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Bold and Beautiful Bathrooms

Peruse four bathrooms that undergo dramatic color transformations.

California Dreamin'

Designer April Sheldon turns a wine-country powder room into a shimmering retreat that's a delight for the senses.

Whether you're gearing up for a full gut renovation or merely considering a paint job, don't be afraid to go bold in the bathroom. A small bath, say top designers, is the perfect place for fearlessly fabulous color schemes.

"The stakes are lower in a powder room because you don't spend much time in there," says San Francisco-based designer April Sheldon (www.aprilsheldondesign.com). "And if you try a color and hate it, the space is small and easy to repaint."

It's hard to imagine anyone wanting to change a single thing in this dramatically colored powder room, right off the wine tasting room in a traditional California house. "This powder room has no windows," Sheldon says, "and rather than fight the darkness, I wanted to work with it. I knew my clients would use this room almost exclusively at night, and bright, light colors would not have fit the mood."

To create the aura of mystery befitting an evening with good friends and a fine bottle, Sheldon painted the walls a deep bronze (ICI, Chippendale #197), and tiled the floor and the wall behind the sink in a glass mosaic of mixed metallic shades.

"I chose those tiles because the subtle blend gave the room an interesting pattern that was evident only on the second look," says the designer. "It provides a nice little sense of discovery, and I loved the bronze and copper shimmer at night."

Photograph by John Casado.

Dark Colors Create Drama in a Small Bath

Designer Jamie Drake creates a sexy black bathroom for a New York townhouse.

In this powder room, adjacent to the large dining room in a New York City townhouse, designer Jamie Drake (www.drakedesignassociates.com) covered half the walls in graphite gray Venetian plaster, which he had polished to a very high sheen; the other half are lined in gold-backed white glass mosaic tile. Drake fashioned a sink from a 19th-century Turkish marble basin, and set it into a custom-designed base of ebonized wood with polished nickel straps and a marble top. The overall effect? As dramatic as midnight. And while shiny black walls might overwhelm a larger room, they are perfect in this 48-square-foot space.

But even in small doses, the challenge with black is to keep it from looking funereal, says Drake, author of Jamie Drake's New American Glamour (Bulfinch, 2006) and designer of bathroom accessories for Labrazel, Inc. (www.labrazel.com) and THG (www.thgusa.com). To keep the mood sexy, rather than somber, he opted to paint the ceiling a sharp coral color, with a pale oyster gray crown molding.

"In addition to lightening the room, the vivid ceiling color also lifts the eye," Drake explains, "and that's always a plus in a smaller space."

Photograph by William Waldron.

A Bathroom That's as Sunny as Spring

Designer Martha Angus and her son design his bath — and achieve a round-the-room riot of blooming color.

Martha Angus is known for her deft use of color and her bold designs. And clearly, those talents run in the family. When it came time to paint his bathroom, Angus's 15-year-old son chose Benjamin Moore's Geranium #1307 for the walls and the ceiling, creating a round-the-room riot of blooming color. The shade is midway between deep red and bright orange, and while Angus herself might not have selected it, she is justifiably pleased with the way the bathroom turned out.

"This color wouldn't work if you had to put makeup on in the bathroom," she concedes, "but that wasn't a consideration in this room."

The chrome sink contrasts beautifully with the deep, rich wall color, and the bathroom's floor and shower are made of a timeless Portuguese limestone, so the room can be toned down inexpensively and easily at any time. But for now, nobody's reaching for a paint roller.

"The color is very dramatic," says Angus, "but it's really fabulous."

Photograph by Matthew Millman.

Hip, Fresh Yellow Bathroom

Designer Barclay Fryery gives a modern-day "it girl" a lively, fresh and unexpectedly modern bathroom.

While the paint color in this powder room dates back to turn-of-the-century England, the look is entirely up-to-the-moment — and utterly New York.

"This apartment belongs to a modern-day 'it girl' and stockbroker to the stars," says designer Barclay Fryery (www.askbarclay.com). "The rest of the rooms are camel, black, cream and white, just like her delicious clothes. But for the powder room, I wanted something lively and fresh and unexpectedly modern."

Fryery got all of that and more with this color, a shade midway between taxicab and lemon peel. Because there are no moldings to separate one plane from another, he painted the ceiling the same color as the walls: Farrow and Ball's Dayroom Yellow #233. "Surrounding the room in a single color adds a finished look," he says. For even more uptown polish, Fryery added a modern chrome sink; accents of black and white add a graphic touch.

"In a small powder room," says Fryery, "you always need to have a wow factor, so be bold, and be dramatic. You need a little luck when you try something unusual, but the most important ingredient for pulling it together is confidence."

Photograph by Chi Chi Ubina.

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