5 Things People With Flattering Bathrooms Never Have — (And You Shouldn't Either!)

Designers say you should avoid these five things if you want a bathroom that flatters your reflection and therefore uplifts your mood

A bathroom with flattering lighting and natural materials
(Image credit: Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop)

Bathrooms are one of those rooms that must delicately balance form and function. While we want our bathrooms to be calming spaces for relaxation, they are also zones where we hurriedly run through our daily routines, whether it's a brief teeth check in the mirror or a carefully curated 10-step skincare routine. It follows that one of the main requirements of a well-designed and fully functioning bathroom is that it is a space that flatters before we step out into the world.

But unbeknownst to you, certain things might not be helping you achieve a flattering reflection when you look in the mirror. From harsh downward lighting to too much white metal which creates a sterile ambiance, these are the five things you'll never find in flattering modern bathrooms, according to the designers.

1. Clutter

A bathroom with travertine trough sink

(Image credit: Nicole Franzen, Styling: Rosy Fridman. Design: Homework)

There might not seem like much of a correlation between clutter and unflattering bathrooms, but the best bathrooms that flatter the complexion while imbuing an atmosphere of self-care are unlikely to be messy.

Clutter only increases the visual noise in the space, detracting from the calmness of the room, and can interfere with the way light radiates around the space. 'Clutter is notably absent from flattering bathrooms,' says designer Kati Curtis. 'So keep effective bathroom storage solutions, keep countertops tidy and the space open and airy.'

Designer Artem Krobivinsky of New York-based interior design studio, Arsight agrees, highlighting the link between cluttered bathrooms and dirty spaces: 'Furnishings that have been crammed in limit the aesthetics and luxury feeling of the bathroom, and as such, cleanliness is an uncommon occurrence in well-designed bathrooms that flatter.'

2. Bright overhead lighting

A calming bathroom with head height wall sconces

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop)

Avoid overhead bathroom lighting if your focus is creating a room that flatters. ‘Stark, overly bright overhead lighting should be avoided to maintain the bathroom’s appeal and comfort,’ says Kati. Recessed lights that cast light directly downwards are a popular choice for bathrooms, but they could create an unflattering reflection, enhancing shadow and imperfections on your face.

Alternatively, select wall lights that are positioned at head height, hitting your face head-on, and opt for concealed lighting like LED lighting hidden behind mirrors. Fixtures that are shaded with lampshades or porcelain bulbs that diffuse the light are also a good option.

Ultimately, you should aim for a layered lighting scheme, just like how you layer lighting in a living room or bedroom for a calming vibe. 'Layered light is essential with task lighting - with the light around the mirror for sharpness, as well as ambient light for a soft glow to create an awesome ambiance that looks good on a person,' says Artem.

Consider the quality of the light too. 'The most important thing and so often forgotten is the quality of that light, especially by the vanity. You don’t need to look worse first thing in the morning,' says Juan Carretero of Capital C Interiors. When sourcing the bulbs, look out for the CCT or color temperature - anything between 2,700k and 3,000k is a good option for a light that is dewy and warm.

3. Too much white metal

A statement bath with gold taps

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway + Shop)

Consider how your hardware impacts the aura of your room. Too much silver hardware and white metals can contribute to a cool and sterile feel. As a solution, swap out your chrome or stainless steel for metallics that have a natural warmth to them.

As a general rule, gold-toned hardware tends to flatter with warm undertones, whereas white metals like chrome and platinum bring a coolness to the room. 'Outdated fixtures and hardware often make a space look unfriendly, so they are often replaced with more modern and trendy designs that the trends will enhance the whole mood of the space,' says Artem.

Unlacquered brass was the finish of choice in the bathrooms throughout the Casa Galloway project (above), designed by Lindye Galloway. 'It's a trend on the rise this year as a popular bathroom hardware trend, ideal for adding a touch of vintage charm that perfectly warms up the space,' says Lindye.

4. Overwhelming pattern

A nature-inspired bathroom with marble pattern floor

(Image credit: Nils Timm. Design: Ome Dezin)

Too much pattern in your bathroom can detract from your bathroom's calming atmosphere and cast shadows that might interfere with your reflection. Instead, opt for a serene, minimalist bathroom design and stay clear of those fussy patterns that overwhelm the space, warns Juan.

'Avoid crazy pattern surfaces anywhere in your bathroom if you want a flattering space,' advises Juan. 'Leave that for the powder room.'

If you do go for a pattern, embrace natural materials like wood or marble. Both have organic patterns found in nature - wood with its organic grain and marble with naturally swirled veining. This marble stone in a bathroom designed by Ome Dezin is the perfect example, with marble trim creating a bathroom backsplash that is just enough to add interest without overwhelming the space.

5. A cool color scheme

A bathroom with warm colored tiling

(Image credit: Chango & Co)

Finally, the most flattering bathrooms have a warm color scheme and are void of colors from the cool side of the wheel. While dark, moody greens and blues might bring a contemporary chic feel to your bathroom, going for colors from the cool side of the color wheel can quickly feel cold and sterile. Meanwhile, opting for the all-white look isn't the solution either, with bright whites often creating a blue tinge in the room that won't flatter the complexion.

Instead, go neutral with earthy tans, or pick off-white paints with warmer undertones that add a warming glow to the room. 'Consider colors that go well with natural skin tones,' says Artem. 'Think soft, neutral types of color that create a place that is relaxing and recharging.'

'Earthy pinks still rule on the decorating spectrum and enhance the glow of complexion when preening in the mirror,’ says Patrick O'Donnell, brand ambassador for Farrow & Ball. 

When selecting a paint color, you might want to also consider the texture of your wall and avoid any high gloss paints that interfere with the light in the room. Instead, matte plaster or limewash paint has an absorbing quality to it that helps foster an ambient atmosphere reminiscent of your favorite spa.

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Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.