I love the term powder room. Powder rooms came into existence in the 18th century when one might have to have their wigs repowdered. It continued to be popular into the Victorian era. Ladies couldn’t possibly speak of their bodily functions so they went to “powder” their noses. Powder room is so archaic but so adorable and thank goodness we figured out shampoo so we no longer need to powder our wigs! Powder rooms generally include a sink and toilet and are usually located on the first floor, near the entrance. Often, they are tucked under the stairs so as not encroaching too much into private areas. Powder rooms do not have to be a tiny dark box, they can in fact be very stylish, modern and have impact. As if anyone needs another excuse to create a gorgeous bathroom design! This is exactly the excuse I used, for redoing the powder room in my Modern Victorian designed home.
What I mean by “Modern Victorian” style is a way of decorating that is pretty but a bit edgy, maximalism but neat, cohesive without the frou frou or fuss. Modern Victorian is rich in texture, pattern and saturated in color with luxe materials like velvet and brass while having a modern sensibility of clean lines along with the ornament. It is looking at the warmth and beauty of the Victorian elements through a modern lens.
Coat Closet Conversion
Sure, coat closets are really useful, especially in Boston home design, however a guest bathroom on the first floor makes a huge difference when entertaining, and honestly are just really convenient. I certainly didn’t want my guests to have to run upstairs to our private bathrooms during a dinner party (not to mention having to clean them whenever someone might visit!) and who knows how my three boys might have left their bathrooms. A guest bathroom was and still is a must have.
Getting Down to Business
There is the plumbing question and luckily our closet was situated just below another bathroom on the floor above so the plumbing stack could be easily extended. The first question is “Can I put a bathroom here?” The next is, “where are the plumbing stacks and how can we vent it?” Stacks and vents solved, next was finding fixtures that fit.
Fixate on the Fixtures!
I love pedestal sinks for powder rooms! They can save a lot of space in a small room and the space saving is well worth the storage trade off. A bulky vanity sink, while handy usually consume a lot of floor space. Pedestal sinks might require a little more “supply” maintenance, or you can find an inventive or cute way to store supplies like paper and tissues, hand towels and soaps The sink doesn’t need to be THE piece that stands out in a powder room, save that for a main bathroom. For my project, I needed the smallest sink in the world. I found a cute modern Duravit Vero sink that I adorned with a more traditional Newport Brass faucet and drain. I loved the matte black finish that Newport Brass offered and it worked perfectly for the Modern Victorian look I was going for. I even found a flush handle for my Toto toilet in matte black- it’s all in the details! I certainly couldn’t have a chrome flush with my black faucet! But are purple toilets or pea green sinks making a come back?
How to Light Your Powder Room
Guest bathroom lighting needs a different strategy from a main bathroom. There is no need to shave, put on daytime/work makeup or study skin imperfections in the mirror. Since the powder room is for a quick tinkle and touch up, all that is needed is a warm overhead light and a decorative sconce or two. I just love decorative sconces in the powder room. It keeps guests in the lovely mood already set from the dining room and living room. There is no need for a jarring light just to be sure there is no food in one’s teeth or to reapply lipstick while washing up. I chose this adorable bow tie perforated sconce handmade in Los Angeles by Atelier de Troupe since I felt like my powder room was tied up like a bow! And check out this simple square recessed light that fits perfectly with the design of the ceiling molding.
Go for the Wallpaper! Wild for Wallpaper! If these walls could speak!
It’s only for the brave! If you are going to tap into the current wild wallpaper craze, this is the room to go for it. Why not please your guests with a beautiful surround while on the throne?! I had no hesitation picking a fabulous and fun wallpaper for the powder room. Unfortunately, there are so many fun wallpapers to choose from. I literally could have repapered every month but that would have driven everyone crazy. So, I decided to focus on fun, unique and high quality. How fortunate for me when I met Katie Deedy at ICFF in NYC a couple of years ago. Katie is a true artist. Each pattern she creates “has a different tale to tell, and endeavors to spark the creativity, mystery and comfort of stories in those around us.” Her Brooklyn based company Grow House Grow has her beautiful papers carefully hand screen printed. The difference between hand screen printing versus digital printing is a huge deal. It definitely is a big deal difference! I promise to go into greater detail in a blog post dedicated to all things wallpaper. In the mean-time check out this awesome video on making wallpaper.
I saw the beauty in hand screen printed papers immediately when Grow House Grow samples landed on my door step. Remember in such an intimate setting, you and your guests especially will be getting up close and personal with the details of the paper. That’s why quality really counts. Also, since I didn’t have to worry about steam from the shower- the powder room is a great opportunity for some knock out wallpaper unlike in a main bathroom. As soon as I saw Katie’s Ms. Ward paper in black and white that was it. How could I resist Victorian ladies and bugs but most importantly this paper made my heart go pitter-patter. And really at the end of the day, all your choices should do that. The black and white felt modern, and I loved the pop of green. I put the paper on all the walls, choosing a surround rather than a statement wall. Wallpaper is really an art and I just love knowing the story behind it and meeting the makers that create it. Not only is the story of Ms. Mary Ward and her insects inspiring but so is Katie and her beautiful wallpaper studio. That is one of the reasons this wallpaper is my current favorite of all time. Check out this video to hear more about Katie’s journey.
Finishing with Paint, Accessories and more Art!
I painted the trim in Space Black by Benjamin Moore, this was a great way to make the wallpaper pop. My powder room was fantastic with the wallpaper alone and I never thought it would need art, and the thought of putting any holes through that glorious paper made my stomach hurt. But I found a way when my mom gave me a colorful vintage lithograph of Victorian ladies socializing by the water that she found at an art stall along the Seine. Parisian ladies in my bathroom- perfect! And a great contrast to the super modern silhouettes of Ms. Ward’s. Later that spring I found a magnificent preserved beetle at the Brimfield Antique Flea Market, even more perfect, and another element of depth to the overall theme. The final hurrah is the Italian antique mirror I found on1stdibs that also had a feminine feel with its swirls of brass, reminiscent of a fancy Victorian era hat. You can find a similar mirror at Casa Design Boston. I am quite happy with my stylish, moody and playful powder room in the Modern Victorian look.