Bathroom wallpaper ideas that will elevate your space to stylish new heights

It’s easy to see why wallpaper is such a popular choice for decorating in the bathroom as it can add instant colour and impact. But with so many designs on the market, how do you choose the one that’s right for you?
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  • 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.

    Redecorating? See all of our 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…

    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.

    Bathroom wallpaper ideas

    1. Pair it with your paint

    Image credit: 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.

    2. Give a glimpse

    Image credit: 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.

    3. Balance a bold botanical print

    Bathroom wallpaper ideas bold botanical print

    Image credit: 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.

    4. Mix wallpaper with wood panelling


    Image credit: 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.

    5. Pick something a little different

    Image credit: Paul Massey

    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.

    6. Give it a regal touch

    Bathroom colour schemes

    Image credit: 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.

    7. Bring hothouse style to an all-white suite


    Image credit: 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.

    8. Choose a design that speaks to you


    Image credit: 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 makeover: Before and after: This bathroom makes the most of a small, narrow space

    9. Maximise impact by papering a single wall


    Image credit: 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!

    10. Encourage relaxation with marbled paper


    Image credit: 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.

    11. Combine wallpaper and tiles


    Image credit: 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.

    See this makeover in full! Before and after: downsizing has paid off in this country bathroom

    12. Go nautical


    Image credit: 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.

    13. Add warmth with a wood effect


    Image credit: 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.

    14. Enhance a structural feature


    Image credit: 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.

    15. Clash patterns


    Image credit: 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.

    Love this style? Step inside this retro-inspired Scandi-style house in Leicestershire

    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. Do the ground work

    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 it 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 it

    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.


    Image credit: David Giles

    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.

    Can I paper all the walls?

    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.

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