Passion for Powder Rooms


This week I received several questions about powder rooms and creative ways to make them feel special. I decided to post another solution from our Just Ask category where I solve design dilemmas for you daily.  

ap5 The definition of a powder room or half bath is a room that contains a toilet and sink but no bathtub or shower stall. Based on the scale of the room there is not a lot of opportunity to create design details or bring in a wow factor. This means each decision has to be well thought out and purposeful. Here are five steps you can follow to help you through the design process that will help you create a well designed powder room with personality.

Address the Walls

The walls are one of the best opportunities you have to create a look for your powder room. Above, a simple chair rail allows you to select two different paint colors or materials for the walls. I just love the gray painted bottom and subtle shimmer of the wallpaper on top. Built-in shelves create a nice design detail in a small space while a large vertical mirror facing the entrance can give the illusion of depth (also nice for the last minute style check as you leave for the day). Further below, wainscoting the entire wall or even half provides some architectural wow. Simple, chic and elegant. Wallpaper is an easy way to bring in color and texture; it can be on all walls, an accent wall or above the wainscoting.



Design the Lighting

In any room the lighting plan can greatly impact the feel of the space, even in a powder room. I like to use a combination of fixtures, select the combination that works best for you. (1) A central fixture (mini chandelier or fixture) and lighting above or sconces on either side of the mirrors. (2) Recessed fixtures (usually four for a typical scale powder room) with lighting above or sconces on either side of the mirror. (3) Recessed lights above the mirror (shown below) with a decorative central fixture. All three options would include an exhaust fan, I recommend installing the fan off to one side in the ceiling without a light in it so it disappears. I recently used a fan/light combination in a modern bathroom in NYC and it was fine but I am usually not a fan of these (LOL a pun). Designer tip: even in a small powder room I would install two switches keeping the lighting separate from the fan.


Flooring Material

Since this is a powder room you are not limited to a specific material based on function. I use tile, marble (other types of stone) or wood . If you are a fan of tile in a powder room I like it to feel less “bathroom like” similar to the the first image. Other types of stone and marble I like to use when creating a specific look, the Carerra marble shown in the full wainscoting image adds to the elegant feel in comparison to using concrete in modern apartments in the city. Wood is always a nice option especially when you are continuing the flow of consistent flooring materials throughout the floor the powder room is on.


Vanity & Faucet Selection

One of the first things you see when you enter a powder room is the vanity. You need to decide if it is going to be your wow factor or simply complement the design you are creating. Things to consider when selecting a vanity; does it need to have storage, will it be a pedestal or piece of furniture re-purposed, what type of sink will you be using, a vessel (shown above) or an under-mount sink and is the counter top part of the vanity or a separate top? If the counter-top is separate what type of material will you be selecting (granite, marble etc.) and if using a re-purposed piece of furniture do you want to cover the top with glass to make it more durable? My brother re-purposed a fabulous vintage piece of furniture for his vanity, view here. The faucet selection can add to the design elements, decide if it will come off the wall or sit on the vanity first then select the finish and style.


Window Treatments, Artwork & Accessorizes

These are the final opportunities for design details in a powder room. I love shutters in powder rooms, roman shades (pictured above)and even simple white wood blinds just to mention a few suggestions. Next, select a hand towel rack and toilet paper holder choosing style and location (I like when the finishes match, a different style is fine), a fabulous mirror above the sink and some character pieces on a shelf or on the vanity. Complete the look with artwork or wall decor, I like to keep this minimal and chic. I hope these five steps help you to create the powder room you are envisioning, combining aesthetic and functional design details that you and your guests will enjoy.


  • Elisa Smith

    Powder rooms are always a favorite of mine. I love seeing what people come up with for the space. The more extravagant the better-i just love a good surprise!

    • Cathy Wolfram

      So do I Elisa, so many readers asked about how to make them not so boring and you hit the nail on the head, surprise!

  • Connie

    Small spaces are always a challenge and powder rooms can be so boring. Your tips will definitely help me with mine.

    • Cathy Wolfram

      So glad to hear that, remember you can always send pictures if you need specific advice through Just Ask :)

  • Brenna Morgan

    Who knew that looking at bathrooms would be so much fun! Thanks for this post!

    • Cathy Wolfram

      Bathrooms can be fun Brenna :) especially when they reflect your personal style.