Ample storage is an elusive feature. Most new home buyers identify it as one of the things on their wishlist. It’s especially true when you try to fix the problem with shelving in a small bathroom. Creativity is your ace in your pocket when it comes to solving the space issue even in smaller rooms. Let’s review some of the options you have when you think outside of the box.

What You Should Consider First

You should begin by looking for the options you have to make the most of your space. Opportunities exist if you know where to search for ways to optimize the room you have. There are several things to consider when thinking about shelving which include:

  • Type
  • Functionality
  • Budget
  • Materials and Finish
  • Size and Placement

Bathrooms present some challenges simply because of the space limitations. Bathrooms other than the master one take up less than 7 percent of the real estate or 191 total square feet in the average new home. That’s even taking into account how much area is already taken up by the bath/shower, sink/vanity, and toilet. Let’s consider each factor in detail.


There are three basic types you can use for small bathroom shelving. They include:

  • Freestanding
  • Wall Mount
  • Built-In Shelves

Which you choose depends on your needs and the place where your free space exists. While you may have limited area on the floor, your empty walls are excellent places for increasing your storage. Think of them as an opportunity for solving your storage issue.

Built-in shelves especially recessed ones can optimize the room you have in a small bathroom. Bear in mind that if you go this route, you may need a building permit. The typical cost can run you anywhere between $441 and $2,000. Of course, it is a permanent solution that limits the future changes you can make in this room. However, there’s no denying the bit of class it brings to a room that is often an afterthought.


Think about how you want to use the shelving in a small bathroom. For example, shelves used to display decorative pieces may differ a lot from ones that serve a more utilitarian purpose like holding towels. It will influence their size, materials, and design. Some may work better for these uses too.


It’s wise to go into any home improvement project with a budget in mind. But don’t let it become a limiting factor. You’ll likely find many options no matter what your price point. You can scale back on the features that can drive up the cost including materials and finish which we’ll discuss next. You may find it helpful to think of what your ideal solution is and work backward from that point to other details.

Materials and Finish

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No matter what you choose for these features, go for quality especially if your small shelves for bathroom will support the extra weight. Think of both of them as elements of the style of your bathroom. What you choose for a modern bathroom will likely differ dramatically from a rustic room. Your options for materials include:

  • Wood, Solid or Manufactured
  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Granite
  • Porcelain
  • Bamboo
  • Teak
  • Marble
  • Stainless Steel

The price will vary widely with the one that you choose. But cost is only one part of the equation. You should also consider how it will handle the warm, humid environment in a bathroom. Don’t forget the maintenance each one will require too. Glass or metal will look nice but only if you clean it frequently.

Keep other aspects of your choice of bathroom shelving in mind. If you are set on granite despite your budget, you can still get what you want if you scale back on the size. You can also go with a cheaper material and make it up with the finish. You can find painted shelves to fit in with the color scheme of your bathroom.

You can also add some flash with a mirrored, chrome, or gold finish. You can make your shelves more of a focal point, especially if you add some decorative items that fit in with the room’s theme. You needn’t limit storage to a utilitarian function. It can be functional and fun too.

Size and Placement

You should also think about the influence on space and maneuverability since you’re working with a small area. Consider the effects from shelves jutting out into the openness and its impacts on the floor plan.

Don’t forget to determine the ease of access especially if you choose a material that will need frequent care. The chances are you’ll be able to find small wall shelves for bathroom in a range of depths to fit any size space.

Examples of Small Shelving Options

After you determine the amount of space you have, the next step is to review your choices. Remember that everything you add to a small room has a big impact. It boils down to the math. Even a little shelving unit will take up a greater proportion of the real estate here than in a larger room where it may escape notice in the midst a lot of other things begging for attention.

Freestanding Shelves

A freestanding unit can work even if you have a small space. The trick is to either find those unused areas to optimize the use of what you have. Alternatively, you can tap into the potential of the vertical. Here are some ideas for getting creative with your shelving in a small bathroom which include:

  • Shelving Tower: Narrow unit that juts upward to maximize the space
  • Stacked Wicker Boxes: Vintage wicker picnic baskets stacked on top of one another for a retro look perfect for an eclectic or shabby chic style room
  • Tropical Towel Rack: Ladder-style towel rack to capture a loose and easy style
  • Storage Ladder: Different size levels for holding a variety of objects

You can also go low with a shelving unit if it’s a better fit for the space. A unit with a height of just two or three feet can work just as well as something taller. It presents other opportunities too. Don’t forget the potential of pieces that can do double duty such as a bench with a couple of shelves underneath.

Wall Mount Shelves

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Walls offer opportunities. They can add interest to a room and function as focal point too. Don’t forget the effect that they’ll have on the overall feel of a room. Shelves with a greater depth will make the room feel even smaller. You can avoid it by choosing narrower ones instead. Another option is to consider small corner shelves for bathroom. They may have less of an impact on space while solving your storage issues.

Think about the size of the unit and its influence. Simpler designs can still retain the feeling of space and avoid overwhelming the room. Some options to consider include:

  • Wall Cabinet: Useful for storing TMI items
  • Multifunctional Shelf/Towel Rack: Makes optimal use of a small space
  • Pallet Units or Cubby: Adds a fun vintage feel to a room especially if it has a weathered look
  • Rail with Pegs: Offers extra space for hanging damp towels and clothing
  • Modular: Openness helps maintain a feeling of spaciousness in a small room
  • Accent: Adds interest to a room especially when placed in front of a mirror

Adding shelving to the walls of your small bathroom needn’t make the room feel cramped. Thoughtful placement that doesn’t encroach on the needed space will solve your storage dilemma without creating more issues.

Other Choices for Bathroom Shelving

Even if floor or wall space is limited, you still have some other options. You may think that a pedestal sink is a dead end. However, you can make use of the space under it with a skirt around the fixture. It’s an excellent way to hide an older one that has seen better days. You can add something bright and colorful to add interest to a room or accentuate its style.

The benefit that it offers is its versatility. You can swap out a new color or pattern for a skirt depending on the season or even your mood. It’s easy to clean so that it’ll always look sharp. You may even find that your friends with a full vanity will envy you with your bathroom’s tailored look.

If you have an open vanity, you can ramp up its appeal with different containers such as wicker baskets. They offer an attractive option for a bathroom in a country or cottage style room. They do a fine job of balancing versatility with privacy. Just because it’s a bathroom doesn’t mean you can’t add some interest to it.

Adding shelves to a small bathroom is a smart way to make the best use of the limited space. You can still add some extra storage space while making it fashionable too. You can think of a small room as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

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