Gray is a timeless color for a bathroom design that many consider easy to match with their home aesthetic. Gray bathrooms tend to have a modern and sophisticated feel that you can easily style with accessories, especially white, black, and metal.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York City and owner of Fontan Architecture. In this post, we will look at a few gray bathrooms from some of our projects discussing materials, accessories, tips, and overall gray bathroom design ideas.
Use Porcelain Tiles
For quite a while now, there has been a growing trend to use manufactured materials in home design over natural materials. Natural materials such as marble are more expensive and porous, so they absorb and tend to discolor over time. Porcelain has become a popular bathroom material as it is typically more affordable than marble and is non-absorbent. I have another post you can look at if you want to read more about Why Porcelain is Good For a Bathroom.
Porcelains come in many shades, textures, and designs, so there are plenty of options when looking at porcelain tiles. In the photo below, we used industrial gray porcelain tiles in this modern bathroom. This bathroom is in a loft apartment in New York City. It was fitting to do something a little modern and industrial-looking in a loft.
A gray bathroom has the potential to be flat and one-dimensional. Adding tiles with texture can add significant depth and detail, making the bathroom more dynamic and exciting.
I always advise my clients to visit showrooms or order tile samples before selecting them. Experiencing the material before you purchase it is important for many reasons. Feeling the texture and seeing the color in person versus just in a picture lets you understand what you are getting. Also, you can combine samples of all the different bathroom materials and see how they work. Based on your location, you may not have many options for where to 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.
We used a few different types of gray tiles in the bathroom below. Although the tile on the right side wall is smooth to the touch, it has a sense of texture in the porcelain pattern. 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 dynamic surface.
Faux Concrete Finishes
Another less popular trend with a cult following in architecture and interior design is using concrete. You can apply Faux Concrete Textures to walls to give a concrete look. These concrete textures can have color additives to achieve any color, but they will most commonly be gray.
The picture below is of a shower in a concrete bathroom. This bathroom is in an apartment we renovated in Downtown Manhattan’s Financial District several years ago. The walls and floor are all the same gray concrete material, giving a unique and modern look. If you want to read more about this bathroom, we have another post on Concrete Bathroom Design.
Large Format Tiles / Slabs
The easiest way to make a bathroom look luxurious is to use slabs. The term Slab refers to large format tiles. Large format tiles result in an entire bathroom only having a few grout lines. Purchasing slabs will be more expensive as will the installation cost, but it also has a more 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 the entire bathroom had no horizontal grout line. The tiles ran one piece from floor to ceiling.
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. 3D tiles are one option for accent tiles because the tile is three-dimensional. The small ins and outs on the tile will create a surface that stands out and adds depth to the accent 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. We have another post if you are interested in reading more about 3D Accent Tiles for Bathrooms.
In this light gray bathroom, we used two different tiles to create an alternating pattern. This is another easy way to elevate a simple gray bathroom. The stripping effect is made with two tiles of the same color, but one has a 3D texture.
This bathroom is from an Upper East Side Apartment Gut Renovation.
Add Wood to Offset the Gray
Gray bathrooms can be too drab for some people. Adding wood is a great way to bring a little life to a gray bathroom. The choice of wood should fit the overall tone, but in general, matching it with gray will be relatively easy.
The photo below shows a modern bathroom in an apartment we renovated in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In this view, you can see a medium-tone wood vanity that goes very well with the overall design and adds a slight bit of liveliness to an otherwise simple bathroom. Of course, this is a very modern bathroom, and everyone has different tastes, but it is vital to consider the feel you are looking for when embarking on a bathroom design. A touch of warmth can go a long way in what could feel very cold.
Add a Pop of Color
One significant aspect of gray is that it is easy to match. Gray goes with most colors and textures, so adding a pop of color can be an excellent way to elevate your bathroom design. As I mentioned, I like holding samples together when working this out.
In this gray bathroom below, you can see an orange-stained wood door. The gray and orange combination creates a great contrast from the gray bathroom but goes together quite nicely. 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 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 gray bathrooms for many people is that they are too plain and simple. Adding accent lights can add a dramatic effect to a gray bathroom.
Accent lights can be on a separate switch, so they do not have to be on constantly. You can build accent lights into your walls and ceilings or get a medicine cabinet with built-in lights like the one we used in the bathroom below.
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 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. The consistency brings the bathroom together with a logical and elegant 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 pretty 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 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 settling 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 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? When designing someone’s home, I ask them many questions about how they want it to feel. This is really the most critical starting point.
The bathroom below has a very moody feel with dark tones. It is modern and severe but still inviting.
Make a Monolithic Bathroom
The term monolithic means one stone. Using concrete in a bathroom gives a monolithic look, as there are no joints 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 like the ones we have been looking at are on the modern side, and selecting modern accessories will help make the bathroom consistent. But the good thing about gray is just about any metal will go with it. You want to consider the metal finishes you will use in your bathroom. I strongly suggest using one type of metal for the entire bathroom.
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 intentional decisions.
There are many options for styling a gray bathroom, so do not feel like you will be limited in design. And please know there are many more options 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 like it. I am a big fan of gray, but it is one of many bathroom design options.
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 want to speak with an architect about a potential project, 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 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.