When it comes to experimenting with different trends, styles, and (most importantly) color schemes, the bathroom can be your best friend. Even the smallest powder room can serve as a great space for trying out design choices you wouldn't otherwise commit to with more square footage at your disposal—like bold wallpapers, unique tile choices, and super-saturated paint hues. As a result, these are one of our favorite spaces to decorate, but we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge that it can still be tricky to contend with them. Luckily, some of our favorite designers have well-established color palettes they return to again and again when redesigning bathroom spaces—and they're willing to share their secrets.
From palatial primary bathrooms with soaking tubs to the tiniest half baths, these color palettes can transform a utilitarian space into something resembling a spa getaway (even if only for the five minutes it takes to wash your hands).
The term "Primary Bathroom" is now widely used to describe the largest bathroom in the home, as it better reflects the space’s purpose. Many realtors, architects, interior designers, and the Real Estate Standards Association have recognized the potentially discriminatory connotations in the term "Master." Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge.
Read on to discover some of the most tried-and-true, designer-approved color palettes for the bathroom—and a few that are a bit more unexpected, too—so you can channel a relaxing vibe at home, anytime.
Blue + White
It's only natural that many designers flock to aquatic-inspired hues when decorating a bathroom—and this serene shade of coastal blue is no exception. However, what truly sets the space apart is its layered textures and distinctive finishes. "A richly-textured fretwork tile in soothing blue envelops the room and sets the perfect mood for tranquil soaks and regenerative cleansing," says Home Front Build Senior Designer Greg Roth.
To complement the watery blues, other earthy colors and textures evoke a similar seaside feel. "Offsetting the cool hues of the tile work, a sandy-toned quartzite tops the bleached walnut vanities, lending an earthen warmth to the palette. The generously proportioned wainscot helps lift the gaze upwards to crisp white plaster," Roth explains. As a finishing touch, the high-shine soaking tub reflects the tile surrounds—and its silvery finish evokes the surface of a pool of water even more.
Gray + Wood
To channel a truly zen vibe in the bathroom, a subdued palette of neutrals can be just the ticket. This heavenly bathroom is equal parts Nordic- and Japanese-inspired in its aesthetic, and it proves that sometimes, the best design approach is just letting natural materials shine.
"The client wanted a spa-inspired primary bathroom to relax in after a busy day," explains Tania Casill of huit. "The warm wood tones of the oak floor and the cedar sauna juxtaposed with the cooler, calming gray tones of the cement tiles provided a fresh and soothing environment." The contrast between the two materials strikes a delicate balance that we love, achieving the literal "best of both worlds" between a sleek stone environment and a cozy wood-clad one.
Gray + White
Is there a more soothing color combination than a warm gray and an airy white? If so, we don't know of it. "When it comes to full baths, I love quiet and calming, spa-like color schemes. They support a clean vibe and play nicely against the beautiful fixtures and finishes, while also allowing you to see yourself in a flattering light," explains Liz Caan. "I'm partial to natural colors that mimic the soft veining found in marble or colors from nature, like the sea and beach. One of my favorites, shown here, is Benjamin Moore's "Quiet Moments"—a fitting name for this paint color if I ever heard one." Caan completes the space with pewter-hued fixtures for a cool, timeless touch.
Aqua + Wood + Gold
A quick trick for dialing up the contrast in any aqua-hued bathroom: Select woods, metals, and even leathers (peep that adorable toiler paper holder) that live just a direct skip across the color wheel (that's orange, for those of you who didn't pay attention in elementary school art class). The blue-green shade of this wall covering and tile makes a cool complement for the warmer wood tones throughout. "For this bathroom, we wanted to keep it beachy and fresh and use a blue that wasn't too masculine," explains Ashley Clark. "The variation in the tile and contrasting white in the wallpaper help this space feel fresh and clean." And of course, when dealing with bathrooms, cleanliness is the goal—in function, as well as aesthetic.
Yellow + Gray
We'll be honest—pretty much *any* color scheme would work in a bathroom with stunning floor-to-ceiling views of nature like this one. But designer Tish Mills' color choices only complement the natural assets of this jaw-dropping space.
Simple stony-gray flooring brings another organic element to this primary bath, while a yellow rug adds warmth (both literally and figuratively) underfoot. The golden hues of the rug beautifully complement the changing leaves outside. "Neutrals and mother nature are my favorites," explains Mills—and in a space like this, who could disagree?
Black + White
When we say "black-and-white bathroom," what do you picture? Chances are, it's not quite this—which is *probably* why we're so obsessed with this unexpected inversion of the norm. "I’m a fan of black walls and have used "Fade to Black" in several spaces," says Stefani Stein. "It is this lovely off-black that gives a space an instant dose of chic." This particular hue from Portola Paints is a "Roman clay" finish, which means it has more depth and visual interest than a true flat-black might (an important distinction, especially when dealing with a small space.)
While gleaming white bathrooms with black accents may be more traditional, we're partial to the idea of enveloping ourselves in this cozy cocoon when it's time to take a breather. "Here, in an otherwise minimalist home, it was the perfect opportunity to add depth to the powder room while keeping the overall color story and aesthetic of the home consistent," Stein explains.