Ask virtually any designer the best room in the house to take a design risk, and they’ll point you to the powder room. Postage-sized proportions means it’s cost effective to cover the powder room in expensive materials. Additionally, most powder rooms can easily be shut off from the rest of the home. (Essentially, what goes on in the powder room — be it wild wallpaper, offbeat art, or extroverted tile — stays in the powder room.) That’s not to say that powder rooms don’t come with their own set of rules. They do. Here, top designers give us their dos and don’ts for the most notoriously lawless of rooms: the powder room. 

3 Designer Dos

Stunning powder room featuring an elegant scenic wall mural
Design by Amal Kapen Interiors / Photo by Marco Ricca Studios

Do: Make it an Experience

“My goal is to create a little jewel box,” says designer Tish Mills. “The kind where guests ask each other, ‘have you been to the powder room?’” Take a page from Tish’s book and craft powder room that envelopes the visual senses with color and texture. Scenic wallpaper murals are ideal for transforming a powder room into a proper experience, especially when accented with painted baseboards and ceilings. “Take a risk and step outside of your comfort zone,” says Tish, who notes that that because powder rooms are small, they’re relatively easy to redo if you grow tired of one scheme after a few years.

Powder room featuring a bright purple vanity with storage built-ins outside
Design by Eleven Interiors / Photo by Greg Premru

Do: Pick Tricks that Visually Expand

When you consider that many powder rooms aren’t much bigger than a train lavatory, there’s merit to trying tricks that will make it look bigger. “Lighting and mirrors can make a small space feel so much more ample,” says designer Regan Billingsley. If your guest bathroom is particularly tiny, consider going with a wall-to-wall mirror over the vanity. While it may seem like a dull choice, the resulting illusion can considerably enlarge a room. We promised, when paired with a lively wallpaper, it’s difficult to even notice the missing mirror frame.

Historic powder room featuring white paneling and lighting pink walls
Design by KHI Design Group / Photo by Marco Ricca Studio

Do: Remember to Consider Art

Wallpaper is to powder rooms as analogies used to be to the SATs. Which is to say, some people have a hard time divorcing the two. That said, wallpaper is far from your only statement-making option in a powder room. Designer Annie Santulli personally loves art in a guest bathroom. “Adding large pieces of art can create interest in small spaces,” says Annie. Consider an oversized piece of photography laid atop a brightly-painted wall for a low-lift, low-cost alternative to more pricey powder room build-outs.

3 Designs Don’ts

Silver and gray powder room designed by Tish Mills
Photo courtesy of Tish Mills

Don’t: Use a Powder Room for Storage

Floor space in a guest bathroom is precious, so don’t clog it with unnecessary clutter says Regan Billingsley. “Avoid stockpiling the extra cleaning supplies and bottles of refillable soap says,“ she says. “Every square inch should be thoughtfully used or styled.” For those necessities you do need, like Kleenex and hand soap? “A decorative tissue box holder or soap pump go a long way toward transforming a powder room from pure function to high design,” says Regan.

Design by Ayromloo Design / Photo by Annie Schlechte

Don’t: Cheap out on Plumbing

Given that you don’t get many chances to make an impression in a guest bathroom, don’t settle for sub-par plumbing, says designer Tish Mills. From the sink to the toilet, consider going a notch or two above contractor-grade to give your powder room a touch of luxe. Ever mulled over the idea of a colored toilet? A powder room is a perfect place to consider one. 

Design by Stefani Stein Inc. / Photography by Stephen Busken

Don’t: Shy Away from Dark Colors

Dark colors have a reputation for making space-challenged rooms look even smaller, but don’t let that stop you from courting the darker side of the color wheel, says designer Annie Santulli. Dark colors in a small bathroom are one of the easiest ways to produce the all-coveted “jewel box” effect. Where a dark color in a small bedroom might feel claustrophobic after a few hours, no one spends too long in a powder room. On the contrary, dark walls can make a powder room feel like a cozy burrow. Just the sort of feeling you want to curate in a space intended for guests to decompress. 

Lead image courtesy of Stefani Stein Inc. / Photography by Stephen Busken


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August 5, 2022

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