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

Done right, wallpaper in a bathroom can be winning
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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.

    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

    white tiled bathroom with flamingo wallpaper above sink

    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 wallpaper and black freestanding bath

    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

    white bathroom with light grey waves wallpaper and sea green blind

    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 wallpaper idea with matching colours

    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

    yellow bathroom wallpaper behind black basin unit

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    Use a wallpaper with a vibrant background colour as a small bathroom idea 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

    tree print wallpaper on bathroom wall beside sink

    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

    Wallpaper behind bathroom shelving unit

    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

    Bathroom with flamingo wallpaper and white metro tiles

    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

    Leaf patterned bathroom wallpaper with mirrored cabinets and oval ceramic sink

    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-makeover-with-palm-print-wallpaper-4

    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.

    11. Choose a design that speaks to you

    Classic-bathroom-makeover-with-Shaker-fitted-furniture-and-koi-carp-wallpaper-5

    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 bathroom makeover.

    12. Match the 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.

    13. Invite a glimpse of pattern

    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.

    14. 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.

    15. Mix wallpaper with wood panelling

    Bathroom-wallpaper-ideas-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.

    16. Pick something a little different

    flamingo wallpaper cloakroom with black vanity mirror with shelf

    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 monochrome damask wallpaper behind slipper bath

    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.

    18. Maximise impact by papering a single wall

    fish design wall on one bathroom wall

    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-wallpaper-ideas-marble-paper

    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-wallpaper-ideas-bird-print

    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-wallpaper-ideas-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.

    22. Add warmth with a wood effect

    Bathroom-wallpaper-ideas-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.

    23. Enhance a structural feature

    Bathroom-wallpaper-ideas-Enhance-architectural-features

    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 as a striking Attic bathroom ideas.

    24. Clash patterns

    Bathroom-wallpaper-ideas-clash-patterns

    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.

    Green-and-grey-bathroom-makeover-with-lush-foliage-2

    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.

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