Is wallpaper in bathrooms outdated? Interior experts reveal how to make pattern work in a bathroom in 2024

It can be tempting to steer away from pattern in a wash space, but these tips will give wallpaper a contemporary spin for 2024

Bathroom with blue wall panelling, wallpaper and green tiles
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Just like using carpet in a bathroom, there are certain trends that we like to steer clear of in a wash space for fear of creating a dated look. But if you're wondering if wallpaper in a bathroom is outdated, we can happily report that it still has a firm place in our homes.

Bathroom wallpaper ideas are becoming more and more popular as homeowners want to make an impact with their interior design. Focusing on colour and pattern is a great way to make a small space more of a style statement, requiring just a bit of patience to apply and bring the look together.

In a room where moisture and water splashes are commonplace, you might be nervous about using wallpaper in a bathroom. It might be all over social media, but how will it actually wear over time? We asked

Is wallpaper in bathrooms outdated?

The simple answer to this question is absolutely not, but it also comes down to how you style the wallpaper in a bathroom and the prints you choose. If you're trying to create a super modern bathroom idea then reflective surfaces and neutral palettes might work better for your space. Still, if you love colour and want to have a bit of fun with your bathroom then there are certainly ways to make wallpaper feel contemporary.

Bathroom trends for 2024 centre around combining colour and more classic styles, so for example choosing a traditional chintz wallpaper print but updating it with a modern bathroom colour scheme will create a more enduring design.

'Wallpaper in a bathroom is definitely not dated,' confirms Ideal Home's Deputy Editor, Rebecca Knight.

'In fact, I think it's a brave trend that's making a comeback. It's an easier way to get the look of the new patterned tiles trend and offers so much scope for creativity. However, you do need to think carefully about practicality. Whether this is by buying a moisture-resistant wallpaper from somewhere like Graham & Brown or positioning it correctly, proper application will make your wallpaper look contemporary and well-finished.'

There are a number of simple styling tweaks to make your wallpaper veer towards trendy, rather than outdated too. We asked experts in bathroom design exactly how to bring this to life.

How should you use wallpaper in a bathroom?

1. Go bold in a WC

small bathroom with green tiles and wallpaper

(Image credit: Divine Savages)

Downstairs cloakrooms are notoriously tricky to decorate. With it being such a small space that isn't used often, it can fall right to the bottom of the to-do list. But one simple way to spruce the room up with minimal effort is to choose a bold wallpaper.

It's less daunting to choose statement decor for a small bathroom, especially one that isn't immediately visible. It can essentially be your little secret and allows you to dip your toe into the world of pattern and colour in a more palatable way. Plus, wallpapering a small space won't be as costly.

2. Balance the pattern with wall panelling

bathroom wallpaper with sink

(Image credit: Dunelm)

If you're concerned that a patterned wallpaper might overwhelm a bathroom and make it look dated, then opting for a half-and-half look offers a more contemporary take.

'Adding wood wall panelling to a bathroom is a great way of adding texture and colour, which in turn can add a warmth to what otherwise can be quite a clinical and cold room,' explains Barrie Cutchie, Design Director at BC Designs.

'It also allows you to change up the colour scheme quickly and easily as it can be painted with minimal fuss and expense,' he adds. You can also apply wall panelling yourself with handy kits like these from B&Q, making it a great weekend DIY task.

Bring out a featured colour in the wallpaper by painting the wall panelling in the same shade. This will create a more on-trend look that can be updated if your taste changes.

3. Focus on a splash-free zone

Downstairs cloakroom with purple and blue floral wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC)

As well as style considerations, there are some practical things to think about when using wallpaper in a bathroom.

'Avoid applying wallpaper to surfaces that are prone a lot of splash back, such as around a bath, shower, or sink, and consider pairing with complimentary tiles, for extra protection. If you’re using standard wallpaper, we recommend using an extra strong wallpaper adhesive to avoid any lifting,' recommends Chelsea Clark, head of marketing at Lust Home.

Adding a tiled border around a sink area will protect the wallpaper from water damage and leave it looking stylish for much longer.

4. Drench the room in pattern

Bathroom with orange small scale print wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Colour drenching has been a huge trend in interiors in recent years, encouraging renovators to go all out when it comes to decorating each and every wall in their favoured hue. If you're looking to make wallpaper look slightly more current then applying it to the whole room, as opposed to a feature wall, will make a bathroom look full of character and modern.

Small-scale patterns work well for this and we recommend going full chintz in your chosen style. When the room is drenched in pattern it looks purposeful and expertly designed.

5. Pair with tiles

Bathroom with blue wall panelling, wallpaper and green tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Creating dimension in a design is key to making it look contemporary. A bathroom that heavily features patterns and traditional materials like wood can quickly look dated. Instead, adding different textures such as tiles will create an old-new aesthetic for a dream modern bathroom idea.

Pulling out one of the colours in your wallpaper to use for your bathroom tile ideas will tie the whole look together, just make sure you create differentiation by opting for an interesting texture, like the handcrafted subway tiles shown above.


Is wallpaper in bathrooms a good idea?

Using wallpaper in a bathroom isn't a design decision that will come easily, but it will be entirely worth it. It requires careful planning about placement and you will need to make sure your bathroom either isn't a high-moisture space or is well ventilated.

'It’s often believed that you can’t use wallpaper in a bathroom, however with the right preparation, application, and maintenance wallpaper can be a fairly easy and inexpensive way to add some colour or personality to this space,' says Chelsea Clark, head of marketing at Lust Home.

Practical considerations aside, wallpaper is a simple way to make a huge design statement in a wash space, bringing you inspiration on a daily basis.

What can I use instead of wallpaper in my bathroom?

If the risk of ruining wallpaper with moisture in a bathroom is too much for you, there are plenty of other ways to make your bathroom look on-trend. Getting creative with bathroom paint ideas, for example, painting a tub or making a statement with a bold colour choice on walls will have just as much of an impact as wallpaper.

Bathroom wallpaper is a truly classic look that can easily be brought up to date with some simple style tips, to prevent it from looking outdated. Make sure you're careful of exactly where you apply it and you'll have no regrets on using wallpaper in a bathroom.

Holly Cockburn
Content Editor

After starting out her journey at Future as a Features Editor on Top Ten Reviews, Holly is now a Content Editor at Ideal Home, writing about the best interior ideas and news. At Top Ten Reviews, she focussed on TikTok viral cleaning hacks as well as how to take care of investment purchases such as lawn mowers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Prior to this, Holly was apart of the editorial team at Howdens which sparked her interest in interior design, and more specifically, kitchens (Shaker is her favourite!).