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small talk

From habitat magazine - issue 37, bathrooms

Powder rooms are small spaces that can be big talking points in your home, but they can be difficult to decorate. Here are some tips for conquering the tiny challenges head on.

A relaxed tropical green powder room painted in Resene Flax

When Sarah and Jared decided to renovate their 1930s home on the Gold Coast they opted for a colour that was relaxed, fresh and tropical, but in tune with the heritage of the house.

''Resene Flax was a colour I fell in love with because I am a huge fan of sage and to me it was the perfect colour for our home. We live in a worker’s cottage which we have renovated and extended. We wanted to pay homage to the heritage of the home and use this colour throughout.” Sarah who is an interior designer and Jared who is a builder run Davey Constructions together and use Resene paints on their other projects too. For this project they opted for Resene SpaceCote Flat tinted to Resene Flax on the tongue-and-groove walls with the ceiling and trims in Resene Lustacryl tinted to Resene Half Wan White.

Powder room, water closet, guest toilet – whatever you want to call it, it’s a space that’s calling for a little style. As one of the smallest rooms in your home, powder rooms can be tricky but with some careful planning and design tricks, you can pack this small room with personality.

Challenge 1 – Lack of light

Many powder rooms, particularly those off a main hallway, don’t have a window or sources of natural light. Warm coloured lightbulbs are usually recommended in homes but will cast a slightly yellow light in a space. Warm neutrals with a high LRV (light reflective value) such as Resene Pearl Lusta or Resene Thorndon Cream are an easy choice for spaces with no natural light. Other colours that stand their ground in yellow light include pale blues such as Resene Cut Glass, grey-based greens like Resene Rainee or lilacs such as Resene Ghost. The Resene Kitchen & Bathroom paint range is the optimal choice for any bathroom space as it’s made with anti-bacterial silver and MoulDefender for extra protection or you can get MoulDefender added to another Resene interior waterborne topcoat of your choice. Another option for dark rooms is a striking wallpaper design in a pale tone or reflective pattern – try a design like Resene Wallpaper Collection 409543. This doesn’t mean dark colours are out of the question – if you’re going dark, opt for deep, saturated tones rather than mid-tone colours. Try Resene Palm Green or Resene Midnight Express.

Challenge 2 – Narrow and small

The size constraints of powder rooms generally mean that toilet and vanity options are limited. Measure your space carefully before purchasing new pieces to make sure toilets will fit and that guests can walk past vanities comfortably. Slim floating vanities and mirrors will create the illusion of space. A tiled floor will often emphasise the narrowness of the room but painting the floor in Resene Walk-on or staining timber flooring in Resene Colorwood protected with Resene Qristal ClearFloor is a way to make your powder room feel less enclosed.

Challenge 3 – Lacking personality

Small spaces like powder rooms are the perfect place to be creative. As the door to the powder room is most often kept shut, it won’t disrupt other colour schemes within your home. It’s an opportunity to turn the space into a jewel box using an intense saturated colour or to opt for a large-scale wallpaper design that might feel overwhelming in other rooms. If you’re using a neutral colour because of the lack of light, inject a little personality into the space with colourful pops like painted picture frames, painted lampshades or coloured accessories.

The great thing about small spaces is they are quick to decorate – perhaps your powder room is your next weekend project?

A fun wallpaper pattern in a California bungalow bathroom

Stacey kept the water closet in her New Plymouth California Bungalow light and bright – with Resene Wallpaper Collection 409543.

"I wanted a design that was predominantly white to tie in with the rest of the bungalow but I also wanted something loud and fun. The green tones are very subtle and perfect for that room." Stacey picked up the yellow tones of the crane beaks in the brass fittings, and the mirror gives a sense of depth and plays with the scale of the pattern. The trims are Resene White Linen and the flooring is finished in Resene Aquaclear mixed with Resene Colorwood Enhance Black.

Fun and tropical wallpaper in the powder room

Gemma and Mark chose warm neutral tones throughout their new build in Queenstown but they decided to have a little fun in their powder room.

They opted for Resene Wallpaper Collection 91173, a design which features crowned macaws, busy babies with monocles and toucans with bow ties. "I really wanted the powder room to be unexpected and a contrast compared to the rest of the house. When our guests open the door to this small space, I want them to have a 'surprise and delight' experience," she says.


Images: Brock Beazley, Gemma Gleeson, Stacey May


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Printed copies of habitat highlights are available from late March 2024 at Resene ColorShops and resellers, while stocks last. You can view back issues of habitat magazine online.

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