Step by Step: How to Make a Small Bathroom Look Bigger with The Use of Line in Architecture & other Design Principles

If it is renovation time and you have a tiny bathroom or ensuite that needs to somehow magically become bigger – then read on – this in depth step-by-step post is for you.  Chock to the brim with good info by the time you finish this post you will be clear on how to achieve the bathroom you want.  Read on…


Ok this post is FULL of info – but it should be a relative easy read and contains a good dose of connecting posts that will educate too, if you need them.  So grab a pencil & paper (yes old school I know but the tactile experience of a grey-lead on paper will help), and most importantly take a glass of red, find a comfy place where you can think and don’t feel cluttered.  You’ll need wifi too as there are a lot of links in this one that you’ll want to view.

NOTE: If you’d rather tackle this like a pro check out the following posts otherwise – read on:

Ok, lets get started…!


Step 1: Establish what is staying & what is going

Starting with a nice and easy step, this one is really just about clarifying in your own mind what it is you want gone – and what you want to stay.  We recommend simply listing things that you are definite on, things you wont let anyone move you on.  Maybe you’re sick of stepping over the bath to take a shower?  Maybe you want to keep the cabinetry – or the tap-ware?  Whatever the case, get it clear in your mind before you move on.



Step 2: Settle on your theme

Knowing the theme of your design will help shape your choices and decisions.  A few things to think about and take notes:



Step 3: Decide on your TWO or THREE most important features

Get a piece of paper and write down your favorite thing about your new bathroom.  Don’t worry this is easier than you think.  Perhaps it’s the lack of space for shampoos and products in the shower? Maybe you want underfloor heating – or a heated towel rail?  What about the natural light – is a skylight on the cards?  Look at your options, look at what you absolutely are unshakable on, and write it down.

Now check out this post to make sure you’ve got the 6 Ways To Make Your Bathroom Look Bigger knowledge covered and ask yourself if any of these things are important to you.  Either way, write them all down and list them in order of preference and put a nice big star next to your two favorites.  This will be valuable information for you as time goes on, especially with budget constraints as you have to start making tough choices and decisions.  You’ll be confident that no matter what – you have the things that are most important to you and based on the 80/20 rule, this should be great.

Knowing what you want and what you are sure about will make it that much easier to resist that slick salesperson, keep a hold on the budget and eventually realising the bathroom you hope for.





Step 4: Budget

NOTE: If you are all over your budget feel free to skip this step.  The following walkthrough pulls the process apart and is valuable for people who are not sure what to do.

Also, if this is your first or second renovation you may have a very fixed budget – and this is fine – you can still get some good insight from this step, but you may not need to dive in as deep.

Contrary to what many think, now is a good place to think about your budget – not at the start.  The simple reason being in that unless you have a very, very limiting budget you may actually want to spend.  When we think about it this is not that crazy – we often have worked hard for the money and the act of spending it should be fun – and we should get what we want.  After all, we’ve earned it.  For example you may have spent enough years dealing with a cave of a bathroom and have decided that you want to treat yourself and your family by up-grading your bathroom/ensuite areas (not simply replacing the old shabby one with a new shabby one – you dig?).

So our advice is to come up with three numbers – that’s right – 3.  These numbers need to cover all materials and all labor.  Then we correlate these THREE numbers with what I call your Expectation Level – this is the level of satisfaction you hope to feel if you ‘do a good job’ with the project.  This doesn’t mean that you wont get a fantastic finished project, rather it means that you will have a more realistic understanding of what to expect.

  1. Minimum Expected Spend – Expectation Level: 3-6. This is exactly what is sounds like.  Do some numbers based on the bare minimum funds will need to have on hand to get the bare minimum job done.
  2. Ideal Spend – Expectation Level: 5-9. This is the number you’d really like to not go over.  For this kind of money you’d like to have a finished renovation that is of a very good standard.
  3. Estimated Maximum – Expectation Level: 9+. This number is your ‘max’ and the only reason why you should go over this number is because you realise that you are going to blow your expectations away and end up with something amazing.  Ideally you only want this to happen if you discover something like a product or a method that you truly believe will be valuable to you.  You do not want to let this happen because of the actions and words of people who don’t have your best interest at heart – this is called getting ripped off or being taken for a ride and we don’t want this.

Now, do you have your numbers? Do you know what you hope to expect?  Are your numbers reasonable? Good, now you know what is possible, and with skill and a healthy dose of taste you may just be able to achieve a project that hits the higher end on the expectation scale after all.





Step 5: Get this stuff right

Consider all of the following and decide what to include in your renovation:

  • wall hung vanity
  • large mirror
  • frame-less shower screen
  • a mirror the exact same width as the vanity
  • light colours
  • minimise little features – block colour walls or floor to ceiling tiles

See this blog post for a really good list, recommendations and images of how to implement these at this stage

If you are working on a Modern feel be sure to see this one too GET THE LOOK – Modern Minimalist Style


Step 6: The Use of Line in Architecture

Our eyes are magnetically drawn to lines.

See this blog post for a more detailed description of The Use Of Line In Architecture entitled Line: Learn & Use Correctly.  Once you’ve read over that and have an understanding of the principle, here are is a practical list of how you can incorporate the use of line to your advantage.

  • Select tiles that have a good shape that will give you some good lines.  For example a 300×600 size and shape can easily be used to create nice lines to help a wall look longer, make a floor look longer, make a wall look taller – ultimately making a room look bigger
  • Carry the line of the tiles/paint in line with other elements in the room such as window edging and shower screens
  • Keeping towel rails parallel and opposite other items like the vanity will draw the eye through the room, helping it appear longer
  • Got a tall ceiling? Think about the shower head and how high you can practically move it up the wall
  • Floor to ceiling tiles be sure to have the lines running in the direction that you want (don’e necessarily leave this up to the tiler)

Further Reading on Design Principles:


Step 7: Imagine The Space

Use scrapbooks and magazines or even better – Pinterest.  You probably already are doing this though, and if you’re not start.  It amazes me how many people come in to do major works on their house spending considerable amounts of money and haven’t even done this step yet.  Get a feel for what you like.  Get a feel for what you don’t like.  You objective here is to end up with one or two (three max) ideas for each component that you like.  Remember you haven’t decided on anything yet, just stuff that you like.

PINTEREST USERS: It’s easy to get lost with soooo many pins.  Create boards for your ideas in well defined categories, not simply ‘new bathroom’ but rather break it down into ‘drafts’ for each component.

Create boards for each of the following categories and over the following weeks start to pin ideas to each:

  • Draft Bath
  • Draft Tapware
  • Draft Shower
  • Draft Mirror
  • Draft Tiles
  • Draft Lighting etc

Once you have collected some pins, review your Draft boards one-by-one and selectively re-pin a few ideas from each Draft board to a new board called something like ‘Bathroom Dreaming’.  Now you will have a simple board with all your ideas in the one spot.

Congratulations! You are now ready to shop.


Step 8: Shop

Not much needs to be said here, we all know how to do this.  But – a few pointers:

  • Search out supply showrooms not just the nosiest ones in the media.
  • Ask questions and learn about the options you already think you want.
  • Ask to take samples home.  You may not get samples of everything but you may be surprised.
  • Select products in the right order.  If you’re not sure of the right order to follow this simple but effective method will make the process smoother:
    1. Tiles
    2. Benchtops
    3. Cabinetry
    4. Paint
    5. Carpet
  • Showrooms are also a good place to gather business cards of tradesmen you may need (not needed if you’re using a builder)


Step 9: Quotes

The guide with how many quotes to get is simple – get enough quotes until you are confident of who you are spending money with and what you will get.  This can be achieved with one – or it may need more.


Step 10: Finalise

As soon as you know what you want and have a satisfactory quote – get it.  I can’t stress this enough so I will say it again a different way.  If you have chosen your products why are you waiting to buy them?  Maybe i’ll try a different way.  Don’t delay in purchasing your products once you have made up your mind. Ok, let me say it one more time a but in a cheeky way; If you like the idea of starting the whole selection process over again then please delay in buying your products.

Hopefully when the time comes you see what you like, have it priced up – and you buy it.  This keeps smiles on your face, and on the tradespeople who are building your beautiful new bathroom.


Well Done

There we have it – you now have what you need to avoid the majority of the mistakes many people make.  Simple planing, a little thought about what YOU want, a realistic view of how far your money will go and some time understanding design principles can create a truly fantastic result – one that may very well exceed you expectations.



See full Pinterest board and plenty more HERE

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About Patrick Sgro

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