Decorating a Powder Room

Chad Jones/FlickrIt's easy to tell our overnight guests, "You are special." Place a mint on the pillow, fresh linens on the bed and a basket of luxury toiletries on the nightstand. But not every visitor spends the night or even sees that lovely guest room with all its inviting features. Chances are they will visit the powder room, though.

Powder rooms are small spaces capable of making a big statement. They're private, intimate settings that reflect the style of your home. I think of them as the great equalizers. No matter how large or small your home may be, powder rooms are all approximately the same size. They serve the same purpose and all send a message about your home and your attention to detail. Adding the right embellishments is a wonderful way to say, "Welcome to our home."

The same design principles apply as in any other room in your home, just on a smaller scale. Consider these specific tips.

Create a Focal Point in Your Powder Room

This room is initially viewed at a distance. From outside, it appears as a large piece of artwork framed by the door trim. Once inside, your guest will spend private time to view the details from a very up-close-and-personal perspective. Therefore, it needs to appear as exquisite from 10 feet away as it does from only 10 inches away. 

Choose a focal point. First, determine your main focal point. That is rarely the commode! Instead, your goal is to draw attention toward the sink area.

Add a decorative finish to cabinetry. One option is to apply an decorative finish to the existing cabinetry. This is usually more cost effective and less complicated than replacing the whole vanity, sink and fixtures. No construction is required. Then, add complementary door hardware to transform a standard cabinet to look like a custom vanity.

Create interest with an attractive design element. If budget allows, a lovely countertop, pretty plumbing fixtures or even a hand-carved stone sink can be just the design element that is needed.

Embellish Your Powder Room

Hang a mirror. A decorative framed mirror can serve to further embellish the vanity. If your mirror is attached directly to the wall, consider removing it. If that is not possible, a frame can be built using trim molding placed around the edges. In the event you decide to do this, make sure that you also finish the back side of the frame that you use, since anything that is placed directly against the mirror surface will be reflected. The easiest fix is simply to paint the back side of the frame black.

Decorate with lighting. Just as in any other space, lighting is critical. In powder rooms, your light fixtures also serve a decorative purpose. Merely changing out the fixture can add both style and mood to this intimate space. In cases where the only light source is on the ceiling, consider a stylish little chandelier.

Turn walls into eye candy. A magnificent decorative finish on the walls with texture and dimension is a way to add interest. It can be pure candy for the eye. Be sure any treatment you choose is durable. Behind closed doors, guests cannot resist the urge to touch the finish!

Make a Big Impact with Small Amenities  

Offer reading material. Powder rooms are rarely a place where people spend a lot of time. But on occasion, reading materials become part of the décor via a table or decorative stand. In the past, a Sears catalog was considered a staple in a restroom! I'm fascinated by what people offer as reading materials for their visitors -- everything from comic books to car or hi-tech magazines. Whatever you incorporate, make sure it is relevant for your guests.

Supply plenty of toilet tissue. Toilet tissue does not need to be hung on the wall. Do make sure there is always plenty available. Put a couple of extra rolls inside the vanity or somewhere easy to find. If you choose to have a wall dispenser, make it a pretty one, but another option is to place some rolls in a pretty container (like a basket) near the commode.  

Take care of the little things. Most people would prefer to use hand cleanser out of a dispenser.  A decorative dispenser is more sanitary and eliminates the mess of a slippery bar of wet soap. Luxurious hand towels on a towel ring or decorative paper napkins are a gracious addition. The wastebasket should be in a convenient place but not the center of attention.

Stash tools discreetly. Toilet bowl brushes or plungers are not decorative accessories! Store necessary tools in a readily accessible location ... such as behind closed doors inside the vanity. Keep your powder room clean and the plumbing in working condition. If it's prone to problems, find a plumber to get it into good shape. 

Pay attention to the final details. A pretty rug in front of the vanity, beautiful bath accessories and a special piece of artwork are all that will be needed to complete the picture and provide a lasting impression.

Because a powder room is a small space, it is easy to make a departure from the traditional or expected. Have fun and don't be afraid to be bold with your design. A powder room should be a memorable experience for all who enter. Create something that makes your guests smile. 

Updated March 18, 2018.

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