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Bathroom Decorating Ideas

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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