Design Ideas for the Smallest Room

The downstairs loo is probably going to be the smallest room in your house, but that’s no reason to ignore its design potential

Nine times out of ten it’s a shoebox of a space. A closet. A glorified cupboard. But the best things come in small packages! Tile specialist Ca’ Pietra‘s Head of Creative, Grazzie Wilson has a ‘hit list’ of eight mistakes to avoid when redesigning your downstairs loo…

Treating it as a cloakroom – in homes where space is limited, keeping the hallway clear of coats really can open up the space. But what often happens is the coat rack and friends migrate to the downstairs loo – a room that’s already on the cramped side. Even with the wonderful decorating in the world, no downstairs loo is going to thrive when it’s stuffed with coats, scarves and brollies. Avoid this if you can, but if there’s no other option, try to box it in with cupboard doors painted in the same colour as your walls or in a colour that matches your wall tiles. That way, everything is contained, kept out of sight, out of mind, and no longer a messy distraction.

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Seaton Gulls Egg tiles, Architectural Mouldings Black Dado, Long Island + Minton Tumbled 40×40, Deco Martini wallpaper – image credit Divine Savages

Painting it bright white to make it seem larger – a tale as old as time and yet still one of the most seen decorating faux-pas. A lot of downstairs loos either don’t have a window or they do and it’s a tiny one. Naturally, that lends to a room with limited natural light and no matter how bright and brilliant your white paint, it’s never going to do the job of sunshine pouring in. There are ways to lighten it but this is where tiles can be your friend. Choose glossy glazes that will bounce the light around the room (try California in Pearl or our Lyme Metro Tiles in Antique White), large format tiles that can make a space feel larger with their fewer grout lines (hello Maldives in White and Magnifique Statuario), or continuing the same tile from floor to wall that will also make the room feel lighter and larger (Rotterdam Calacatta being a great example).


Painting it dark and moody but not lighting it to max the mood – if you’re ready to embrace your loo’s lack of light with darker tones and a moody atmosphere, be sure that your lighting is speaking the same language. Dramatic tiles such as Wightwick in Emerald or Marble Luxe Laurant and colours like bestselling Delphine’s Ink are fabulously atmospheric in a downstairs loo but lose their impact when the room is lighting with dozens of spotlights. Think downlighters, a pendant light and dimmer switches.

Forgetting about the ceiling – In the world of interiors, we always talk about the ceiling as the fifth wall – worthy of paint, pattern and attraction as much as your other vertical surfaces. Tiling it is an option just as wallpapering it is if you want to create some drama, but otherwise, why not think about painting it in a colour that complements your floor and wall tiles? Think Bamboo Lustre in Cappuccino halfway up your walls with a warm white grout and then Carter’s Rose on the remainder of your walls with your ceiling painted in Maple’s Cloth.

Restricting wall tiles to the sink splash back – the classic downstairs loo has a minuscule cloakroom sink and a little patch of tiles behind it to stop splash marks. But don’t limit your bathroom wall tiles to a postage stamp when the sky’s the limit (or the ceiling in the case of our homes). If your budget doesn’t allow for wall tiling left, right and centre, you could focus your tiles to one wall alone to make a feature. There are certain tiles that are designed to behave like wallpaper that work especially well in this scenario, the Glendurgan range from our National Trust collection being a prime example.


Not considering the luxury of a cosy, comforting space – underfloor heating is a little luxury worth investing in. In a downstairs loo, it’s always less expected because, but the cosiness it creates is priceless. Be sure to check you’re choosing a compatible floor tile such as porcelain or ceramic which are fabulous conductors of warmth for that toasty toes feeling.

Ordering too few tiles – one of the most frustrating things when decorating a room is to run out of paint or tiles. But it’s a common pitfall. Tiling is a fiddly job even for experts and so we always advise to order an extra 10% of what you need to cover you for waste and breakages. If you’re going for a herringbone layout, we suggest 15% because all those cuts and angles typically means more wastage. Fail to prepare then prepare to fail as they say!

Florentine Porcelain

Following the bold advice when it’s not really you – another age-old line you’ll read in interiors magazines and decorating blogs is go wild in your downstairs loo. Because it’s a lesser used room, it’s where we’re told we can unleash our inner creative, go crazy with colour and take pattern to the extreme. All of this is true, but don’t fall into the trap of being pushed into something that you’re not. It’s your home and you have to live with it, so if you’re still all about greys, if neutrals are what ground you, and if pattern for you is a floral hand towel and nothing more, then stay in your happy place.

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