Beauty of the 1980's: Mauve and gray, you guys. Mauve and gray.
January 16, 2015 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Our bathroom is mauve and gray. Nothing major is in the cards as far as renovation. Is it possible to make mauve and gray work, and if so, how.

See here for the gorgeousness.

I'm looking for whether anyone has seen those two colors work in conjunction with a surprise third (like 'chartreuse' or who knows) that I can incorporate.

OR! whether anyone has ideas on how I can further double down on the existing colors by creating some sort of ombre effect or something that says loud and proud 'I'm mauve and gray'. (You'll notice I've somewhat tried that approach with the color canvases, but maybe I didn't go far enough.)

OR! whether anyone has ideas for how I can cover that cheap hideous tile.

The bathroom is our favorite because of the tub, and we all love it enough to spend a ton of time in there, so its ugliness isn't genuinely impacting the pleasure we get from it, and there are many other things to do with the house that take precedence over a minor cosmetic complaint, however mauve and gray that complaint is.

Any ideas? The light isn't great in the images. It's a bluish gray and a darker mauve. You might not call it mauve but let's say for the sake of argument it's a bold mauve.

Feel free to make fun of my bathroom. We all do.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am not so much seeing mauve & grey as mauve and brown with a dash of grey. The dark wood draws the eye much more than the grey.

If it were my bathroom, I'd be tempted to paint the walls and the wood in the same neutral shade. Depending upon where the light comes from, this could be a white with underlying cool grey tone or a slightly warmer very-very-very light grey (yes, grey can be cool or warm). Having brought the room more coherent visually, I'd then start to think of an accent colour. My personal tastes run towards complimentary contrasts, so for a mauve that would be an avocado. I'd definitely work with a colour wheel at this stage.
posted by kariebookish at 8:01 AM on January 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

Yeah, to me the brown of the dark wood is the real offender here.

I had a pink bathtub in my house, and it drove me totally nuts. Also, my house had grey walls (my choice, my paint). But I had lighter wood on the bathroom cabinets than you do, so it wasn't as bad. My solution, which ended up looking really nice, was that I:

-painted the walls a light grey
-added a TINY (like, a few drops, as if I were tinting a gallon of white for a ceiling) bit of the grey to some white
-sand the cabinets and other dark wood down some
-whitewash with the tinted white for an 'antiqued' look

FWIW, when I was done with it, my bathroom was one of my favorite rooms in my house. I also sanded the wood floors (previously dark brown, like your cabinet) and stained them a very very dark deep black with India ink and then did really hi-gloss poly over them.

I think you can work with this!
posted by still bill at 8:12 AM on January 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

My mother had this issue - mauve fixtures and grey walls. Your tiles look more raspberry to me but maybe that's just the photo. At any rate, I agree with kariebookish that you ought to paint the wood to minimize the visual chaos. My mother's solution was to go with a pale grey paint with metallic accents ( shower curtain, water cup, thing-holders, etc.) and bright buttery yellow towels. Looks very chic and up-to-date.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:16 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hmm. There are some ideas here. (I know your tub and sink are grey, but I'm focusing on the blue in it because that's the thing that feels kind of dated - I don't actually mind your mauve tiles.) I like the idea of a wallpaper. I think with the trim on your cabinet, something on the country side would work, so I'm thinking the idea of something floral is a good one. I'd go light, because that mauve is intense. E.g. a neutral ivory with related colours (100% agree this is a colour wheel thing) for the details. Ivory curtains or blinds, too. A few plants, ivory towels. Then something ridiculous (poster; object) so it doesn't feel too serious overall.

edit: yeah would lighten up the window frame, too.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:16 AM on January 16, 2015

Ardex, baby. Cheap, easy, and gorgeous. I did this in my kitchen. Memail if you want details.

Two more links for "fauxcrete":
Little Green Notebook
Sarah's Big Idea
posted by slipthought at 8:20 AM on January 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

I agree with kariebookish - the mauve and brown are both strong and warm colors, and they feel more like they're competing/clashing for dominance; the grey comes off as a slight variation on the ivory/white(?) walls and much more neutral. Is there a way to sand and stain the wood a much lighter color? (Wood grain is awesome.) Otherwise, I'd go ahead and paint over the wood, sticking to the spectrum between white and your tile/porcelain colors, and let the mauve be the "pop." And accessorize with mauve bath towels!
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:21 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can dye grout between tiles ... you might be able to reduce the visual chaos by darkening the grout between the mauve tiles to like a charcoal gray, so it's a more unified surface visually and less "TILE! TILE! TILE!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:24 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Laminates have come a long way. You could probably replace the vanity top for under $100 with something that would play nicely with water and still look good. I'd think about painting that wood too, as mentioned above.
posted by kate4914 at 8:24 AM on January 16, 2015

Paint the wood, and I think you'll find the tile works more as an accent. Painting the walls and wood the same color or very close shades will probably work best. You could go with a third color if you're okay with a more crazy thing -- I love this teal vanity for instance:

(Full disclosure: in the downstairs of my house the walls alternate Deep Violet and Butterscotch Orange. ;))
posted by pixiecrinkle at 8:38 AM on January 16, 2015

Dark Green and Gold went with grey and mauve for us back in the day. I think changing the curtains out to a lighter curtain or a cell shade in a light green - not spring but not a grey green. I wish I had color words.

And then get some ivy in there, real or fake (fake if you can keep it dusted!).

If you really can't redo the cabinets, I'd look at maybe at least changing out the hardware on it, and getting some light creamy linen hand towels with roses or ivy to hang off of the cabinets with those hook over the cabinet mini towel racks. And coordinating counter equipment/baskets in light bamboo.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:39 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

My mom solved her gold tile problem with wallpaper. The tile was from the harvest-green-and-gold 70s and is sort of a more muted gold than, say, the refrigerator was, but it was still overwhelmingly 70s. She found wallpaper with a base color she liked that featured the same gold as a secondary accent in its pattern, and now what you see in the bathroom is the base color of the wallpaper (kind of a putty brown) and its primary accent color (colonial blue, which she repeats with her towels), with the gold tile receding somewhat.
posted by fedward at 8:40 AM on January 16, 2015

If I can suggest a variaton on the "paint the cabinets" theme: Yes, the dark wood is really the problem here. But don't pain the cabinets. Buy new cabinet doors. Besides being too dark, the cabinets are too ornate. Buy some flat or maybe mission style cabinets doors and drawer fronts in a lighter colour. You'll still have to paint or re-stain the bits of cabinet that are around the doors and drawers. While you're replacing drawers and doors, get some new hardware.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:06 AM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Lime green is your friend. I'd paint the walls a very, very light grey with maybe one accent wall in lime green, and all the woodwork white. Get a blind like this one for the window.

Not a bathroom, but you can see the colour palette in this photo.

I have the same lime/mauve colour scheme in my living room - dark purple sofa, lime cushions, matching rugs and curtains - and it works really well. The key is to neutralise the background as much as possible and have just a few pops of bright colour - so lime green and mauve towels, a lime green bathmat, and a couple of bright plants.
posted by essexjan at 9:08 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah the cabinets are the problem. Replace the cabinet doors and hardware to something more sleek. Paint it all to match if you're not replacing all of it.
I'd also replace the mirror instead of painting it. Maybe something less bulky or with a cool frame.
You could also replace the bathroom sink and/or hardware to something more modern.
Check out apartment therapy for some good and cheap bathroom renovations.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

This will actually be simpler than you think.

1. Paint the wood. Dark gray or black in the same tone family as the tile. That wood is heinous with the colors. I'd do as matte as you can in a bathroom in very dark gray. If you want, fabricate new door fronts for the cabinets out of plywood. Lowes and Home Depot will do the cutting for you. They'll also recommend the hinges. Paint the cabinet frames, then the doors, then assemble. Check out my Flickr, we did this in the kitchen. We added fingertip moulding around the edges, but I think you can skip that if you like. Plywood is like $30 for a sheet. Prime and paint. So freaking easy! New hardware for the cabinets goes without saying.

2. Gorgeous wallpaper/paint. I had a small half-bath in the basement and I decided to go over the top with it. Here's the Flickr, Advance back and forth to see it. I love that wallpaper. Graham and Brown makes it. This Fabulous Pink might work. Bird Cages would as well. Crowns is fun. Don't do all the walls, just one wall (the easiest one.) I suggest the wall by the tub and window. Then do a pink paint that's a lighter version of the mauve tile on the rest of the walls. Elegant!

3. Then go nuts on fixtures. Very cheap and really make a huge difference. Black faucets. Chandeliers (I got mine at Target.) How about this beautiful pink one that's a bit larger? I would source a larger chandelier for over the tub. But I'm weird that way. Then get some tall glass vases and fill with bath salts or marbles, for elegance. Some candles and fluffy towels rolled up will complete the look. (Yes, it's silly, but its pretty.)

4. The window. Rather than trying to deal with a curtain, how about frosting film? This will let in light, while promoting privacy. Top it off with a Balloon Shade in elegant raw silk.

5. Mirror. You can paint the wood, or you can do a triptych of frames. Check this out, it's pretty easy.

6. Tchotchkes. Get some containers (You can wrap shoeboxes in wallpaper to match) to house all the crap that hangs out on your counters. Then put pretty perfume bottles, silver hair brushes, tissue boxes, and pretty soap and lotion dispensers on there.

Now it's a beautiful spa. (Can I come help?)

Now all of your friends will be envious.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:26 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

You need to embrace this and put up framed Patrick Nagel prints and pictures of Duran Duran.

Go with the flow.
posted by jbenben at 10:03 AM on January 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

I agree with new cabinet doors and refinishing the bits that adjoin the tile (new vanities are expensive and you might have to go custom otherwise, you'll probably have to get custom doors anyway, but it'd be cheaper than getting a new frame etc.) I'd go with a sort of mid-tone grey that picked up a teensy bit of the blue in the sink/tub. On the wallpaper tip, I couldn't find anything like what I had in mind but I agree that pink would be neat; I personally like the toile-y thing here (left).
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:18 AM on January 16, 2015

Want to be a bit dramatic? Paint the walls a darker shade of gray. You might have to increase wattage (led or cfl) in your lights, but medium to dark walls are very cozy and bold.
Get some burgundy and gray paint, tape and mask off everything except walls, and spatter paint. Pain to do well, but a nice look.
The dark oak is dominant. Strip it and pickle it.
Look for a rug with some burgundy, gray and turquoise/ royal blue/ eggyolk yellow/ some other accent color, not a fluffy bathroom rug, maybe even paint a floorcloth.
Another option is to get a rug you love, a piece of art you love, and ignore the gray/ mauve.
posted by theora55 at 10:54 AM on January 16, 2015

I think what you're describing as mauve is actually more burgundy? I think of mauve as being more purple and less red. If you do have burgundy, you can totally do this! My teenage daughter left for school today head to foot in burgundy, gray, and black, and she looked trendy and en pointe. The colors aren't going to doom you. Now, two things are working to make it look kind of dated: the tile, and the arched oak cabinet doors. I think with the right approach you can minimize the negative impact of those, though.

There are two colors schemes I would explore: either burgundy/black/grays or burgundy/espresso browns/grey/golden yellow. The first is a subtler combo; the second is really punchy.

I would paint the cabinetry darker: either black or dark espresso brown. Replacing the doors with a simpler shaker-style door would be good if you want to make the effort. Then walls either a warm medium gray (darker than your tile) or a rich golden yellow.

Here are 3 color palettes illustrating the range I'm talking about, from more classic to more vibrant:

Burgundy and gray
Burgundy and gold
Burgundy and golden yellow
posted by drlith at 11:09 AM on January 16, 2015

Strongly agree that the cabinets/wood is the main problem. I would paint them white and get new chrome or satin nickel SIMPLE hardware. I would probably completely replace the mirror with something frameless (e.g. this from Ikea if you need to keep the storage space, just a plain mirror otherwise). I'd also paint white the trim around the window next to the tub.

I personally would probably paint the walls gray after that, because I really like gray, and it actually goes really nicely with your mauve once you get rid of that terrible wood.
posted by brainmouse at 11:33 AM on January 16, 2015

Maybe paint the cabinets and the walls all a shade of very light gray? Too many colors in there.
posted by amaire at 12:37 PM on January 16, 2015

Response by poster: These are awesome and I am all over the place with inspiration right now...

For those who suggested somehow keeping the wood grain but losing the darkness, how does one whitewash that sort of thing? We have another such cabinet in the house that I hit with Java gel stain that wound up looking good beneath a white vanity top but I wasn't burdened with any other colors. I don't want to go dark in there. I would like to keep the wood grain if I could.

Also, fwiw I have a weird little catalog type thing of literally all Sherwin Williams colors. I think we can find perfect matches to those colors. Whether or not I want to! Which is kinda interesting.

I am stuck with the wood trim -- we're just not going to replace the wood trim every where in the house, we're either going to wait for it to come back in style or get old and not care. Or both.

You need to embrace this and put up framed Patrick Nagel prints and pictures of Duran Duran.

Hungry like the wolf, baby.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:39 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And yeah, storage space is an issue if we lose the monster medicine cabinet. There is no pantry/linen closet in there. I could build one, but I am trying to keep the scope manageable--to a weekend, if possible. Perhaps this one, though I doubt it because like I said, I'm fizzy with inspiration so it's unlikely I can hit on the plan that fast.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:42 PM on January 16, 2015

You need to embrace this and put up framed Patrick Nagel prints and pictures of Duran Duran.

Hungry like the wolf, baby.

Given what you're saying, you might take a gander at the blog for some inspiration. They don't touch on 80s design, but one thing they say that I agree with is that the worst thing you can do is mix old dated design with new dated design. Researching 80s bathrooms might actually help to make this look like a deliberate choice.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:56 PM on January 16, 2015

how does one whitewash that sort of thing

You're going to have to strip and sand the crap out of that finish to get to the wood underneath. I don't know what they used back then, but it's serious business. Take the pic (or maybe a door) to Home Depot and they can help. I don't blame you for wanting to keep the wood; even particleboard stuff costs loads these days.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:25 PM on January 16, 2015

Honestly, I like the wood! It clashes so much with tile though. It looks like a cross between an apothecary and a 80s pool change room (that would be the tile). Ideally I would cover the tile with the fake concrete mentioned above. Honestly the idea of stripping and re-staining that wood - or doing an antique white wash finish on them will be more work than covering the tile.

I think it could look really modern and cozy. I would also choose a dark grey for the walls. It will be dark and rich. The wood gives the room a warmth.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:50 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Follow-up. I second Ruthless Bunnies suggestion of a chandelier - I have one in my bathroom and I brag about it all the time. It makes me feel like a rich person! Just imagine luxuriating in that tub when you are finished and looking up to a sparkly light fixture.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:56 PM on January 16, 2015

You will probably want to apply5-6 successive coats of a heavy-duty stripper. Followed by sanding, starting with a pretty coarse grit and working your way down to something fine. Then thin out whatever paint you decide to use and wash it on with a rag/cloth.

I would wager that once you're done, your bathroom with look really nice!
posted by still bill at 2:12 PM on January 16, 2015

Your mauve looks close to Marsala, which is Pantone's color of the year. Searching design blogs or Pinterest for Marsala bathrooms or tile might turn up some options right now.
posted by that's how you get ants at 3:16 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was waiting for someone to say Marsala! Yes! I agree with the cabinetry being the major offender here, but the style of the tile, not just the color, is also an issue.

If you don't opt in to the (fantastic) idea of concrete over the tile, maybe you could darken the grout in the tiles? The contrast of the white grout with the very uniform, shiny tiles is what is reading so 80's to me.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 9:03 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, also nth on change out the fixtures. That will make a world of difference as well.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 9:05 PM on January 16, 2015

Response by poster: ...if anyone is still playing... Where on earth do you buy Ardex?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:45 PM on January 21, 2015

Try Home Depot or a tile store.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:56 PM on January 21, 2015

Where do you buy anything?

I think it's great you decided to go with that. It's going to look awesome. If you whitewash the cabinets, as I think you were asking about, you're going to need a nice bright accent colour, somewhere, though.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:10 PM on January 21, 2015

Okay, I said Ardex, but used Henry feather finish from Home Depot. Cost about $15 per bag. I needed 2 bags for 20+ linear counter feet.

My advice: follow the manufacturers directions for water to powder ratios. Some of the tutorials say to thin it down. I think this is a mistake. Also, I used Tung oil and beeswax to finish over the usual acrylic, etc finishes. Natural finishes was an important consideration for us; it may not be for you. The oil/beeswax combo makes it water resilient. It has been very durable for us in a kitchen setting.

Again, if you want more detail or advice, feel free to memail me. I am super-excited for you. :)
posted by slipthought at 7:25 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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