We’ve professed our love numerous times for the all-white kitchen and swooned over many rooms where the ivory hue rules, but the bathroom is where our adoration for the chalky color scheme truly lies—and even our Instagram fans agree. A white bathroom sets our stylish hearts aflutter every time we see one. They scream classic, clean, and cool, but you don’t want them to be too cold. So how do you add warmth to a colorless space?
Barbara Sallick, co-founder and senior vice president of design at Waterworks and author of The Perfect Bath, is often referred to as the "queen of white," and she says the white bathroom has much in common with the classic LBD. "My little black dress is a perfect fit," she told MyDomaine. "It's made of an elegant lightweight wool of the highest quality, the inside seams are beautifully finished, and its style and length are appropriate for a woman of my age. And with the mere change of a necklace or earrings, it can go from the office to dinner. A timeless white bath has the same approach."
Meet the Expert
Barbara Sallick is the Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Design of Waterworks Operating Company LLC, a luxury bath company taking its direction from the European bath experience, which began a new revolution in the American bath industry.
We tapped the lifelong design devotee to share her expert tips for decorating a stylish, bleached-out bathroom.
When it comes to designing an all-white bathroom, you need to think ahead. "The number one rule when decorating a white bath applies to all baths: Plan carefully, edit your choices, and select a designer or architect whose taste aligns with your own," advises Sallick. "These three things are essential to the success of the bath."
Add Dimension Through Texture
Because you aren't using color to add contrast, it's important to incorporate texture through your materials to add visual interest. "A shiny white subway tile should be paired with a honed white Venatino marble floor, or a white polished Carrara hexagon mosaic. This layering effect gives the room its language, its depth, and its character," Sallick says. A large mirror can also add depth, while architectural trim adds dimension.
Mind Your Metals
You might not be incorporating bold color, but technically, your finishes will add color to the space, so decide if you want the space to feel cool (if so, use chrome) or warm (if so, use nickel or brass).
"Don’t assume that because the bath is white you need to impose colored towels," Sallick says. "Going back to texture, a luxurious white Egyptian cotton towel adds warmth and softness."
Choose the Just-Right White Wall Color
You might think white is white, but white paints can have so much variation. "White is often called the colorless color, but I find that it has incredible range, depth, and infinite shading points," Sallick says. "Farrow & Ball is my go-to brand. I love the brand's paint pots and the quality of the paint—I have at least 20 in my basement. I have used many F&B colors, but my favorite is All White. It's what I call a warm neutral, and it's a great bridge between all of the tile and marble, and the white of the sinks and water closets. Another universal white is Benjamin Moore's White Dove."
Avoid dramatic contrast
"The objective of creating an all-white bath is to achieve a feeling of purity, simplicity, and timelessness," Sallick says. "So if you decide to add a color, I suggest light or medium tones, to avoid too much of an abrupt contrast. In my all-white bath, which is actually many shades of white, I used a white marble basketweave floor tile with a tiny black dot. That little dot adds a lively point of reference. Likewise, sometimes I use white towels with black trim as an accent."
Accessorize and Personalize
Remember that you can make the space feel less monochromatic with small decorative objects and personal accessories. A vase of flowers or artwork can bring some style and character to the white space.
"Decorative objects, baskets for storage, wall sconces, family photos, and well-chosen accessories soften the space, and more importantly make a personal statement of your style and taste," Sallick says.
Let the Light In
Windows are important in bathrooms, as the flow of natural light into a space infuses it with warmth.
"Add some form of fabric window covering, which can be a patterned white-on-white or plain linen," Sallick says. "In either case, it softens the bath and adds that all-important texture. Controllable light in the form of high hats delivers light for putting on makeup or shaving. Choosing the right light bulb for warmth is essential."
Consider Your Design Style
If you aren't sure where to start when choosing bath accessories, remember your design aesthetic.
"The reason you have decided to do an all-white bath is for its classic and elegant style, so accessories should follow the same template," Sallick says. "If your style is traditional, it's an adventure to find vintage pieces to layer into the space. Or a cool modern look aligns well with simple, unadorned shapes in resin or metal."
Make It Timeless
You want to make sure you love your bathroom as much ten years from now as you do today, so making sure it feels timeless (like that little black dress) is key.
"Your choice of materials informs the direction of the design," Sallick says. "The key is how the materials are layered—as is the quality, authenticity, and originality of the designs. The way materials are installed is similar to the way [an LBD] dress fits. Take your time, shop carefully with an expert, and hire the best contractor you can afford."
Make It Right for You
Because everyone has a unique design style, there's no such thing as "the perfect bathroom", but there is such a thing as the perfect bathroom for you.
"It needs to express one's personal design and style preferences and the kind of experience you want to create," Sallick says.
"Material choices are based on many factors: the architectural style of the house, the location (beach, ranch, suburban, loft), one's own decorative preferences, and finally the budget. It's the ultimate retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation, complete with beautifully crafted objects and elegant materials, balanced with the right blend of practical considerations and design dynamics. It needs to feel just right for you."