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Try these tricks to narrow down your color choices and pick the perfect palette for your small bathroom.

By Kelly Roberson and Jessica Bennett
Updated January 12, 2021
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Your bathroom color scheme can have a profound effect on the overall mood of the space. Certain colors can make a bathroom feel bright and energizing, calm and relaxing, or somewhere in between. Especially in a small bathroom, a few touches of color can go a long way in making the space feel personalized. But with so many combinations to choose from, selecting the perfect bathroom colors can feel like an overwhelming decision. To help narrow down your choices, consider the overall feeling you want to create, then build your palette from there. When adding color to a small bathroom, you should consider a variety of design elements, including paint colors, tile, light fixtures, rugs, and accessories like hand towels and decorative items. And since space is tight, you'll want to make your color choices count, so achieving the right balance is key. Here are 12 small bathroom color ideas to consider when remodeling or refreshing your space.

large marble sink in modern bathroom
Credit: Edmund Barr

1. Think beyond white for small bathroom colors.

White is a favorite bathroom color choice for its bright, clean look and ability to make a small bathroom appear larger. But it doesn't have to be your default if all-white spaces aren't your style. Small bathrooms, including powder rooms and guest bathrooms, are an excellent opportunity to play with bolder hues and patterns that you might otherwise shy away from in larger living spaces. Pair a vibrant wall color with statement-making floor tile to pack big style into a tight space.

2. Balance bright colors with a neutral.

Choosing a bright color is a great way to liven up a small bathroom, but it can appear garish if applied too liberally. Try applying a vivid hue, such as turquoise or coral, as an accent color on a single wall, with a vanity paint job, or through a colorful tile backsplash. Then balance the brightness with neutral color choices elsewhere. For example, white walls and trim can provide a neutral foundation that works well with a variety of colors. Depending on whether your accent color is warm or cool, beige or gray surfaces can also make the brighter hue pop.

Sink with blue design wallpaper and wicker basket
Credit: Brie Williams

3. Consider trim colors.

Whether it's painted or stained, your trim plays a role in your bathroom color scheme. Especially when selecting colors for large elements like walls and flooring, it's important to consider how the hues will work with the trim. Try painting swatches of possible colors next to the trim to see how the undertones in the trim's wood finish or paint color contrast with the overall scheme. If the colors clash rather than complement, you can always paint the trim, too.

4. Find bathroom color inspiration.

Look to magazines or sites like Pinterest to find bathroom color combinations that appeal to you. To map out possible design choices, review fabric, wallpaper, paint chips, and floor samples and pick your favorites. Then 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."

yellow bathroom accents
Credit: Richard Leo Johnson

5. Introduce pattern with accessories.

Accessories can be an effective element in a small bathroom to supply complementary colors or pretty patterns. "Everyone thinks of walls when they think of color," says David Bromstad, HGTV designer for the series Color Splash. "But using color in accessories—rugs, pillows, art—makes an amazing impression without going crazy on the walls." Bathroom window treatments are another opportunity to experiment with color. If your bathroom's view isn't great, use a contrasting color for focus; if the window should stand out, blend the curtains more with the walls.

6. Test small bathroom paint colors.

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, such as by a window, near trim, in a dark corner, and 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 San Francisco-based designer.

rustic bathroom with yellow wallpaper tiled floor
Credit: David A. Land

7. Choose your intended mood.

Perhaps you want your bathroom to feel like a serene, Zen-inspired space. Or maybe you prefer an invigorating room that's bright and lively. Using different combinations of small bathroom colors can help you create your intended mood. Case in point: A buttery yellow feels much softer and more relaxing than a sunshine-inspired tone, which appears upbeat and vibrant. As you're thinking about what colors will work in your small bathroom, make sure to review lights, darks, and the full range of choices in the color spectrum.

8. Mix neutral bathroom colors.

If you're worried about adding too much color in a small bathroom, applying a neutral color scheme is a safe bet. To keep the palette from looking flat or boring, 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 designer based in Virginia.

white neutral dormer bathroom mirrored cabinets vessel sink striped rug
Credit: Michael Partenio

9. Maintain color continuity.

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 might be a stool or chair, or even the sink cabinet. "The room will seem twice the size."

10. Play with the light value.

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."

Wood Plank Walls blue vanity
Credit: Christina Wedge

11. Look in your closet for small bathroom color ideas.

Peek into your closet to quickly determine what colors inspire you. The hues that dominate your wardrobe can offer clues for small bathroom color ideas. "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."

12. Don't be afraid of dark bathroom colors.

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. Accessorize with metallic accents, such as brass hardware and fixtures, to add shine that cuts through the darkness.

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