Gray is a popular color for bathrooms for many reasons. We find that gray is an easy color to work with especially considering the growing trend of not using natural materials for bathroom walls and floors and the growing trend of using porcelain tiles.
Gray is a timeless color for a bathroom design that many people consider easy to match with their overall home aesthetic. Gray bathrooms tend to have a modern and sophisticated feel that can be easily styled with accessories, especially white, black and metals.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York City and owner of Fontan Architecture. In this post I am going to look at a few gray bathrooms from some of our recent projects discussing materials, accessories, tips, and overall gray bathroom design ideas.
Use Gray Porcelain Tile
For quite a while now there has been a growing trend to use man made materials in home design over natural materials. This is due to the fact that natural materials such as marble are more expensive and also porous, which means they absorb and tend to discolor over time. Porcelain has become a very popular bathroom material as it will typically be more affordable than marble and is also nonabsorbent. I have another post you can look at if you want to read more about Why Porcelain is Good For a Bathroom.
In the photo below we used porcelain tiles that have a bit of an industrial look in this modern gray bathroom. This bathroom is located in a loft apartment in New York. It was fitting to do something a little modern and industrial looking within a loft. Porcelains come in many different shades, textures, and designs so there are plenty of options when looking at porcelain tiles.
Apply Concrete Texture to the Bathroom
Another less popular trend that has a bit of a cult following in architecture and interior design is using concrete. There are concrete textures that can be applied to walls to give a concrete look. These concrete textures can have color additives but of course they are most commonly going to be gray.
The picture below is of a shower in a concrete bathroom. This is in an apartment we renovated several years ago in Downtown Manhattan’s Financial District. The walls and floor are all the same gray concrete material which gives a very unique and modern look. If you want to read more about this bathroom, we have another post on Concrete Bathroom Design.
Add Wood to Offset the Gray
Gray bathrooms can be a bit too drab for some people. Adding wood is a great way to bring a little life to a gray bathroom. The choice of woods should fit the tone of the bathroom but in general matching with gray is not going to be very difficult.
In the photo below you will see the same gray bathroom in the Chelsea Loft we previously mentioned. In this view you can see a dark wood vanity which goes very well with the overall design and adds a very subtle bit of liveliness to an otherwise simple bathroom. A touch of warmth can go a long way in what could potentially feel very cold. Of course, this is a very modern bathroom and everyone has different tastes, but it is important to consider the feel you are looking for when embarking on a bathroom design.
Add Texture for Depth
A gray bathroom has the potential to be flat and one dimensional. Adding tiles with texture can add a great level of depth and detail making the bathroom more dynamic and interesting.
I always advise my clients to visit showrooms or at least order samples of tiles before selecting them. This is important for many reasons such as seeing the color in person versus just in a picture lets you really understand what you are getting. Also, then you can put samples together of all the different bathroom materials and see how they work in unison. I realize based on your location you may not have many options of where to go look at materials. I am an architect in New York City and I have a dozen bathroom showrooms within a few blocks walk from my office, so I have it easy.
In the bathroom below we used a few different types of gray tiles but none of them felt flat. Although the tile on the right side wall is smooth to the touch it has a sense of texture in the pattern of the porcelain. The tile on the left is a 3D accent which I will discuss later in this post. You can see how the detail in the tiles adds a bit of action to the walls creating a more interesting surface. If that is what you are looking for.
Add a Pop of Color
One great aspect of gray is that it is easy to match with. Gray goes with most colors and textures so adding a pop of color can be a good way to elevate your bathroom design. As I already mentioned, I like holding samples together when I am working this out.
In this concrete bathroom below you can see an orange stained wood door. This creates a great contrast from the gray bathroom but seems to go together quite well. It livens up a very serious space with a subtle playfulness. Be careful with how you do this, because I have seen it done poorly. Adding a pop of color can really bring a lot to a gray bathroom.
Incorporate Accent Lighting
You may not want drama in your life, but you can have a little in your bathroom. One downfall of a gray bathroom for many people is that they are too plain and simple. Adding accent lights can add a bit of dramatic affect to a gray bathroom.
Accent lights can be on a separate switch so that they do not have to be on all the time. You can build accent lights into your walls and ceilings or get a medicine cabinet that has built in lights such as the one we used in the bathroom below.
Include 3D Accent Tiles
If you want to get more out of a bathroom wall you can use an accent tile in a small area to create an accent wall. 3D tiles are one option you have for accent tiles in that the tile is actually three dimensional. There are small ins and outs on the tile that will create a surface that stands out and adds depth to the wall.
Be careful about overusing 3D tiles. The point of an accent wall is that it is just one area. 3D tiles are very difficult to wrap around corners. In many cases, this is why you may see them just on a single wall such as the bathroom below. We used a 3D tile on a single wall in the tub area. Also we limited it to just the center portion of the wall to avoid overdoing it.
Add Black Details
Sometimes “keep it simple” is the best advice you can get. Gray is a simple color so why not keep the theme of simplicity and use black details in your bathroom design. Black goes great with any shade of gray. Using black accessories, fixtures, and hardware can be a good strategy for styling up your gray bathroom.
In the bathroom below you can see black frame shower doors in a gray porcelain bathroom. The vanity also has a black frame for consistency. This brings the bathroom together with a logical touch.
Add White Details
The only thing that goes as well with a gray bathroom as black does is white. White is the most common color for bathroom fixtures so this one should be quite obvious but using white fixtures, sinks, etc… will always work in a gray bathroom.
Looking again at the concrete bathroom you can see how minimal and modern it really is with the white wall mounted toilet against the gray monolithic concrete walls. You can see another post we wrote discussing Wall Mounted Toilets if you want to learn more about selecting a toilet.
Combine Two Shades of Gray
You can make an all gray bathroom without having to settle for one shade of gray. Unless you want a monolithic bathroom there is no reason you can’t mix different shades of gray with your bathroom walls and floors.
In the photo below you will see how we used a darker tile in the tub area and a medium to light gray tile in the rest of the bathroom. This two tone gray bathroom feels much more involved than it would if it were made of just one color tile.
Set a Mood
The most important thing about design is having a clear goal. Are you looking to have fun or be serious. Is the bathroom for a child or adult. When I am designing someone’s home, I ask them lots of questions about how they want it to feel. This is really the most important starting point.
The bathroom below has a very moody feel with the dark tones. It is modern and serious, but still inviting.
The easiest way to make a bathroom look more luxurious is to use slabs. The term Slab refers to very large format tiles. These result in an entire bathroom only having a few grout lines. Purchasing slabs will be more expensive but it also has that more high end luxurious look. Slabs can sometimes come as large as eight or even ten feet tall.
In the bathroom below we used large format porcelain slabs to create a more seamless look. Each tile was eight feet tall so there was not a single horizontal grout line in the entire bathroom. The tiles ran one piece from floor to ceiling.
Make a Monolithic Bathroom
The term monolithic means one stone. Using concrete in a bathroom gives a monolithic look as there are no joints whatsoever in the entire bathroom. That is right no grout in this bathroom. Not at all! The floors, walls, and if you wanted even the ceiling can be completely uniform. This creates a very specific look that may be too simple for some and perfectly minimalist for others.
This bathroom is minimal and modern with its concrete walls and matching floor. The material still has a slight texture visually but is smooth to the touch. The goal here was very modern and minimal.
Use Modern Accessories
Hardware and accessories are critical to a bathroom design. Gray bathrooms such as the ones we have been looking at are on the modern side and selecting modern accessories will really help make the bathroom consistent. You want to think about the metal finishes you will use in your bathroom. I strongly suggest using one type of metal for the entire bathroom. But the good thing about gray is, just about any metal will go with it.
Here we have a bathroom with a modern sliding shower door and frosted glass. The metal for this bathroom is all polished chrome for the door track, shower heads, faucet, and toilet paper holder. Using one metal gives consistency to the design. I always say good design is deliberate, so make deliberate decisions.
There are many options for styling a gray bathroom so do not feel like you are going to be limited in design. And please know there are many more options out there beyond what we saw in this post. All these photos are from our projects and not all of our clients want gray bathrooms. But those that do really like it. I happen to be a big fan of gray, but it is one of many options when designing a bathroom.
Always remember when planning your home, you are doing this for you. Do what makes you happy.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Gray Bathroom Design Ideas
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.