Bathroom wall ideas: from panelling to decorative tile designs

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  • Transforming a plain room with bathroom wall ideas can mean the difference between something lacklustre and a room you love.

    Whether it’s creating a restful bathing scheme that helps nurture and relax you, designing an invigorating shower area or making a talking point for a guest bathroom idea, taking time to think about your wall covering means you’re less likely to grow bored of your choice and instead be treated to an instant hit of satisfaction every time you enter the room.

    Bathroom wall ideas

    With so much choice available, from bathroom wallpaper ideas to paint, tiles and other finishes, it can be hard to know where to start. Which is why we’ve found a range of ideas to help inspire you to personalise your space and create something unique to you, whatever your bathroom’s shape or size.

    Of course, you’ll need to take into consideration the type of room you’re in – bathrooms are known for their humidity and so wall coverings will need the proper sealants, while tiles will need to be suitable for areas where they might come into contact with water.

    Ready to look at some original bathroom wall ideas? Then let’s get started…

    1. Pick a striking mural

    Image credit: Bathroom Mountain

    Statement murals are one of the latest bathroom trends to wowwith decor. Covering an entire wall with a made-to-measure mural means you can bathe next to the scene of your choice – whether it’s a forest, jungle, watercolour, cityscape or something more abstract. You can even personalise it and use your own custom image should you wish, to take you back to a holiday or moment in time.

    Here, a monochrome mural showing mountains and trees ties in nicely with the black-and-white floor tiles and black painted window frame, while luxe fittings in gold complete the look and create an inviting space that’s ideal for relaxing in. Although the slipper bath sits in front of the mural, the scene is still easily visible above – something to keep in mind when choosing a design, as you don’t want the main portion hidden by a cabinet or bath.

    Buy now: Piccadilly freestanding slipper bath, £599.99, Bathroom Mountain

    2. Opt for a cabin feel

    Image credit: Future PLC

    Whether it’s a smart wood panelling idea or more rustic planks as shown here, wood is a great way to give your bathroom walls a totally different look. We love the varying colours of these panels, which combined with the wood floor creates the feel of a very cosy cabin. If you have a large bathroom, you could panel more than one wall, or in a smaller space a feature wall may be adequate.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you will need to make sure that any wall covered in wood doesn’t come into contact with water, so it wouldn’t be ideal for a shower wall, for example. And, if you’re using glue rather than a nail gun to secure the wood to your walls, choose one that can stand up to the moisture and humidity that comes with a bathing space.

    3. Choose sleek marble

    Image credit: Bathroom Mountain

    You can’t get much more luxurious than glossy marble for a wall covering, whether you opt for large shiny slabs or smaller bathroom wall tiles. This natural stone is highly durable, long lasting and, as long as it’s sealed, suitable for wet areas including shower walls.

    Cascade the marble down from the walls to the floor, to create a waterfall effect, and team it with monochrome fittings for a smart, timeless finish. In this bathroom, a standout stone basin creates contrast with its rough texture against that of the smooth marble, while the grey colour of the stoneis echoed in the marble’s veining and the towel rail.

    Buy now: Palermo Anthracite designer heated towel rail, from £179.99, Bathroom Mountain

    4. Add texture with a limed effect

    Image credit: Prestigious Textiles; Craft fabric blind, from a selection,

    That unfinished limed effect has taken off as a wall covering in the last few years and for good reason – it brings a beautifully textured finish to any room. Choose a paint, such as Bauwerk, for bathroom walls that aren’t coming into direct contact with water, or, if you want a completely waterproof finish, try a decorative lime plaster like Tadelakt, which comes in a variety of colours.

    Here, neutral sand-coloured walls create a soothing feel, while wood accessories add to the natural feel. A patterned blind frames the window and potted plants echo the greenery from outdoors and ramp up the interest in this stylish yet simple scheme.

    5. Go half and half

    Image credit: The Curious Department

    Can’t decide between paint, wallpaper or wood panelling? We hear you – but it’s not a choice you have to make if you opt for all three! Adding painted wall panelling to half your wall and wallpaper to the rest gives you the opportunity to flex your creative skills and choose colours and patterns that complement each other.

    This deliciously dark scheme is kept from feeling dull by the vibrant wallpaper, with green flowers on a crisp white background, along with glossy gold fittings that spark an element of light in the room. While the wall incorporates many features – from the mirror and wall lights, to the cabinet, panelling and wallpaper – they all sit in harmony together, creating a cohesive yet eye-catching scheme. See here for more bathroom cabinet ideas.

    Bathroom wall ideas: from panelling to decorative tile designs

    Buy now: Electric Lagoon wallpaper, £125 a roll, The Curious Department

    6. Bring walls back to brick

    Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole

    Take in this bathroom and it’s hard to know what to look at first – but we wouldn’t mind betting it’s that bare brick wall! By chipping off the paint and plaster and exposing the bricks, you can bring a rough and rugged look to your bathroom, which creates a feature in itself.

    Team it with a copper pipe towel rail and an unpainted shelf, as shown here, and you’ve got yourself a bathroom with a beautifully rustic feel – all that’s missing is an industrial-style pendant overhead.

    Not convinced your bricks would be in good enough condition to show off? Try brick-style tiles instead and you can pick the exact colour and size you’d like.

    7. Use mirrors as a feature

    Image credit: Valspar

    Why not make your wall stand out with some bathroom mirror ideas? This collection of decorative Moroccan-style designs have all had their frames painted in the same colour as the wall to blend them in, keeping their shape and grid-style layout the main focus. Decorative plates and a metal lantern pendant light all add to the exotic feel.

    ‘A bathroom is a space that provides both a sense of relaxation and re-energising, so choosing a colour that captures both of these sentiments is key to making the most of the space,’ says Tobie Lewis, senior brand manager at Valspar. ‘Colours such as Je m’appelle Missy and Blueberry Ice create an atmosphere of both restoration and revival, perfect for transforming your bathroom walls.’

    Buy now: Gentle Waves emulsion, £28 for 2.5 litres, Valspar at B&Q

    8. Keep it tone on tone

    Image credit: Carpetright

    Painting your walls the same, or a similar, colour as the furniture and ceiling creates a harmonious, cocooning effect that’s ultimately soothing and relaxing. Keep accessories in similar tones for a perfectly blended scheme and, if you want a blast of visual interest, go for a patterned flooring – in the same colour, of course!

    Buy now: Mardi Gras 592 Sagres vinyl, £21.99sq m, Carpetright

    9. Combine decorative mouldings

    Image credit: Annie Sloan

    Now, this is how you make a statement on your walls… Whether you have a period property or just want to inject some interest into a plain bathroom, decorative mouldings are a great way to add elegance and detail, plus they can be relatively easy to install. Mix it up with plain and intricate carvings, from cornicing and panel mouldings to architectural corbels and plaster niches – the world is your oyster!

    In this ornate scheme, decorative mouldings have been used to frame a feature wallpaper, taking the place of artworks, while extra panel mouldings have been used widthways and painted in the same paint colour as the wall. Note the detailed edges to the wall lights and mirror, which all add to that overall sense of detail and elegance.

    Buy now: RHS decoupage paper Songbirds, £11.95, Annie Sloan

    10. Reflect the surroundings

    Image credit: Thomas Sanderson; Roman blind in Abstraction Ember

    Bathroom walls are just like any other room in that you can bring them to life with mirrors. Not only are they highly functional in a bathroom they also go a long way to enhance the decor.

    We particularly love this idea, where the mirrors are placed above the double sink station and next to the window to reflect the view back into the room. They also welcome a mirrored effect of the patterned blind,providing interest without making the scheme feel too busy with pattern.

    11. Invest in a standout tile design

    Image credit: Ca’ Pietra

    Think bathroom wall tiles are plain and boring? Think again! There are so many eye-catching designs out there, from patterns to shapes, that you can really give your walls some pizazz.

    ‘Ca’ Pietra have been working in partnership with the National Trust to develop an original collection of tiles that are both classic and contemporary,’ says Hamish Smith, Ca’ Pietra’s creative director. ‘Woodland Glade, from this collection, has been an exceptionally popular tile; it is a collection of nine different tile designs that really awaken the senses with their tonal nature-themed palette. Each hexagonal tile comes as part of a mixed pattern that can be used on walls and floors in various combinations and layouts, so no two projects will ever be the same.’

    Buy now: Woodland Glade tile, £61.92 per box, National Trust at Ca’ Pietra

    What should I put on my bathroom walls?

    How you decorate your bathroom walls really comes down to personal choice, as some may prefer the look of tiles, while others are after the look of paper or paint. Whichever you decide on, make sure you opt for a covering that is suitable for a bathroom environment when planning a bathroom.

    When it comes to paint, Tobie Lewis, senior brand manager at Valspar has the following advice: ‘Make sure you are using the right formula to withstand the moisture in bathrooms. Valspar’s V500 Kitchen and Bathroom paint is designed to deal with mould, so it’s ideal for bathrooms,’ he says.

    ‘Tiles and natural stone are the ideal wall coverings for a bathroom setting,’ says Hamish Smith at Ca’ Pietra. ‘They create a durable finish, meaning that you can enjoy a relaxing bath or an invigorating shower without having to worry about getting your bathroom wet.’

    Leigh Price, co-director of Real Stone & Tile is a huge fan of porcelain tiles for the bathroom. ‘Due to their functionality, porcelain tiles are perfect for bathroom walls and floors,’ he says. ‘They are extremely durable and, more importantly, classed as impervious, meaning they are highly water resistant, which is imperative in a bathroom.’

    ‘Available in so many different colours, shapes, designs and effects, you can now even get highly realistic wood-effect and stone-effect porcelain tiles for a beautiful, long-lasting bathroom design.’

    What can I put on my bathroom walls instead of tiles?

    Like the look of tiles but want an easier fix? ‘Our panels are carefully curated to align like tiles, but without any of the hassle or grouting,’ says Helen Dennett, marketing manager at Mermaid Panels. ‘Panels are the perfect alternative to ceramic tiles, providing a cost-effective, visually appealing solution that is quick to install and low-maintenance. You can easily fit panels directly to existing surfaces, including plasterboard and tiling, which means you don’t have to worry about preparing the wall beneath.’

    Alternatively, paint is an easy option and a great way of adding colour to your bathroom. ‘I’d recommend Crown’s multi-surface mid-sheen emulsion with mouldguard+ technology to keep bathroom walls looking fresh and cleaner for longer,’ says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown.

    ‘Often the smallest room in the home, the bathroom has for too long become the victim of the “all white makes it look bigger” design philosophy. Thankfully, upcoming trends embrace a more creative and bold approach to what can be one of the most exciting spaces in the home.’

    What kind of panelling can be used in a bathroom?

    Image credit: Future Plc/Dominic Blackmore

    Whether you choose tongue-and-groove, square panels or shiplap, there’s a variety of panelling you can use in a bathroom. Traditionally made from oak or dark wood to help insulate brick walls, panelling has come a long way since then. Typically made from MDF or other affordable woods that won’t expand or contract with heat, the crucial thing to keep in mind with panelling is that it needs to be moisture resistant if the panels are to last over time.

    For shower areas or walls that come into contact with water, it’s best to go for a panel that’s completely waterproof. ‘Whether you have a shower enclosure, bath, or wet room, you’ll need to ensure that any wall area that comes into contact with moisture is watertight,’ says Helen Dennett at Mermaid Panels. ‘It’s important to opt for panels that are suitable for high-moisture environments.’

    ‘Those included in our Mermaid Elite range, for example, have a 100 per cent waterproof core, as well as artistic post-formed edges that can be used to continue a consistent, high-end look around external corners or horizontal half-height walls – removing the need for trims or grouting. Testament to the fact that they will stand the test of time, we offer a 15-year guarantee across all Mermaid product ranges, for ultimate peace of mind.’

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    Becky Dix, head of design at The Luxury Bath Company agrees that panelling is a great way to cover walls. ‘From traditional to high-end, maximalist to pared-back Scandi, bathroom panelling can add an extra layer of texture and colour that can elevate your bathroom design,’ she says.

    ‘If you’re looking to inject colour into your space with panelling, opt for a neutral bathroom suite as this will help to draw on the natural light of the room, particularly with darker colour schemes, and can accentuate the features of the furnishings and accessories you have purchased.’