How to Choose the Best Bathroom Color
If you're looking to add a bit of color pizzazz to your bathroom, or want to update cabinets and walls for a fresh look, here's advice from our design experts on the best colors to use in a bathroom.
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Get a Color Wheel
Although you probably don't know it, most color schemes come directly from the rules of the color wheel. Why do purple and yellow go together? They're across from each other on the color wheel, making them complementary. How about green and blue? They're next to each other, making them analogous. So, to give yourself a good background, as well as quick and easy solutions to your color questions, turn to a color wheel.
Choose Three Colors
The rule of three is a great guiding principle for creating a bathroom color scheme. Pick one neutral, one rich color, and one accent. To do it successfully, think about proportion and rely on a 70/20/10 distribution: Use the lightest color for 70 percent of the room's decor, the second lightest for 20 percent, and the boldest for 10 percent.
Neutrals can be combined in different ways, though. For example, white plus cocoa brown plus light green equals cool, clean, and classic. But white, cocoa brown, and Kelly green is energizing and uplifting.
Mix Two Neutrals
A mostly neutral color scheme can go a long way toward establishing a bathroom atmosphere of serenity and calm. Again, rules of proportion apply: For two colors, focus on a distribution of 70/30. Two neutrals, such as gray and white, make a really interesting color scheme that's understated without being boring. For added visual interest, include pattern, such as herringbone tile in a floor, or veined marble on countertops or wainscoting.
Follow the Second Rule of Three
No matter what colors you're focusing on, don't forget the second rule of three: When you pick a color, use it at least three times in a room. That may mean in towels, sink-side accents, or a piece of furniture in a bathroom.
Contrast Two Brights
If you want your bathroom color scheme to be more energetic than restful, consider a collection of updated brights. For example, orange and blue are complementary and invigorating. In order to add a bit of calm to this type of color scheme, use white in the trim, sink, tub, or another central piece in the room. Plus, fun-colored extras in linens can give your bathroom a new look without breaking the bank or being a permanent addition. "A little healthy tension is good. I like to inject a bit of surprise in my color schemes. If you don't have an eye for it, find a fabric or art with an interesting mix of colors and use that as your guide," says designer Liz Levin with lizlevininteriors.com
Don't Be Afraid of Dark Colors
Many people skip warm, rich, deep tones in favor of lighter and brighter in small rooms. That's too bad, because colors such as cocoa can offer dramatic contrast, especially in a room balanced with white trim and white fixtures. And, with a dose of another hue, such as bright green, the overall effect is animated and contemporary at the same time. "People are nervous to put dark colors in small rooms. But they don't make the rooms seem smaller, they just make them darker. Use mercury glass and mirrored lamps to make the room less cavelike," says Kishani Perera, a Los Angeles designer.
Naturally inspired hues—such as seafoam green and robin's-egg blue—typically make great combos and help to enhance an organic vibe in a bathroom. These types of colors are also great to help soften otherwise hard edges and geometric shapes in our bathing spaces.
Balance Fun Selections with a Neutral
If your color palette tends toward more exuberant tones—apple green and hot pink, for example—go for it, but choose one neutral as a balance and a base. For example, a creamy light brown might be a counterpoint on walls or in a big piece of furniture. "Think of paint as a complementary background instead of what knocks you down upon entering a room," Levin says. "I want fabrics and furniture to be the stars and the wall color to quietly tie it all together. Save those bold colors for a small accent like the back of a built-in or for reviving an old accent chair."
Look to the Rest of Your Home
When it doubt, draw color inspiration for your bathroom from the rest of your home. Pick up on an accent color in your living space, for example, and make it the dominant color in your bathroom. Although the rooms will maintain their own identity, they'll have a flow that will enhance your home's overall aesthetic, too.