Plenty of articles and television shows implore you to make a bold color statement in your bathroom, yet most people still prefer soft and neutral tones.
“If I sold 50 bathrooms last year, 48 of them were either white or bisque,” says Mark Karas, a certified master kitchen and bath designer and 2008 Vice President of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. “There are usually a couple of people who will say something like, ‘I really want that cobalt blue.’ But my average customer is still using white or the bisque.”
The small size of the typical bathroom is one reason light colors are favored, says Quinn Larson, a color trends specialist with paint manufacturer Behr. “Color- or neutral-tinted whites have expansionary qualities that create a more open, airy feel in a small space,” explains Larson.
In addition to using soft colors and whites on the walls, white plumbing fixtures—toilets, tubs and sinks—are often used. While different colors are available, white tubs, toilets and sinks tend to be less expensive than their colorful counterparts. A 2008 NKBA style barometer survey of 200 kitchen and bath dealers and designers showed that white was the most popular plumbing fixture color for 84 percent of the panel’s clients.
While fixtures usually come in a true white, using a true white paint is usually not the best choice, Larson cautions. “Though light and clean, they don’t create areas of comfort,” she says. “Use color-tinted whites, off whites or colors instead.”
Beiges and Browns
Outside of whites, the NKBA style survey found that beiges and bones were the most popular color scheme for bathrooms. Browns also ranked high.
“The browns are safe,” says Denise Turner of Color Turners, a color consulting company. “[Consumers] are putting things into their home that are safe and are looking at things like resale value.”
Bathroom cabinets made from wood will obviously come in many shades of brown, while popular flooring materials such as slate, travertine and porcelain ceramic often contain brown and beige earth tones.
If you think using white, beige and brown in the bathroom represents surrendering to the status quo, then consider a more colorful alternative: green. Colors found in the natural world, Larson notes, especially those in the green family, have become popular choices.
“Lime greens in all values and intensities can be seen in almost every industry,” she says.
The NKBA’s 2008 style survey revealed mints and greens as a popular bath colors, and Turner sees that as a trend that should stick around.
“The greens have been good sellers for a while and we don’t expect that trend to go anywhere,” she says. “Green is historically a good seller when the economy is slow.”
Sage green is a popular choice in Zen and Asian-style baths, which according to the NKBA’s style survey, was one of the three most requested bath styles by clients according to 17 percent of the polled dealers and designers.