Wood has always been a mainstay in bathroom design—particularly as source material for vanities, cabinets, and shelves. But lately, it’s increasingly incorporated in other ways in the bath, often replacing tile, and sporting a more natural look and finish in place of paint or veneer. And homeowners are tickled about this timber-ific trend, experts say.
So, ‘wood’ you or wouldn’t you in your next bath redo?
The expanding focus on natural wood in the bath can be attributed to a variety of factors.
The natural wood look has been made popular by the rise of trends around rustic and farmhouse designs. Home improvement shows such as Fixer Upper have increased the visibility of this movement, too. And the popularity of simulated wood plank porcelain tiles kicked it off.
Home decorating programs, as well as Instagram influencers, are driving this style, which is known for its neutral-toned simplicity warmed by natural textures and wood. Adding warmth to a bathroom with natural wood elements is the perfect choice for anyone looking to make their bathroom designs calmer and more inviting.
Not only does natural wood “evoke a Zen-like state,” it also diffuses a lot of sound coming from the room. Plus, the smell of wood, especially when mingled with the sound and feel of water, can provide a deep awakening of the spirit as well as an ambiance of warmth and elegance.
Aside from an alternative to floor and wall tile, wood has found its way into other bathroom design components, including shower towers, faucets, and tub skirts/surrounds.
Several species of natural wood are in demand today in bathroom designs, including:
Ipe, an upscale exotic wood from South America that is hard, strong, and naturally resistant to rot and abrasion.
Mahogany, which has a fine texture, desired durability, and a wide range of colors—from yellowish-brown to reddish/orange-brown.
Cypress, a reasonably priced wood with plenty of natural oils that resist rot.
Oak, a durable classic that can be more resistant to warping and featuring distinctive grain patterns.
Maple, an affordable and ultra-resilient choice that can be stained to mimic a pricier-looking species.
Walnut, a stable species offering an array of tones, and that can be intricately carved.
Teak also does well in a humid environment, and reclaimed wood is really hot right now too.
The type of wood best for your bathroom will depend on how much you’re willing to spend and its function.
For example, oak is great for vanities because it’s dense and sturdy. Pine and cedar are preferred for floating wood shelves. In general, soft or non-porous wood species can be good choices in moist environments like the bathroom, although any wood can be used if pretreated properly. Any raw wood employed in the bath should be stained and sealed with polyurethane, varnish or lacquer.
If you’re building a bath from scratch the possibilities are endless. If wood is focus try starting off with a tub skirt in reclaimed wood paneling to set the stage. Next consider a rich, deep-colored natural wood and repeat the same species and look for the cabinets, keeping the style simple so that the wood can be the centerpiece of the design. Finally, accent the wood with either a stone or glass sink and add in chrome tree branch-style towel warmers for contrast.
Another tip to try in a new bathroom designs would be to extend the wood look of other species and finishes already present in other parts of the home. Match cool woods with cool tile and warm woods with warm tiles to create a harmonious effect.
Whatever natural wood approach you take, avoid trying to match real wood with a busy tile or simulated wood plank tile. Don’t choose cabinets of the same exact tone as your other real wood elements in the bath; instead, opt for something contrasting yet complementary.