Because pale and cool colors reflect light, soft whites, pastels, and neutrals can make a bath feel bigger. Woodwork, trim, and doors will "disappear" if they are painted the same hue as the walls. The effect is enhanced if cabinets and counters are the same color as the walls.
For variety, use a light color of paint for the walls and a lighter tint for the ceiling. This combination will make surfaces recede from view and make the room seem larger.
To keep a neutral scheme from appearing bland, introduce bolder colors through accessories, linens, collectibles, artwork, and even furniture. You can also add interest with a variety of textures, such as woven baskets, nubby fabric, and smooth wooden pieces.
Make your ceiling look taller with some visual tricks. Wood moldings, wallpaper borders, and tile designs placed where the walls and ceiling meet will provide a splash of color and help naturally draw the eye upward.
A vertical stripe on the walls will make them seem taller. Otherwise, choose a wallpaper with a small airy print; large or busy patterns will diminish the scale of the space.
No matter what their size or style, windows help enlarge the feel of a room if they're allowed to transmit light. If possible, leave them unadorned or trimmed lightly with lace or with a valance. Miniblinds or shades, which can be drawn to the top of the window and virtually out of sight, are another sleek solution.
Or consider treating half the window: A sheer fabric held in place with tension rods or shutters over the bottom portion of the window will readily admit light but still maintain privacy.
Mirrors stretch space by reproducing it. Mirroring the long wall of a narrow bath, for example, can change the room's proportions and make it seem wider. Be sure to place mirrors so they reflect the bath's assets -- whether that's a wall hanging, a panoramic view, or the widest room angle. Two mirrors positioned opposite each other create the illusion of a never-ending room.
Glass doesn't reproduce space, but it doesn't obstruct it, either. Thus, in a small bath, a clear-glass shower door may prove to be a better space stretcher than a dark, patterned shower curtain.
In a small bath, space is too precious to be taken up by clutter. Pare down your bath countertop to the things you really like or need to have handy, then store the rest. Customize your closets and cupboards with wire racks, bins, and shelves. By putting your possessions in order, you make the most of the space you have.
Look for window and glass designs that welcome sunlight yet protect your privacy. Skylights, for example, open up any room to the sun. So do clerestory windows, which are installed high on the wall, almost at ceiling level.
Glass block, too, has long been a popular window treatment for the bath because certain patterns distort images enough to guarantee privacy. It also makes a dramatic, light-transmitting wall between a bedroom and bath. Other room-brightening options include frosted glass, etched glass, and stained-glass panels.
For a sleek, clean look, keep storage flush with walls. Narrow built-in shelving, such as between wall studs, can easily corral collectibles -- from picture frames to perfume bottles. Deeper built-ins -- shelves, drawers, and cabinets tucked into a niche or nook -- are ideal for linens, and don't use floor space like bulky freestanding shelf units.
Maintaining an unbroken sweep of floor is a good way to stretch visual space. Yet, bulky components such as the bathtub can make this a difficult task.
Try to fool the eye with cabinetry that "floats." Wall-mounted vanities or those with recessed bases add extra inches of space to the room that translate into visible square footage.
Space-stealing fixtures can be easily replaced or removed. A pedestal sink or a scaled-down vanity, for example, is a good stand-in for a bulky vanity. You'll also find fixtures, such as small basins and slim-and-trim pedestal sinks, designed especially for small baths and powder rooms.
If you could handle a major remodeling, consider replacing a typical tub with a soaking tub -- it's deep but small in circumference. If you rarely use your tub and want to gain space, you may want to replace it with a shower stall.
Perhaps the reason your bath feels as though it's shrinking is because too many people are sharing it. If this is the case, consider adding a small grooming station -- consisting of a vanity, sink, and mirror -- in a bedroom. Much less costly than adding a bath, this solution is especially economical if the bedroom is adjacent to the bath, the laundry, or the kitchen, and if plumbing pipes run through the shared wall.