Nine expert-approved paint colours for a powder room makeover

Virginia Brown

THE WASHINGTON POST – Small and self-contained, powder rooms are packed with potential. They’re faster and more economical to paint than larger spaces; you can tackle them over a weekend with fewer gallons. And when tastes or trends change – or when the big experiment backfires – it’s easy to put them right again.

“Powder rooms are always a great place to throw in colour, something that brings all the colours of the house together,” said Cortney Bishop, principal designer and owner of Cortney Bishop Design in Charleston, South Carolina Or they can be a place to step outside of your comfort zone with something completely different.

“Powder rooms give you the freedom to express yourself. It doesn’t have to correlate with the rest of the house,” said Mikel Welch, who has designed for Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. “Go into the lab and mix things around until you figure it out. Have fun, and show your personality.”

The bottom line: Your powder room is your playground. There are no rules.

We asked several experts to share their favourite powder room paint colours. Here are their picks:


What it looks like: This earthy tone blends red and yellow to create a warm, terracotta feel. It responds well to the changing sunlight throughout the day.

What designers say: “It does feel earthy, but it’s unexpected,” Bishop said. “It’s definitely a risk. We find it works really beautifully with creamy white, brown and green tones and all (accent) shades, like yellow and green.”

Red Earth pairs well with honey-blond wood, Bishop said, such as on a custom vanity or a wood-framed mirror.


What it looks like: There’s nothing bronze about Sherwin-Williams’s 2021 Colour of the Year; it’s actually a deep neutral that finishes brown-grey.

What designers say: “It’s moodier,” but it works, Bishop said, especially when paired with a brighter colour. “Make sure you bring in a great mirror, so it’s not too dark,” she added.

Consider accenting your bold paint with wood or wallpaper on the top third of the wall, she said. “It’s that little touch of thoughtful wallpaper – not covering the whole room, but that accent – that helps those colours play out without feeling cavernous or dark.”

Bishop also suggests brass accents, such as on the legs of a vanity. “Those shiny, reflective materials really elevate the design, so it feels a little more sophisticated,” she said.


What it looks like: Michigan designer Haneen Matt blended these deep blue-greens (three parts Abysse, one part Ocean Abyss) to achieve her desired teal for her own powder room.

What designers say: “I was trying to get the perfect blue-green that looked rich and sophisticated (which is tricky! I didn’t want it to look like a juvenile turquoise/teal),” Matt said in an email.

Like Bishop suggested, Matt painted the lower two-thirds of the walls, then complemented the dark paint with light wallpaper. She chose Palazzo by Thibaut. “It’s an old-world architectural cityscape,” she wrote. “You can get lost in it. “

Matt also brought in metallic fixtures and an unexpected floral shade that contrasts with the whimsical wallpaper.


What it looks like: Reminiscent of the soft off-white frequently found in old schools, this neutral colour feels warm and timeless.

What designers say: This versatile white works with many styles and colours, Bishop said. “The reason I would suggest white on the wall is that you can then paint the vanity or the cabinet a really great, punchy colour” like Red Earth, she said.


What it looks like: This subtle sage green gives off a Victorian-study vibe and goes well with any warm neutral, such as off-white.

What designers say: For homes on the neutral spectrum, Welch likes this dark grey-green to add colour without taking on too much risk. “It’s like spicy foods,” Welch said. “Everyone’s palate isn’t the same.”

6. Ball Green, Farrow & Ball

What it looks like: Although Bishop said this go-to colour comes across as beige in online images, in real life it finishes as more of a muted sage green with hints  of silver.

What designers say: It’s a solid complement to any light neutral. Bishop pairs Ball Green on the ceiling with walls in School House White, for example, because both colours are warm and they work well together. “It’s a combination that I’ve been extremely happy with for several clients, as well as for myself,” she said.


What it looks like: This moody grey-blue that leans toward classic navy is a great choice for a dark and bold neutral that’s  not black.

What designers say: “It’s really interesting, but it’s also not a hot pink. You could tie it into the rest of your home easily,” said Catherine Williamson of Columbus, Ohio-based Beginning in

the Middle. To add brightness against a dark colour, “go with a contrasting metal, like brass, nickel or chrome”, for your fixtures, she said, as opposed to black against a dark colour. “It adds some contrast and lightens it up.”


What it looks like: This neutral brown tone produces a sophisticated finish, especially when offset by light baseboards and a light ceiling.

What designers say: “It’s earthy, moody and neutral,” Williamson said. She hates to paint, so she opts for neutrals over trendier colours every time.

Williamson also suggests introducing bold colours and patterns with rugs and art. “The power of one piece of art in a room, especially like a powder room, it would produce a completely different look,” she said, or mix several styles in a gallery wall. “You can get bold without committing long-term.”


What it looks like: This ink black with green undertones creates a chalky effect. Juxtaposed with light neutrals, the finish is classic and crisp.

What designers say: Like Urbane Bronze, Welch said Greenblack works because “it has a chalkiness to it, so it’s not a stark black.”

For optimal effect, Welch suggests colour-blocking: painting only a portion of the wall with the dark tone.

“One horizontal stripe splits the entire wall in half with a lighter tone on top, darker tone on bottom” – or the inverse, he said. “It gives the effect of a faux chair rail.”