Privilege Blog

When Paint Color Saves You From Bossy Tile


In the course of our house fixup, on our way to the big bangs (master bedroom, front door, and culling 27 years of kids’ stuff so there’s space for my new Albert & Dash rug) I’ve stumbled upon a couple of nice small improvements. The first, which I’ve shown you, was the laundry room. The second, the master bath.

All I did was choose non-white paint for the walls. But I’m jumping to the end, let’s backtrack.

Maria Killam, one of the interior design bloggers you all introduced me to, espouses a concept in which hard surfaces can be bossy. Yes oh yes they can. For 23 years I’ve been living under the rule of muddy purplish-gray bathroom tile. I have no one but myself to blame, as I approved the choice. My only excuse is that the recommending architect had a British accent, and was a tall acquaintance of my father.

The offending tiles are big and very square, grout lines pronounced. The walls used to be white-ish, as you can just about see in last year’s post on repurposing wedding crystal.


The cabinets used to be a light wood veneer. Like this, in the front powder room. On the shelf you see clay thingies my son and daughter made in school. Surely you also decorate with artifacts from your children’s glorious past?


When first we remodeled, the light wood, chrome and gray scheme passed for Scandinavian modern. But over the years, the cabinets yellowed, veneers shredded, tile oppressed.

When we repainted, I knew we’d have to take on the failing cabinets. I assumed we’d paint the bathrooms all-over white-ish. That’s what you do, right? But hold up! When I saw the cabinets with primer on, looking kind of whitewashed and taupe-y, I changed my mind. Gather ye inspiration where you may.

I tortured my painter for a week, at least, to get the color right. First I insisted the walls needed a purple tint. That was stupid. Then I finally did what normal people would have done immediately, I went to a paint store. Benjamin Moore got closest with Dellwood Sand. My painter was a Kelly Moore guy, so he recreated the color onsite.

Several swatches later, here we are. The space feels so much better. The bathroom has two skylights, and we left the ceiling and door white, to maximize light.


The tile is still too big and square. The grout, too visible. I can’t decide if it’s good or bad that the glass block in the shower matches. At least the design repents not.


But this Rosier Than It Looks In Photos Sandy Brown Who Knows What To Call it Maybe Taupe has – to my eye – warmed the space and, polished it, all at once. I love a pair of neutrals.

Of course, the new color forced me to replace pale blue towels with new white ones. (Oh, and they are organic cotton.) But that kind of color bullying I can embrace.


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30 Responses

  1. It looks very good – I’m a big believer in smacking down bossy hard surfaces as well. I had a bathroom with the most hideous tile and I put up a non matching toile wallpaper that overtook the bathroom in a good way. Eggplant towels would also look great I think.

    1. Thank you! I value your comments so much. And hey, yes, I hadn’t thought of that but eggplant towels would be brilliant.

  2. I really like your glass block. So much light, yet still private.

    Yes, my kids are grown and their things are precious. At least I don’t still decorate with their kindergarten paintings.

    I am envious of your great storage in your MB.

    1. @Mary anne, The glass block doesn’t seem too retro for you? I’m so happy to hear that! And not to worry. I have closets full of kindergarten paintings:).

  3. Lisa,
    Powder Rooms are not to be fretted over as even obliging right sized tiles designed by Michaelangelo himself will never offset the experience of arriving too soon after the previous occupant or when a line looks uncomfortably long, I take my re-charged drink…and the current Vanity Fair and sneak into the master bath where the tiles answer to GSL.

  4. The bathroom is my favorite room to decorate, as all “hard scape” being neutral I can run riot with a gallon or two of paint and towels in moods from Kandinsky to Downton Abbey ( currently a sophisticated pattern from Ralph Lauren, but tomorrow… who knows? ) – so much simpler and less expensive than commiting to an actual sofa, lamps or window treatment.

    1. @Kathy, Now that I’ve dipped my toe in the water, I can see how that might be possible. Even fun, eventually:).

  5. I’ve always loved those glass blocks and would love a house with some. And complete success with the color combo !

  6. I love the glass block shower, so bright, and would love something like it. And that photo of the gray tiles with the glass block and the taupe is just stunning and calming. I think your gray tiles would go with my purplish-gray walls, but of course that would be too much gray.

  7. Did you know you can inexpensively replace the white grout with colored grout?

    1. @Kimberly, I suspected:). I’m still scared of grout. I need to get it filled all through the house, where 23 years are showing cracks. But I haven’t even started to research the process…

  8. Looks great, Lisa! I’m in love with your glass block shower. All I seem to want is MCM (Mid-century Modern) these days! Much to the chagrin of hubster, who thinks I’m taking on too many redecorating projects after only living here 3 and 1/2 years!

  9. Lisa,

    Grout stain. you can change the color of the grout. It’s a pain to apply, but so worth the effort. It will make the tile become a neutral backdrop. You can redirect the viewer’s eye. I used it on a floor, freshly laid, that looked like a striped rug. One day on my knees later, it disappeared.

  10. ooh! I have those same gray tiles in my bathroom (and only slightly darker cabinets) and have been puzzling over how to work with them. I was also thinking purplish walls. I’m glad to know it doesn’t work. I never would have tried a brown/tan. Amazing!

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