Bathroom wallpaper ideas to add instant colour and impact to bathroom walls

Done right, wallpaper in a bathroom can be winning

Looking for bathroom wallpaper ideas? From delicate damasks to ditsy florals and the latest tropical patterns, bathroom wallpaper can prove a quick and easy way to dial up designer style in your bathroom. It can prove more affordable than tiling, and the latest 'paste the wall' and 'peelable' papers are easy to switch when you're ready for a change.

With our inspiring suggestions below it’s easy to see why wallpaper is such a popular decorating choice for bathroom ideas.

Can you use wallpaper in a bathroom?

There will always be naysayers, but the general consensus is that a properly ventilated bathroom, with a window and extractor fan, will happily accommodate wallpaper. Do keep it away from direct contact with water. The odd splash is okay on a washable paper, but no manufacturer will recommend installing 
it touching a bath, basin or shower. Then you're just asking for trouble...

Bathroom wallpaper ideas

1. Pick a point of focus

bathroom with swan designed wall wash basin mirror on wall and shower

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachael Smith)

Use a bold wallpaper design in a bathroom to create a point of focus. this elegant white tiled bathroom dedicates a surface area above the sink to show off the famous Cole & Son Flamingo wallpaper in all its glory. Above the sink and behind the mirror is the ideal place to captivate those using the bathroom. Using the wallpaper design in a soft blue colourway helps to add a watery touch to the design – ideal for a bathroom colour scheme.

2. Protect surfaces

bathroom with butterfly designed wall bathtub and window

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Serena Fokschaner)

When using a wallpaper in the bathroom you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting the surface, to ensure it withstands the elements of bathroom life. This characterful bathroom is entirely papered with a delicate butterfly design, that is stylish yet subtle in equal measure. To protect the paper around the points of water flow the taps are mounted on a protective marbled splashback.

Thanks to the wispy grey trees on the paper the light marble tile coordinates perfectly to offer an almost seamless way of incorporating a layer to safeguard the paper from water splashes.

3. Make waves with a subtle seascape wallpaper

bathroom with grey designed wall bathtub and window

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes)

A subtle wallpaper goes a long way to enhance a bathroom decorating scheme. Often the main aim of a bathroom is to create a calming sense of serenity, creating the perfect place to pamper ourselves and take time out to relax – meaning a calming colour scheme is welcomed. In a softly hued room you don't want a wallpaper to overpower, it should add pattern but without making the room feel busy. Waves are the ideal pattern, as they set the scene of tranquil beach life.

4. Go for large-scale pattern in a bigger bathroom

bathroom with flower leaves designed wallpaper and bathtub

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Brent Darby)

If you have the space go big and bold with the pattern to allow the design to dominate. Match the tones within the paper design to that of your tile choices to ensure a cohesive colour scheme, to balance the overall look.

5. Make a bold statement with colour

bathroom with yellow bird designed wallpaper white window commode and black drawer

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

Use a wallpaper with a vibrant background colour as a small bathroom ideas to enliven the space and make it feel more impactful. Using the bright wallpaper on a wall with windows will help to illuminate the space and also prevents the wall from feeling overpowering – thanks to the blocks of natural daylight breaking through the pattern.

6. Draw on pattern to distract from radiators

bathroom with tree designed wallpaper towel rails and wash basin

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)

Use bold pattern on walls where. you may wish to distract from fixtures and fittings. Perhaps you have an unattractive radiator or an overbearing towel rail that you want to conceal. A statement pattern can go a long way to drawing attention away from the other design features on the wall. Colour coordinate towels to the wallpaper to camouflage them into the background.

7. Add pattern behind open shelving

tree designed wallpaper black rack towels and flower vases

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Dan Duchars)

Papering behind open shelving in any room is always a great. way to add interest, especially in bathroom where the shelves are mainly for displaying luxury toiletries and jars of bath salts. choose a design that is captivating but not overbearing, to ensure the openness of the shelves is retained – this soft foliage design is perfect, welcoming a touch of nature into the space too.

8.Elongate walls with a corner of pattern

toilet with flamingo wallpaper commode and wash basin

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme)

In a long slimline bathroom throw the decorating scheme off balance to help create the illusion of space. In this slim space the wallpaper dominate two walls to create a corner of interest, leaving the remaining walls as less of a focus – which helps to make them feel more detached from the feature walls.

9. Invite a reflective sheen to smaller bathrooms

blue printed wallpaper on wall mirror on wall and wash basin

(Image credit: Future PLC)

In addition to adding pattern many modern wallpapers feature foil print which offers a level of sheen. In this small bathroom there is only one slim window at the far end meaning it is lacking in natural light. While often pattern can make a small space feel quite claustrophobic, a clever use of pattern can help to make the space feel bigger.

Take for instance the leafy patterned paper above, with a foil print on top of a light duck egg blue background. The pattern picks up the light and bounces it back into the room, helping to soften the pattern and create a feeling of airiness and space.

10. Bring hothouse style to an all-white suite

bathroom with colourful wallpaper and brick tile wall bathtub window and commode

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

There are few better ways to add colour to a bathroom than with wallpaper. A tropical design like this can be complemented with real plants and towels in accent shades of aqua and pink. The pattern was actually designed by the bathroom's owner – if you fancy having a go yourself, you could use a website like Bags of Love (opens in new tab).

11. Choose a design that speaks to you

fish designed wallpaper grey cupboard with wooden cabinet wash basin

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Clive Doyle)

The owner of this bathroom picked this beautiful koi carp design wallpaper as it reminded her of the years she'd spent living in Japan. It makes what is usually a functional space feel all the more special, and we love the way it coordinates with the blue glass used as a splash back next to the sink and shower. See more of this bathroom makeover.

12. Match the paint

bathroom with grey designed wall commode and wash basin

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Paul Raeside)

Paint your walls, woodwork - or if you have it - panelling in the same shade as the background colour of your chosen wallpaper. This modern toile from Timorous Beasties looks gorgeous with the matching paint colour and heritage style sanitary-ware.

13. Invite a glimpse of pattern

bathroom with palm designed wallpaper wooden drawers and grey designed floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Heather Gunn)

Wallpaper doesn't actually have to be in the bathroom to enjoy the effect. If you have an open ensuite like the one shown here, papering a wall next to the bathroom in a bold palm print will bring colour and pattern to the space without overwhelming it. Adding in a real plant or two will unite the two rooms.

14. Balance a bold botanical print

bathroom with botanical wallpaper and green tiles wall commode wash basin and wooden cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd Davies)

This standout botanical wallpaper not only adds stunning pops of colour, but the vibrant hues take the familiar metro tiled bathroom to a whole new magnificent level. Conversely, the paler shade of the tiles creates balance.

15. Mix wallpaper with wood panelling

bathroom with yellow flower wall bathtub with towel and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Tim Young)

Create a luxurious country feel in your bathroom by using a muted floral design in soft grey tones. Wooden wall panels can be used in the areas where water is likely to splash, and are in keeping with a traditional look.

16. Pick something a little different

swan and flower designed wall with mirror and wash basin

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're wallpapering a bathroom it's generally not a huge area to cover, particularly if you steer clear of the wet bath or shower areas, so it's a good chance to, erm, splash out on a more expensive or unusual wallpaper and have some fun.

17. Frame a window with pattern

bathroom with white designed wall bathtub with towel white window and candle stand

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Douglass Gibb)

This pretty damask style wallpaper looks gorgeous next to this slipper bath - and the huge candelabra adds to the opulent feel of the room. Flickering candles are all the lighting you'd need for a long, relaxing soak in this tub, which looks fit for a queen.

18. Maximise impact by papering a single wall

bathroom with printed wallpaper wash basin wooden table and towel rolls and white tile floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Claire Lloyd Davies)

Papering one feature wall is a proven way to make a statement. An added advantage of going for one feature wall 
in the bathroom is that you can target a wall furthest away from water. Plus, the smaller the area, the less wallpaper you’ll need so you may be able to afford that designer roll you’ve been coveting!

19. Encourage relaxation with marbled paper

bathroom with grey marble wallpaper bathtub and buckets

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Brittain)

Marbling is often used as a mindfulness exercise because it literally encourages people to go with the flow – you have no control over the paint or pattern created. That's why it's the perfect choice of pattern in a bathroom, as you can lose yourself in its arbitrary swirls.

20. Combine wallpaper and tiles

bathroom with bird print wallpaper ans white tile wall bathtub wooden floor and white cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

if you're worried about your wallpaper getting wet, but want to put it on the same wall as a water feature, try this treatment. Tile up to the point where splashes might reach, then wallpaper to the ceiling. It's a smart look and is more subtle that papering a full wall – if you're unsure about taking the plunge, so to speak, this might be the way to go about things.

21. Go nautical

bathroom with bathtub beach hut designed wallpaper and white tiles wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

It's pretty obvious why bathrooms are suited to a coastal colour scheme, but you can take things further with a themed wallpaper. From fish (see above) to anchors to beach huts, there are plenty of directions to head in – we think this is one of the most fun.

22. Add warmth with a wood effect

bathroom with wooden wallpaper bathtub white drawer and white flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Mel Yates)

Want to tap into the wood panelling trend without breaking the bank? Why not create a feature wall using textured or printed wallpaper? This wood-print paper brings a cosy Scandinavian feel to the cooler metal and ceramic surfaces.

23. Enhance a structural feature

bathroom with triangular wallpaper with lights blue bathtub and white designed candle lanterns

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

If your bathroom is built into the eaves why not show off its striking proportions with wallpaper? In a light-filled space like this one, you can get away with something dark and dramatic as a striking Attic bathroom ideas.

24. Clash patterns

bathroom with floral wall bathtub with towels and designed flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Claudia Dulak)

Mixing and matching bold patterns has given this bathroom a retro feel – just check out the wallpaper versus that dramatic floor tiling. If you're looking to channel 1970s chic, we advice you stick to a similar palette of orange and olive green. But use a lot of black and white, too, otherwise it could get too overwhelming – not ideal when you're trying to unwind in the bath.

How to wallpaper a bathroom

1. Measure up

Choose a suitable wall to paper and measure the area to calculate how much wallpaper you will need. Avoid walls next to the shower, or directly behind the bath or basin, as water splashes could cause damage.

2. Prepare the walls

Damp walls must be treated, any cracks filled and glossy painted surfaces lightly sanded first. If the walls are freshly plastered, you must 'size' them using a coat or two of wallpaper primer.

3. Keep the paper smooth

Take care when hanging the paper to smooth out any air bubbles that form beneath the surface as you go. Use a squeegee to get rid of those imperfections. Otherwise, they will make the paper more likely to peel over time.

4. Protect with varnish

Once you have finished hanging the wallpaper, leave to dry fully before sealing with strong varnish to give a layer of protection against humid bathroom conditions. Try Decorators Varnish by Polyvine, £10.63 for 500ml. It's a durable overcoat that is available in matt or gloss finishes.

bathroom with white wall palm tree designed wallpaper shower cabin and plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

Which type of wallpaper do I need for a bathroom?

Most wallpaper is labelled according to use, and those suited to high-moisture rooms like kitchens and bathrooms are invariable vinyl. ‘Scrubbable’ wallpapers that are made from heavyweight vinyl 
or vinyl-coated are the best options, but also look for rolls labelled ‘extra washable’ or ‘highly wash-resistant’.

If you have your heart set on a paper that’s only marked ‘spongeable’, or not cleanable at all, it’s possible to boost its resilience using Polyvine’s Decorators Varnish. Use the Dead Flat version, which won’t alter the paper’s colour, and do a test patch first. Don’t forget to add the cost to your budget. A one-litre pot costs around £10.50 and will cover 15-20sq m. For best results, apply two to three coats.

Can I paper all the walls in a bathroom?

Yes, as long as you have a decent circumference of tiles around the bath and basin – aim for at least 60cm between water and wallpaper. But while maximalism is on trend, bathrooms are usually small, so if you're going all out do choose a soothing design that won't kick off your day with a headache.

A feature wall is a smart choice. You can afford to go much bolder and it's easier to keep your wallpaper away from splashes.

Is wallpaper safe inside a shower?

No, but you can get 100 per cent waterproof wall coverings that look like wallpaper and don't have the grout issues associated with tiles. for example, the Wall&Deco system available from west One bathrooms. It's expensive though and requires specialist installation. A cheaper option is to wallpaper behind a sealed glass shower enclosure or screen.

Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.