In the hierarchy of a home’s most popular spaces, the powder room is rarely at the top of the list. Its presence is usually seen more for its form than its function, so it’s often tucked away between the more attention-grabbing areas of the kitchen and living room. In other words, the powder room could be known as the middle child of design.
But maybe powder rooms have been given the wrong label—after all, middle children may be the so-called "overlooked" sibling, but they are often described as problem solvers and risk-takers, too. And if that comparison were to extend to this space, then powder rooms could soon become the most vital—yet daring—place in your home.
"Powder rooms allow me to create some design theater that leaves a lasting impression on my clients' guests," says designer Lynne Bradley. "My biggest challenge is encouraging my clients to embrace the opportunity to do some storytelling."
"Powder rooms allow me to create some design theater that leaves a lasting impression on my clients’ guests."
—Lynne Bradley, designer
Since a powder room is often short on square footage but heavy on potential visitors, Bradley says that it's important to figure out what story you'd like to tell. "Pulling off an impressive result doesn't just happen—careful planning and balancing the impact is critical," she adds.
To help the lowly powder room become a standout feature in your home, Dwell asked three designers to provide their tips on how to get it done. From Bradley in Sydney, Australia, to Dabito in Los Angeles, California, and Andrea West in Salt Lake City, Utah, these creatives don't want you to let a powder room's potential go to waste.
Why should readers think of a powder room as a chance to try something bold?
Andrea West: You can be more unapologetic with design in smaller spaces. These are my favorite spots to use large patterns, mix tiles and metals, and really let a client’s personality shine.
Lynne Bradley: Powder rooms are often small, so selecting luxury items can be more affordable. You can splurge on beautiful fixtures, lighting, and mirrors, for instance. Not to mention, luxurious soap, flowers, and towels are a must. I subscribe to the saying, "Good things come in small packages!"
Are there any possible mistakes to avoid when designing a bold powder room?
Andrea West: Make sure you use different scales in your patterns so that they visually expand the room and complement each other. For instance, if you are using a large patterned wallpaper, try a smaller patterned tile on the floor. Oftentimes you see two large-scale patterns in a powder room and it becomes overwhelming because each design element isn't allowed to shine. I also often see mirrors that are too small for a vanity, and so I always recommend choosing large ones.
Lynne Bradley: Many powder rooms are windowless, so be sure to have adequate air flow through an extraction fan. Also, don't forget to layer your space. And lastly, take time to plan before making your purchases. Tools like Pinterest make it easier to see all of your elements together before you commit.
"You can be more unapologetic with design in smaller spaces."
—Andrea West, designer
What are your suggestions for making an unforgettable powder room?
Choose colorful floor tiles. "Since there's less square footage to work with, you can finally splurge on really amazing floor tiles," Dabito says. "Try cement tiles from Saba Tiles, terrazzo from Concrete Collaborative, or ceramic tiles from Fireclay. There are so many different patterns to choose from."
And, use more than one tile. "I am always looking for ways to incorporate more than one tile selection," West adds. "Powder rooms are perfect for this: You can use one on the floor, and then run one up the wall for an accent. This adds so much dimension and detail to the space."
Spread out an exquisite wallpaper. "Wallpaper can add calm or energy to the room," Bradley says. "And since you won't need too much, select the most beautiful one you can afford. It's instant and affordable art."
Install a floating vanity. "Visually, it makes a powder room look more open," Dabito adds.
"Since there’s less square footage to work with, you can finally splurge on really amazing floor tiles."
Add in artwork. "You want to create drama and leave a lasting impression," Bradley notes. "So, hanging or displaying artwork in your powder room adds to its story."
Make mirrors and lighting count. "Mirrors and light fixtures go hand-in-hand in powder rooms," West says. "To make your space look dramatic, select a mirror that is unique and pair it with either a wall sconce or pendant light to really elevate the design. I like to use metals such as a matte black or brushed gold to add in an extra finish."
Contrast textures. "They can be used to increase the illusion of space and add personality," Bradley says.
If you go very bold, you can always change it later. "Most people believe that large patterns can make a space feel smaller, but when the space is already small, this trick can actually help make the room feel larger," West continues. "And because powder rooms are so small, they are quick and easy to change when you want something new."