A guide to choosing paint colors and techniques for the bathroom, including how to choose a color scheme which will accent the best features of the room.
The bathroom is one of the most popular home remodeling projects. It can also be one of the most expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You can freshen up your bathroom decor a great deal, without a lot of work or a big budget, simply by repainting.
The most important point when repainting the bathroom is not the color of paint, but the type of paint you use. Since the bathroom tends to be a moisture heavy room, even if you have a fan and adequate ventilation, moisture and mildew resistant paints are best. If you choose a good mildew resistant paint, your paint job could last up to ten years. Without this preventative measure, water will condense on and underneath the walls, causing the paint to bubble up and peel. If you find mildew in your bathroom, be sure to clean it with a 50/50 mixture of bleach and water before painting.
Once you have taken into account the amount of time you want to devote to this project and the type of paint you want to use, you’re ready for the fun part–deciding on a color scheme.
Color makes the mood of the room. Therefore, you should look at the overall atmosphere which will be generated by color combinations, rather than at isolated colors which you find appealing. Many hardware and paint stores carry not only paint samples, but also brochures showing examples of color themes, the effects of different color groups, and instructions for different techniques for applying paint. Many of these are free and are excellent sources to see how different colors interact. There are even computer software packages available that allow you to apply different colors to an image of a room. Browsing decorating magazines can also provide a great deal of inspiration. These are all valuable resources, thought they present you with yet another problem: an often bewildering range of colors to choose from.
The amount of colors available can cause even the most decisive person to tear their hair over the choices involved when repainting. Even if you decide you want white walls, you may find yourself endlessly debating the merits of a white with a slightly gray undertone versus one with a warm golden tint. After this decision, there’s still the question of the trim and ceiling.
You can also use stripes, stamped borders, or tiles to add interest to the walls. Accents like these can turn an otherwise dull room into one with a distinct personality. A plain white bathroom may not need repainting completely to spruce it up. Simply use stamps or stencils to create a border and it will seem almost new.
To complicate things further, you no longer have to feel you are limited to solid planes of color. With the growing popularity of glazing and other paint effects, your choices are no longer limited to a single color for each surface. Colorwashing, dragging, and ragging add texture and depth to wall surfaces. In all of these techniques, the wall is painted a base color. Then a second color is mixed with a faux finish glaze and applied over the first color in a variety of ways. The base color shows through a little bit or a lot, depending on the technique and application.
With all this in mind, make a trip to your local hardware or paint store. Agree beforehand that you will not buy any actual paint or supplies. Load up on the aforementioned samples and take them home to examine where there is no pressure to buy and you can actually look at the room in question. Just by removing the temptation to make a decision immediately and buy things on impulse, you’ve come a long way towards making a decision.
Then, look at the room itself. First look at the room itself. Is it small and cramped? If so, consider light colors on the walls and whites with the barest tint of color for trim will make the room seem more spacious. Are you one of the few people with a bathroom which is too big? Then you have a lot more room to play. You can consider the effects of bright, cheerful colors or warm, rich tones.
Unless you are considering paint as part of complete remodeling project, you will need a scheme which compliments your existing fixtures and flooring. If you are completely remodeling, of course this is not a problem. Of course, if you are starting from scratch or completely remodeling, this is not a problem. For future reference though, it’s a good idea to choose fixtures in which will work with a number of decorating options so that you can change the style of your bathroom with relative ease and lack of expense. A fire engine red bathtub is not a wise investment. When looking at existing characteristics of the bath, pay attention to elements of the room which you find appealing. For example, if you have a gorgeous claw foot bathtub and hardwood floors, you might want to base the room around these things. Consider how antique whites would play up the vintage elements or make the walls a point of contrast by using a soft colorwash to add color. Write these initial observations down so you can reference them later.
Then, take a look at your collection of paint samples, brochures, and magazines. What styles are you drawn to again and again? If you enjoy a clean, sleek feel to a room, consider going with a modern theme that uses minimal fluff and lots of high contrast black and white with bits of color. If you have a soft spot for the romantic, you might find that pastels with sponging or ragging affects appeal to you. For a child’s bathroom, you might find an ocean theme appealing, concentrating on a border of fish and sailboats in bright primary colors. Set aside the styles which appeal to you and decide what you like about them. Consider what you would change about them; perhaps a different border or a shift from neutral to warmer colors. Again, take notes.
Be sure to consider how often you will want to repaint in the future. If you enjoying decorating for its own sake and have the time to devote to changing the theme of a room every year or two, feel free to indulge yourself with trendy styles. However, if you want the job to be done and last for quite some time, stick with classic styles and colors you won’t get tired of. Face it, a retro 60s bathroom in jarring colors may quench your need for drastic change but, after a few years, you’ll probably be more than a little sick of it.
With these things in mind, look back at the notes you have taken and see where they overlap. What type of style that you favor would work well with your bathroom? Leave yourself open to making small adjustments or combining styles in order to find one which is right for you.
By this point, you probably know what direction you want the room to go. All that’s left are actual color choices. Don’t fret over the many slight variations within colors of paint. A few shades either direction probably won’t make or break a room. Just follow your instincts along with a few basic rules and you should be fine.
To make sure colors work well together, look at a color wheel. The best color combinations are usually analogous, monochromatic, or complementary. Analogous schemes involve two or three colors found side by side on the color wheel. A scheme of this sort might involve a pale blue with gray undertones and a rich green with blue undertones. Monochromatic schemes involve several shades of a single color, like a warm orange with pale peach accents. Complementary colors are at opposite sides of the color wheel. These are the most surprising of the colors schemes, colors which don’t seem like they should work together, but somehow do. This might include a pairing of gray tinted with blue and a rich burgundy. Again, most paint stores have charts and brochures illustrating these schemes. They serve a double purpose, insuring that colors will work well together and opening up color combinations you might not consider otherwise.
To test how colors will actually look together, hold the samples next to each other. Do this in the bathroom so you can see how the lighting affects the colors. If you use more than one light source in the bathroom, look at the colors under the different possible lighting conditions to make sure you like the effects in each.
Once you‘ve selected colors, you can consider techniques and accents. Again, the sky is the limit and you have a wide range of choices available. However, more is not always better. If you use a sponge painting technique on the walls, make a stamped border, texture the ceiling and use the bathroom wall to showcase your collection of hand-painted Dutch tiles, you will end up with a confusing mess. Pick one eye-catching technique, such as adding stripes or a stamped border and use only that technique, preferably in small doses. Maybe pick a subtle technique such as colorwashing and add a point of interest with a wallpaper border or tile mosaic. The bathroom is already a small room with a lot going on. There are fixtures, storage needs, toiletries, and towel racks. It’s very easy to go overboard and end up with clutter so start simple. If the room still needs something, add an eye-catching accent. It’s easier to do more than to undo an idea gone wrong.
The most important thing about choosing the colors for a bathroom is to allow yourself the time to consider your options and make a careful decision. Relax, have fun, and give yourself the time to enjoy the project. If you plan well, the finished product will almost certainly exceed your expectations.