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Small Bathroom(s) - Use Color on Walls or Vanity?

4 years ago

Hello - I am redoing the two small bathrooms in my 85 year old mom's townhome for her while she is out of town next month. The goal is basic, clean and fresh with a bent towards cheerful without being too crazy. My mom enjoys rooms of different colors and had the place painted peach, lavender, bright blue and a pretty bright teal in various rooms. A completely neutral room would be blah to her.

The bathrooms are basic 3 piece kind of like this picture (not her place):

Tub/shower combos will be prefab white units. Flooring will be sheet vinyl, probably something neutral so she can choose a colorful mat.

The smaller master bathroom is set with a light gray 26" feminine freestanding vanity and a light grayish pink paint color choice and pretty flower art in mostly shades of pink.

Question is about the hall bathroom that has a 36" vanity. I was all set to get an unfinished wood vanityand paint it a muted teal with a bright white top and light neutral paint like BM Classic Gray which I have in my house. Seeing the picture above made me wonder if the splash of color is better on the wall and now I'm curious about the different effects. Opinions?

Painted Vanity/Neutral Wall (not actual vanity/room; just for color example):

And then this one with the browner top made me second guess the white top plan:

I'm wondering if adding those slightly darker elements in countertop, mirror and floor would make it more universally appealing and/or varied vs. both bathrooms being "girly".

Actual likely vanity (to bring it all back to lower budget reality):

I'm trying to understand ahead of time the impact of color from the different elements so I can choose what might be most appealing for my mom. Anyone want to chime in?

(Thankfully, I have an awesome contractor who has already done lots of work at our home and other projects so I do not have any concerns about workmanship or the job getting done in my timeframe.)

Comments (20)

  • PRO
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    what will the countertop be? to make things easier, get a pre-fab, white quartz vanity top. going with a single hole faucet, or the wide spread, makes it easier to keep clean.

    have you painted wood cabinets prior? make sure you are getting real wood vanities and not that plastic type of material. it will make a huge diff in paint adherence. You also want the wood vanities and not the fiberboard crap.

    What you could also do is search craigslist for those older oak vanities. you can find them for a steal and they make great paint products.

    Or, find a piece of furniture (like in your picture) that you can transform into a vanity. lots of tutorials on how to do that. just make sure to always sand, clean well, and apply a good oil based primer before painting.

    There were 3 blog girls who did a bathroom challange for under $1000. they all painted.

    here are the 3 builder basic make-overs with tons of links to help you.

    Get the vanity and top decided first, then start w/the other colorsfor instance, you could do this color and get the vinyl that looks like marble mosaic tile

    Don't overlook some brightly color wallpaper and paint the vanity to match

    another way to use wallpaper...frame it on a plain wall. use window molding.

    or do some wainscot in a bright enamel. wall paper above it or not.

    pick a bright vanity color and go subtle on the walls

    or vice versa...bring in some art if you have a large wall

    Don't over look a nice black vanity

    m_gabriel thanked Beth H. :
  • 4 years ago

    Thank you, Beth, for the tips and inspiration pictures. You always have such good advice to share with everyone - I've learned a lot from you over the years on other people's dilemmas! And, yes, the vanity I am considering is unfinished solid wood suitable for painting.

  • 4 years ago

    White cabinetry, counter and fixtures, and brushed stainless faucets are readily available. Paint the walls in semi-gloss enamel in a medium-light color such as apple green, aqua, peach or lemon chiffon. The color will be lovely and every light color goes with white. If Mom likes color, this will make her happy. Top it off with fresh new towels if that’s in the budget.
    Such a nice idea!

  • 4 years ago

    If mom likes color I think the painted vanity would be fun and , for her, unexpected. You could do the walls in a good whitish to go with the vanity or do more bold color. Pictures to repeat the points of color. Great images above.

    m_gabriel thanked enduring
  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I think it depends on her style and the style of her home. The vanity you show with the darker top would not be put in the same house as the other because of them being 2 different styles. When you look at photos, what one makes you say " that looks like mom!". Here are some more teal bathrooms that may help you glean some ideas from.

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    Just showing to show how flooring can make a statement, too.

    Dream Home · More Info

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    Wallpaper is a quick way to get color and wow factor too.

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    Some ideas

  • 4 years ago

    Your mom is 85. The painted vanities in your pictures don't have much color, they are neutral teals. She may see them as gray. As we age the ability to see color diminishes.

    m_gabriel thanked Jennifer Hogan
  • 4 years ago

    These are great suggestions and inspirations! Thank you all very much. I'm going to go ahead and paint an unfinished wood vanity and see how it looks. If I can't get it the way I want, I'll default to white. I want to leave the more fun decorating to my mom when she gets back from her trip so we'll revisit these good ideas then. I think (hope) she's going to be really happy because the bathrooms in this new-to-her townhome are many years old and there is nothing enjoyable about them. I wish we had done it before she moved it but she wasn't ready.

  • 4 years ago

    I think painted vanities are nice if it is a special vanity and you want the focus on it. But in your case, with a standard vanity, I would keep it white and paint a beautiful soft color that she loves on the walls. The color on the walls gives more personality to a standard room. And at 85, the only place she should have a bath rug is in front of the shower/bath. Remove them from a powder room. Make sure she has plenty of bright lighting.

  • 4 years ago

    Quick follow-up question (maybe it should be a new post?). After digesting everyone's generous suggestions and factoring in budget/time limitations, I decided to go with a prefinished navy vanity/white top in the hall bathroom. I have it now in my garage and it looks very nice.

    Plan was to do a Moroccan/deco design with the sheet vinyl floor. Now that I have the flooring sample and the vanity together, it feels like way too much navy. True?

    I'm thinking of pivoting to this one:

    But maybe too busy? Remember, my mom likes color and pizazz.

    It's a little harder because the whole project is a surprise and I can't go over there and lay things out. Plus, contractor and flooring store are cooperating to get it all done in 2 weeks so I am sticking with Mannington and Armstrong sheet vinyl to simplify.

  • 4 years ago

    I like the darker navy floor, assuming you're painting the walls a white or off white color. The navy and taupe are easier to coordinate other colors for towels and accessories, rather than the gold tones in the lighter blue option.

    m_gabriel thanked calidesign
  • 4 years ago

    Walls are most likely going to be a very pale gray like SW First Star (which I have in my house).

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    It will look fine but does that flooring make sense with the other flooring that it will connect to and how does the style fit in with the rest of the house is what you have to ask yourself.

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  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago

    Thank you all for chiming in. There are no real style continuity concerns. My mom likes what she likes and it's a jumble of styles. I took my floor sample to Lowes and put it under a similar navy vanity and also a white vanity. Seems fine with the navy so I'm going to move forward.

  • 4 years ago

    I love navy, and I like the more "navy" flooring as well.

    m_gabriel thanked Missi (4b IA)
  • 4 years ago

    Looks great. Such a nice surprise for your mom!

    m_gabriel thanked Gcubed
  • 3 years ago

    Since I just refurbished/remodeled my smallish guest bathroom, I can tell you that the darker cabinet with white marble or other stone top as your “statement” piece is really the best idea. Also since you will be using the beautiful navy flooring, you should then keep the walls pale as backdrop for the real show stoppers. great choices! Since I’m nearly your mom’s age, I would love these & if only my daughter would have come in & done it for me!

    Best wishes!

    m_gabriel thanked Linda Duke