The powder room is usually the smallest room in the house and the most fun to design. It requires the least amount of decorating, yet can provide the greatest amount of creativity and surprise.

As practical as bathrooms have to be, the powder room can be the opposite. It’s not a room in which anyone spends much time. Since function isn’t a big consideration, it is important that it feels good and looks good. It should feel welcoming.

Make it an adventure to enter this room and experience the joy of surprise. My main criterion for designing a powder room is to make it nothing like anyone would expect when they walk in. It is the greatest chance you have to throw all caution to the wind and bring out your most outrageous ideas.

Of all the practical features, the sink is probably the most seen. This is where you can make a design statement: Use something unusual like the raised vessel sinks popular today with faucets coming out of the wall. These vessels can be placed into pieces of furniture such as cabinets, which can be anything from antiques to ultra-modern pieces in wood, metal or glass. 

Since running water is the main attraction, you might play it up with a fountain and adorn it with aromatic candles to add to the ambiance. Involve as many of the senses as possible in the experience.

I don’t often say this, but good lighting doesn’t matter in a powder room — as a matter of fact, the darker the better to create the mood. Just in case serious repairs have to be made, you can put the light on a dimmer so the light can be raised.

To give added warmth and possible transition, you can carpet the whole space or add an area rug. This also serves to absorb sound and give a feeling of softness and comfort. 

In my own home I upholstered the walls in fabric with 2-inch wide black and white stripes. I also upholstered the ceiling and the back of the door so it is completely padded in the same bold contrasting colored pattern. Once someone came out of my powder room and said they felt like they were Alice in Wonderland in a gift box. I was delighted that I could give someone an “E ride” at Disneyland merely by stepping into a room in my home.

To give the necessities a different slant, I have a free standing toilet paper holder (since I didn’t want to attach anything practical or expected to my fabric walls) and another freestanding unusual shelf to hold towels and interesting objects of interest to delight the eye. Even the soap is color-coordinated and a funky shape. I also have a beautiful piece of art which I did hang on the fabric wall to give a sense of formality.

Do something out of the ordinary when decorating your powder room, so when your guests come out of the powder room (hopefully, with a smile) they will feel entertained and cared about. 

Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Always remember, room have no feelings, you do! JN

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA and Allied ASID, is a Phoenix-based interior designer and the CEO of Barbara’s Picks, an online resource for interior design. Visit for more information.

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