How to use bold color in the bathroom - the expert guide to making a little go a long way

If you know how to use bold color in the bathroom you can update your decor easily and make a big design splash

how to use bold color in the bathroom with marble backsplash and purple walls
Design by Frank & Faber
(Image credit: Paul Craig)

Knowing how to use bold color in the bathroom can be a hard design idea to get your head around. Often small spaces, sometimes windowless, the natural direction to go in would tend to be light and bright. But there are plenty of ways to make a little bold color go a long way, adding flair, personality and panache to your bathroom decor.

'Never be afraid to go bold!' says Sarah Ellison, creative director at the interior design studio Frank & Faber.  'As a general rule, bold color can work in large and small bathrooms alike. We often choose to use richer and warmer bold colors in smaller spaces with an absence of natural light because the color becomes a feature of the space, while cooler colors can feel lifeless and dull.'

Updating what we thought we knew about modern bathroom ideas, Sarah's design advice for getting color right is invaluable.

How to use bold color in the bathroom

how to use bold color in the bathroom a windowless en suite bathroom with marble tiles and purple walls

Design by Frank & Faber

(Image credit: Paul Craig)

1. Create a balance

For this windowless, master en-suite on the lower ground floor, the owners were very open to dramatic color. 'They didn’t take much convincing to embrace Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal in a bold way,' Sarah says. 'It’s a fantastically rich color with impressive depth.'

Sarah warns there are caveats when using such a vivid hue. 'With any bold shade, it’s important to get the balance right so that the color supports other finishes in the room and doesn’t overpower,' she says. 'The Calacatta Viola marble used here, for example, has a strong aubergine marble veining that balances with the Brinjal – a paler, more delicate marble would have been lost in the space.'

2. Pick aged brass fittings

how to use bold color in the bathroom with walnut wood cabinet, purple walls and marble tiles

Design by Frank & Faber

(Image credit: Paul Craig)

Sarah was keen to find ways to bring touchs of light to these small bathroom ideas, using materials that provided just the right gleam. 'The unlacquered brass finish on all the metal elements brings a similar warmth and will naturally age with time, which is a great way to add character,' she says.

3. Use color seen elsewhere in the home

how to use bold color in the bathroom with green tiles in the gold shower

Design by Frank & Faber

(Image credit: Paul Craig)

As with any walk-in shower ideas, this area needed tiling, and was a chance to offer some relief to the purple seen elsewhere. 'The shower tiles are a rich but muted green, which sits virtually opposite aubergine on the colour wheel, making it the perfect accent color,' Sarah says. 

'It also reflects other green accents used in this home, which is another important point when making brave color choices,' she continues. 'They work best when considered as part of a wider, cohesive color scheme. Used in isolation, the surprise can be too jarring.'

4. Opt for warm lighting

Bathroom lighting ideas truly make all the difference, particularly when using bold colors. 'We always opt for warm lighting – 2700k minimum – in bathrooms,' Sarah says. 'Nobody needs cold, harsh lighting in a space filled with cold, hard materials.'

 With no natural light, getting the lighting design right was even more essential in this space. 'And so we installed multiple circuits to allow different lighting scenes through the day,' Sarah adds. 'We always avoid too many spotlights, as they have a harsher quality, whereas the wall lights here really bring the Brinjal to life, making it even warmer and richer.'

5. Keep the palette fuss-free

Finally, Sarah advises that you try to keep things relatively fuss free when using strong colors. 'A refined palette with minimal color changes means the eye is not drawn into many directions,' she says. 'For example, we often use the same finish on the walls and ceilings, as well as skirtings, architraves and doors. The simplicity of palette creates a more calming overall aesthetic.' A useful adage to remember when considering small bathroom color ideas.

Linda is a freelance journalist who has specialised in homes and interiors for the past 19 years, beginning on a trade rag for the Daily Mail Group and now writing full-time for the likes of Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors, Ideal Home and Real Homes. Linda is our resident mattress reviewer. She spends a couple of weeks on every mattress she tests for us, as does her ever-patient husband. In reviewing mattresses for us for more than two years, she has become something of a very opinionated expert. She lives in Devon with her cabinetmaker husband, two daughters and many pets, and is locked in an on-going battle to drag their red brick Victorian home out of 1970s swirly-carpet hell...