I always believed that the “powder room” was a euphemism for a place where the ladies went to power their noses during the 1950s. However, this phrase actually dates back to the 18th century, and referred then to a closet that was specially designed for “powdering” or touching up your wig. It is now a fancy way to refer to a bathroom, that is frequently the one that guests use.
Although the origins of the powder room are several centuries old, it has once again become an important feature within numerous contemporary interiors. It is something I view as a small jewel, a piece of art that transcends the basic amenities of hand basin and toilet.
A good example of this is an apartment in Darling Point in Sydney that was designed by Chechow Little of Surry Hills architects, that has a powder room that looks like a miniature hall of mirrors. Apparently the owners wanted their guests to be able to view multiple aspects of themselves. Sydney-based Neeson Murcutt Architects had a project where a small circular space was covered with wallpaper from Del Kathryn Barton, who is a print artist, that was done for Romance Was Born fashion designers.
Alexander Donohoe Church from Sydney’s Decus Interiors illustrates a pitch-perfect example, to reflect choices that have been carefully calibrated and demonstrate restrained. Church says that the marble’s visual texture and rich tones were used, and combined with the mirror and the layering of lighting styles.
Wall sconces from Kelly Wearstler, an American designer, have been combined with a vintage mirror coming from the Melbourne-based firm of Nicholas & Alistair, along with antique tiles and Artedomus stone that the client sourced. Church says that the result provides a certain kind of tension. It isn’t intended for the components to match, but instead to create a dynamism that is unlikely.
Church says that the advice she would give to a home renovator is to not be shy, but also not to go all guns blazing either. Be confident and make wise choices. Greg Natale, a Sydney-based interior designer, says that when a powder room is being created, you need to strike a balance between smart planning for all necessary amenities and providing a decorative punch. There isn’t anything worse than having a toilet seat where your knees collide with the joinery.
Natal knows a few things about decorative possibilities for confined spaces, after designing bathroom tiles for an Italian company called Bisazza. He completed a home recently that has three beautiful powder rooms, with each one deriving its character from the home’s adjacent area.
He says that the creative possibilities for lighting, wallpapering and tiling are endless, which means it may be easier for some of their clients to make braver decisions in those areas. That way they won’t have to commit to highly embellished or decorative items in other parts of the home.