A Small Bathroom Makeover – Light & Bright or Dark & Cosy?

Author: Adam Crohill

Good question right? A small bathroom is a tricky space to decorate, do you opt for a light and bright colour scheme to accentuate the diminutive proportions or do you embrace the space and go for darker hues to create a snug environment? Having recently switched the bathroom in #thecheltenhamhouse from light to dark I invite you to compare the difference and see which you prefer.

Lizzie and I have been renovating our house in Cheltenham for approximately 200 years now, or at least it seems that way. A good friend of ours commented last weekend that every time she visits us another one of our rooms has gone “to the dark side.” Indeed it’s true. After we finished the building work we hurriedly covered much the house in white paint, it felt like a simple way to start – to create a blank canvas. Since then we’ve been taking our time to consider each room more carefully. We felt that the bathroom, measuring in at 2.7m by 2.3m was calming and tranquil in white but was lacking in a certain bath-time cosy appeal. You can see the full feature on our white bathroom, including pre-renovation shots, in my post from 2015 A Budget Bathroom Renovation

Dark Bathroom

For the walls we chose Downpipe by Farrow & Ball and decided to paint the door and skirting in the same colour, creating tranquility and simplicity. The window is F&B Railings, a few shades darker than Downpipe. Against the original brilliant white floor the dark walls and woodwork were too stark in contrast so to soften the transition we went for another F&B colour called Cornforth White, which is more like a light grey and was recommended to work with our new colour scheme.

The bath, which was originally bought from The Bath Store (and currently has a whopping Β£550.00 off which makes it a total bargain, check the Bathroom City Jacuzzi Bath), has also been given the Downpipe treatment. I lightly sanded the resin, then primed with a smooth finish mini roller before carefully applying two layers of top coat. The super observant amongst you may have noticed that the metro tiles have survived the transition from light to dark but the grout has been updated. As the grout was in good condition there was no need for replacement, a simple grout pen in dark grey provided a statement face lift. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fiddly job, but the results are worth it.

Although we wanted to have a dark feeling throughout the bathroom we didn’t want to go monochrome, we’ve injected some colour with a selection of towels from the Christy Luxury collection and added warm neutrals in the form of a bath mat from H&M and a wooden stool which was a bargain eBay purchase. We’ve also added a lot of greenery and hanging baskets which not only add colour but also add to the tranquil and calm ambience. Finishing touches include a reclaimed scaffolding beam purchased for Β£10.00 held in place with Rocket & St George bronze brackets, artwork which can be purchased from Desenio and a selection of Aesop skin care products which match in with the dark tones perfectly.

Now for the big question, which finish do you prefer?

Be sure to take a good look at the bathroom in white and then please do let me know in the comments section below which look is for you, I promise I won’t be offended!

  • Downpipe
  • Wooden Bath Tidy
  • Breathe Print
  • Christy Luxury Towels

Styling by Lizzie Crohill

Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.
Follow Adam on instagram @adamcrohill
This post may include affiliate links.
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62 thoughts on “A Small Bathroom Makeover – Light & Bright or Dark & Cosy?

  1. I love it – imagine it’s a really cosy place to have a bath πŸ™‚ Strange question, but how difficult was it to change the colour of the grout? I had the same tiles put in my kitchen and they used white grout instead of grey (five years on and I’m still bitter…!)

    1. LOVE the bathroom and was just about to ask the same question. I’m desperate to go from white to grey in the kitchen but have no idea how!
      It looks fantastic. Too nice to use πŸ™‚

    2. Hi Emily – In terms of skill it was easy to change the grout. I bought this grout pen from Amazon. But it was a fiddly job. It’s had quite a few negative reviews due to the the fibre tip not lasting long against the rough grout but if you buy a few pens and take your time it works well.

      The good news is you don’t have to be too accurate. I “coloured in” all the grout and left it for 24 hours before wiping down. Any colouring on the actual tiles comes off with a bit of kitchen towel and some elbow grease πŸ™‚

  2. I’m a pale and interesting kind of girl but I absolutely love the change in your bathroom.It was beautiful before but now its just amazing….well done x 😁

  3. Love the makeover Adam. Both bathrooms are nice but I think the dark looks so much cosier and more relaxing. And the plants just set it all off perfectly.

    I am particularly in love with your shelf and brackets and may just be heading over to Rockett St George to copy you!

  4. Love love love this Adam. It looks great and I love the dark colours. I need to get more motivated with my decorating so I’m now off to purchase a grout pen and update my bathroom accessories too! x

  5. I love the dark bathroom! Tempted to take the plunge with a few rooms in our house, love the door being the same colour of the wall. Possibly stupid question, but have you had to paint the other side of the door in the hallway in Downpipe too? I’ve always liked the idea of painting doors darker to match the wall colours, but never known if you commit to doing both sides!! πŸ™ˆ

    1. Ellie, not a stupid question at all – in fact I was going to include a shot of the bathroom door from the outside but then felt it looked a bit random in amongst all the bathroom shots.

      To answer your question I decided that the door should be painted on both sides so now the hallway, which has white walls and very pale grey woodwork has a downpipe door at the end of it leading to the bathroom… And I think it looks great! Like a little preview of whats to come when you walk through.

      I’ve now got this plan to paint all the doors in #thecheltenham house a different colour, they are currently all natural wood but I think it’s going to look great and create an interesting focus point in each room.

  6. This post is perfect timing! we are in the very early stages of redoing our small (we’re talking tiny…1.7m x 1.9m!) bathroom and i love the idea of inserting a dark colour in here to contrast against white units and tiles. The designer at the bathroom store is trying to convince us that white is the way forward but I’ve already sent this link to my husband and told him i want something very similar!

    1. I’m so happy we’ve been an inspiration to you Lucy, You can definitely paint with dark colours and avoid making the space look even smaller than it is. Some top tips would be to paint the woodwork and the walls the same colour – this avoids segmenting the space and also don’t contrast with a really bright white on the floor or ceiling as this will have the same effect.

      I am actually going to repaint our ceiling in the bathroom to match the floor as I feel the contrast is a bit much at the moment.

      My only other advice would be don’t be afraid – at the end of the day it’s only paint and you can easily repaint if it doesn’t go to plan, especially as your space is so tiny! Good luck convincing the bathroom store guy – maybe show him how I painted one of his roll top baths grey… He’ll freak out πŸ˜‰

  7. Wow, it looks amazing! We did our bathroom a year or so ago now – I am vague with the time because it actually took 11 months to completely finish.. And I used your original bathroom as some of the inspiration so it was basically 50 shades of white!

    Then, just as we finished it, we got a leak and the tiled side of the bath had to be removed.. This time, we have replaced it with wood paneling which I painted in downpipe and I love the addition of the dark grey in to the room. But now I am tempted to paint one of the walls too..

    Also loving the idea of painting all of the doors a different colour..

    1. Hi Jennifer, That’s so interesting as our move to the dark side started with a leak too, the waste trap on the bath had a really slow leak (we only realised when we renovated the kitchen and took the ceiling down to reveal the rotting floorboards of the bathroom above).

      The bath had to come out while I repaired the floorboards and then the plan was hatched to paint it… The rest is history πŸ™‚

  8. It’s a lovely bathroom! Definitely dark (although I would say that, my bathroom is also downpipe and my bath is railings)…

    1. Thanks Sarah, glad you like it.

      We so nearly went with railings on the bath… I think it really works well on our window – but its difficult to see in the pictures as the sun was streaming in.

  9. Love the bathroom we are in the middle of painting our study in downpipe! Do you have a link to the stool on eBay?

    1. Hi Beth, good luck with the study decorating! The stool was from an eBay shop called The Handmade group, you can find it via this link

      I dipped the legs into Farrow & Ball Cornforth White to match it against our floor.

    1. Also just read your comment about the slow leak from your bath. Before we moved in to our home (new build) we were in a rented flat and only found out that the sink in the bathroom was leaking from the waste pipe when I went to pack up our wardrobe (adjoining wall to bathroom) to move and everything on the floor was damp and mouldy.
      Absolute nightmare, anything on the floor couldn’t not be saved and needless to say we moved out straight away and slept on the floor of our new home rather than stay with the mould any longer….

      1. What a nightmare… Those slow leaks are sneaky. Our floorboards were pretty rotten but the painted surface in the bathroom was hiding the damage.

        I have visions of a full bath crashing throw into the kitchen below Breaking Bad style!

  10. Yay to the dark side! It looks really lovely 😊 Every room in our house is white except the bathroom which is beyond tiny! Rather than try and disguise the fact it’s minuscule by painting it white, we opted for a very dark blue (valspar mythical nights) and weirdly it’s made the space look bigger. We painted the ceiling and woodwork the same colour too which appears to have lengthened the walls. It doesn’t really look like any other room in our house which I actually quite like and I love your idea of painting the door dark on the outside. We just need to buy an actual door now! #thelistgoeson

    1. Thanks Hannah, We’ve got a bit of dark blue valspar downstairs – Inky Prose and I think using it floor to ceiling has accentuated the size of the space too.

      I am really tempted now to go a bit darker on the bathroom ceiling… And I can definitely recommend painting both sides of the door… Once you have one of course πŸ™‚

  11. Excellent timing, we’re about to embark on a loft conversion so some really great inspiration for our new to be en-suite. And then maybe the other bathroom… oops! Love the dark πŸ™‚

  12. The door and the radiator look immense. I mean, obvs the whole room looks really cool but I think it’s those details that set it all off isn’t it. Also, the plant. Love it.

    1. Thanks Becky – i’m weirdly proud of the door. It’s a brave decision to paint over natural wood but I think this is going to be the way forward in #thecheltenhamhouse πŸ™‚

  13. Love the dark! I can imagine it being really cosy. I have to say I would inject some vibrant colour into the room myself, maybe neon feet for the bath and something else matching in the room, but that’s just me! Maybe not the tranquil look you achieved!! I am still pondering painting our downstairs living room dark blue, I think it will look stunning, but it isn’t the right time to paint it sadly. Maybe once the toddler has wrecked the carpet I will have a good excuse πŸ™‚

    1. Annie, painting our living room dark blue was such a good decision. Do it! And regarding a colour pop – at least when you were having a tranquil moment in the bath you wouldn’t see the neon bath feet πŸ™‚

    2. Hi, we have just gone for stiffkey blue in our dining room and it looks amazing! Very pleased. Now painting the downstairs loo with the left over paint. Great with a splash of mustard or blush. Will blog about it next month- please check it out. See below

  14. I LOVE it dark! It looked nice white but who wants a bathroom just to look nice when you can have that dramatic WOW factor!
    I recently revamped the bathroom (I say ‘I’ – my husband did all the work I just picked out the colors and soft furnishings) we went for a very dark orange color and it looks fab with Moroccan style baskets and towels. I think people shy away from dark colors for fear of making a room appear dark/small but with the right accessories, plants mirrors etc. I actually think it can make the room!

    1. Carly, agreed 100% It’s a common thought that going with light colours will maximise the sense of space in a room and of course that is generally the way it works. The real question of course is does it matter if you don’t deliberately try to maximise the space. One for the philosophical thinkers amongst us!!!

      The Moroccan influenced dark orange sounds fab!

  15. We have a teeny bathroom with no window and when I do it I want it to go really dark. It’s never going to look light and roomy, so might as well go with the dark and cosy feel. Pinning some of these images for future inspo. (Upstairs in our house is 2018 jobs – need to save some pennies)

  16. Absolutely love the Downpipe treatment! We’ve just done the same with our new ensuite, although I don’t think I’ve gone far enough (we only used Downpipe on a couple of walls). Our downstairs WC is in Inchyra Blue and our new kitchen is in Hague Blue, I can’t get enough of these moody hues. I love the contrast of the reclaimed scaffolding board against the Downpipe, I think I’ll be copying that idea!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Mika, originally we painted two walls in downpipes and as the room grew darker we nearly bottled out… However once all the walls were dark it really all came together. I say try it out! What have you got to loose, you can always repaint if you really don’t like it.

      The Moody Hues… That definitely sounds like a a 70’s progressive rock tribute act πŸ˜‰

  17. Love the colour change the only thing I’d probably do different is stick with a whit toilet seat and window frame but I love the dark walls against the white porcelain it’s such a satisfying contrast. I’m about to paint my downstairs loo in f&b hauge blue so I hope it has the same sort of effect

  18. I do like this. It looks so much more dramatic than the white. It’s hard to tell how it feels being in the room though, it looks great in a photo but does it feel dingy during the day? I could imagine having a lovely relaxing evening bath in here but not so much dealing with kids! My own bathroom is about to be painted, I’m going from a bleh creamy colour to f&b pavilion grey. Not dark by these standards but the darkest I’ve ever gone. Just dipping my toe… πŸ™‚ I also love your bathmat – was about to buy it but then saw that it can’t be washed! Do you plan to get around that somehow or just replace it when it’s too far gone?

  19. Oh, I forgot a few things 😳 How far do the legs of the stool splay out? I’m looking for a similar wooden stool, but all the stools I find are too wide for the space. And the last thing… Reclaimed shelf? It looks so good. Where do people get these from? I frequently see reclaimed scaffolding shelves and sit here scratching my head as a very unstylish person wondering where they are found.

  20. Really love this! My bathroom is tiny and currently sports a lovely shell sink and bath but would love to do something like this when we come to update it! Can I ask where you got the shelf plank from? Looking for something like this for my kitchen but when I try and search reclaimed scaffold shelf it comes up with really expensive shelfs!

  21. Ooh this is handy – I love it darker. I have the same bath and toilet… and tiles with white walls (but dark grout) and even a similar hanging plant above so I feel like this is a nice little insight should I reach for the paint. It does look such a warm and beautiful little space.
    Great tip with the grout pen. The white grout in the kids bathroom is so hard to keep clean and I’m so annoyed I opted for white grout. I will be getting one or two …or three of those pens.

  22. Talk about inspiraSHUN! I’ve got a day off this week, the house to myself, a tub of grey paint and a currently magnolia ensuite (not my choice, new build) with a tonne of light coming in through the velux and this blog post. There is literally no. Stopping. Me. Like you say, give it a go, can always repaint. We went to the dark side earlier this year and painte our kitchen Stiffkey Blue by f & b and are completely in love with it. Thank you for the blog, amazing!

  23. Love the towels too, just checked pricing and they are much cheaper on Wayfair! Never heard of them are they ok?? Sorry to be suspicious!

  24. Would love to know where the hand towel, in particular, is from. The one hanging on the back of the door. Dreamy! Just seen it in another post too. Thank you!

  25. I love the dark, and now I can’t wait to do our bathroom, do you have a floor plan of the layout I’m looking to reconfigure our bathroom

  26. Love love love your bathroom!

    The print is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Can I ask how you framed and hung it? It looks fab.

    Thanks πŸ™‚ Hannah x

    1. Oh my. I absolutely love this. You have inspired me to go dark in my bathroom, which is tiny, downstairs.
      I am definitely going to paint my bath. Can I just ask, what did you paint the claw feet of the bath with?? They almost look a bronze colour and I know they originally come in that awful shiney chrome..

  27. Adam, the dark is perfect and I just love it. Your bathroom is almost identical to ours and we also have a roll top bath and shower cubicle. I may have to be a copy cat and go dark! We’ve just started moving over to the dark side and have our sitting room in dark navy blue and hallway in Pigeon. How do you deal with the unwashable bathmat though? Thanks for sharing!

  28. Hi Adam, it looks fantastic. We have pops of Downpipe all over our house but now we’re going to use it in our bathroom πŸ™‚
    Can I just ask have you used Downpipe estate eggshell or modern emulsion?

    1. Hi Steph I have the same question as you? Am about to order some downpipe online but no idea which finish to go for. Which did you go for in the end?

  29. Oh my. Can’t believe how beautiful this is. I have been searching for ideas for our small (2.65 x 2.40 m) downstairs bathroom that use a Farrow and Ball color and This. Is. It.


  30. What a stunning job!! Can you tell me the width of your sink? we have a similar space but finding something less than 60cm is proving difficult.

  31. Much prefer the dark! Looks fab! May I ask where the floor tiles are from and what colour please?

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