most of little spaces. If not, I hope I at least gave you something to think about when looking at space, and how much potential even the smallest one has.

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