Using Dark Paint in a Small Bathroom (Everything You Need to Know)

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Small bathrooms are tricky spaces to decorate and are often a nightmare for homeowners. 

If you’re considering dark, bold, moody colors but don’t want to commit design faux pas just in case you regret it later, you’re not alone.

The thing is, there aren’t really any rules that say you can’t style a bathroom in dark colors (or what you can do with it). Don’t get caught up in classic (and sometimes outdated) old-school thinking, and don’t be afraid to experiment with the colors you love. 

Using Dark Paint in a Small Bathroom

Dark paint in a small bathroom can add a pop of sophistication, personality, and modern touch. Darker styles have grown in popularity and can help create an illusion of space. 

Here are some ideas on utilizing dark paint to make your small bathroom roomier and more striking. We’ll also explore what colors and paint types work best and how accessories or furnishings complement a dark-painted bathroom. 

Why dark paint?

You might think that because dark paint reflects less light, it would make a room look smaller and darker. But this isn’t always the case.

Dark paint absorbs light and reflects less light, providing more depth of color and shadows, creating more dimension. This helps blur the edges of a room, making them less defined and providing the illusion of more space. 

Help! Which dark color and paint type do I choose? 

I remember looking at color palette strip after strip and getting increasingly confused. The countless numbers of paint shades and colors can be somewhat overwhelming. 

Matte or sheen?

When choosing dark paints for smaller spaces like a bathroom, look for a flat matte finish instead of a sheen finish. The matte finish will maintain the receding wall look, diffuse light, and help to add depth to the walls. 

Paints made with natural pigments will undoubtedly be more costly but will help add undertones to your color, making your walls appear less flat. Synthetic paints will not reveal the same dimension. 

Dark black can work, but I suggest using a darker color or black with a blue or brown undertone. A darker color will also be less jarring pure black. 

Other popular paint colors include dark charcoal greys or violets, cozy navy blues, earth tones, and deep jewel or forest greens. The darker green shades can be trickier to work with, but if you love green, it’s still worth a try. 

Personal choice is key. Choose a dark color that you love and that reflects your personality and creativity. Remember, this is a color that you (not your interior designer) will have to live with. 

Ways to use dark paint in a small bathroom

If you do decide to use dark paint in a small bathroom, you have various options to choose from. Consider what or which walls you want to accentuate, what accents or furnishings you need to work with, and whether you want the room to look wider or taller. 

Here are some trade tricks to help make your paint styling simpler.  

Paint half of the bathroom wall

You can add a splash of color to your small bathroom by adding color to the top half of your bathroom walls. This painting method can look elegant and modern if you contrast it with white paint or tiles.  

Add an accent wall

An accent wall can add tremendous character to a small bathroom and is also a budget-friendly alternative. Choosing which wall to highlight and accentuate is usually the main struggle. A good starting point would be to ask yourself, ‘Where do I want people’s eyes to fall or be directed when entering the bathroom?’

Sometimes the wall that your eyes naturally look at when entering a room is the best option. 

Other popular options are the walls behind a vanity or toilet, bathtub, or shower. A lighter bathtub, vanity, or shower tile can create a striking contrast and accentuate your wall’s darker, moody tones. 

Choosing the longest bathroom wall as your accent wall can also trick the eyes into thinking the wall is longer than it is and can make your smaller bathroom appear larger. 

Color blocking 

Zoning or color blocking is trickier to pull off but can add much interest to a room. This technique is usually done to divide or define a room’s function or inject some fun and personality into a smaller space. 

Have fun with color blocking – add color in unexpected spots and pair more than one moody color together to create walls with a more modern graphic twist. 

You can color block in one spot in the bathroom or multiple smaller areas of a bathroom. Never be afraid to play around with different shapes and styles. 

I must confess that I personally find zoning and color blocking a little intimidating. So if you don’t have the budget for some experimentation (or don’t really want to go through a little trial and error, then maybe opt for something else).

Horizontal and vertical stripes

I’m not a huge fan of stripes, but they can transform a small space when done tastefully. They can add a touch of luxury and sophistication to a room.  

You can use stripes to make a bathroom look wider, longer, or taller, depending on which way the lines run. 

Horizontal stripes are great for making a smaller bathroom look wider or longer, and vertical stripes can make a small, low-ceilinged bathroom appear taller. 

Paint all four walls and ceiling

A common mistake is to ignore your bathroom ceiling and discount it as a 5th wall. Painting all five walls can work brilliantly in small spaces, making them look crisp and modern. 

Not only can this paint method make a room look bigger, but painting the ceiling in the same dark color will create the illusion of a taller space. When the colors merge, it is hard to tell where a wall stops and where a ceiling ends. 

A ceiling can look as though it is never-ending or that no ceiling exists at all—Perfect for small spaces where you want to accentuate the height and length. With this paint method, you only need to purchase one paint type, which makes the design project much more affordable. 

Remember that although this method works well in small bathrooms, you’ll need to add sufficient lighting and lighter accessories or furnishings to create contrast. 

Style ideas to make the most of your moody bathroom

Painting your bathroom walls with dark paint shouldn’t be your only focus when performing a small bathroom makeover. Furnishings and accessories can either make or break your new look. 

Here are a couple of pointers to nudge you in the right direction. 

Add mirrors to your space

When painting your bathroom in darker shades, it’s always best to maximize the amount of light in the room to add more dimension. 

A mirror or multiple mirrors can transform a small space by bouncing light throughout the room, making it appear brighter and bigger. 

Bronze or gold mirrors compliment dark colors and can add extra glamour to a small bathroom. 

If you are adding an accent wall or attempting to color block, try positioning a mirror on the wall next to it to add some additional light to the dark wall. Alternatively, if you have oodles of natural light (lucky you!), position your mirror to face the windows to help reflect the light. 

And if your budget allows it, consider mirroring the entire wall (floor to ceiling) where you place your vanities. This opens the room and makes your small bathroom appear roomier. 

Furnishings and accessories

A dark-painted bathroom looks better when you incorporate lighter furnishings and accessories. 

Have fun looking for linens, wall art, and frames in lighter colors. Your shower mat, bath towels, and shower curtain are also great for adding a splash of color to a darker-styled room. If the bathroom floors are the same or a similar color to your wall paint, consider adding a lighter shaded mat that covers the bulk of the floor. 

A glass shower door or shower with no door can also help open your bathroom. Alternatively, go with a light-colored shower curtain. If you can install the curtain at ceiling height, this will lengthen the appearance of your wall. Think gold frames, gold or brass taps, mixers, and vases. Gold looks especially great in a dark bathroom. 


If you have lots of natural light, count yourself lucky. Remove blinds or curtains from the bathroom and let that light flood in. If you’re still in the process of doing alterations, consider adding skylights for additional light. 

I love skylights. The house I recently moved to has skylights all over, and the amount of light we get in the day and from the moonlight is incredible. Skylights can really brighten a small space and will help with lighting costs. 

On the flip side, adding lighting to your bathroom is critical if you have little or no natural light. 

Combine ceiling and wall fixtures, and add task lighting under cabinets, countertops, and shelves. LED mirrors can help amplify light. Adding a small chandelier fixture can also add charm. 

Bear in mind that if you add lights to your dark-painted bathroom, you should also add a couple of light fittings instead of one solitary ceiling light 

Adding plants for color and personality

Yes, even dark, low-light bathrooms can have plants. You do, however, need to know which plants to buy.  

Houseplants bring a freshness and atmosphere to a room and create a contrast to the dark, moody painted walls. 

I grew a lucky bamboo in my low-lit bathroom, and it thrives with little care on my part. Ferns such as the Staghorn, Asplenium, or Asparagus Foxtail Fern are also great options. 

Some other low-care plant options are the Dracaena, Philodendron, and Snake Plant. These attractive-looking plants do well in humid, low-light conditions and are great for adding a splash of color and interest. 

Final thoughts

Smaller bathrooms appear sizably higher and bigger when painted in darker-colored shades, provided that you accompany them with the correct furnishings, lighting, and accessories. Darker paints also bring added sophistication, dimension, and intrigue.  

Don’t be afraid to break conventional design rules. Have fun, and give your small bathroom the color explosion it deserves. 

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