All-white bathrooms scream classic, clean, and cool, but they can easily read cold, stark, or dull. While white bathrooms aren't dated or out-of-style, you definitely need to know hot to how do you add warmth to a colorless space and make it feel fresh and modern.
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 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. Keep reading for Sallick's expert opinion.
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
Most of us favor more than one design style, so mixing a few together within a space is perfectly alright. Choosing styles that complement one another rather than clash is crucial, though. Sallick says, "A cool modern look aligns well with simple, unadorned shapes in resin or metal."
So if your style skews more contemporary, don't be afraid to add more traditional elements like burnished brass.
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 (use nickel or brass). "Don’t assume that because the bath is white you need to impose colored towels," Sallick warns.
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 admits. "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," she adds.
Avoid Dramatic Contrasts
"If you decide to add 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," Salick says.
Don't Forget to Accessorize
Remember that you can make the space feel less monochromatic with small decorative objects and personal accessories. A vase of flowers or a piece of artwork can introduce 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 claims.
Let the Light In
"Windows are important in bathrooms, as the flow of natural light into a space infuses it with warmth," she says. Add some form of window treatment, which can be a "patterned white-on-white or plain linen," Sallick advises.
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 your accessories should follow the same template," Sallick warns. "If your style is traditional, it's an adventure to find vintage pieces to layer into the space."
Make It Timeless
You want to make sure you love your bathroom as much in 10 years as you do today, so making sure it feels timeless (like that little black dress or even a black-and-white bathroom) is key. "Your choice of materials informs the direction of the design," Sallick adds. "The key is how the materials are layered—as is the quality, authenticity, and originality of the designs."
It Has to Be 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. Sallick offers, "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."
Quality Is Key
You may feel pressure to add at least one pop of color in an all-white bathroom, but fret not. The beauty of a white bathroom is its lack of color, so feel free to skip the brightly hued towels and other accessories and keep the color scheme in check. Sallick points out, "A luxurious white Egyptian cotton towel adds warmth and softness."
There's More Than One Right White
The perfect shade of white to someone else may be too bright or dull for you, so when it comes to choosing the perfect shade, test a few options before committing. Sallick offers, "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."
Lighting Is Everything
The best light is sunlight, but on cloudy days or dark nights, we're quite alright with lamps, sconces, and ceiling fixtures. "In any case, lighting softens the bath and adds that all-important texture," she says. "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."
Don't Fear Subway Tile
Because you aren't using color to add contrast, it's important to incorporate texture through your materials to add visual interest. "A layered effect gives the room its language, its depth, and its character," Sallick suggests. A large mirror can also add depth, while architectural trim adds dimension.
Add Personal Touches
Don't forget that your space is a reflection of you and your style, so adding personal touches throughout your white bathroom is key. Sallick adds, "It needs to express one's personal design and style preferences and the kind of experience you want to create."
Keep It Cool and Clean
White represents purity and serenity, two characteristics that are crucial in any bathroom. "The objective of creating an all-white bathroom is to achieve a feeling of cleanliness, simplicity, and timelessness," Sallick asserts.
Create an At-Home Sanctuary
Sallick says, "Your bathroom is 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." Plants have been known to create a calming effect, so feel free to spruce up your space with some much-needed greenery.