Home & Garden

How to give your bathroom a stylish makeover

A palette of tonal whites — colors like cream, taupe, beige or gray — can be restful in a master bath.
A palette of tonal whites — colors like cream, taupe, beige or gray — can be restful in a master bath.

Alli Addison of Alli Addison Branding + Design has designed dozens of bathrooms — no two exactly alike. She believes that even baths within the same house should have distinct personalities. “You always want to maintain the continuity in a house and keep a ‘look’ flowing,” she said. “But using the exact same application of materials and design would simply be boring.”

Sprucing up a bathroom doesn’t always require a sledgehammer, or a sizable loan. Here, she offers tips on how to give each bathroom its own singular style for a range of tastes and budgets.

Powder rooms

Because they’re so small, it may seem logical to shy away from the bold and exuberant in a powder room. But Addison believes that would be missing an opportunity. “It’s the space most commonly used by those outside of your household,” she said. “It’s your opportunity to make an impression.”

Don’t be shy with color here. “In small spaces, there is just some sort of magic that happens when you paint in a darker tone,” she said. “It comes off very elegant and classic.” Deep hues can also add interest when tile, moldings and fixtures lack personality.

She likes black, charcoal gray, dark navy, teal and green in a small bath. To keep dark hues from seeming “dungeon-like,” pair them with lighter features, such as white cabinetry, countertops and moldings.

The same goes with tile choices — try bolder patterns on floors, walls and countertops than you would in other spaces of the home. This is an opportunity to splurge on fancier materials, as you’ll need far less than you would in a large bath.

Regarding art and accents, go large-scale, rather than hanging clusters of miniature wall decorations, which can look busy. For instance, you could choose a big, bold painting that pulls together the color palette of the space. Or, if wall space is lacking, install a dramatic light fixture. If you do go with multiple pieces, hang them simply, such as in a straight row, on a ledge, or all framed identically, she advised.

Finally, give some thought to the mirror. Instead of the standard, frameless version, consider a vintage mirror from a local antique or consignment shop. Addison considers well-lit bathrooms friendly and approachable. Since mirrors reflect and enhance light, choose a large one for above the vanity. Glazed tile with a reflective, shiny finish also helps a small bathroom feel bigger and brighter.

Master bathrooms

“Serene and bright is always a great direction to go,” said Addison of the master bathroom. “Whites, light grays, blues, greens, and taupes offer a sense of calm, relaxation and give the impression of a bright, clean space.”

Forget the notion that white is boring. Addison likes the crisp look of a predominately-white master or guest bathroom. Subtle interest comes from “neutral-toned” materials such as stone or tile in cream, taupe, beige or gray. If this is too stark for your tastes, keep woodwork in a warm-toned stain.

When a client’s aesthetic leans toward either traditional or modern, Addison often recommends the use of marble, which “almost always looks stunning in any application,” she said. For a traditional space, think subway tiles in an offset pattern, tiles set in a herringbone pattern, or hexagon tiles. For a contemporary space, she often takes those same classic shapes and increases their scale. For instance, those hexagons might be six inches across in a modern bath.

Yes, marble isn’t cheap. Addison’s solution is to use an inexpensive material and add in marble accents. Or, choose a material that looks like marble, but is more budget-friendly, such as quartz or marble-painted porcelain. “The printing and resolution (on porcelain) is so well done that most people will assume it’s real,” she said.

Kids’ bathroom

Here is your chance to play with color. Sprucing up a kids’ bathroom could be as easy as adding pops of color with new bathmats, towels, shower curtain, laundry hamper and artwork. Play with fun wall colors — no need to stick with pastels here.

However, it does make sense to make sure the colors in this bathroom — and all others — have some connection to the other colors in your home. “If you have utilized soft blues and greens throughout the house, you can go for a stronger blue in the kids’ bath,” Addison offered as an example.

Artwork in a kids’ bath can easily be budget-friendly. She recommends buying a few white canvases and acrylic paints in hues that match the palette of the room, then letting the kids help create a space uniquely their own.

Bathroom design tips from Alli Addison

WALLPAPER DOES WONDERS Wallpaper is back in vogue, featuring stunning patterns and fine artistic details. Today’s wallpapers are much more resistant to humidity, but be sure the room has proper ventilation. Don’t use wallpaper where it will have direct contact with lots of water (such as near a sink or tub used by children). To stay on the safe side, use wallpaper in a powder or half-bath, or buy water-resistant wallpaper that has a vinyl coating.

INSERTS THAT ORGANIZE Pull-outs aren’t just for the kitchen. Specialized cabinet inserts can help organize a bathroom. For instance, a pull-out laundry hamper is great for hiding laundry messes, especially in a kids’ bath.

FINISHING TOUCHES Don’t forget the finishing details in the bathroom. This includes cabinet hardware, bath hooks and towel bars. If your cabinetry panels are detailed and intricate, use a smaller, simpler hardware option, such as a one-inch knob. If you have more room on the face of your cabinetry panel and it is simple in design, such as Shaker style, you can use larger, bolder hardware such as a six-inch pull.

GO FAUX WITH FLOWERS Flowers add color and beauty to the bathroom, yet fresh flowers are challenging to maintain. Faux floral arrangements have come such a long way in recent years. One of Addison’s favorite sources is The French Bee (www.thefrenchbee.com).