How can I make my small & dark bathroom brighter?

Updated February 21, 2017

Small, dark bathrooms happen in the best of homes. Whether it's due to an overwhelming colour scheme, lack of natural light or poor artificial lighting, a dreary bathroom is a common problem --- but one that just a few decorating tricks can fix. Sometimes, all it takes is a coat of paint, a new light fixture or just a serious de-cluttering to help you see your small, dark bathroom in a whole new light.

Start by de-cluttering your bathroom. Just removing items that are taking up space on shelves, in cabinets or on the floor can make a bathroom look brighter. Take out anything that is not absolutely necessary, including decorative items, extra washcloths and towels, spare tissue and toiletry items. Find somewhere else in your home to store anything that is not going to be used every day --- even towels and washcloths, which can easily be replenished as they are used.

Take a look at your walls and floors. When it comes to paint and flooring, brighter is not always better in a small bathroom --- but lighter is. If your walls are painted a bright or dark colour, consider repainting them in a lighter shade. Dark or patterned floors can also make your bathroom look dreary; if retiling or covering the floors is not an option, adding a rug in a light shade can make the room brighter.

Consider your bathroom's lighting. Insufficient lighting, or light fixtures that do not give off enough light, can make a dark space seem even darker. Replace or add light fixtures to brighten your bathroom. At the very least, have an overhead fixture and lighting for the mirror above the vanity; add wall sconces if the room still seems too dark. Sometimes, just using the higher-wattage bulb in a fixture can help --- just remember to follow the fixture's wattage recommendations.

Remove dark or patterned curtains and/or shower curtains. Sheer, light-coloured window treatments preserve privacy while letting in natural light in bathrooms that have windows. A shower curtain in a light or sheer fabric reflects natural and/or artificial light, making your bathroom seem larger and brighter.

Replace a large, dark vanity cabinet and/or space saver with a smaller or lighter-coloured version. Try a slimmer, taller vanity cabinet for a sleeker look that preserves storage space, or a pedestal sink if storage is not an issue. Painting dark vanity cabinets and space savers in a lighter colour is an option if replacing them isn't.


If you're painting or remodelling your bathroom to create a brighter space, don't go overboard with accessories when the paint's dry and the new items are installed. Too many accessories on the walls and the surfaces make your bathroom look smaller, and as a result, darker and more crowded. Stick with one or two statement items.

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About the Author

A writer and information professional, J.E. Cornett has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lincoln Memorial University and a Master of Science in library and information science from the University of Kentucky. A former newspaper reporter with two Kentucky Press Association awards to her credit, she has over 10 years experience writing professionally.