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6 Key Elements to Create the Exciting & Fun Portland Powder Bath

An (underrated) luxury of the Portland house was the presence of a powder bathroom. It’s the only bathroom on the main level (there used to be two full baths, but once we added the top floor, we shuffled things around), meaning no running up and down stairs. So appreciated, so functional. But powder baths can become only that…a functional luxury…or it can be a place to play with elements that might be “too much” in larger, more frequently used spaces. Go bold. Play around. Have some fun. It only takes a few statement details to make a delightful impact—goodbye “potty dance,” hello “happy dance.” Today, we’re rolling out the reveal of the small but mighty Portland powder bath, and on top of some really pretty photos courtesy of Sara’s lens, we’re walking you through the six features that we ran with during the Portland powder bath renovation—all elements that you can follow in your own space to create a bold yet elegant, traditional meets modern, exciting yet tame petite two-piece loo for yourself! Let’s dive in…

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Powder Room8

Go Bold With Paint & Wallpaper

Some might wonder why we would choose such a dark color for a small, windowless room. In fact, Sara did, actually (she’s in the middle of juggling the renovation of her new home and curious about some of the “whys” recently). Her exact question was “um, why would you pick such a dark paint for a room with zero natural light?” After all, doesn’t white make a small space feel airier and more open and dark colors soak up all the light? Well, if you’ve been paying attention (Sara!! 😉 you’ll know from Design Mistake #3 that white in a small, dark/windowless room feels sad and boring. Two things a powder bath shouldn’t be. A room that’s geared toward guests’ comfort and is only occasionally used,  it’s a perfect place to do something bold and exciting. So, save the “sad and boring” for that in-law suite (should you live in a mansion and hate your in-laws).

Rebecca Atwood’s Dashes wallpaper brought the “excitement” and Waterloo by Sherwin-Williams brought the “bold,” but the tones are consistent throughout the space. It’s a good balance. Sure, had the whole space been painted this dark color, it might have risked feeling cave-like (which, if that’s the look you’re going for, rock it, we just wanted something a little less heavy than that). It’s also arguable that such a high contrast, small-patterned wallpaper could have been dizzying floor-to-ceiling in a tiny room. But the combo makes me so happy. It’s drama I can’t turn away from…like the season finale of Bachelor in Paradise. 

Emily Henderson Powder Bath Ideas

Speaking of drama, because the finishes were going to be such protagonists in this space, we stayed a little more classic (with a twist) with the fixtures. Kohler’s Artifacts flume faucet is in the same polished nickel that we used for the faucet and pot filler in the kitchen (which is just outside this bathroom). The cross handles feel both vintage yet updated, which felt like just the right mix for this space. I’ll get into the sink in just a bit, but this little detail on the left (with the bud vase and towel ring—also Kohler, from their Artifacts line) makes me happy. The modern detailing on that toilet top (there’s a sentence I don’t say often) is so good and really plays off the lines in the millwork.

Add in Architectural Detail

The drama-filled marriage of Waterloo and the Dashes wallpaper would have never worked out without a little help establishing some boundaries. Enter some architectural detail (which really takes a simple box of a room like this one and levels it up). The millwork by Metrie established a natural line to divide the painted and papered portions of the wall. Without it, it would have been an odd transition from paint to that fun wallpaper…which, of course, you likely wouldn’t have done, so RIP cool wallpaper + paint combo. In a room like a powder bath, with very few fixtures and limited space for furnishing/styling, architectural detail can have a high impact, quickly ramping up visual interest.

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Powder Room2

Carry Your Floors Through

I love wood flooring in a lavatory. It provides so much warmth in a space that can be prone to running cold…water…(that one’s for the faucet-joke fans). Wood is sometimes considered a ‘no-no’ for a bathroom, and the practical part of me totally gets it. A tub or shower can wage a wet war against this rot-prone material. But the “let’s make things pretty” side of me jumps for joy when I can find a way to use it. A powder bath side-steps this concern, providing a perfect excuse to break the “no wood floors in bathrooms” rule. Since there was already gorgeous flooring (Hallmark’s Mangrove Ventura runs throughout the house) in the adjoining living spaces and no reason to visually section off this little area, the use of wood in this room was a no-brainer. In general, carrying the same flooring as that of connected rooms into a powder bath usually helps the space flow more seamlessly and feel bigger. The flooring decision was probably the easiest one made in this little loo.

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Powder Room10

See…it basically welcomes you right in from the kitchen and family room (reveal for this space coming soon, promise). Had the floor stopped right at the threshold of the bathroom and switched to something else, it would feel much more like a totally separate space than one that’s part of the larger rooms just outside of it.

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Powder Room1

Get the Mirror & Lighting Mix Right

As thought-provoking as mirrors are known to be, I’d never so intently considered one prior to working with millwork in this house. The wood architrave along the walls created a projection that had to be creatively worked around or carefully placed…actually both. A pivot mirror was our solution, since it projected from the wall, allowing space behind it for that wood trim. After a lot of searching, we fell for Rejuvenation’s West Slope Pivot mirror. We didn’t want the mirror’s hardware drilled directly into the architrave and we cared about both short and tall visitors’ ability to gaze on their lovely faces (not truly an issue w/ a pivoting mirror, but I like to give myself reasons to lose sleep), so the heights of the millwork and mirror were carefully considered. It was drawn, measured, taped out on walls, re-drawn and re-measured.

We were micro-focused, but one of the perks of a pivot mirror is flexibility. Tilting means more viewing area, which is great for a small space. Not many vanity mirrors reveal a whole outfit, but this guy can. And beyond being flexible, pivot mirrors create dimension and added depth, good for both design aesthetics and backsplash visibility.

Emily Henderson Powder Bath Ideas

Since the mirror projected, we didn’t want a sconce doing the same. If everything is flush to the wall OR everything projects, a space can lack enough movement to be visually interesting. We considered an articulating sconce at first, but ended up picking the Willamette from Rejuvenation (we used the same line for the chandelier in the master bathroom) and like it so much. It’s a flush mount and we got it in a (polished nickel) finish to match all others in the the room, staying safe of visual clutter of trying to mix finishes in the smallest room of the house.

Before we move on, let’s take a moment to talk about this art. It’s another piece by MaryAnn Puls, who’s an AMAZING artist from Portland that we used throughout the house. I LOVE HER WORK (and you will, too). What a talent she is. It’s exactly what this powder bath needed to balance the traditional millwork, and in the same color palette, it feels quiet and purposeful.

Okay, we’re back. On to lighting…

Lighting in a bathroom can be tricky, especially a windowless one. While a traditional vanity light with those track-home famous bulbs would have given us A TON of light, but this was NOT a standard track home. To do this investment property justice, we had to go with something a little more special that ALSO provided enough light, so the answer was to go the diffused route, which this sconce does. Diffused light is also more flattering than something overhead and directional…so bonus for you, my pretty guests! No dark eye circles. Save the concealer for when you see your actual face in bright daylight after a sleepless night and you’re a shell of a person…that’s when the real fun begins. 

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Powder Room5

Pick a Pedestal to Keep Things Open (Literally)

I already hear one or two of you yelling at me, no medicine cabinet and A PEDESTAL SINK….Aaaghhh, where’s the storage!? Settle. Breathe. The extra toilet paper already has a place to live (in the mudroom just around the corner) and we promise to keep plenty within reach.

But this is a powder room, just a tiny place to potty. If you need too many products and accessories on hand, you’re definitely doing it wrong. So, instead of choosing storage, we opted to not crowd the space and decided to use a pedestal sink. And this one (the Tresham by Kohler) was beautifully simple, perfectly traditional but with strong modern lines. Pedestal sinks are excellent in tiny rooms, where larger vanities might crowd (and therefore) shrink the space. Cabinet bases, while functional, can be boxy and a bit overbearing in a powder room. Pedestals, a classic, have stuck around for a reason…and I believe that reason is the powder bath.

And there she is. Petite but potent. We put together a Get the Look for anyone scrolling through and screaming “WHERE IS THAT TOILET PAPER HOLDER FROM?!?”. We got you…find the links below the image, or make your life even easier and click right on the product (magic!) to take you to the shopping source. 

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1. Wallpaper by Rebecca Atwood | 2. Sconce by Rejuvenation | 3. Mirror by Rejuvenation | 4. Abstract Art by MaryAnn Puls | 5. Towel Ring by Kohler | 6. Flume Faucet and Cross Handles by Kohler | 7. Pedestal Sink by Kohler | 8. Door and Window Casing by Metrie | 9. Baseboard by Metrie | 10. Architrave by Metrie | 11. Tongue and Groove by Metrie  | 12. Toilet Paper Holder by Kohler | 13. Hand Soap | 14. Toilet Lever by Kohler | 15. Toilet by Kohler | 16. Towels (similar) | 17. Millwork Color by Sherwin-Williams (Waterloo) | 18. Bud Vase | 19. Wood Flooring by Hallmark Floors | 20. Angle Supply by Kohler

For more Portland Project Room Reveals: Living Room | Staircase | Office | Master Bedroom | Master Bathroom | KitchenDining Room | Guest Bathroom | Hall Bathroom | Laundry Room | Guest Bedrooms | Media Room | Family Room | Playroom

And for EVEN MORE REVEALS, head to our brand new ROOMS page

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5 years ago

Question about the mill work, do you install the pedestal sink first and then do the mill work around the sink or vice versa?

5 years ago
Reply to  Mindy

I believe the standard procedure is to install capped-off stub-outs through the wall for the water supply to the sink and toilet, then put up the mill work, then connect the pretty supply lines and install the fixtures.

5 years ago

I’m really enjoying the Portland House series. Thank you!

5 years ago

I need to figure out how to pick up this whole bathroom and put it in my house (even though I don’t have room for a powder room). It is gorgeous!

I’d really love a post on decorating a small, windowless full bathroom. I feel like a lot of people have that issue (at least, those of us in townhouses, apartments, and condos) and it is so challenging.

5 years ago
Reply to  shopgirl

Yes! I was thinking that too. I’d love a post on designing small, windowless full baths. Would you use the same principles?

Mallory M Osteen
5 years ago

Love this sweet little bath! We have a 1940s home, and the guest bath is TINY (like, maybe the footprint of this one, but also with a shower/tub combo). I’ve basically treated it like a powder bath, which is how it functions 99% of the time since it’s just my husband and I at home (a pedestal sink in there is NECESSARY). But for the 1% guests are actually in there, I have a couple pretty shelves mounted over the toilet, with baskets that hold extra TP/hand towels/extra travel toiletries. Now I’m inspired to do some panelling; right now it’s painted builders-grey but could be so much more fun!

5 years ago

“If you need too many products and accessories on hand, you’re definitely doing it wrong. ” Ha! Exactly.

Love the wallpaper/bold color millwork combo. This room would be so boring without it.

5 years ago

Love this powder room.

One thing that feels missing from this post is details on how you used Metrie materials. I’d love get a sense of the price breakdown to bring this kind of architectural detailing into a bathroom. Would love a post on the Metrie stuff you’ve been using in different rooms and what it costs to upgrade in that way (front stairs detailing, ceiling stuff, architectural elements in here, baseboards throughout, etc.)

5 years ago

Now what I really want: how do you store things like spray cleaner (gotta keep that handy to keep the room clean)?

And are there ever stylish / not hideous toilet brush / plunger combos? If a guest ever has to ask for that, they’re mortified, so they should definitely be there.

5 years ago

If you store them in the laundry room, there is much less chance of them a chalky being used! Keeping them right there let’s you do a quick wipe down, the same way you wipe of kitchen counters when you’re done using the kitchen. And any parent with little people will tell you it’s awfully nice to be able to just quietly wipe up the water and not mention how fun the kid thought your faucet was, or whatever.

5 years ago

This is so cute! I love the pedestal sink, and am planning one myself. But I worry about not just the extra tp (around the corner is too far with pants at your ankles) but also the brush you run over your hair just before going out, the “feminine” supplies discreetly available for guests, the cleaning supplies so you can do a quick once over when company pops in to visit…it’s all little stuff, but it adds up and needs somewhere to go. Maybe a small cabinet above the toilet?

5 years ago

This is a gorgeous bathroom, and the Portland House is a true masterwork. Thank you for sharing so much, and I learn every time I read your detailed posts.

What is the height of the architrave? We have similar millwork in our powder room, but the top of the architrave is much lower. I love the height of yours! We also have a similar pedestal sink.
For reference, the top of our architrave over bead board paneling (eh) is 39 1/2″ high and our ceilings are 9′ high. Your room appears to be very similar in size to yours. Our baseboards are only 6″ high. Should l try to raise this? I love the look of your powder room, and your master bath seems to have an even higher architrave (which I love!). I personally adore blue, but I have tile that is is a very warm sand color with grey (it came with the house). Would grey work like your combination?
Thank you so much for sharing so much of your design mastery and for considering my question. I love your style and your generosity.

5 years ago

Love it! How high do you recommend installing the wainscotting/trim from the floor for a 9′ high powder room? Is there a general rule (ie: 2/3 the wall.height, etc?) To consider?

5 years ago

Not to overshadow this great powder bath (I really wish I had one to just go hog wild in) but what room is outside of this so I can hopefully find a source for that fabulous navy-shaded floor lamp outside the door?

5 years ago

I really like this powder room. The wallpaper is awesome, and I agree with you — combining it with the wainscoting prevents that eye dazzle affect. Love both the toilet and pedestal sink styles. However, I’ve never cared for those “flume” style fauceta. Every time I see one I think “urinal.”

I also agree with continuing the wood flooring into the room. My en suite has a separate room (with a closed door) for the shower/toilet, but the vanity/sink are in an open area as you walk into my bedroom. I had the wood flooring installed throughout the space until you get to the toilet/shower room wall. Then, it changes to hex tile. I can be a sloppy teeth brusher face washer, but I’ve seen no issues with the wood floor under my vanity (for 12 years now). There will be no more water splashing in this powder room than I’ve had at my sink, so I’m happy you went with the wood floors.

5 years ago

I love the wallpaper and millwork, very pretty. I have one remark, however: the bathroom is right next to the kitchen counter and sofa …. isn’t that a bit awkward, especially if you have guests in that area? I am sure you would have chosen a different location if possible (e.g. hallway), but I am a bit curious? Thank you.

5 years ago


Question please…. how did you decide on the proportions for the wainscoting vs wallpaper? Are there rules I should follow? Does it depend on the scale of the wallpaper (aka don’t look too top heavy..)

5 years ago

Thank you very much for the article. Very useful.

5 years ago

I’m going to have to quit subscribing to this blog once my renovation is complete or I’ll have regrets with each room I made over! Love this house, love to hear your planning, love everything about your blog. Do wish that wallpaper was easier to source, without the wait time (did I mention I’m tired of living in an on-going renovation??)

5 years ago

You read my mind! I am looking for inspiration for my windowless ‘downstairs loo’ (as we call it in the UK) and have already Pinned photos looking very similar to this, including the dark blue, panelling and wooden floor! I will be sourcing industrial inspired wall mounted lighting too.

5 years ago

OMG – this is just the post I needed to see today. This is about the same color I’m using in my small master bath (older home) which has a soaker tub/shower, a pedestal sink and toilet. We have beautiful all white tile half way up and 3/4 way up the shower wall, so a small amount of wall space that could use a pop of color. This gave me the courage to use Benjamin Moore Hidden Sapphire.. Your powder room looks amazing!