If most rooms in a house require restrained practicality in design — neutral paint for switching out seasonal accessories, kid-proof fabric for high-traffic furniture — the powder room begs for boldness. Because the room is small and easily redecorated, a bright-color paint or a trendy wallpaper is less of a risk.
“It’s a great place to experiment,” says Eve Fay-Glenn, a color consultant for paint-and-wallpaper company Farrow & Ball.
We asked experts for ideas and then rounded up our favorite tastefully bold fixtures and furnishings.
Add some sparkle
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Fay-Glenn likes dramatic, dark, high-gloss walls that set the stage for some bling. In a dark blue room, the Worlds Away clear star chandelier would be like a star in the night sky. ($223, Layla Grace, www.laylagrace.com).
Charles Almonte, a Maryland architect and interior designer, likes to have fun with light fixtures in the tiny rooms. “Powder rooms can take a small chandelier, and that adds a little bit of design pop,” he says. The Marmont pendant is small but glamorous ($275, Serena & Lily, www.serenaandlily.com).
Make it bright
Almonte says that lighting should be clear and even, so that you don’t get shadows on the occupant’s face. One of the best ways to do this is to put wall sconces on either side of the mirror. For a contemporary, Art Deco look, try the Nolan sconce ($159, Restoration Hardware, www.restorationhardware.com).
For a simple, retro style, try the Otis sconce with a handblown opal glass shade (Otis 2.25-inch sconce, $79.99; shade, $35; Schoolhouse Electric & Supply, www.schoolhouseelectric.com).
Think about storage
A pedestal sink is always classic in a powder room, if you can do without storage. Washington interior designer Kelley Proxmire recommends Restoration Hardware as a good source, where we found the Park Pedestal Sink ($595 to $695, Restoration Hardware, www.restorationhardware.com).
If your home is small and you need storage in every room, pass on the pedestal sink and use a vessel sink, such as this Decolav Incandescence sink, on top of a vanity cabinet or repurposed dresser. For a quirky option, Terri Hartwell Easter, owner of the Maris Elaine Gallery, recommends finding a beautiful plant pot and having it fitted to the cabinet ($250, comes in a variety of colors, the Home Depot, www.homedepot.com).
Use mirrors thoughtfully
A brilliant mirror can stand out as the centerpiece of a small powder room. The Parker rectangular mirror, with its iridescent seashell coins, would add just the right amount of shimmer ($228, Nordstrom, www.nordstrom.com).
Whether you have a traditional or cottage-style interior, the Segovia whitewashed mirror would be a bold yet complementary choice. And pay attention to what it’s reflecting, Proxmire says. In one jungle-themed bathroom, she placed a ceramic cheetah on a pedestal opposite a mirror for some whimsy ($99, World Market, www.worldmarket.com).
Proxmire uses long, skinny mirrors to elongate a small room. The Audrey mirror comes in three sizes and will help reflect light around the room ($99-$199, Ballard Designs, www.ballarddesigns.com).
“Wallpaper has gotten a bad rap over the past decade, but now we’re seeing a huge resurgence” Fay-Glenn says. She advises homeowners to use it “judiciously” so it’s not as overwhelming as it was in the ‘80s. “Just be fun and quirky,” she says. The perfect example: A small powder room in Farrow & Ball’s investment-worthy Ocelot paper ($255, Farrow & Ball, www.farrow-ball.com).
And without the humidity of a steamy full bath, your investment will be safe. (For that same reason, the room is a great one for placing special art, Hartwell Easter suggests.)
Proxmire likes to give the whole powder room a saturated color. She also recommends papering a vertical stripe on the horizontal, to make the room seem bigger, or even running a vertical stripe up the wall and onto the ceiling (Black and White Stripe Wallpaper by the Wallpaper Co., $34.98, the Home Depot, www.homedepot.com).
Find warmth underfoot
To warm up the room that your guests will pay the most attention to, find a cozy but durable rug, such as Dash & Albert’s colorful Rhapsody Wool Woven Rug ($94, Layla Grace, www.laylagrace.com).
It can be a challenge to be indulgent in the powder room and not make it clash with the rest of the house. If you have more traditional interiors elsewhere, Almonte says to go bold, “but with a more traditional pattern, like vines and flowers or maybe bird prints.” Dash & Albert’s Vine rug has a dense pile for a luxurious feel and comes in a variety of colors ($108 for 2-by-3-foot rug, Dash & Albert, www.dashandalbert.com).