Big Bath, Small Space

How to create a master bathroom that's big on style in a modestly sized space.

by Allison Willson,

Allison's Master Bath


When it came to renovating our bathroom, I knew that there would be more than a few challenges along the way. Completely changing the footprint of the space meant that we would not only need to rework the big ticket items, like the window and the plumbing, but we’d have to get a little creative and try to squeeze in all of the "musts". Read on for my 9 best tips to help you get master bath appeal in a 'not-so-master-sized' bathroom.

Mirror Mirror

One of the best tricks for making a space appear larger is to hang mirrors! In this case, the large vanity mirror helps to balance and reflect the window on the opposite wall. This allows natural light to bounce off the mirror and further illuminate the space. I personally like to go as large as possible with bathroom mirrors, and for this space, that meant a custom design. I chose these elements in particular because the antique border around the edge helps to give the mirror some added dimension and interest, but doesn't take away from the reflective space. A double framed edge, using slightly different tones of silver leaf, also help the mirror stand out.

Mute the Mix

With various finishes and decorative elements utilized in one little space, it’s important that you take necessary steps to ensure the room doesn’t feel or look cramped. Walnut, Calcutta, contrasting grey grout, striped drapes, and high contrast Tony Koukos photography are elements that require a subdued backdrop to shine. To avoid having the space feel too busy, the ceiling, trim and baseboards were painted a soft white, and the walls were painted just a few tints off. This treatment helps the space feel light and airy, and allows everything else to pop.

Allison's Master Bath
Allison's Master Bath


Go Shallow

Vanities are typically 21" - 23" deep, depending on the counter overhang. Knowing our objective was to go lean on furnishings, for us this meant gaining a few precious inches of space by designing a custom vanity that was only 18" deep. This was easy enough to achieve because there are so many sink options out there that have a shallow depth. This Kohler sink in particular is quite shallow, but wide enough to fit the proportions of the 5' vanity.

Invest in the Details

As much as we all want our renovations to look new, it’s good practice to reference some of the original architectural details that may appear throughout the rest of the house to maintain a level of consistency. By installing crown moldings, extra tall baseboards, and swapping out the new window hardware for vintage, the bathroom looks like it flows with the adjacent rooms.

Add Some Soul

I’m a sucker for lighting - especially vintage lighting - so working in a few items that give the bathroom some character was top priority. The vintage sconces and center pendant are not only efficient, but they give the space a soulful vibe and the impression that great attention to detail was paid to the décor scheme.
Allison's Master Bath
Allison's Master Bath
Allison's Master Bath

Go Seamless

In an effort to help the room feel open, airy and spacious, we went as tall and as wide as we could with the shower glass. It not only shows off the stunning texture and movement of the Calcutta marble Saltillo shower tiles, but it also creates a sense of seamlessness throughout the entire bathroom. That’s the beauty of glass! It minimizes harsh lines that can impede the flow of your space.

Allison's Master Bath

Streamline Your Tub

I had my heart set on a freestanding tub with floor-mounted hardware, but the only way that was going to work was by installing a streamlined and slim bathtub. The ‘Ove’ tub from Wet Style was the perfect fit for this space. It allowed enough room to use a floor -mounted tub filler, while leaving ample room on all sides of the tub.
Allison's Master Bath
Allison's Master Bath

Decorate with Purpose

Even bathrooms could use fabulous textiles, artwork and a few chachkas. I chose a grey and white horizontal stripe drape to add texture and warmth, and black and white framed prints for a bold kick. The crystal Snowball votives by Kosta Boda add a touch of elegance, while the trays, canisters and bowls are functional in organizing personal items, and help the space feel lived.
Allison's Master Bath

Be Space Savvy

The shower runs the entire width of one end of the bathroom, so we knew this would translate into extra space. To ensure we made good use out of the space, we had a shower bench installed, which is actually very useful as an extra surface and of course, for a brief repose. And hey – should you ever want to convert to a steam shower down the road, having a shower bench makes the switch fairly painless.
Allison Willson

Room design by: Allison Willson

Source guide:

Paint colours: walls, Para Paint ‘P5221-14 Special Edition’, trim, Para Paint ‘P5224-14D Desert Sand’ | custom mirror: mirror, Adanac Glass, decorative rosettes, Residential Lighting, frame, Elgin Picture & Frame | custom vanity: marble top, CIOT, vanity base, Ellman Cabinetry Ph: 416.688.2428 | vanity knobs, towel bar, toilet paper holder, Restoration Hardware | vanity faucets, bathtub filler, shower head system, Rubinet | sink, toilet, Kohler | large art print, Tony Koukos Photography | light sconces, chandelier, Residential Lighting | crown mouldings, custom plaster, Brienza Design 416.505.3532 | vase, vintage | tray, AERO Studios | canisters, Anthropology | side table, Hollace Cluny | bowl on table, vintage, Around the Block | shower tiles, Saltillo Tile Imports | floor tiles, Cercan Tile | custom drapery and rod, Wesley Seto Design Ph: 416.538.3223 | drapery fabric, Robert Allen | doorknob, original to house | windows, Fieldstone Windows | floor grate, Home Depot.

Photography by Tiffany Piotrowski