Space-boosting, soul-soothing and so very sophisticated, there are a lot of reasons to major on white in your next bathroom remodel. There are also a lot of reasons a white scheme can go wrong, and appear boring, cold and unwelcoming. Recognizing how to make a white bathroom more interesting is vital.
Window treatments and upholstered elements such as a stool or chaise are all great means of introducing softness, pattern and textural variation to a white bathroom scheme, says Sarah Ellison, founder of Frank and Faber. ‘There are some fantastic water-resistant fabrics that are great for bathrooms,’ she adds.
While an all-white scheme may be the aim, you don’t need to be a slave to monotony. You won’t break the charm or ruin the mood if you introduce just a few small bursts of color to your bathroom ideas moodboard. ‘Plants are a great option in a white bathroom and will add a fresh pop of color as well as a sense of wellbeing,’ suggests Ellison.
How to make a white bathroom more interesting
There’s something about a serene white bathroom that never gets old, which, when you’re remodeling a home, is exactly what you should be aiming for. The effortless style of a white bathroom is utterly timeless, just make sure it’s not boring by following our experts’ advice.
1. Add vintage touches
A calm, neutral bathroom is the perfect canvas for adding small touches of meaningful, unique treasures. Interior designer Kara Childress is an avid antiques hunter, and can be regularly found seeking out vintage treasures from the likes of Joyce Horn Antiques and Skelton Culver.
‘First impressions count, especially when it comes to designing a bathroom that feels personal and reflective,’ she says. ‘Decorating with antiques like this antique remnant made into a lamp and antique fluted giltwood mirror are as much functional as they are visually appealing.’
Texas-based interior designer Kara Childress marries timeless style with Old World European charm for liveable homes that exude comfort and personality.
2. Focus on the hardware
All white bathroom color schemes, whether traditional or contemporary in style, can be instantly transformed with the addition of luxury solid brass hardware and accessories.
‘Elevating vanity units with brass knobs, t-bars or cabinet handles is an effective way to add interest to a predominantly white space,’ agrees Richard McGrail, CEO, Armac Martin. Jkath Design Build + Reinvent got the memo and used Armac Martin’s Cotswold bun cabinet knob in this serene bathroom.
‘Choosing the right finish is key for creating an aesthetic for a white bathroom and we recommend aged brass for a classic feel and polished brass for a statement look. Coordinate these finishes with your tapware for a cohesive feel,’ continues Richard. ‘Finish the space with accessories such as vanity mirrors and wall hooks to add elegance and charm.’
Richard McGrail is CEO of Birmingham-based luxury brass hardware manufacturer, Armac Martin and is the great-grandson of Armac Martin’s founder, Harold McGrail, who started the business 95 years ago.
3. Create artful displays
One piece of eye-catching art can be all that’s required to lift the design appeal of a primarily white bathroom. ‘While the neutral base finishes in this bathroom were very elegant, we were keen to ensure that the scheme had warmth, character and the personal touch, which is critical to all of our projects,’ recalls Sarah Ellison, founder of Frank and Faber.
‘We love to use art in bathrooms, either a single statement piece or small collection, it really elevates the space from being purely functional, adds personality, draws the eye and introduces a color accent which can lift a neutral scheme,’ Sarah adds. Here, she displays a piece by the artist William Packer, sourced from Kittoe Contemporary.
‘Of course, it's critical to consider the placement carefully to minimize risk of water or steam damage, but what better way to really appreciate your favorite art than when soaking in the bath.’
Sarah Ellison, founder of Frank and Faber and KLC trained, is renowned for her ability to create outstanding, superior interiors. Ellison encourages her clients to make bold, daring choices in terms of palette, pattern and patina, personally handpicking a carefully selected treasure trove of modern and antique items to complement her schemes.
4. Black accents
Just a few punches of black can be all it takes to banish blandness in a white bathroom. Black accents with an industrial edge, like Crittall-style windows or shower screens, work well in both modern bathrooms and classical schemes, providing enough punch to push the design beyond neutral.
‘We like to use mosaic tiles, supplied in sheet format, to add small injections on black into a crisp white bathroom,’ says Jo Sangster, senior designer, Ripples Bathrooms. ‘The black elements can be taken further with dotted tiles or even arranging the mosaics into words; the possibilities are almost endless.’
5. Go for statement lighting
When working on any design, having key elements that capture your eye are very important. However, when working in a monochromatic mainly white color scheme this is integral! ‘Without eye-catching elements, specifically texture, pattern or shape, the design can often lean a bit cold and utilitarian,’ explains interior designer, Lisa Gilmore.
‘I love to incorporate a special chandelier into a bathroom design, if it appropriately fits the scale of the space. Think of it as a three-dimensional element that will stand out from the flat surfaces throughout the space,’ she adds.
When selecting the right chandelier for your space Lisa has some key advice. ‘First consider shape - is it interesting? Does it make the space feel more traditional, modern or whimsical?’ she says. ‘Color is also important – are you keeping it monochromatic with white beads or maybe adding a little more interest here to stand out even more? Don't be afraid to introduce a different metal from your plumbing fixtures here, this will help it visually shine even more.’
Finally, she points to size. ‘Appreciating scale is important. Don't go too big or too small and always check your local city codes for lighting regulations in bathrooms, specifically over tubs,’ she concludes.
Lisa Gilmore is the founder of Lisa Gilmore Design, a leading interior design firm based in St Petersburg, Florida. Lisa coined her style “liveable glamour,” which is about creating beautiful, functional interiors for everyone, even those with kids or pets.
6. Introduce texture
Bring a white bathroom to life by choosing neutral surfaces with a strong textural presence. Here, a delicate tone-on-tone color scheme has been invigorated by SLIC Design, using a wall of three-dimensional fluted marble with plenty of feel appeal.
‘We love using natural stone to add movement in an all-white tile. The veining can bring a white stone to life. This marble convex tile not only added movement but also texture with its sculptural form,’ says Sara Cukerbaum, principal designer, SLIC Design.
Sara Cukerbaum trained in New York and Chicago and worked for several major firms before establishing Austin-based SLIC Design in 2012. Sara’s aesthetic is based on a real appreciation for the way a person’s environment can shape their lifestyle. Innovation, originality and function are the driving forces behind SLIC Design.
7. Panel the walls
Using applied moldings is an easy yet transformative way to inject a fresh layer of interest in an all-white bathroom. In this classic small bathroom idea by TKS Design Group, the entire space, including the ceiling, is wrapped in painted v-groove paneling.
The clever décor trick boosts the sense of space, without the visual disruption of a fussy color palette or extraneous design details. ‘The paneling provides a casual but elegant look that is light and airy, with a lot more wow factor than your typical white painted walls,’ says principal designer, Susan Klimala.
Susan Klimala and her team at TKS Design Group have been designing and building eclectic, thoughtful and personalized interior spaces in Chicago’s western suburbs for almost two decades.
8. Fit eye-catching flooring
Look down for inspiring ways to bring your white bathroom to life. ‘Adding a large pattern on the bathroom floor is a great way to infuse charm to an otherwise simple white space,’ says interior designer, Liz Marchant Ourston. ‘It effortlessly brings a touch of interest without overwhelming the area or detracting from its calm and clean atmosphere.
Decorating with checks is a popular way to approach monochrome bathroom ideas. ‘By choosing a straightforward yet visually appealing chequered design for the floor, you can transform an ordinary white bathroom into a space that's both unique and full of personality. This approach leads to a bathroom that is not only peaceful but also rich in character,’ enthuses Liz.
Based in Austin, Texas, Liz Marchant Ourston has a degree in interior design and, as the Principle of Liz Marchant Interiors, she and her team work on projects across America, transforming client’s homes through unique, harmonious yet functional design.
How do you add warmth to a white bathroom?
There are several ways to cozy up a white bathroom, and one of the least expensive and simplest options is to think very carefully about the choice of white paint you use on walls, ceilings and any joinery and woodwork. ‘An easy trick to introduce visual interest and warmth is to choose an off-white with a very subtle hint of warm color on the walls and amplify this on the cabinetry,’ explains Dominic Myland, CEO, Mylands.
You can also introduce warm colors via textiles, on bath mats, rugs, window treatments and towel displays. ‘We would recommend the use of warm metallics such as brass or bronze fixtures and fittings. An unlacquered finish will naturally age with use, bringing extra character to the space,’ adds interior designer, Sarah Ellison, of Frank and Faber.
Switching your bathroom lighting to bulbs with a warmer color temperature can also help to soften the sterility of a pure white space. And don’t overlook the cozy comfort of bathing by candlelight.
How can I make my white bathroom look expensive?
Done well, white bathrooms can appear very upmarket and sophisticated. The secret lies in knowing when to stop. The most luxurious white bathrooms are pared-back and elegant, with minimal visual clutter. Sticking with a white palette but layering in texture, for example with limed-oak flooring or rough-hewn white stone tiles, will provide subtle contrast against the smoothness of white sanitaryware.
Invest in a few key pieces that will elevate the rest of the room. We’re talking a beautiful vintage mirror or designer light fitting. Think carefully about where you spend and save. A simple white bathroom suite sporting modern curves can prove very affordable but don’t scrimp on toiletries. It only takes a few luxury brands, with beautiful packaging, placed by the basin and bath to give the impression that you’ve splashed out on every element.
Choosing the right kitchen cabinet style is key to your whole kitchen. It's what makes up the space, and no matter what layout you choose, what colors you choose, it's the cabinets that will always be the focus. So yes, it's an important decision, but an exciting one too, and with so many options out there, you're sure to find something to suit your personal style.
Sign up to the Homes & Gardens newsletter
Decor Ideas. Project Inspiration. Expert Advice. Delivered to your inbox.
Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.
Experts shed light on how to store seeds properly, and whether they ever really 'go bad' after all
Experts explain how to keep germination rates high by storing seeds correctly, for a wonderfully thriving garden
By Camille Dubuis-Welch Published
Cameron Diaz's countertop and backsplash champion an ageless material that's surging in popularity in 2024
This material will look just as dramatic in another century – and experts say it's changing how we decorate for the year ahead
By Megan Slack Published