The right bathroom wallpaper can totally transform a functional room into a pretty retreat
From delicate damasks to ditsy florals and bold geometric patterns, bathroom wallpaper is back and making a splash. It can prove more affordable than tiling, and the latest ‘paste the wall’ and ‘peelable’ papers are easy to switch up 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.
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. Maximise impact by papering a single wall
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!
2. Balance a bold botanical print
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.
3. Enhance a structural feature
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.
4. Mix wallpaper with wood panelling
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. Encourage relaxation with marbled paper
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.
6. Combine wallpaper and tiles
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
7. Go nautical
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.
8. Add warmth with a wood effect
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.
9. Clash patterns
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. 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.
3. 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.