More Ways to Waste Time reader Harriet writes, "I'm hoping you can help me with my boring powder room. I'm looking for ways to add spunk, character, and style without spending much money.
The room lacks architectural details: There is no window. It's a five-by-five-foot square. And it's painted a pale green. There is a nice new sink and toilet, but I'm not attached to anything else in the room.
I'd definitely like to paint. Two people recommended pumpkin or terracotta, which I like, but I'm wondering if they would clash with the orange-y wood of the bathroom door. I love deep peacock blue-green, but have been warned against a cold color in a windowless room. I'd also like to change the light fixture, hopefully without moving the light box. Finally, I'm on the lookout for a small table or cabinet with more character than the white cabinet that's in there now. To me, a table wants a plant on it, but with no natural light, I haven't figured out what to put there instead. Any ideas?"
I have one word for you, Harriet: Wallpaper. It's a great way to add color, dimension, and interest to a lackluster space. And it doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive, especially when you're papering a small room. You could even paper just the sink wall, and paint the other three walls a complimentary hue. Cole & Son's Woods wallpaper, shown above and below, is one of my favorites.
If it's in your budget, installing a wood or tile wainscot will add instant architecture to a space with none. For the look of wainscoting without the expense, you could even install a simple chair rail, then wallpaper above it and paint below.
If matching the wood of the door is a stumbling point, be sure to test paint or wallpaper swatches against it to make sure they don't clash. Or consider simply painting the door. I don't have a strong opinion about warm vs. cool colors for your space. I think that as long as the lighting isn't cold (i.e., glaring fluorescents), it doesn't really matter.
Besides, it's just a powder room -- a space to go to the bathroom and wash your hands. Nobody's going to be spending a ton of time in there or doing anything other than maybe reapplying lipstick, so I don't think it's a big deal if the color palette is on the cool side. (But readers, feel free to say so if you think I'm wrong on this.)
Now about your mirror. It's OK, but you could add a huge dose of style and drama by upgrading. Again, you don't have to spend a lot of money. Keep an eye out on craigslist, in thrift stores, and at flea markets for a vintage mirror with an interesting shape or intricate frame. If you don't like the frame's color or wood finish, you can simply spray paint it.
For lighting, you could go vintage (or vintage-inspired), classic, or modern, depending on your preferences and the other elements in the room. Circa Lighting and Rejuvenation are great places to find a vintage or reproduction over-mirror fixture that will add a lot a character to the room. For more budget finds, don't overlook eBay or your local architectural salvage yard. A great old piece can often be rewired for very little expense.
A vintage side table or cabinet topped with fresh flowers, a shade-tolerating plant like a peace lily, a collection of small treasures, a basket full of rolled hand towels, or an interesting objet will complete the look.
The most important thing, I think, is to have some fun. Because a powder room is a space that's only experienced for a few minutes at a time, there's no better excuse to just go for it.
Readers: Any other ideas for jazzing up Harriet's lackluster powder room? If so, please leave a comment and share them!