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‘Go Bold Or Go Home’: The New Daring Approach To Bathroom Design

By Rachel Wallace

Picture your average bathroom and clean, clinical white space springs to mind. Yet with more time spent at home in recent years and a soaring interest in DIY interiors, bold and colourful bathrooms are very much on our radar.

“People are painting for themselves rather than imaginary future buyers,” says paint queen Annie Sloan. “We want escape rooms from everyday life and nothing is off-limits, from colourful tiles and veiny marbles to vivid paint and graphic fittings. These spaces mustn’t overwhelm, but that doesn’t mean they need to be characterless or bland.”

Your bathroom should feel just like you, and imbuing it with your unique style will make it a haven you never want to leave.  We quizzed the experts for their tips on creating a bathroom with attitude.

Shower it with colour

‘Look to your wardrobe for colours which flatter you,’ paint queen Annie Sloan says. Coastal Home by Decus Interiors. Photo: Anson Smart

The bathroom is often a small space with little to no natural light, making colour the perfect way to pack a punch. “Colours really bring a space to life,” says designer Sarah-Jane Pyke from Arent&Pyke. “It makes it a joyful, playful space where we start and finish our days.”

No matter how small the space, choosing the right elements to express colour creates a strong impact, from tiles and bathware to linens and lighting.

“Look to your wardrobe for colours which flatter you,” suggests Sloan. “We spend a lot of time looking at our reflections, so choose a colour that suits you.”

Stunning metallic fittings and finishes, like brass and chrome, will also pack a punch. Artedomus Cotto Manetti terracotta tiles. Architecture by MRTN Architects. Photo: Dave Kulesza

If you are colour-curious but hesitant, take baby steps. Consider wallpaper in strong geometrics or dainty florals that can be replaced with ease. Look for coloured tapware, brightly patterned towels, or a vibrant shower curtain. Pastels and gentle shades of grey create impact, as does brightly coloured grout. Or simply introduce swathes of colour to an all-white bathroom and watch it sing. “Try a surface of clean white tiles next to a lush, leafy wallpaper, or a deep wall colour with a bright white enamel bath and vanity,” says Pyke.

Add stunning metallic fittings and finishes, like brass, chrome or cracked porcelain tapware that adds gloss to your palette. “Glamorous metallic touches and Hollywood Regency dressings are brilliant, especially in powder rooms,” Sloan says. “They reflect the femininity of these spaces and evoke the wonderfully powdered silver-screen sirens of the past.”

Is there such a thing as too little or too much colour? “If only there were a magic formula!” Pyke says. “Sometimes less is more, and then a symphony of elements comes together to beautiful effect.”

Rock star

Nothing adds luxury, texture and character like natural marble and stone. Dover Heights home by SMAC Studio. Photo: Supplied

Nothing adds luxury, texture and character like natural marble and stone.  “It will always be what I use in a bold bathroom,” says Shona McElroy from Smac Studio. “I always start with stone because it’s a showpiece and never dates. I like a thick stone profile with some detail. Try pulling a colour from it and paint all four walls and the ceiling.”

Phil Brenton, managing director of Artedomus, agrees and says marble’s characteristics make it beautiful and functional. “We’re seeing stones that, like marble, have bold colours, veining or patterns. Every piece is unique and impossible to replicate.”

Consider the tile size you use and if you’re comfortable with having lots of grout lines. Photo: Belle Property

Design your space around a combination of tiles or use just one in varying colours. Consider the room and your desired level of maintenance, knowing marble tiles require considerably more maintenance than porcelain and ceramic versions.

“Choose the shape or colour of stone you are drawn to,” Brenton says. “Mosaics are usually small and tend to have many grout lines. Are you comfortable with grout lines on every surface? If not, consider only including them on certain walls or floors, then use larger tiles on the other surfaces.”

Bathe it in paint

In this bathroom, Annie Sloan has opted for a warm terracotta wall paint and chalk paint in Louis Blue for the bath. Photo: Supplied

For those tolerating the tiniest of bathrooms, there’s good news. “Colour and design choices overwhelm in passive spaces like bedrooms, but they are witty, charming and friendly in small spaces,” Sloan says. “In the bathroom, go bold or go home!”

Look for jewel colours associated with Victorian bathrooms for an elegant yet cosy space as well as rich earthy shades. “Yellow makes a confident, stylish statement in a warmly reassuring way, which cold-toned bathroom whites and blues rarely do,” Sloan says. “Think of the bathrooms of the 1970s, but steer clear of avocado fittings.”

Consider painting walls, ceilings, windows and even floors. “Chalk paint is a popular way to update flooring,” says Sloan. “It works on most floor types, even lino. Choose two colours for a tiled look that transforms a space completely.”

Shona McElroy’s dos and don’ts for creating a rockstar bathroom

‘Colours really bring a space to life,’ Sarah-Jane Pyke says. Arent & Pyke Darley Road bathroom Photo: Anson Smart. Stylist: Claire Delmar.
  • Create a big statement using contrasting coloured tapware.
  • Hang a mirror that is huge, ornate, vintage or characterful.
  • Choose flattering warm lightbulbs, and install strip lighting beneath shelves and in niches for a stunning effect.
  • Invest in amazing feature lights, as you would a piece of art.
  • If there is a window, hang beautiful sheer linen or Roman blinds.
  • Experiment with patterned bath linen, or combine a fun hand towel with white sheets for a crisp look.
  • Never paint a single feature wall; paint all four in vibrant colour for real impact.


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