For novice home remodelers, room colors can feel like an overwhelming design choice. For seasoned experts, finding the perfect mix of light, bright, and pattern may turn into a frustrating color exercise. In small bathrooms in particular—our places of retreat, of waking up, of winding down—color plays a key role. No matter where you are on your color-picking journey, find inspiration and tips in these 10 small bathroom color ideas.
Your trim is also a color in your room, whether it's painted or stained. Don't forget to paint swatches of possible colors next to the trim so that you can see how the undertones in the wood contrast or complement the overall colors.
Look at other rooms—not just bathrooms—to find color combos that appeal to you. Also review fabric, wallpaper, paint chips, and floor samples and create an inspiration board to find common color themes. "Pick colors using objects as your guide—an old celadon teapot, the burnt sienna in a paisley fabric, a blade of grass," says Sasha Emerson, a Los Angeles designer. "It's so much more lively than paint chips. I always, always, always start with a thing."
Accessories can be an effective element in a small bathroom to supply complementary color or pretty pattern. When it comes to window treatments in your small bathroom, if your bathroom's view isn't great, use contrasting color for focus; if the window should stand out, blend the curtains more with the walls. "Everyone thinks of walls when they think of color," says David Bromstad, HGTV designer for Color Splash and First-Time Design. "But using color in accessories—rugs, pillows, art—makes an amazing impression without going crazy on the walls."
Even after you've figured out your favorite colors, it's still important to play around with hues and tones. Test samples on a wall, placing them at least 3 feet away from each other so you don't blend the colors together. Paint swatches in different parts of the room—by a window, by trim, in a dark corner, in a light corner. "Give yourself permission to use lots of samples and make a mess of your walls until you find the perfect color," says Kelly Keiser, a designer.
Perhaps you look at your bathroom as a zen-inspired space. Or maybe you welcome an invigorating room that's bright and lively. Different colors and tones create dissimilar sensations and feelings. Case in point: A buttery yellow feels much softer than a sunshine-inspired tone. As you're thinking about what colors will work in your small bathroom, make sure to review lights, darks, and a range of choices in the full color spectrum.
If you're worried about adding too much color in a small bathroom, you can stick with neutrals—but play with them a little. Mix and match textures or use off-white on a ceiling or on trim, instead. "When you put a warm white next to a color, it will still look bright and crisp," says Barry Dixon, a Washington, D.C., designer.
Walls are typically the dominant color feature in a small bathroom. If you're worried about introducing too much color, try this advice. "In a small room, keep walls the same color as the primary furniture," says Jeffrey Bilhuber, New York City designer. In a small bathroom, that may be a stool or chair, or even the sink cabinet. "The room will seem twice the size."
If keeping your small space cheery is a primary goal, ask at the paint store about the color's light reflectance value (LRV). "The higher the LRV, the more light will bounce around the room," says Kelly Berg, San Francisco-area color consultant. "The lower the LRV, the more the color will absorb light, which will make the room seem moody."
Want to quickly figure out what colors inspire you? Look no further than your closet and what you use to accent your wardrobe. "Raid your accessories," says Grant K. Gibson, a San Francisco designer. "Your handbags, belts, and jewelry are bound to contain more colors that excite you."
Just because a space is small doesn't mean that dark colors are out of the question. When contrasted with bright white trim, for example, or a white vanity, a dark color can make a small bathroom feel intimate and cozy.