Six Unique Ways To Add Reclaimed Wood To Your Bathroom

Reclaimed wood is becoming one of the hottest materials in all of home design this year, a nice convergence of the trend toward a more rustic, industrial style decor and homeowners’ growing desire to use sustainable materials. Surprisingly, this is even true in the bathroom – a space where wood is traditionally a no-no – with reclaimed wood making an appearance all over the bathroom. If you’re looking to go beyond the basics, we’ve got a few great ways to add a reclaimed wood element to your next bathroom remodel.

Sculptural Vanities

A slab of wood with a live edge and marine quality waterproofing finish makes a spectacular centerpiece for a bathroom, and a very affordable alternative to a full sized vanity
A slab of wood with a live edge and marine quality waterproofing finish makes a spectacular centerpiece for a bathroom, and a very affordable alternative to a full sized vanity (by Jodie Rosen Design, photo by Stephani Buchman)

If you have a really unique, sculptural piece of reclaimed wood – like driftwood, or really any piece of wood that has a really nice, natural shape, rugged finish, or live edge, make that the centerpiece of your bathroom. My favorite way is to install the piece of wood as a bathroom vanity. If you put a vessel sink on top, you only have to drill two small holes for the drain and faucet, and attach any hardware to mount the whole thing. To protect against water damage, be sure to apply a heavy duty waterproofing finish or varnish. Since this won’t offer any storage, it’s a slightly better option for a guest bathroom than a master bathroom, but will make a stunning focal point no matter where you put it.

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Shower Floors

Teak wood shower floors are becoming an increasingly popular luxury option, and they come with the advantage of not only looking great, but also being much warmer and less slippery than more traditional tile
Teak wood shower floors are becoming an increasingly popular luxury option, and they come with the advantage of not only looking great, but also being much warmer and less slippery than more traditional tile (by Betty Wasserman, photo by Eric Striffler)

I’ve talked about this feature a bit before, but it never ceases to thrill me when I see one of these in action: a wood shower floor. These are made in a couple of different ways, but mostly consist of a recessed shower pan with solid wood planks (usually teak) laid over it. These feel amazing underfoot, and because they’re usually made with wood that’s resistant to water and mold, they’re perfectly hygienic and don’t require much special care. Admittedly these are a little less rough-and-tumble (and less, strictly speaking, “reclaimed”) than other options on this list, but paired with a nice glass shower enclosure, this is one of the best ways to add a dramatic wood accent to your bathroom.

Barn Doors

Barn doors are too large to hang on standard hinges, but make a gorgeous, slightly industrial replacement for a pocket door or Japanese style shoji screen
Barn doors are too large to hang on standard hinges, but make a gorgeous, slightly industrial replacement for a pocket door or Japanese style shoji screen (by Peace Design, photo by Gibeon Photography)

Homeowners and designers alike are going gaga for reclaimed barn doors, especially ones made of bare, unfinished wood that shows a little weathering. But while this is a feature that’s often used elsewhere in the home – for pantry doors or closets, or as a room divider or privacy screen – they’re starting to show up in master bathrooms as well. Because barn doors need to be installed on rolling rails (like a pocket door without the “pocket”), they aren’t the best for replacing a door you want to lock, but are absolutely perfect for dividing the bedroom and bathroom portions of a large master suite.

Use Sparingly

A little bit of reclaimed wood - even in a very dark shade - looks great, but be sure to balance it out with lots of light neutrals and natural light from feeling closed or oppressive
A little bit of reclaimed wood – even in a very dark shade – looks great, but be sure to balance it out with lots of light neutrals and natural light from feeling closed or oppressive (by Jordan Iverson Signature Homes, photo by KuDa Photography)

It’s one thing to cover your whole walls in wood, and another thing entirely to do it with reclaimed wood. Unless the scrap wood you’ve found is in pristine condition (which sort of defeats the purpose), you’re going to wind up with a very rustic, Little Bathroom on the Prairie look very quickly. The darker and more heavily weathered the wood, the more closed and cabin-y the space will feel – which is fine if that’s what you like, but not really what most buyers are looking for. To get a lighter, brighter, more contemporary look, if you use a very rustic wood, think a little smaller scale: like a half wall, accent wall, or even a wood-finished ceiling and leave the surrounding walls white or a light, warm neutral to help brighten the space.

Tile Replicas

Weathered wood print tile has all the beauty of the real deal, but generally a lighter, more consistent finish, and is waterproof so it can be safely used on any surface in the bathroom
Weathered wood print tile has all the beauty of the real deal, but generally a lighter, more consistent finish, and is waterproof so it can be safely used on any surface in the bathroom (by Lawrence and Gomez Architects, photo by Tim Murphy of FotoImagery)

One of the biggest fears about incorporating any type of wood into the bathroom is water damage. Not all types of wood are susceptible to moisture damage, but many are, and the unfinished, heavily weathered wood that’s so popular right now can be especially vulnerable. The good news is, many manufacturers are responding to exactly this problem by producing whole lines of wood print tile. These are porcelain tiles the size and shape of wood planks that have been printed and sometimes embossed with high definition images of actual reclaimed wood pieces. These can be installed on the floors, on the walls, or even in the shower and are totally water resistant and won’t cause splinters. This is also a great compromise if you do want to have fully wooden walls, as the smoother tile can have a slightly more modern, less log-cabin look and feel while still retaining some of that rugged air.

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Add Some… Stone?

Pairing reclaimed wood with stacked, unfinished stone is a great way to create a very earthy, natural twist on the classic cottage style bathroom
Pairing reclaimed wood with stacked, unfinished stone is a great way to create a very earthy, natural twist on the classic cottage style bathroom (by Peace Design, photo by Gibeon Photography)

Reclaimed wood isn’t the only salvaged material that’s getting some attention this year. If you’re worried about winding up with a bathroom that feels a little too much like a log cabin, a nice way to even it out is by using stone – and I don’t mean a fancy slab of marble or granite. Rugged, unfinished stone (like this Harlowton stone quarried in Montana) adds amazing texture and color contrast. Together, they create a space that’s very rustic and earthy, but that feels a bit more open and cottage like because there’s a better balance of materials.

What do you think of these reclaimed wood accents? Let me know in the comments!