Bathroom Decorating Ideas

Luxury Bathroom Interior With Shower, Toilet, Mirror And Yellow Towels.
Traditional, appealing and timeless, tasteful bathroom decor pleases home-owners as well as future buyers. onurdongel / Getty Images

­In general, all baths -- from the luxurious spa to the cheerful, kid-friendly bath down the hall -- require adequate light, good ventilation, plenty of storage, and fittings and fixtures that are as practical as they are attractive.

Traditionally styled fixtures and fittings are featured in­ a wide range of prices so it's possible to achieve a high-end look without paying a fortune. Savvy homeowners who might not have the budget for a marble floor, say, can opt for faux-marble ceramic tiles and still get the look.



On the following pages, you'll learn some of the techniques decorators use to achieve the following l­ooks for bathroom decor:

Tasteful Decor

Traditional, appealing and timeless, tasteful bathroom decor pleases home-owners as well as future buyers.

Safety with Style

Convert a bathroom into a safer place without losing anything to style. Designers, more than ever, know how to mingle form and function to give you eye-catching options for safety.

Minimalist Decorating Tips

Understatement can often help smaller bathrooms achieve more space. Learn how you can get the most from your minimal space.

Clean Lines

Define your bathroom space with smooth, clean lines, providing a sense of order. Find out how in this article.

Traditional Victorian

Add some romance to bath-time, or bring the look of a vintage home into the bath with these tips on decorating with a nod to times gone by.


Traditional styles have withstood the test of time. Add a touch of dignity and grace to your bathroom by using ceramic title, marble, fabric, porcelain and even wood.

Master Bath

See how custom cherry cabinets can be elegant without being ostentatious. Learn how to use open shelving to show off your most valuable bathroom items while still tucking them away.

Southwest Ranch

This look relies on ageless materials that are strong with simple good looks. Find out how to create a feeling of free-spiritedness with welcoming comfort.

Romantic Décor

A small space is perfect for a romantic setting that reflects long-ago times. Learn how to choose accessories to match a royal era and to achieve a literary look.

French Provincial

Invoke the spirit of Marie Antoinette's distinctly coquettish aura with the refined elegance of French Provincial styling.


Cool and clean while still casual and elegant, contemporary decorating balances a "modern" look with traditional styles.

Glamor Bath

Smooth fixtures and complementing curves make for a glamorous bathroom that doesn't have to break the bank.

Cutting-Edge Contemporary

Shapes and edges play an important role in design. Learn how branched quartzite from Brazil can create sophisticated and cutting-edge flooring.

Color Explosion

Fields of strong color play well against bright white fixtures. See how color coordination can make a world of difference for a contemporary space.

Drawing from Nature

If privacy isn't a problem on your property, natural backdrops can create instant ambiance for your bathroom. Find out how to use the outdoors to inspire your indoor space.

Creating Drama

Dramatic tones can emerge through simple elegance and turn a generously sized bath into a minimalist design by using loft-style design aesthetics.

Clean Lines

For the true minimalist, the bathroom is an ideal place to start. Find out how a lack of physical clutter can make a room safer and easier to use.

Fresh and New

Exquisitely engineered down to the smallest detail, this deceptively simple-looking room has a lot more to offer than its squeaky clean appeal.

Accessible and Stylish

Bright White

Even if you commit to a strongly colored wall in a permanent material, white fixtures still give you maximum leeway to change your scheme.

High Style

Stained glass, cherry millwork, sophisticated black fixtures and other artful elements play starring roles in this richly embellished space.

Far East

A bath inspired by the timeless Chinese aesthetic is dramatic, restrained, exciting and simple. Learn how to create the Far East aesthetic using Cinnabar, the rich red color of Chinese lacquer.

Using Patterns

A riot of stripes, triangles and related shapes combine to make a dizzying array that creates an optical illusion in a fearless design.


Transitional styles are just that: transitions between traditional and contemporary styles. Take a look at some transitional styles with eclectic and ethnic tones.

Simple and Elegant

Rich wood and a neutral palette can make a bathroom into an oasis of tranquility. Get tips to help you make your own bathroom a more relaxing getaway.

In addition to these articles, here are some considerations when starting a bathroom decorating project:

Spaciousness is a luxury in itself. But small retreats can also be indulgent. Go wholly modern, traditional, or somewhere delightfully in between. Each of the three fundamental areas -- the bathing and showering area, the sink and grooming area, and the toilet area -- should be planned with your particular habits and tastes in mind.

Safety measures like grab bars, no-scald faucets, rounded corners on counters, and slip-resistant surfaces benefit all ages and abilities.Thoughtful touches like a shaving mirror mounted above the sink, towel warmers, and hand-held shower heads are always appreciated additions.

Master baths, guest-room baths, and powder rooms tend to be more opulent than family or children's baths. With safety in mind, the last kind needs to be planned to grow along with the kids.

Simple neutral palettes and straightforward cabinetry that can be painted or stained as tastes mature are ideal. Built-in storage that provides drawers as well as cubbies for towels will look adorable now and years down the road.

To facilitate traffic in a busy family bath, consider installing a separate tub and shower (an angled shower makes use of a corner). Design a countertop that extends the length of the room and uses varying widths to create a useful surface that will leave floor space open. A private enclosure for the toilet will be a boon when kids and parents are rushing, too.

Choose light-reflective materials such as maple cabinets, stainless-steel sinks, and polished-chrome faucets to keep a contemporary bath looking airy. White wainscoting and white brick tile will have a similar dazzling effect in a traditional room.

For organization, build in a vented laundry hamper beside the sink. If a child needs a step stool to reach the faucets, find one that folds up and away when not in use. Hang hooks at a level to accommodate each family member's robe, and allot each member a shelf or a drawer.

What they lack in size, powder rooms more than make up with usability. Strategically placed beside an office or den, these little rooms -- with usually just a sink and toilet -- can serve as guest baths.

If yours is located close to a formal living room, duplicate the living room's style with faux-finished wall treatments and gold or brass fixtures. Consider paneling or go wild with color and flea-market finds for a basement powder room. An iron shelf to hang above a pedestal sink? A retro plastic chair teamed with colored tiles?

A sanctuary designed for two should strive to suit both parties. In addition to dual sinks (which could be back to back as well as side by side), plan separate recessed medicine cabinets. Install vanities at comfortable heights, and include twin dressing rooms. Experiment with materials, colors, and textures for a unique look that expresses your style.

A grand skylight or windows beside the tub and in the shower will allow you to commune with nature and leave your troubles behind.

In this article, we'll give you decorating ideas for several different bathroom themes, including minimalist, traditional Victorian and more. Read on to discover how to give your bathroom a tasteful décor.

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Tasteful Decor

©Kohler Co. To master this look in your own home, limit accessories and consider classically designed fixtures that offer modern bonuses.

Black-framed art is a modern touch in a room that's traditional in tone. Combining strong points of classic and contemporary design, this bath captures the divine style of old-world elegance without coming across as being stodgy.

On the contrary, all the fixtures from the whirlpool and toilet to the sink exude a high-style profile that's just right for today's architecture. White fixtures endure, remember, no matter how tastes may change. Toss in a handful of gleaming chrome accents and a pearly gray marble floor for a bit of elegance, and the recipe is complete.


The soft green walls may whisper that this is a space very much in step with the times, but green in one shade or another has never been out of style. And on top of all this good design, there's the light. Every bath benefits from natural light, and this one, with an undressed window, has more than its fair share.

Use the decorating guidelines in the next section to ensure your bathroom is not only stylish, but safe for everyone who uses it.

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Safety with Style

Kohler Co. Highly functional universal bathroom fixtures ensure easy access.

It's not enough for a bath to be beautiful. For you and your family, you want a bath that is also safe.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) has a number of guidelines to help you design a room that will assure livability for the young and the old as well as those people who may have special physical needs.


Handy grab bars, wider doorways, and whirlpool tubs with fold-down seats, for example, are three "universal access" benefits that will be smart today and for all the years to come.

But that's not to say you have to sacrifice style. Lavatories that offer the convenience of countertop installation while permitting full wheelchair accessibility, say, can be as stunning as this bath proves.

Tiles with a nonslip finish are forever appealing, especially when their color is one of the new cheery citrus-greenish-yellow tones so currently popular.

If you like streamlined styling, consider giving your bathroom a minimalist look. Get specific decorating ideas in the next section.

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Minimalist Decorating Tips

©Kohler Co. A white bathroom forms a dazzling backdrop for antique or vintage pieces.

A pleasing harmony of past and present is achieved in this dark-floored, roomy bath. The new streamlined fixtures call to mind designs from the '20s and '30s. But incorporated in this white-on-white space, the fixtures take on an understated contemporary tone.

For furnishings, the owners looked to simple pieces that would complement the pale bead-board paneling and add interest simultaneously.


©Kohler Co. A dark medicine cabinet provides contrast to the bright walls.

For example: A dark-stained wooden ladder steps in as decoration and also to hold extra towels, a tiny wooden stool becomes a tub-side table, and a woven basket hides supplies. Rather than the traditional white medicine cabinet, this one has gone dark -- a fine contrast to the brilliant walls.

Still, the focal point is the bathing area with its surplus of windows. Simple sheers, which are in demand now as part of the 21st-century urge to pare down, diffuse the light and help make the tub an oasis of serenity.

Would you like to have a clean bathroom look all the time? In the next section, find out how you can decorate to achieve this look.

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Clean Lines

©Square One Interiors A glass shower enclosure can make a bath appear larger than it actually is.

A careful choreography of color and sparkly glass lends a West Coast bath a light-filled and spacious air. Monochromatic walls expand the perimeters, while blonde wood cabinetry provides storage for any number of sundries, keeping the room neat at all times.

In such tight spaces, textures and tone assume more importance and become a special design challenge. The earth-toned tiles -- reminiscent of colors in the surrounding landscape -- link the room to its setting and do their part to make the bath visually appear larger, too.


Continuing the flooring material into the shower area without a break is a well-known technique designers often use to create a feeling of greater space. Atop the cement counter, a pair of vessel sinks add some light of their own.

©Square One Interiors This chic glass-and-metal console softens the minimal decor.

And although not secluded, the toilet area assumes privacy by being shielded in its own niche. In the end, the effect is clean, open, and easy to maintain.

If you have an older house, you might want to consider an elegant, Victorian-style bathroom. Get inspired by our decorating ideas in the next section of this article.

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Traditional Victorian

©Green & Proppe Design Inc. This bathroom's fixtures and materials are in synch with the house's age.

No bright yellow rubber duckies lined up in this elegant bath. Instead, there are fixtures and materials that maintain the original flavor of the home.

Built in 1894, the old Victorian Shingle-style house was recently revamped from top to bottom without sacrificing any of its charm.


The custom-designed stained-glass windows and the light fixtures above the vanity in the new master suite addition, for example, are both in sync with the structure's age. The durable tiled floor also helps create the right tone.

To facilitate a harried couple, there are dual sinks and a separate shower enclosure, both modern amenities that are very popular today. But the design is so well handled, nothing appears too glaringly new.

To change the room's mood according to the season, the owners can simply switch towel colors. The neutral palette will accommodate a large variety of color choices as well as bright patterns.

Whether you are remodeling your bathroom or just redecorating, try the ideas presented in this article. Feel free to mix or match them to create the décor that is right for you and your home.

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Traditional Bathrooms

©Star Mark, Inc. Federal blue and linen white make an elegant American country-style bath.

A number of appealing looks can be found under the wing of traditional style. All have stood the test of time; one or more is just right for your home.

In general, traditional styles are more complex and symmetrical than contemporary styles. Pedestals on sinks are reeded with vertically striped depressions, bases appear to be separate and may have a different design, toilets are two-piece, and fittings and hardware (brass or pewter-look) are relatively ornate. A claw-foot tub and arched Palladian windows are icons of traditionalism.


­At its best, traditional style -- rustic or refined -- evokes dignity, grace, and warmth. Happily, a few signs of wear just add to its heirloom patina. Traditional style doesn't come naturally to today's bath, since it's a relatively small space dominated by modern fixtures. But using timeless materials -- ceramic tile, marble, fabric, porcelain, even wood -- brings the spirit of tradition home.

American Country

To bring the warm appeal of this style to your bathroom, avoid stark colors, especially black and white. Instead, go for a soft Navajo white, unbleached linen, or the tan of wheat for backgrounds. They're warm but not dark, so they'll flatter skin tones without making the bath seem smaller. For accent colors, choose antiqued tones: old rose, barn red, denim blue, or soft green.

A vanity in golden oak or Shaker-style maple with a plain, off-white ceramic or stone-look top and a white porcelain sink bowl works well, as does a traditionally styled pedestal sink. You may even want to investigate one of the new bowls that stand on top of the counter: One in white porcelain could recall an antique washbowl.

And don't forget a claw-foot tub for maximum nostalgia. For fixtures and hardware, skip the shiny chrome, and choose antiqued brass or a brushed-finish nickel for the soft look of old pewter. If you love wood and lots of it, consider naturally finished golden oak Shaker toilet seats and towel bars, but don't overdo it.

If you're shower-curtain shopping, keep country in mind. Most baths are a bit small for the riotous pattern of patchwork, but there's no reason why you can't enjoy a tablecloth-checked or mattress-ticking-striped fabric, or even a subtle plaid. Simpler yet, use plain, off-white muslin with a liner.

Choose one or two colors from your fabric for towels, a bath mat, and a bath rug, or add another pattern with a simple rag rug in the same tones as your color scheme. Further the look by adorning windows with simple handkerchief-point valances; for more coverage, add café curtains or wood shutters.

For soap dispensers and other accessories, choose pieces with the look of hand-thrown pottery or creamware. Handmade, round soaps and hand-embellished, well-ironed cotton or linen guest towels (available at many resale shops) are old-fashioned without being kitschy.

Use natural or rustically painted wicker baskets or hampers for extra storage. If you've got the floor space, a small, Shaker-style child's chair heaped with rolled hand towels is a charming touch.

English Country

Charming, comfy, and wonderfully romantic, English country style is one of the world's best-loved styles, as it has been since its Victorian heyday. More polished than American country style, the English look offers relaxed gentility with a touch of whimsy.

To achieve this look, choose a traditional-style cabinet in a fine-grained wood -- maple, cherry, or mahogany -- crowned by a white marble (real or faux) countertop. If space is tight, choose a traditionally styled pedestal sink with a reeded column base and a curvy backsplash.

Either way, select traditional brass or pewter-look fittings, as ornate as you like. Underfoot, small black-and-white ceramic tiles are classic. Consider adding a chair rail with board-and-batten walls below and a wall-covering with a garden motif (especially roses, violets, and ivy) above.

If you've got a combination tub/shower or a claw-foot tub, curtain it with a colorful cotton chintz floral or crisp white cutwork curtains, and hang matching café curtains at the window. For the soap dispenser and other accessories, china with a floral pattern in your color scheme is pretty.

English country style blooms in fresh pastel colors: tea rose, cantaloupe, robin's egg blue, and buttercream paired with lettuce or celadon green. Choose a couple of these for your towels, soaps, and other accessories.

French Country

Charming French country is always in vogue. To create this romantic style, select a traditional pedestal sink with a reeded column base and a curvy backsplash, or choose a wood vanity cabinet, preferably in pecan or fruitwood, with cathedral-topped, raised-panel cabinet doors and "antique" brass pulls.

©Kohler Opulence in a small space distinguishes this elegant French-inspired bath.

Continue the look with a white porcelain sink with curvy brass or pewter-look fittings and a marble or faux-marble countertop. If you need extra storage, the French-born armoire is a great solution that follows the traditional look of freestanding furniture.

For color and practical beauty, terra-cotta floor tiles evoke the warmth of Provence, while hand-painted wall tiles and murals celebrate French artistry. For a shower curtain, choose a traditional Provençal print in cheery yellow, royal blue, and brick red; add a romantic balloon shade in a matching or coordinating print at the window.

For a romantic color scheme, take inspiration from the palettes of French Impressionist or Expressionist paintings, perhaps in vibrant yellow-green, violet-blue, and coral cut with white. For accessories, choose Provençal-inspired hand-painted pottery and ornately curved wrought iron.

18th Century

If you're seeking a no-fail recipe for timeless elegance, this handsome, refined look borrows elements from several historical American and English styles. Based on 18th-century designs that express consummate symmetry and grace, this look includes Queen Anne, Sheraton, curvy Duncan Phyfe, and Chippendale styles from the golden age of furniture design. Your 18th-century setting may also include later influences, from French Empire to early English Victorian.

Start with heirloom-quality maple or cherry vanities with cathedral-topped, raised-panel doors and Chippendale-style brass hardware. (For a lighter 18th-century look, choose a vanity from the same period but in antiqued white, perhaps with painted or gilded embellishments.)

Top cabinets with real or faux-marble countertops, and drop in pure white or hand-painted porcelain sinks in a traditional or scallop-shell shape, or find similarly styled pedestal sinks. Add traditionally styled, heavy brass fittings and accessories featuring neoclassical elements such as scallop shells and laurel leaf wreaths.

Tapestry and moiré-look wall-coverings and window treatments are appropriate and are now available in water-tolerant materials. They're handsome in muted jewel tones (old gold, blue-green, Federal blue, burgundy, and old rose), and they're lovely and fresh in the cameo-pale tones of tea rose pink, primrose yellow, celadon green, sky blue, and white.

Either way, you'll find the pedigreed look of 18th-century style gracious and wonderfully timeless.

Italian Villa

A spacious, luxurious bath seems made for Italian villa style. Inspired by the palatial yet airy homes of aristocrats from the time of the ancient Roman Empire to the opulent Renaissance, this style is luxurious but never heavy-handed.

To create such a masterpiece, it's best to start with an impressive shell: generously scaled Palladian windows; arched doorways; and high ceilings. Continue with other grand gestures, including ornately carved vanity cabinets in fine-grained hardwoods embellished with ornate, antiqued brass hardware.

For surrounding surfaces, why not evoke the spirit of a Roman bath? Italy is one of the world's finest sources of quarried stone and artisan-made tiles, so indulge in luxurious natural stone flooring, countertops, backsplashes, and even entire walls, especially in a walk-in shower area.

You can choose luxurious polished marble; durable, dramatic granite; interesting tumbled marble tiles; or hand-painted Italian tiles (or several of the above) to carry out your color scheme and decorating theme. Choose a hand-painted porcelain sink or one in a suite of fixtures, perhaps in a regal tone such as maroon, hunter green, eggplant, warm gold, or ivory.

If the budget allows, consider a pedestal sink that's a work of art itself in agate or rose quartz. For fittings, choose ornately designed, elegantly traditional brass or pewter, perhaps with faucet handles adorned with quartz or another semiprecious stone.

Call on faux-finishing artists to conjure up the richly antiqued look of an ancient palazzo with richly dimensional plaster walls, sponged or painted with fresco scenes. Accent with faux-bois woodwork finishes, and, if you've always yearned for a bit of opulent gilding, feel free to indulge your Midas touch here.

For the crowning effect, you may even commission a custom mural depicting the Tuscany countryside, a Roman temple ruin, or a Renaissance still life.


Get away from it all without leaving home in a rustic lodge/cabin-style bathroom. If you don't live in a log house, have a trompe l'oeil artist paint the "logs" on your walls, or, simpler yet, surround yourself with a palette of earth tones: greens, browns, and tans, accented with autumn-leaf colors of terra-cotta, brick red, and gold.

Choose a vanity in a rustic wood such as oak or knotty pine, and add a simple sink, perhaps a bronze, pewter, or white porcelain bowl that sits entirely on a countertop of slate, tumbled marble, or other textured, rustic surfacing material.

A claw-foot tub with an old-fashioned "sunflower" shower fixture and an unbleached muslin curtain would be fun in this room, but a plain walk-in shower tiled in tumbled marble would work equally well. Keep window treatments simple: stained wood shutters, Roman shades of plain muslin, or café curtains of homespun green-, brick-, or gold-and-white checks.

Keep metals matte (choose antiqued bronze-brass, pewter, or brushed nickel; not shiny brass, chrome, or stainless steel) and accessories in wood or stoneware colored to blend with your palette.


A bilingual blend of dramatic colonial Spanish and Native American influences, this is a look that offers timeless warmth and heritage for many homeowners, especially those in the Southwest. Frame the look with off-white plaster walls and exposed, dark-wood beams.

A rustic, darkly stained wood vanity with wrought-iron-look fixtures and hardware fits right in with this style. For contrast, choose countertops in off-white tumbled marble, solid surfacing, or laminate. Terra-cotta tiles make a handsome floor, and colorful Spanish tiles recall cooling courtyard fountains -- great around your spa tub!

Against the dark woods and white walls, choose accessories, shower curtains, and window coverings in desert tones of soft coral and gray-green, or create a bright, happy mood with shades of serape-inspired sunny gold, turquoise, brick red, yellow, and cobalt blue. Add baskets and, if your bathroom window has a sunny exposure, terra-cotta pots of cooling aloe vera plants.

©Yorktowne Cabinets Cabinets in rich cherry with cathedral-style doors express the dignity of 18th-century style.

Italy, Spain, and Portugal are home to many of the world's most wonderful designs in stone and tile, while southern France and Greece each contribute a distinctive aesthetic of their own. Taken together, these rich cultures offer inspiration for any size bath.

Mediterranean style includes freshly creative ideas in a context that's historically honored. It is a style that is also hearty and practical and makes an art of life's little pleasures. To get the look, choose a vanity cabinet in oak or pine (or, even more refined, in fruitwood or pecan) with antiqued brass fixtures and hardware.

Sinks in hammered brass or in porcelain with hand-painted Mediterranean-inspired motifs are available. For beautiful, durable countertops, you can't do better than the ceramic tiles for which Italy, Spain, and Portugal are world-famous.

Choose your color scheme -- perhaps the classic royal blue, sun yellow, and white -- and create a work of art with decorative tiles on your vanity countertop and backsplash. For walls, try the eye-catching combination of heavily textured plaster or stucco walls inset here and there with a jewel of a ceramic tile.

For soap dishes and other accessories, choose from a wealth of Mediterranean hand-painted pottery and the characteristic blue- and green-tinged heavy glassware of the region. If your window's very sunny, fill it with fragrant lavender or rosemary, and top with a sail-white Roman shade.

Traditional styles break down by genre as well as by time period. Continue on to the next page for an example of traditional style in the 1920s.

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Master Bath Decorating

©Rutt of Atlanta/John Umberger A custom vanity features a lighted swivel mirror and pull-out clothes and trash hampers to help keep clutter under wraps.

A new master suite in a handsome home, circa 1922, is a quietly luxurious retreat. A wealth of quality surfacing materials and intelligent design touches makes the space wonderfully livable as well as beautiful.

Safety was important from the start to these homeowners, so grab bars were secured on each side of the tub; the tub deck was kept clear of fittings for easy, seated entry; and a textured, nonskid ceramic tile floor and a built-in solid-surfacing bench were installed in the shower.


©Rutt of Atlanta/John Umberger Tumbled-marble floors were installed diagonally to create an extra-spacious look.

Custom cherry cabinets feature a beaded design on the door and drawer fronts that is elegant without being ostentatious. On the upper cabinets, glass-mullioned doors are curtained in pure white sheers for an airy, vintage look that keeps personal items out of sight. Open shelving shows off silver miniatures and favorite photos, while keeping towels handy.

While darker cherry tones create a feeling of rich history and home comfort, the decorating styles of the southwest convey a touch of vacationing in your own home. Find out how to bring a vacation style to your everyday life on the next page.

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Southwest Ranch

©Kohler Streamlined modern fixtures like this sink and toilet have a timeless sculptural look when set against natural materials.

A bath in a vacation home, especially one with great vistas all around, seems made for the kind of sculptural, timeless design these two rooms exhibit. While the materials are ageless, their strong, simple good looks, relying more on texture than on artifice, create a rather contemporary mood.

The mix is one of free-spiritedness, but with a certain comfort. In one bath here, weathered wood, rough-cut stone, and strategically placed beams work together to create a simple, striking room.


In a space like this, a great view easily takes on the starring role. In the other bath, rounded, playful architecture and some carefully placed niches for classical reference lend a fresh look to exposed brick and other rustic elements.

In this setting, whimsical accents and freestanding furniture add to the rich yet unassuming look. There are all kinds of comfort, and these baths illustrate just how easy to live with -- and how sophisticated -- rustic style can be.

If romantic settings are more to your liking than the rural decor of the southwest, continue to the next page to find out how to create a period-piece bathroom within budget.

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Romantic Decor

©FSC Wallcoverings The vanity, a spectacular inlaid chest, holds a sink bowl that rests completely on top of the vanity surface.

A powder room is the perfect place to indulge your fantasies about long-ago times or faraway places. In spaces this small, great ideas can often be rendered without breaking the bank.

An inventive example is the gold-and-cobalt-blue powder room designed like a miniature version of a 19th-century library. The window treatment (lined fabric with the look of Italian endpapers), the strongbox side table, and the library ladder all reinforce the literary look.


The ivory-and-taupe powder room conveys the quiet elegance of aristocratic, ancient China. Whatever locale or era you'd like to recall in your powder room, do some research first. Get the color scheme down right with materials appropriate to the look you're seeking.

Choose accessories with care to reinforce the style, and use just enough of them to make your design statement, no more. After all, what your guests want most in a powder room are proper function and scrupulous cleanness.

Romantic themes are also incorporated in French Provincial decor. Learn which details make for a perfect French-styled bath on the next page.

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French Provincial

©2Rutt of Atlanta/John Umberger A black metal side table with characteristic Empire crossed- lance legs offers space for a few extra toiletries and accessories.

There's no mistaking the French influence in these baths. Refined but not stuffy, they're filled with élan and a quintessentially chic spirit. One, enlisting the spirit of Cinderella or perhaps Marie Antoinette, has a distinctly coquettish air.

Faux accents are at their finest here, such as the painted drapery rod and swathe over the door that complements the faux drapery on the vanity mirror. The other bath, a restrained homage to the Napoleonic Empire period, uses black accents to create excitement with elegance. (The old designer's dictum that every room can benefit from a bit of shiny black gets put to good use in these two rooms.)

What's key to keeping these decorating ideas from becoming cliché? Sophisticated, largely neutral color schemes confined to a palette of white, cream, tan, brown, and black, plus a wash of sage green in one and a hint of old rose in the other.

While French Provincial incorporates specific styles from times past, contemporary designs feature a variety of themes influenced by modern times. Learn more about contemporary bathroom decorating on the next page.

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Contemporary Bathrooms

©Trout Studios/Tom Bonner An antique tub in a modern industrial loft space strikes a witty note in this simple, sophisticated bath.

Contemporary style embraces a fairly wide range of looks. "Modern" design is officially pegged to begin with the Arts & Crafts/Mission styles that arose in the early 20th century as a revolt against the fussiness of Victorian traditional style, but in the early 21st century, "modern" is popularly used to describe design icons from the 1930s to the '60s.

"Contemporary," sometimes used interchangeably with the word "modern," is less a structured concept and more a way of life. Contemporary is cool and clean and can be as casual or as elegant as you please. Because so much of a bath is dominated by modern fixtures anyway, many people simply choose contemporary style, regardless of what they're using in the rest of the house.

In general, contemporary style appears simpler than traditional: Curves are looser and more sculptural; squared-off angles are commonplace; surface details are minimized or eliminated; and textures, rather than representational images, offer interest.

Sculptural one-piece toilets, sleek built-ins of all kinds, minimal or simply shaped hardware, and lots of chrome are all contemporary design elements. Some modern-style products make a point of revealing their structure and function where traditional style would take pains to disguise them.

Others reduce forms to their simplest, essential expression, easily seen in abstract patterns of dolphins, leaves, etc., in contemporary fabric designs. Contemporary style is easily at home in the modern bath, since it's of the same generation. Whether the look is dramatic or serene, contemporary style at its best conveys an uplifting spirit of freshness and freedom.

California Spa

At home in transitional settings, this most popular of contemporary styles is softer than modern, cleaner than traditional, and easy to live with. Often credited to the legendary late designer Michael Taylor, refreshing yet sophisticated California style uses the neutrals of baskets, sea sponges, and driftwood plus every tone of white-on-white, from warm ivory to cool oyster-shell gray.

Soft pastels the color of sea glass may also play a part: Celadon (pale gray-green), lettuce (light yellow-green), and periwinkle (pastel blue-violet) are current favorites. Look for over-scaled, sleekly styled white porcelain spa tubs, pedestal sinks, or drop-in sinks in bleached-wood vanity cabinets.

Your cabinets may be frameless and hardware free; adorned with modern hardware in a silvery, brushed-nickel finish; or embellished with arty, offbeat hardware, such as pewter starfish.

Floors may be anything pale, beautiful, and practical: white marble (real or faux) or oversize white ceramic tiles laid on the diagonal to maximize space. Fluffy towels in white, sand, and ecru, and a few big shells to hold soaps are all the accessories you need.


Scandinavian contemporary, a less serious cousin of the 1950's Scandinavian modern, is a cheerful look that pairs whites and light wood tones with one or more bright primary colors. It's a can't-miss look for a kid's bath or one with a snappy sailing theme.

A vanity painted glossy white is a fresh look; naturally finished pale woods such as ash and beech make a nice alternative. A white porcelain drop-in sink has a simple, clean look; add a gooseneck faucet and fittings in colorful enameled steel for a jolt of fun and fashion.

For an interesting alternative to red/yellow/blue with white, choose intense secondary and tertiary colors such as teal, violet, and yellow-orange or lime. For long-term versatility, confine strong colors to towels and accessories, or choose the most staid of them -- royal blue and teal are bath favorites that work with many other colors -- for your border tiles and other installed accents.

Art Deco

This frankly glamorous style from the 1920s and '30s is well-suited to a contemporary bath where an extra bit of cool and drama is required. Based on white, ivory, and gray plus black and cool metallic tones, Art Deco is sophisticated and sleek.

©Kohler This urbane bath evokes the glitter of city lights at night with its glass-tiled wall and sparkling metallic accents.

If you'd like a bit more color, add tropical aqua and coral for a Miami influence, ice blue and mauve for the New York-to-Paris variant. Stylized, leaping antelopes, lotus flowers, palmetto leaves, and other exotic images of nature bring the Art Deco look to your ceramic tile borders and wall-coverings.

Traditional white pedestal sinks à la Grand Hotel and gleaming chrome fittings are perfect for this look, along with lots of mirrors. For accessories, look for silvery mercury glass and frosted glass.

If you prefer a vanity sink, look for one in blonde wood with chrome banding and hardware, or have a vintage "moderne" chest of drawers converted. A pale marble, solid-surfacing, or laminate vanity countertop is a natural.

Because it's a historical style, although a relatively recent one, Art Deco can be used to good effect in a traditional home. In fact, if you live in a pre-WWII-era house, you may find that a lot of existing elements, such as tile, are already in place in your bath!

Urban Loft

This savvy style owes its flair to Milan-style modern and its grit to industrial chic. Simple shapes in remarkable materials are key to the look; for example, see how polished granite, art glass, and stainless steel add light-catching sparkle to the space.

Choose a streamlined pedestal sink or a vanity with an interesting sink -- perhaps hammered stainless steel or an art-glass bowl that sits entirely on top of the counter.

For the vanity, choose a frameless, solid hardwood or metal model with finger grooves or modern statement-making door and drawer pulls. (For a slightly funkier 1950's brand of modern, spark the look with chrome banding, edges, and hardware, but skip the grooved designs -- they're hard to clean).

For the countertop, choose the smooth sweep of marble or granite (black with mica chips is dynamite) or plain solid surfacing, perhaps in gunmetal gray. If your budget decrees laminates, go either very plain or with a funky, abstract pattern or texture, and don't be afraid of showing a lot of metal, especially chrome and stainless steel. Specify nonslip ceramic, natural stone, or even commercial rubber floor tiles.

For your shower curtain, choose an abstract print in adventurous color combinations or in neutrals with an interesting texture. Window treatments should be minimal: Here's the place for narrow metal mini-blinds or a Roman shade in cotton duck.

Go for glossy ceramic wall tiles or high-gloss paint in white or, if space allows, a dramatic color that's decoratively inset in a backsplash. For accent colors, repeat your dramatic color, and add a few others -- acid green, teal or violet-blue, lush cantaloupe or scarlet -- and carry it out in accessories sparked with chrome and black.


Fun, funky, and confident, retro modern celebrates that bright, brash look from the 1940s and '50s. This practical style is great for a kid's bath or one off the family rec room: It offers easy cleaning with lots of glossy surfaces plus a look that's young, cheerful, and energetic.

To start, take your basic white bath, toss in a few bright primary colors and hot pastels (perhaps red, turquoise, and yellow, or coral, mint, and royal blue), and mix in a pinch or two of black for drama.

The classic retro look is a white pedestal sink; if you need the room, try a wood vanity painted in high-gloss white or, for the adventurous, metal finished with appliance-grade paints. Accent with shiny modern chrome fittings, and scour flea markets and architectural salvage dealers for chrome counter edging, fittings, and vintage modern cabinet hardware.

Choose retro-patterned vinyl or linoleum flooring and laminate countertops. Finish it off with perky café curtains or a valance in retro-print fabrics (available new or in savvy flea market shops) over metal Venetian blinds, with a matching shower curtain.

For accessories, choose any memorabilia that has a practical use, such as cartoon character mugs as toothbrush holders. With a slight shift of colors (lime instead of mint, for example) plus different fabric and laminate patterns, your retro look could flash forward to the early '60s.

If you fancy contemporary styling but with a high-end touch, continue to the next page to learn how to create the ultimate glamor bathroom.

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Glamor Bath

©Kohler A massive built-in marble vanity inset with a pair of squared-off sink bowls creates an austere and handsome design.

If you're in the market for a really fabulous, totally modern bath, this one offers great inspiration. But it also exhibits the intelligent use of design concepts that can work just as well in a smaller room.

For example,­ this bath is obviously large, but even a small space will look bigger if you keep the vanity, walls, and flooring in the same light tones and smooth textures.

If marble or solid-surfacing materials are outside the realm of your budget, there are plenty of good-looking laminates in pale, creamy tones to choose from.

Frameless mirrors are proven winners in creating a more spacious, brighter atmosphere; here, a row of mirrored medicine cabinets offers storage as well as dazzle.

©Kohler A circular skylight echoes the line of the curved shower wall, balancing the array of square ad rectangular shapes elsewhere in the bathroom.

You may not have room for this many cabinets, but try a triptych (three-section) mirrored cabinet on one wall with the same model on the opposite or adjacent wall, and see how the space opens up.

©Kohler A built-in banquette seat, comfortably upholstered in moisture-resistant fabric in the same color as the walls utilizes the classic roll pillows popular since ancient Roman times.

The smooth curves of this glamor bathroom aren't the only way to create a striking design. Continue to the next page to find out how jagged edges of quartzite can capture a stunning, contemporary look with just a few simple tiles.

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Cutting-Edge Contemporary Bath

©Lori Carroll, ASID/Bill Lesch A custom cabinet with a mahogany radius front cradles a stainless-steel sink, and a black granite top was added to complete an elegant, contemporary piece of functional art..

An ordinary 36-foot powder room was transformed into a dramatic jewel of a space with an otherworldly contemporary design. To keep the room visually spacious, branched quartzite from Brazil was randomly placed as the flooring and as the wall accent.

This quartzite is a metamorphic sandstone formed by water and minerals traveling through the capillaries of the stone, creating a unique texture and veins, or dendrites, that appear as "branches" in the stone.

©2Lori Carroll, ASID/Bill Lesch Along the walls, branched quartzite stone from Brazil was chiseled for subtle visual movement.

Black granite tiles matching the vanity countertop were also used as flooring to unite all elements of the room. Both the wall stone and the mirror edge were randomly chiseled to create a sense of visual movement.

For even more drama, a combination of metallic finishes was applied to the walls, imparting a subtle, gleaming luster.

©Lori Carroll, ASID/Bill Lesch Repeating the rhythm established by the chiseled title, the mirror was cut and set into a mahogany wood frame. A 1.5-inch gap between the wall and mirror encloses an incandescent rope lighting, creating extra drama and interest.

Tiny pendant lights dangle like silver jewelry before the mirror, echoing the sparkle of the stainless-steel sink. This bath is proof you don't need a big space, just a big design concept!

The color scheme of a space is just as important as its edges and curves. Continue to the next page to find out how color can make a bathroom design really pop.

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Color Explosion Bath

©Kohler Slightly larger floor tiles and wall paint, all in the same shade of deep blue, create a cocoon-like ambiance.

Fields of strong color played against bright white fixtures is a foolproof recipe for an exciting contemporary space. If your budget is limited, you can make a memorable statement just by painting the walls in one or two of your favorite vivid colors.

For the most striking look, choose two widely different colors, such as royal blue and lime; for a more subtle sense of depth, choose two adjacent colors like royal blue and violet or lime and leaf green.

Against such strong hues, even the simplest white fixtures gleam with fresh importance. If your budget allows, you can build up the look with installed materials that create pleasing variations on your color theme.

These two baths use tiles -- some solid-color mosaic, some a mottled mix of related tones -- to create depth and interest within a limited color range. Silvery chrome and glass are all you need to complete this artful, modern look.

The color scheme of a room's tiles and fixtures isn't the only way to play with color. Continue to the next page to find out how the subtle tones of nature outside a bathroom window can set the palette for a design.

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Drawing from Nature

©Kitchens Wieland/Hub Willson A clear glass wall is all that separates the shower stall from the adjacent tub, providing a wonderfully framed woodland view for anyone in the shower.

If privacy isn't a problem on your property, why not treat your bath to the same scenic pleasures you give your living room? These homeowners added space from a nearby bedroom and closet to their small existing bath to create a new 31x9-foot bath worthy of its inspiring garden view.

The lovely view is made even more inspiring with wonderful framing. A half-round window as long as the soaking tub is a dramatic focal point, its pleasing demi-lune shape evoking the classic curve of Palladian windows but with much more dash.

©Kitchens Wieland/Hub Willson A huge semi-circular window with a black lining creates a simple but spectacular frame for a natural view.

To enhance the spacious effect, the room was given a cathedral ceiling by opening the original into the attic. For an added artistic touch, a band of contrasting-color tiles runs along the backsplash of the vanity and tub and defines an area of the floor.

©Kitchens Wieland/Hub Willson Quiet hues of ivory and pale taupe make a soothing contemporary bath. A custom mural in green and copper tiles enlivens the double-sink vanity.

Against the calm taupe ground, this green-and-copper band serves as a blithe reminder of nature's own color scheme just outside the window.

If your bathroom location isn't conducive to a natural theme, try using dramatic dimensions to draw the focus indoors. Learn how to use striking curves to define your bathroom space.

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Creating Drama

©Kohler The mottled-color textured wall behind this pedestal sink sets off its sharp black-and-white design.

While many people would be tempted to turn this generously sized bath into a Renaissance showplace, this owner clearly had something else in mind. The extremely confident minimalist design ends up making even more of all that space.

Borrowing concepts from the industrial loft-style design aesthetic, this bath uses a color scheme of high-contrast neutrals and dramatically simple shapes repeated throughout the space. Most of these shapes are curved; notably, the oval black rail around the showpiece tub.

Using curved shapes makes a huge difference in giving a stark space an inviting air. This room would have a very different feeling if the tub were enclosed in a square frame and the sink were housed in a squared-off vanity.

©Kohler This classic slipper tub looks brand new with its black steel frame and brushed-metal feet.

That's not to say sharper geometrics don't have their place here: The rectangular windows, with their characteristically modern horizontal dividers, admit floods of light. Some might say space and light are among the few real luxuries. This owner clearly agrees.

Some also think space and light should be the only components of a bathroom design. Learn about how minimalism brings elegance of simplicity to design on the following page.

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Clean Lines

©Trout Studios The sandstone creates a stripe effect that relieves the minimalist white walls and fixtures. The bowl-shape sink adds a distinctive touch without disrupting the minimalist serenity.

Minimalism makes a lot of sense in the bathroom. Its lack of physical clutter makes the room safer and easier to use and to clean, and the lack of visual clutter makes the space more serene.

In a minimalist bath, the limited number of elements and embellishments stands out all the more dramatically. Two baths in a California home, one a master bath and the other a powder room, express the same minimalist design aesthetic in different ways.

In the master bath, the design concept uses a variety of rectangular shapes, from the sinks to the medicine cabinet to the unobtrusive down lights mounted high on the sink wall.

©Trout Studios/Tom Bonner These medicine cabinets open in a T-shape configuration when the mirror panel is pivoted sideways, allowing access to the cabinet's contents and making use of the mirror.

In the powder room, round and oval shapes dominate the foreground, contrasting with rectangular forms in the background.

The plan is carefully thought out and just as meticulously executed, a necessity for success with a minimalist look.

Although minimalist styles involve simplicity, a basic design doesn't have to be devoid of color. Continue to the next page to find out how a green-and-white color scheme can create a beautiful yet simple bathroom design.

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Fresh and New

©Geberit/McHale & Koepke An oval pedestal sink makes a sleek, pleasingly sculptural statement in any contemporary bath.

Modern designs seem most successful when they take maximum advantage of what contemporary style stands for: a free-spirited, aesthetically honest, and technologically savvy approach to creating an environment for living.

In this space, a fresh green-and-white color scheme couldn't be simpler; sparked with a few metallic accents, it's youthful and interesting without being overly dramatic.

Perhaps the most remarkable element in this bath is one of the least obtrusive: the toilet. A European design, this wall-hung toilet is height-adjustable, making it comfortable for taller users.

The plumbing works are built into the wall, so it's best suited for a renovation or new construction rather than a simple fixture-replacement project.

©Gerberit/McHale & Koepke For the ultimate in clean-cut design, the height-adjustable toilet's tank is built right into the wall, saving up to 9 inches of room and making the sleekest possible visual statement.

The rest of the suite carries through this clean-lined, elegantly simple design. And the look isn't limited to contemporary settings: Since bathroom fixtures as we know them didn't exist during most historical periods, you may prefer these unobtrusive models even in a traditional décor.

For a different take on a green-themed bathroom, check out the next page where you'll find an example of a gorgeous yellow-and-green themed room with an added bonus: universal accessibility. Learn more on the next page.

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Accessible and Stylish

©Kohler Vanity counter tops at two heights accommodate homeowners with different needs; the lower sink is idea for children and wheelchair users.

Yellow and green, nature's most bright and hopeful colors, work nicely together in this bath that proves universal accessibility can go hand-in-hand with style. The citrus tones lend a cheery, youthful air, while the neutral tones of cabinets and counter tops offer a soothing counterpoint.

This savvy space features a double vanity with counters and sinks at two heights, and instead of fixed storage below that might get in the way, the cabinets roll on casters. Gooseneck faucets and wing-handled controls add to the free-spirited look.

Even small, practical details contribute to the good looks of this space: Satin-finished grab bars mounted all around the shower stall make a gleaming, useful accent; similar bars hold towels on the front of the vanities.

©Kohler This roll-in shower, tiled in happy tones, is fun and spacious enough for any user.

Other colors and finishes could be used to create a more traditional atmosphere, but these elements and ideas are all adaptable to just about any bath. It's even adaptable to a bathroom with no coloring at all! Learn how to make a bright white space work with style on the next page.

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Bright White

©Bathroom Works/Ideal Pale aqua and the creamy tones of naturally finished wood are a perennially popular color scheme that works especially well against pristine white fixtures.

While fixtures are available in virtually any color today, white is still the overwhelmingly preferred color. Some consumers will choose white fixtures even if they're installing very colorful permanent tiles as backgrounds, so the popularity of white fixtures isn't due solely to practicality.

One of the reasons white remains right in so many homeowners' minds is obviously that "white goes with everything." White fixtures look peaceful against pale blue walls today, brilliant against burgundy red ones tomorrow.

But even if you commit to a strongly colored wall in a permanent material, white fixtures still give you maximum leeway to change your scheme. The same pale blue plus white that looks young and fresh with lime green towels and accessories will appear sharply sophisticated with black towels and accessories.

Another reason white fixtures may be retaining their appeal is even more simple: Traditional or modern, the shapes of bath fixtures just stand out more interestingly in white!

A white space can also double as a canvas if you decide to redecorate. Check out the next page for tips on how to create a bathroom with the feeling of the great outdoors using original murals and forest scenes.

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High Style

©Kohler A suite of gleaming black porcelain fixtures adds a dash of drama while the antique-looking rug and wood armchair provide an extra measure of comfort.

Original murals on canvas depicting scenes of the forest and sea pay homage to the great outdoors in this magnificent bathroom. Stained glass, cherry millwork, sophisticated black fixtures, and other artful elements also play starring roles in the richly embellished space.

Adjacent to the mirror above the pedestal sink, custom-designed stained glass depicts animals and oak leaves and is back-lit for added drama. (Custom stained glass is appearing in more baths of all sizes as an artful alternative to window coverings.)

The shower wall features hand-glazed putty-colored tiles repeating the theme of woodland animals and oak leaves. Custom-designed cherry wood millwork used throughout the bath is all stained to match a woodgrain vinyl floor installed on the diagonal.

©Kohler Custom-painted murals depicting forest and seagoing themes raise this bathroom's look to an aristocratic level.

If you're on a budget but your heart is set on a custom mural, consult a nearby art school; if the historical look of murals is what you're after, wall-covering versions are also available.

If you want to leave the mural behind but still create an overall theme, continue onto the next page to find out how one layer of lacquer can transform a bathroom into an Asian-influenced aesthetic.

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Far East Bath

©Elaine Siegel Cinnabar makes this large double vanity an especially striking focal point. The vanity includes a shared upper cabinet with a frosted glass door reminiscent of classic Asian shoji screens.

A bath clearly inspired by the timeless Chinese aesthetic is dramatic, restrained, exciting, and simple -- all at the same time. Cinnabar, the rich red color of Chinese lacquer, takes center stage on a masterfully designed vanity and is balanced by strong planes of black and white throughout the room.

One design element that contributes to the solid sense of dignity in this space is a series of grids: small on the authentic Asian shoji screen, mid-size on the cabinet's mullions, and large on the floor tiles and transom-height windows.

©Elaine Siegel An assortment of Chinese artifacts brings out additional accent colors of jade and celadon green as well as adding an elegant extra touch to underscore the room's theme.

Contrasting this rather austere geometry, Chinese scenes of nature and a vase filled with exuberant sprays of white orchids create a soothing balance.

©Elaine Siegel Even small details are handled perfectly to create a special ambiance in this bathroom: carved bun feet in ebony give the vanity a freestanding-furniture look.

Where a Western modern design based on red, white, and black would most likely be a sharper look, this design reveals its Asian sensibilities with a richer, more subtle color scheme that also includes a floor interestingly mottled in blues and greens and a variety of jade green accents.

Another way to accent a bathroom is by using geometric designs and patterns. Continue to the next page to to learn how these can drastically "shape" your bathroom decor.

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Using Patterns

©Trout Studios Angled showers are often inherently dramatic, but this one is a cut above the rest. The meticulous decorative tile pattern on the floor appears on a smaller scale in the shower.

This masterful master bath indulges its owner's love affair with strong geometric patterns. A riot of stripes, triangles, and related shapes are combined and repeated in a dizzying array that creates the optical illusion of physical dimension on a flat plane and movement in an architectural space.

The overall effect is not jarring, however, just tremendously energizing. The design, while fearless, stays within the bounds of comfort thanks to a soothing color scheme of neutrals: gold, brown, taupe-gray, white, and black.

This strategy makes sense regardless of how opulent your bath plan may be. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you can manage a floor made of no less than five different kinds of marble, a show-stopping shower stall, and a vanity as handsome and dramatic as a piece of drawing room furniture.

But even if you can't quite muster these extraordinary elements, you can still aim for a winning look of restrained richness and focused energy.

Patterns can be modern or traditional, making them part of the "transitional" style of decorating. Continue on to the next page for more on transitional styles and why they make such ideal designs for bathroom decorating.

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Transitional Styled Bath

©Andersen Windows This Asian-inspired bath delivers both serenity and balance in simple abundance.

Transitional styles are just that: transitions between traditional and contemporary styles. Many of today's most exciting rooms are expressions of transitional designs, born of the tension between old and new, ornate and clean-cut, romantic and edgy.

But transitional style is more than just exciting. It can also be very practical because it fearlessly borrows options from both traditional and contemporary venues. In transitional styles, you'll see rustic or elegant looks that span centuries but are united by one or more strong design elements: perhaps a repetition of colors or patterns that cleverly create a mood.

You'll also see rustic and elegant elements combined, again most successfully when they share a bond of color or mood. In transitional styles, the most modern fixtures may keep company with tiles that were modern in the days of the Caesars, and brand-new designs inspired by ecology meet up with those inspired by nature 100 years ago.

Sophisticated yet very livable, transitional styles will get you where you live!


If you love to travel and appreciate a sophisticated scheme that can't be easily pigeonholed, you may be drawn to the wit and dignity of eclectic style. A deft blend of antique and modern, practical and inspirational, eclectic takes the best from many eras.

A great eclectic look might be a traditional-style vanity in fine cherry or mahogany with a modern, art-glass countertop sink and sparkling modern light fixtures in metal and glass. Another might be a massive, traditional pedestal sink with contemporary-style fittings and lots of mirrors or a stainless-steel counter atop a Shaker-style wood vanity.

For unusual storage in a generously sized bath, consider a French country armoire or an Asian cabinet. A mix of natural or ethnic-inspired materials -- marble, granite, ceramic tiles that look like tumbled marble, terra-cotta, or ethnic-patterned tiles -- is handsome and timeless; wrought-iron pulls, handmade baskets, and other ethnic touches are nice embellishments for your eclectic bath.

What works with everything: Asian art and textiles that celebrate nature in a stylized way, such as batiks; wood shutters or matchstick blinds; glass and glass-look acrylic pulls and accents; rich neutrals (ebony, ivory, mahogany); a few jewel-tone colors; and shapes that are either pared way down or flawlessly crafted.

Here's the place for that African basket, Chinese lacquer tray, modern black-and-white photo, and Shaker cabinet.

Arts & Crafts/Mission

Arts & Crafts/Mission

Handsome Arts & Crafts and Mission styles offer modern simplicity and traditional warmth and celebrate the handmade and artisan-crafted. More cerebral than the cabin look, more contemporary than American country, Arts & Crafts/Mission style is great in bungalows, lodge-style houses, and anywhere a rustic yet creative style is wanted.

To create the look in your bath, reach for rich, dark, earthy colors -- mustard, bottle green, wine, paprika, chocolate, and spice brown. Mission style is fairly easy to find in cabinets today, especially in oak, so find one and top it with a counter in tumbled-marble tiles, slate, or, best of all, ceramic tiles in stylized patterns and earthy colors.

Except for Mediterranean, no other style makes so much use of handmade, hand-painted tiles, so if you can't use them everywhere, use plain ceramic tiles for the most part and lavish decorative tiles on the backsplash, chair rail, and countertop border.

For more Arts & Crafts/Mission elements, specify bronze or wrought-iron hardware and wallcoverings in stylized leaf and flower motifs (oak leaves, acorns, ivy, tulips, and anything by Arts & Crafts founder William Morris). For accents, clue into colorful pottery, wooden bowls, and hand-glazed ceramic tiles.

Ethnic Flair

Rich elements from many cultures go into the exotic mix of this style. A more down-to-earth cousin of urbane eclectic style, Ethnic Flair goes global and comes on strong in the new millennium. Start with a neutral foundation like textured white plaster or mottled stone-look tiles and a dark, distressed-wood vanity cabinet topped in stone or faux-stone counters.

This look was made for the new sink bowls in hammered metal or art glass that sit entirely on top of the counter: Pair one with a primitive-style gooseneck faucet and inventive fittings in antiqued brass or brushed nickel. Add practical terra-cotta tile flooring; a simple, in-floor shower area; and Roman shades or tent-flap-style window coverings in plain muslin or ethnic-patterned textiles.

©Decora A reinterpretation of the classic Asian stacked cabinets makes a handsome addition to this bath's storage. Open shelving with pull-out rattan baskets enhances the exotic yet dignified look.

For color schemes, take inspiration from native textiles. Choose paprika, ebony, ivory, spice brown, and gold in bold chevron patterns, jewel-toned paisleys, brilliant silk sari hues, or whatever handsome hand-loomed look strikes your fancy.

Stick to a few high-impact decorative accessories: hammered, enameled brass; wrought iron; earthenware; wooden bowls; and woven baskets (but avoid Babel). In addition to ethnic patterns, you can select motifs from the natural world -- whimsical frogs, elegant herons, dignified elephants, and tropical flowers and foliage -- that affirm ecological awareness.

Just for fun, scout out artifacts devised of recycled industrial products, a hallmark of inventive local cultures around the world.

Beach House

While not strictly a style, waterfront schemes in the bath are so popular they warrant mention on their own. The affinity of water with bathrooms is a natural, so it's no wonder so many bathroom schemes feature images of the sea, such as boats, shells, fish, an so on.

The shell-shocked beach look has become a 1950's cliché, however, so it takes a bit of thought to render the concept freshly. If you like traditional style, American country, English country, Mediterranean, and lodge/cabin lend themselves to the beach cottage look.

Whitewashed walls and cabinets, a classic blue-and-white palette, and a very few, carefully chosen, vintage accessories such as carved wooden shore birds or sailboats do the job nicely. A more opulent traditional bath might utilize formal, neoclassical shell motifs, perhaps with an 18th-century color palette of ivory, shell pink, and taupe.

If you like contemporary style, California Spa is easy: Whites, the neutrals of driftwood and sea sponges, and sea-glass blue-green accents bring the look home.

In any of these settings, natural shells used in moderation are lovely, but don't be tempted to "improve" them with dyes, glue, or flowers. A large conch or sawtooth clamshell is great to hold soaps; a clear, heavy brandy snifter filled with the very best finds from family beach vacations recalls happy memories.

Looking for a timelessly elegant bathroom? Continue on to the next page for a simple and elegant bathroom decorating idea.

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Simple and Elegant Bath

Modern light fixtures are suitable for the room's clean-lined minimalist decor.

Texture overrules ornamentation in this simple and elegant bathroom. The smooth grain of the bath's wood cabinets and the frosted-glass shower enclosure have a natural drama that doesn't require excessive fixtures.

The large-size floor tiles also interject interest with their restful and subdued mixture of colors. Smoky gray and beige, like pebbles washed ashore, the tiles have a serene character evocative of leisurely strolls along a beach.

Continuing the hazy-hued tiles as a tub surround lends a woodland feel to the bathing area. Resting in the warm water, a bather can lean back and see the treetops through the high windows in the bathing area that let in the light while preserving privacy.

Towels in the same neutral color family as the walls blend with the setting.

To safeguard the feeling of harmony, clutter is not allowed. Instead, the bath is equipped with plenty of storage that also acts as part of the design.

The bath's quiet mood also stems from the comforting, neutral shade of the walls and the ceiling. Closely identified today with Asian styles of decorating, the pale colors are thought to give the mind time to dream and relax.

Two grooming areas, each arranged with a mirror, allow a couple to share the space without battling for elbow room. The vanity area, though, includes a small magnifying mirror that makes it even more beneficial during daily grooming.

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