Bright Bathroom Designs Without Going White (Mostly)
August 15, 2014 / Stephanie Radebaugh

I did it once. The white bathroom. White floor tile, white shower tile, white walls, white everything. It was at once beautiful and painful. It showed every single scuff, every single stray hair, even the tiniest speck of dirt was abundantly visible in my bright white bathroom. Never again.

I learned a lesson. Making a bathroom feel bright isn’t just about the color—it’s about airiness, lightness, ebullience—and there are many ways to go about creating this feeling in a bathroom.

1. Mirrors & Light Fixtures
Mirrors reflect light, so if you want to bring in more light, upsize your mirrors a bit. Avoid using heavy, ornate frames that will add weight—go for light wood, thin frames, or no frame at all.

Obviously, light fixtures are key to brightening up a bathroom.  It’s worth calling in the electrician to add some additional lighting if your bathrooms feel dark, especially in the morning and evening.

2. Walls
Of course color matters. Look around at bathroom designs online, and you’ll discover that the vast majority of bathrooms are white. Just because you’re trying to brighten up a bathroom doesn’t mean you have to choose one of the 3,000 shades of white at the paint store. There are plenty of greens, blues, yellows, and shades of orange that will brighten up a bathroom without looking over the top. Choose carefully and paint sample sections first to ensure what you’ve chosen has the desired effect.

3. Counters
Long, dark granite counters are beautiful. And they are heavy; by that I mean, they add weight to a room. If you’re going for an elegant bathroom, by all means, go ahead and go with granite, but if you’re looking to lighten up a bathroom, consider a light-colored concrete counter (err on the side of thin concrete versus the butcher-block thickness you see so often). Even better create lightness and space, and go counterless with a pedestal sink.

4. Tile & Floors
Okay, I’ll admit I don’t actually have a problem with white bathroom tile, but I suggest limiting it to the shower. If you really want a lighter tile on the floor, consider something with texture, so it doesn’t show every speck of… everything. For instance, this Daltile Fabrique Crème Linen tile:

Neutral tile for a brighter bathroom

5. Details Matter
There are two veins of thought on this. If you’ve done all of the things I mention above and your bathroom is feeling bright but bland, then add some contrast with dark brass or bronze cabinet pulls and faucets. Choose wisely, because they will draw attention to themselves. On the other hand, if you’re struggling to lighten your bathroom up, these details matter. Go with something that feels light like brushed nickel or polished chrome.
And this is how I’ll get away with chalkboard paint in my currently dim guest bathroom—by focusing on all the other possible ways I can create light.