Design Notes Archive

A Return to Pretty

A Return to Pretty

Spring fever is in full swing, and we’ve caught the bug with a deep rooted desire to be surrounded by nature, both indoors and out. Think bathrooms clad in all manner of floral prints and sweeping botanical motifs, layered with landscape artwork. It’s the antithesis of minimalism and quiet luxury—this month we’re hankering for a return to pretty.

What better way to achieve that enveloping feel than with bucolic wallpaper? Softer than tile and more intricate than paint, it provides a foil to the cold, hard surfaces that are requisite in a bathroom. For designers Sarah Vanrenen and Louisa Greville Williams, it also helped reign in the high pitched ceiling in the principal bath of Wealden Hall, a 15th century manor house in Kent, left. The pair worked on the project together under their previously combined firm, Vanrenen GW Designs, and chose Antoinette Poisson’s Jaipur paper to complement cement tiles they commissioned in Morocco. “I’m a great believer in mixing patterns, but there has to be some relief, some contrast. There has to be something plain or something that's going to frame one of the patterns. The pattern that’s created by the floor tiles works with the wallpaper because it's framed with all the plain woodwork,” says Vanrenen. The fern-like tile pattern also reads as larger in scale thanks to the reverse of the ground colours between it and the wallpaper. For added warmth and cosiness, they layered in artwork and mirrors with gilt frames (all with dehumidifying devices installed on the back) along with underfloor heating and library-style wall lights. “We love to put proper decorative lighting in bathrooms to make them more like a room rather than a utilitarian bathroom. It’s a good place to be able to introduce softness through fabric on the shades,” she says.

In updating a 1920’s Greek Revival home in Nashville, Tennessee-based designer Sarah Bartholomew wrapped the room in florals with Sister Parish’s Dolly wallpaper, even repeating the pattern on a bespoke tissue box cover, centre. “This is the back family entry powder, so we wanted to keep it classic but a little more relaxed and fun than the formal powder room,” she says. Balineum’s Flora mirror echoes the curves of the wallpaper’s undulating vines and is itself reminiscent of a flower. Trim painted Sherwin Williams Leap Frog and a pair of landscape watercolors further bring the outdoors in. The verticality of the wallpaper pattern, along with the stacked installation of the artwork, mirror, and sconce, all draw the eye up, visually enlarging the small space.

Back in Norfolk, designer Flora Soames (whose first book, The One Day Box, came out last fall) scattered blousy florals around a guest bathroom at West Barsham Hall—built by her great grandparents in the early 1900s, right. The Edwardian home had nary a shower in sight when her parents decided the time had come to add a few. Soames took on the project, reconfiguring the space to accommodate a marble clad alcove shower (not visible) and in doing so created a matching arched alcove for the bathtub. Her own Dahlias pattern—based on a 19th century French wallpaper scrap—graces a ruched window blind, a slipper chair, and the inside of the bath alcove. “It’s a spare bathroom so it gives it a sense of whimsy and there's a sense of theatricality, which is really lovely,” she says. “Whilst I'm not big into a feature wall, if you're putting it in an alcove, it's rather fabulous. It goes to show that you don't need to wallpaper the whole room.” Adding to that loveliness, she painted the walls Edward Bulmer’s Lilac Pink, lined the alcove with frilly voile curtains that her mother had stashed away in a cupboard, and mounted antique sconces from Christie’s on the wall. “You’re gilding the lily on every level,” she says.

Should you be interested in wallpapering a full bathroom, just be sure to cover your dehumidifying bases first—extractor fans, underfloor heating, and wipeable wallpapers go a long way. But should your bathroom get steamy, Balineum can install demisters on the backs of our mirrors and medicine cabinets to keep your reflection clear.

Photos: Simon Brown, courtesy Sarah Vanrenen; Read Mckendree, courtesy of Sarah Bartholomew; Simon Upton, courtesy Flora Soames