Powder rooms are essentially two-piece, half baths that are used mainly by guests to your home. For those of us lucky to have them, this is a place where you can go crazy in terms of design.
The term powder room has been used since the early 18th century when people would enter a closet-sized room to have extra powder applied to their wigs, the must-have, fashionable item of the day. Indoor plumbing had not arrived at that time so powdering their wigs was all people would do in the powder room. When working indoor toilets came, the name stuck, so visiting the powder room became a socially acceptable way to leave the dinner table to do, in a bathroom, what we all do. When makeup came into general use, women started using the powder room again to powder their noses and repair their makeup.
A powder room is often overlooked when creating a look for a house. But it really is a place that must be considered and designed very carefully, so your guests have a good experience walking into a small space that is well decorated. I tend to go with primarily neutral walls in my design plans, and therefore the powder room is the perfect place for me to display my creativity. Which is what I did in my own powder room.
I decided to do a very jazzy wallpaper because a powder room is somewhere where you never get tired of your walls since you spend so little time in them. I rarely go into my powder room, so I always like to have the door slightly ajar to get a little peek of my walls. My wallpaper is a gorgeous royal blue with gold painting and comes from York Wallcoverings. I also have a trio of my Rosenthal vases. These I collect as anyone familiar with my channel knows. Most I’ve found either at estate sales or on eBay. The artwork on the walls has ornate frames and is just beautifully painted. The pieces are not by anyone noteworthy. They are just beautiful pieces of art that I stumbled on at an estate sale.
What I love most about my powder room are the hummingbirds that seem happy just to be flying on my walls. They look adorable and have lots of color and detail to them. My chandelier is a Lucite, mid-century piece, and I absolutely love it and bought it for this space. I always like to have linen napkins available instead of paper towels. Not only are they more eco-friendly, but, in terms of design, they are also much more attractive displayed on a towel rack. I carried the black and white marble from my foyer into the bathroom for uniformity. My baseboards are marble, and if you can get the fabricator who is building your sink to also cut baseboards for you in the same material, it will give the powder room a really luxurious feeling. I would definitely use a bathroom tissue holder rather than a fixture on the wall. I don’t like perforating wallpaper and just love how it looks placed next to the toilet. Lastly, I mounted my sconces on the mirror, which is really fun, and I had my apron skirt marble sink made very tall, so I don’t have to have cabinetry in the power room. This way, the sink and vanity are elegant and straightforward.
The powder room above, which I absolutely love, is on The Highlander, a super yacht previously owned by Malcolm Forbes and bought by New York-based interior designer Joanne de Guardiola and her husband in 2012. (They dropped the “The” from the name.) The couple redesigned and used the yacht and listed it for sale recently for $8.5 million. I am using this example to show you how a tiny space can have a tremendous impact.
What I absolutely love about the space is the gorgeous blue-toned granite with white and gold veining and the fact that the sink and everything peripheral is done in the same stone. I really like the pattern of the stone, which is reminiscent of the water, and I’m sure that’s why it was chosen. And the best part is the beautiful touches of brass you see throughout this tiny little jewel of a bathroom.
Another powder room I want to highlight is for those of you who might be in construction, are looking for ideas, and don’t necessarily love to use wallpaper. This was designed by Drew Mandel Architects and what’s great about this room is that it has the fluted wood paneling that everyone loves today. The sink is a unit unto itself and complements and coincides with all the other elements and colors in this homogeneous bathroom.
This powder room is by Lindsay Gerber, and I wanted to feature it not just for its apron-front marble sink but also for the marble chevron mosaic wall rising up behind it. It brings texture to the room, as do the sidewalls and ceiling which are covered in Phillip Jeffries’ Manila Hemp in a charcoal hue. There is a very tactile feeling to this particular bathroom which makes it feel fantastic. I wanted to highlight how the placement of sconces is done correctly in this bathroom, unlike many other powder rooms I’ve seen. Many people install a single sconce above the mirror, a very dated look that is not as attractive or architectural as having a sconce to the right and left of the mirror. One tip here: make sure your sconces are always at eye level.
Another way to design your powder room is to do what designer Sig Bergamin did, put up all your portraits, works of art, things you’ve collected over the years. This collage is done on beadboard, and it’s a very fun look. So if you have a more casual space or a powder room in a second home that you want to furnish and you don’t know what to do, grab all of your gallery art and go to town.
This tone-on-tone powder room is probably one of my favorites. I love this design technique that takes a few colors and uses different saturations throughout the space. I also like the beautiful white oak-paneled walls and the travertine, apron-front sink. However, what’s really striking about this space is the use of mid-century modern lights. I also love the pop of black in what appears to be a very neutral room and the sculptural collage of sconces on the sidewall.
The next idea I wanted to share with you is an inexpensive way to decorate a powder room: paint the space to create a circus tent look. It’s effortless to do; you just have to measure it, draw it out and use tape for a great striped look.
This Danny Gonzalez powder room is probably another of my favorites, and I love that he has created an asymmetrical design. There’s a huge trend right now in bathroom design toward placing the sink and mirror are in the corner of the room, while leaving the rest for decoration. It’s fun, and I’ve done it a lot with a single pendant that comes from the ceiling and just falls somewhere between the sink and the wall.
Here’s a way to design a powder room that is a simple way to bring in inexpensive items and create an expensive look. For example, you have a pedestal sink by Kohler, which you can find at Home Depot, and though the walls are lined with wallpaper, they look like precast. All you need now is a gorgeous mirror in the same color as your wallpaper that also looks like precast! It’s a perfect look.
The last example that I had to share with you is this powder room with an apron-front sink that is more geometric than the others one I’ve featured. It protrudes out, and those two pendant lights really stand out . So if you’re out of ideas and don’t know what to do, drop in two pendant lights that are unique and interesting, and they will create a significant wow factor for your space.
For more insight and tips, be sure to watch my powder room vlog below, only on Red Elevator.