Create the Look: Expert Tips on Making a Lovely Rustic Bathroom

From original hardwood floors to vintage clawfoot tubs, there’s something irresistible about a rustic bathroom. And thanks to its charming and welcoming nature, rustic decor is a timeless bathroom theme both for hotels and home residences. Plus, rustic themes work well in homes from any decade.

To create this popular bathroom style for customers and clients, here’s a step-by-step guide to all things rustic.

Planning a Rustic Retreat

To start planning or remodeling a rustic bathroom, Lancaster Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical suggests finding an eye-catching focal point. Choosing a single piece can help anchor the room and guide the rest of the decor, making the renovation project much more manageable.

When thinking about focal points, consider a cast iron tub or 19th-century chandelier. Such elements add a touch of class to a bathroom, and can later be balanced out with more rustic decor. For a smaller investment, consider opting for simple changes and additions. As suggested by Modern Bathroom, vintage black lanterns, iron hooks and stone basins work well as centerpieces. To find one-of-a-kind elements that will hone a bathroom’s personality, try salvaging items from a local vintage shop.

Balanced Rustic Appeal

After choosing a couple focal points, think about how to balance them with more rustic features like wood or metal decor.

Jenna Milliner-Waddell at Elle Decor shows how this technique is seen in a home on Martha’s Vineyard, transforming a small bathroom into a rustic retreat. By adding tongue-and-groove beadboard paneling across the ceiling and walls, the cast iron tub is balanced with a natural, more down to earth feel. This homegrown look is further enhanced by a tin wall sconce, evoking images of the water troughs and buckets used on a farm.

Angie Holden of the Country Chic Cottage offers another example of how to strike the right chord with both elegant and unpolished elements. Holden’s ideas for handmade shelving units are an ideal addition to a bathroom housing a clawfoot tub or striking vintage vanity. One shelving unit idea is made from copper pipes, another takes its shape from a basic ladder. This tall wooden element adds height to a room while warming up white walls and floors with distressed wood.  

rustic decor

Rustic Colors

Finishes, colors and hues also play a role in creating a rustic bathroom look.

Anabelle Bernard Fournier at The Spruce writes that rustic bathrooms usually play up natural, neutral elements. While there are many ways to incorporate neutral colors into the bathroom, a rustic aesthetic usually requires wood, stone, and other earthy textures. Fournier adds that medium wood tones are classic for rustic themes, but that they can also be played up with light and dark materials.

To incorporate more color into a neutral-focused bathroom, think about colors that occur organically in nature. For example, adding splashes of jewel tones, like deep greens, blues, and purples, can keep things interesting. In a bathroom showcased by Anna Kocharian, assistant editor at Domino Magazine, green and gray neutrals work well with a rustic theme. In particular, maintaining a two-tone color palette can allow your statement pieces to stand out. If you have a white bathtub or sink, opting for a darker wall shade can help your tub feel comforting and welcoming.

Wood Elements

Wood is probably the most common element in a rustic bathroom. But that doesn’t mean it has to be used in ordinary ways, and it also doesn’t mean your bathroom can’t look luxurious.

To create a more sophisticated look using wood, Home Design Lover offers a number of examples of high-end cabins and ski homes. For example, wood can be reserved for specific elements, such as cabinets and vanities. But, it can also be used as paneling, molding, and ceiling cover. In a home on Star Lake, for instance, Home Design Lover shows how wood is incorporated into nearly every bathroom element. This pushes the boundaries of what traditional rustic bathrooms aim for – which is usually a gentle balance between wood and other elements. If creating a wow factor is at the top of your list, consider this all-wood theme for inspiration.

Upcycled Wood and Metal

Creating a rustic look often requires the use of vintage materials and decor pieces from days gone by. Giving older pieces of furniture new life can infuse character and history into a bathroom.

A Blissful Nest shows how vintage elements can be upcycled to create functional new elements in the bathroom. One example is creating a sink from a horse watering trough and the legs of an old table. Ideal for the cabin bathroom it was created for, this rustic sink combines wood and metal elements for the perfect amount of old-school charm.

To add rustic charm to core focal elements, like a vintage-inspired clawfoot bathtub, consider how DIY elements come into play.

Home design blog Cherished Bliss offers a step-by-step tutorial for creating a farmhouse style mirror. Flanked by dark wood and bronze metal accents, this large mirror above the sink is the perfect touch for adding a sense of space and elegance to a bathroom.

For a different style, Build Something offers a tutorial for a stained pine vanity that’s great for storage. With two large shelves and a modern, shallow sink, this vanity balances rustic wood features with contemporary and sophisticated elements.

For a larger DIY vanity that can accommodate more than one bathroom guest, consider a jack and jill sink. Stacy Fisher at The Balance shows how to create a wooden, spa-like vanity by adding two sinks and a significant amount of storage space. Adorning the shelves below a vanity with woven and metal baskets can add a farmhouse touch while keeping things organized.

stone counter

Rustic Look With Simple Upkeep

To create the look and feel of wooden elements without the same level of upkeep, try opting for elements that look like the real thing.

BuildDirect showcases a cozy retreat that incorporates a rustic look through the use of tile. The entire floor in the bathroom is covered in wood-like Italian porcelain tile, which is easier to clean and maintain than wood. If wood elements are already appearing in your vanity, shelving, ceiling beams or other elements, it might be a good idea to balance it out with a different low maintenance tile.

DIY expert Andrea Fogleman adds that instead of using small mosaic tiles in a shower, larger granite and stone tiles can support a rustic feel. Larger tiles are easier to clean, but they still create a warm and natural look.

Another way to add rustic flair is to incorporate linens, fixtures and wall decor that align with the theme. For homeowners that have opted to keep renovations at a minimum but still want a warm, woodsy vibe, home style blogger Katy at A Shade of Teal offers a few tips:

  • Neutral colored linens keep things looking classic and simple.
  • Natural baskets also offer a touch of simplicity while helping organize toiletries and other essentials.
  • Wire baskets can also double as organization and decor, but be sure to keep them balanced with wood elements or greenery.

Maryann at Domestically Speaking says those wire baskets can be enhanced with mason jars, which are easily secured by plumbing clips. Green and blue mason jars add a vintage touch of color to the bathroom while creating simple storage that reduces clutter.

Images by: Kirk Fisher, Petra, iriana88w/©123RF Stock Photo