Give powder room a big personality

Special to Washington PostMay 17, 2013 

If most rooms in a house require restrained practicality – neutral paint for switching out seasonal accessories, kid-proof fabric for high-traffic furniture – the powder room begs for boldness.

Because the room is small and easily redecorated, a bright paint or trendy wallpaper is less of a risk.

“It’s a great place to experiment,” says Eve Fay-Glenn, a color consultant for paint-and-wallpaper company Farrow & Ball.

We asked experts for ideas and then rounded up our favorite tastefully bold fixtures and furnishings.

Add some sparkle

• Fay-Glenn likes dramatic, dark, high-gloss walls to set the stage for sparkly accessories. In a dark blue room, the Worlds Away clear star chandelier mimics a star in the night sky. ($223, Layla Grace).

• Charles Almonte, a Maryland architect and interior designer who is redoing one of two powder rooms in the 2013 D.C. Design House in the nation’s capital, likes to have fun with light fixtures in the tiny rooms. “Powder rooms can take a small chandelier,” he says. The Marmont pendant is small but glamorous ($275, Serena & Lily).

Make it bright

• Almonte says that lighting should be clear and even so you don’t get shadows on the occupant’s face. One of the best ways to do this is to put wall sconces on either side of the mirror. For a contemporary, art deco look, try the Nolan sconce ($159, Restoration Hardware).

• For a simple, retro style, try the Otis sconce with a hand-blown opal glass shade (Otis 2.25-inch sconce, $79.99; shade, $35; Schoolhouse Electric & Supply).

Think about storage

• A pedestal sink is always a classic in a powder room if you can do without storage. Washington, D.C., interior designer Kelley Proxmire recommends Restoration Hardware, where we found the Park Pedestal Sink ($595 to $695), as a good source.

• If your home is small and you need storage in every room, pass on the pedestal sink and use a vessel sink, such as this Decolav Incandescence design, on top of a vanity cabinet or repurposed dresser. For a quirky option, Terri Hartwell Easter, designer for the main-floor powder room for the 2013 D.C. Design House, recommends finding a beautiful plant pot and having it fitted to the cabinet ($250, comes in a variety of colors, Home Depot).

Use mirrors thoughtfully

• A brilliant mirror can stand out as the centerpiece of a small powder room. The Parker rectangular mirror, with its iridescent seashell coins, would add just the right amount of shimmer ($228, Nordstrom).

• Whether you have a traditional or cottage-style interior, the Segovia whitewashed mirror would be a bold yet complementary choice. And pay attention to what it’s reflecting, Proxmire says. In one jungle-themed bathroom, she placed a ceramic cheetah on a pedestal opposite a mirror for whimsy ($99, World Market).

• Proxmire uses long, skinny mirrors to elongate a small room. The Audrey mirror comes in three sizes and will help reflect light around the room ($99-$199, Ballard Designs).

Try wallpaper

• “Wallpaper has gotten a bad rap over the past decade, but now we’re seeing a huge resurgence,” Fay-Glenn says. She advises homeowners to use it “judiciously” so it’s not as overwhelming as it was in the ’80s. “Just be fun and quirky,” she says. The perfect example: A small powder room in Farrow & Ball’s Ocelot paper ($255).

• Proxmire likes to give the whole powder room – ceiling, molding and all – a saturated color. She has run a vertical stripe up the wall and onto the ceiling (Black and White Stripe Wallpaper by the Wallpaper Co., $34.98, Home Depot).

Find warmth underfoot

• To warm up the room that your guests will pay the most attention to, find a cozy but durable rug, such as Dash & Albert’s colorful Rhapsody Wool Woven design ($94, Layla Grace).

• It can be a challenge to be indulgent in the powder room and not make it clash with the rest of the house. If you have more traditional interiors elsewhere, Almonte says to go bold, “but with a more traditional pattern, like vines and flowers or maybe bird prints.” Dash & Albert’s Vine rug has a dense pile for a luxurious feel and comes in a variety of colors ($108 for 2-by-3-foot rug).

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