Of all the many different bathroom styles out there, cottage bathrooms are easily the most common and the most iconic. Clawfoot tubs, pedestal sinks, subway and hex tile, and maybe some beadboard all combine to create what you probably think of when you think “bathroom.” But wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling white porcelain interrupted only by the occasional cool-toned pastel actually creates a look that’s a little chilly. All that white enhances a room’s natural light (which is the point!), but can end up feeling a little sterile. Thankfully, the remedy is simple (if a little less traditional): an off-white bathroom that’s balanced out with a lot of wood accents.
Why It Works: Conventional cottage bathrooms are built around the fact that white reflects light, so even in a small space with low light, a lot of white surfaces will make the room feel brighter and more open. The problem is that in low light, white can look ashen, and in artificial light a lot of porcelain tile can feel harsh and sterile. By itself, switching to an ivory, cream, or bone doesn’t really work either – when used as a straight replacement for a pure-white, a warm-toned off-white can feel a little dingy or dirty, like it isn’t quite as crisp and clean as a more traditional white-white. But when you combine an off-white with warm, honey-toned wood, it works beautifully in any level and any type of light. Bright natural light will make this combination feel lively and cheery, low natural light will make it feel sun-soaked and cozy, and even the harshest artificial light can’t wash out the warm, slightly rustic look of this pairing. While off whites can look wildly different depending on the ambient light, wood walls, beams, furniture, or floors help anchor them and train the eye, both making the off whites look lighter and brighter by comparison, and creating a contrasting, warm-looking baseline so the room’s lighter tones don’t have to hold their own.
Get The Look: The first step to building this less conventional cottage bathroom is to ditch as much white as you can. Stick to off whites for the walls and an ivory or bone tile to provide a warmer baseline for the space. I’m not joking about getting rid of all of it, either! The tri-toned mural on the ceiling is no accident: the less white you have to compare the off white to, the cleaner and crisper those darker shades will feel. Wood beams, accent walls, molding, and window and door frames are all ideal if you can pull them off, but at a bare minimum you need a nice wood bathroom vanity stained in a deep, warm golden tone. Big fixtures can be a little harder, but cast iron tubs can usually be painted on the outside, and many acrylic tubs are available in different colors as well. You can also really enhance the warm, cozy feeling of this more rustic brand of cottage bathroom by ditching traditional steel or chrome fixtures and opting instead for oil rubbed bronze or copper fixtures. A nice tub filler, faucet, and sconces might seem like small swaps, but again the warmer, darker color helps enhance the natural feel of the space and keep the color scheme skewing warm.