Sanderson’s Starla geometric wallpaper

Paint versus Paper

Paint is practical and wallpaper is wonderful… Lucy Baker-Kind researches ways to add pizzazz to your bathroom 

Lucy Baker-Kind
24 April 2017

When relaxing in the bath, do we want to stare at blank white walls? The bathroom is a place in which to unwind, and this has led to more thought being placed on the décor, be it opulent, sleek, industrial or vintage. 

For easy updates and simple application, paint is the obvious choice for walls. Yet with the bathroom environment being steamy and damp, the type of paint could make or break the scheme. 

Years ago, a gloss finish was recommended, as it was shiny and easy to wipe down, but technology has moved on, and modern paints are more capable of dealing with different conditions. Diane Moore, Director of Nutshell Natural Paints in Exeter, advises using a washable and breathable paint – a microporous finish that lets the walls breathe: “With Nutshell Interior Emulsion, you also get the benefit of its anti-fungal properties, which helps reduce mould and mildew.” 

Diane also notes that a ‘specialist’ bathroom paint from conventional paint companies trades on properties (such as anti-mould and hard-wearing), which can come with a premium price tag, whereas these factors are present in Nutshell’s environmentally friendly Interior Emulsion as standard. “Read the tin label and weigh it up before making that purchase,” she advises. 

Sophie Watkiss, from Sophie Louisa Interiors in Exeter, suggests using vinyl matt paint for a flat matt finish that is wipeable, and also recommends finishes that are moisture-resistant and anti-mould: “The paint doesn’t absorb the moisture, and this is what makes is resistant to steam.” 

Nicole Edmeads, interior designer at Merlin Interiors in Barnstaple, favours glossy, oil-based paints for use in moisture-prone rooms, as “it will repel water without absorbing it”. 

The consistency of these hard-wearing paints ensures they are durable and long-lasting. To maintain their condition, Diane recommends basic levels of care: “If you ventilate the room sufficiently, the need to re-coat should not be any different to other rooms in your home.” 

According to Sophie, the sheen in the paint makes them easy to wipe clean with a damp sponge, without removing the paint. In fact, the sheen is so durable that Sophie recommends using it on the ceiling, too: “Using these paints will give your bathroom far more longevity.” 

“Paint is the most cost-effective wall-covering for a bathroom and, aside from tiles, is the most durable,” agrees Nicole.  

However, if you find paint a little plain, using wallpaper in the bathroom is a possibility. Nicole says that, historically, the Victorians used wallpaper, although there is debate over whether this was successful or not! This could be due to changes in bathroom usage: “Perhaps the Victorians didn’t take as long or as hot baths, or have showers,” states Nicole. 

Today, there are speciality water-resistant wallpapers available, created for humid environments; they’re a great way to add colour, texture and pattern. “You can be as subtle or as daring as you wish,” says Sophie. 

The speciality bathroom wallpapers have a layer of protective vinyl, but a nifty trick from Sophie is to use normal wallpaper and seal it with decorator’s clear varnish, although she has a word of warning: “I would not recommend using wallpaper on the wall where the bath or shower is installed.”

If you want to get ahead of the game and inject some boldness into your bathroom, Sophie thinks big, glam patterns and botanical prints are going to be on-trend.

Nicole recommends Sanderson wallpaper, and has seen vibrant rooms with an industrial theme, including mock exposed brickwork wallpaper and exposed copper piping, plus softer blue and green schemes: “Ethnic-style mosaic print wallpaper and terracotta tiled flooring, with house plants and wicker accessories, is a big look for 2017.”

“If you ventilate the room sufficiently, the need to re-coat should not be any different to other rooms in your home”