Trying to decorate with black in your bathroom? I see you. Here are the two best ways to incorporate black and still achieve a timeless bathroom look.
We’re now so deep inside the black (and white) trend, that when you go to a big box store to buy a faucet, black is the only finish available. In the past, chrome was the default, go-to faucet, not anymore.
That’s when I realized what’s been bothering me and how to fix it.
A bathroom or kitchen that’s perfect, instead of just perfectly nice, lives in the details, so if you’ve decided to incorporate black into your new bathroom, here are the two guidelines to save your bathroom from looking, harsh, flat, predictable which in the end will also give you a trendy not timeless look:
1. Don’t make black the default choice for every single item
Over and over again, I’m seeing bathrooms or kitchens with every single plumbing fixture, lighting, mirror, and hardware option chosen in black without any other mixed metals or a larger black item to ground the strongest colour in the world.
So, the first and best way to incorporate black into your bathroom is NOT to choose black for EVERYTHING. Read #2 for more guidance.
Keep in mind, if you’re following me for my timeless point of view, that’s what kind of advice you’re getting in this post. 😉
2. Repeat the black in small, medium and large
If you are installing black and white tile, that counts as your MEDIUM. Next you need to repeat the black once in a LARGE element like the countertop or the vanity. Then, repeat black one more time in a SMALL element like the lighting, mirror frame or in artwork – just remember only CHOOSE ONE of these, any more and it starts to look too distracting.
Think of it like incorporating an accent colour in your decorating. Add the black three times in small, medium and large gradations.
See the rest of this bathroom here
In my black and white bathroom (above) the black in my artwork would technically be ‘small’, the black and white floor, ‘medium’ and the black countertop ‘large’. If the lighting, faucet AND hardware was also black, that’s when my bathroom would look trendy.
Now, are all these things changeable and still easier to switch out than tiles and countertops? Yes, and definitely much better than an all black tiled bathroom for example.
Here is another good example of small, (mirror), medium (checkerboard floor) and large (vanity) everything else is polished nickel.
via House Beautiful
This is what I mean (below). There’s no black in this white bathroom except every single hardware, plumbing including the skinny mirror is black.
The eye jumps around with no place to land.
This bathroom is basically timeless in every other way but the black everything else, makes it obvious that this is a brand new ‘Black and white trend‘ reno.
Is this still a pretty bathroom? Yes it definitely is, I’m just splitting hairs on the details, to illustrate my point.
Keep in mind, I have JUST concluded that this is the best way to work with black, that’s why you haven’t read about it in any previous blog posts. In the past, no one was choosing ‘black everything’ so it was a non-issue.
Even in the brown trend, oil-rubbed bronze was trending but brushed nickel was as well. And since there were so many bathrooms filled with darker travertine tile or even brown tile, it didn’t jump out visually making it seem like too much.
Now that I think about it, likely the reason it didn’t occur to me to offer this same advice, was because I wasn’t specifying tuscan bathrooms back then either. And no one was choosing oil-rubbed-bronze EVERYTHING for the timeless white bathrooms we were doing.
If you’re as old as me, you’ll remember all the black plumbing fixtures from the 80s. We definitely overdid black back then too, but the one thing they hadn’t invented yet was black hardware and plumbing fixtures so again, this point was a non-issue.
Are there some exceptions to these guidelines? Yes, but a do this, not that post is more helpful for homeowners who are already overwhelmed with choices during a new build or renovation.
Remember, this is just my opinion, doesn’t mean it’s right. A timeless bathroom is still the one where you can change the paint or decorating colours anytime you want a change and you can still do that with a black and white bathroom.
If you’d like help with your bathroom get my Create a Timeless Bathroom package here.
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I like a little matte black but if it’s the faucet, it doesn’t get spotty from water? We have very hard water.
BTW, our big box stores and kitchen design center have plenty of chrome, “spotless” stainless steel, brushed nickel—and black. Of course before there wouldn’t have been almost any black and now there’s tons, but the other metals are still well represented.
I make greeting cards (hobby, not profession) and often a very narrow black layer is added along with a sentiment in black ink or white on a black strip in order to make other colors pop.. The narrow black “frame” sandwiched in between the bottom and top layer needs the black sentiment or it looks odd. To my eye anyway. Sort of the same, just tiny.
I found that too. I just finished renovating both bathrooms and the kitchen/bath stores, that I frequented, had both shiny chrome and brushed nickel plus some black. I’ve noticed Home Depot does too. I didn’t notice any gold/brass but then it wasn’t on my radar. 🇨🇦
I cannot think of any reason to have black hardware in the bathroom. It already looks dated, IMO, and I don’t see how it will wear well. Water spots, esp from hard water, are going to be an issue. While black is my favorite color, I don’t see it working well for bathroom hardware.
PS. This reminds me of your great posts, Maria, on black window panes and frames. Basically, just say no.
Bette, You’re SO right! My mom has oil rubbed bronze bathroom fixtures and they get hard water stains so bad you have to use some serious elbow grease and scrub them with ZEP tub and tile cleaner and a toothbrush! All I could think of is what the heck would black look like if oil rubbed bronze looks this bad? Spray some ZEP on my chrome fixtures and it’s gone in 3 minutes, no elbow grease required, and they look brand new!
I’ve had 4 rubbed bronze fixtures over the years and the coating peeled off every one of them.
This post is helpful in a completely different context. I’m a member of a small committee addressing improvements to the facade of our church, which was originally built as a grange and thus does not look like a church at all. It’s a white building, and there are plenty of examples online of small white churches, so getting ideas is not difficult. But one member mentioned something about adding a black roof over the entry and black outlining the windows. I knew it was an idea formed by the current trend, but your post will make it easier for me to explain, when it comes up again, why we should stay away from anything trendy. Thanks!
The House Beautiful bathroom is stunning! It works because the floor relates to the countertop to the mirror. It’s elegant, classic, and timeless. Note the chrome taps, lights and trim on mirror that adds shine to a bath and adds the shine that speaks of a clean bathroom. I’m in love.
I totally agree with the fact that just black hardware, lights, mirror don’t relate to anything else going on and look misplaced, plus I find black hardware on cupboards, drawers looks like black slashes throughout a kitchen/bath. I’ll be happy when the black trend ends.
The black and polished-metal House Beautiful bathroom reminds me of Art Deco elegance – that’s something about the black trend that I hadn’t thought of before this
I love this post, Maria and found myself wondering the other day why you’re not posting more about black and white since we’re in the black and white trend…
I devoured all of your blog posts about black last summer. Armed with this newfound knowledge, we renovated our kitchen and bathroom this past fall/winter and I installed a white shaker vanity with a black quartz sink top, a round black mirror over the vanity and matte black mushroom knob hardware. (They offer shiny black cabinet hardware. I do not like. It looks cheap). That’s it for the black. We went with chrome for the sink and tub faucet, wall sconces and towel bar. Did the same for our kitchen with only 3 hits of black: the countertop, lighting and black in my stainless-steel appliances. We went with chrome for our kitchen cabinet hardware and sink faucet.
My mom just came home from Florida for the summer and when she saw my new kitchen called it absolutely gorgeous with perfect details. She was glad I went with a white subway tile with matching white grout instead of the black grout we’re used to seeing on TV design shows. I’m thinking she doesn’t even realize it’s because I didn’t go overboard with black. 🙂
Another reason I love Maria! When I look at rooms I usually have a visceral reaction, good or bad, but can never pinpoint why. The bathroom above with too much black made me uncomfortable but I couldn’t articulate it. Then I read “The eye jumps around with no place to land.” That was it! That’s why the room left me unsettled. Thank you Maria!
Yes, that bathroom would be pretty if not for the black sprinkle. In garden design school my tutuors used to (almost) yell: the one thing you must not do in a planting design is sprinkle Smarties (the UK kind, think M&Ms for a similar effect). But what bothers me as much… towel on toilet lid. No, no no!!!
I chose black doorknobs and hinges for our new build very early in the process before I had done any design research. It was one of the first things the builder had to order, along with the windows, which I fortunately chose to be white!! I like the black on a lot of the doorknobs, but not the bathrooms. It stands out in a bad way. I’m not sure how to fix it. Add more black to coordinate? Distract the eye?
BTW, the faucets and other bath fixtures and lighting are all brushed nickel.
I’m curious what the other colors are in that bath. It’s modern style. My tile is a combination of a large format slightly beige modern limestone tile, and white wave tile. Plus walnut cabinets. And I have to say that black looks amazing with those colors. Maybe because the limestone is a medium tone and wood is dark? Not sure but I will definitely be using black plus other metals just because it looks so good.
My other bath is mid-century, all white and blues, and I don’t see black working as well in there.
I am not a fan of black hardware/faucets in kitchens and baths, but what about black doorknobs/hinges throughout a house that doesn’t otherwise have a lot of black? Yay or nay? And do you need to repeat the black in a medium and large in each room, assuming the knobs and hinges are the small?
Interior/exterior door hardware usually comes in antique, black, bronze, brass, chrome, glass, nickel or pewter. If you had picked any of those other finishes would you worry about repeating them 3 times in every single room with a door in small, medium and large doses? It would be too much for anyone. Consider repeating the finish occasionally in your decorating. Is your cabinet hardware also black?
Thanks for responding. My cabinet hardware is polished nickel. I have very little black hardware in my home. But I have most other finishes—polished chrome in bathrooms, polished nickel in kitchen, and aged brass/bronze in my dining room and foyer. I am replacing bright brass builder door hardware and wanted to have the same finish throughout the house. I am considering black because I have different metal finishes in different parts of my house.
Maria has lots of posts about mixing metals and choosing cabinet hardware, but I don’t think she’s done a post on picking just DOOR hardware throughout an entire house. Personally, I think the finish on all door hardware should match but would love to hear what others think. I can share that we moved into an 80’s house 15+ years ago that had basic 80s brass doorknobs (with failing finish) and hinges and we replaced them all with dark bronze. We still like them, but one thing to consider is that your hinges (if you choose black or another dark finish) will show dust and have to be cleaned regularly. Not an issue with the doorknobs as they get used but nobody touches the hinges.
Oh I’m swooning over that black vanity above, what a beautiful bathroom.
I’ll just be happy when the brushed stainless/ satin chrome finish is gone. It doesn’t show fingerprints, I get it, but it’s just not pretty, and a quick wipe with a hand towel removes any spots from the polished finishes.
Hello, I enjoy reading and learning from your blog! I have small white with black hexagon tile in my bathroom, a green vanity, white marble countertop. The green is a weird shade and I’m finding it difficult to work with. After reading your post, I’m thinking I should paint it black. Or do you have other suggestions for dealing with colorful vanities?