Create the Look: Expert Tips on Making a Lovely Rustic Bathroom
Updated August 19, 2019
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.
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 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.
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.
Get Inspired: 15 Rustic Bathroom Examples
Rustic can be applied loosely — whether you have a farmhouse, coastal or modern design scheme, you can add some rustic charm. Here are 15 examples that showcase the versatility of rustic design.
This bathroom by interior designer Leanne Ford brings together many classic elements that make you want to move to the country. The copper slipper tub with brass faucet and hand shower is the focal point of the bathroom — but not the only thing that makes it beautifully rustic. The floral wallpaper balanced with white subway tile, along with the weathered zinc sconce and bucket sink all work together to make a lovely space that appears aged, yet fit for today.
A Vintage Tub Says It All
This master bath designed by architect Elizabeth Roberts exudes rustic simplicity. The white vintage tub, paired with putty colored walls and wood floors creates a relaxing space. The eclectic sconce and Swedish carpet gives the bathroom a pop of color. You don’t have to live in a log cabin to have a rustic bathroom — fixtures that have a quiet sense of history may be all you need.
Exposed Brick Adds an Unfinished Touch
The bathroom remodel by the team at John Rogers Renovations will have you dreaming of how you want to update your bathroom walls. This bathroom features a new brick wall that looks aged. The new wall is not the only thing that makes this bathroom delightfully rustic. The outdated carpet, furniture and a jetted tub were replaced with textured gray tile, custom oak cabinets and a freestanding tub.
Bring Your Tub Outside
A vintage clawfoot tub is a signature element for many rustic bathrooms, but you can elevate your woodsy feel by installing your tub outside. In 2015, Kathrin and Brian Smirke bought an abandoned shack in Joshua Tree, California for a little over $7,000. After an impressive remodel, the home is now a beautiful bohemian cabin — with a dreamy outdoor bathing area. The orange clawfoot tub is backed by unfinished wood planks and exposed pipes, surrounded by wood chips and desert flora.
Go For a ‘Jungalow’ Flow
Artist and designer Justina Blakeney is known for her Jungalow brand and online shop that radiates bright colors, patterns and free spirited vibes. It is not a surprise that her own LA home is full of vibrant patterns, textures and plants. Her jaw dropping bathroom blends brilliant bohemian tiles with a custom-made wood vanity. The glass vessel sink combined with the wall mounted faucet adds a unique and minimalistic touch. The indoor plants add to the feeling of being connected to nature.
A Classic Country Farmhouse Bath
Photographer and designer Angie Wendricks lives in a farmhouse in Indiana. Her bathroom hosts a vintage clawfoot bathtub and wood bath tray. The white walls and shower curtain with wood accessories give this bathroom a clean, simple atmosphere. Sometimes all a rustic bathroom needs is one focal point.
Where Rustic Meets Elegance
Catherine Canfield at Dwell shares how rustic can meet elegance in this master bath with an esquite wood vanity, stone counters and stone tile walls. Natural light is also a huge way to make your space feel more rustic. The light coming in through the wood framed windows and the view of the trees outside enables you to enjoy the outdoors while bathing.
Natural Wicker and Lush Greenery
Christie Calucchia at My Domaine highlights several bathrooms that have a relaxed, warm and somewhat woodsy feel. The first bathroom she lists — designed by Katie Hodges — features a modern shower and a freestanding tub. The windows above the tub open to dense trees and are shaded with a natural wicker curtain. The wooden stool adds a nice touch of warmth to an otherwise modern bathroom.
Modern and Rustic Mix
Elizabeth Rishel of the lifestyle blog Within the Grove shows how her guest bathroom stuck in the early ‘90s was transformed into a “rustic-glam” bathroom of your dreams. If you have a taste for modern decor, but want to keep it down to earth, take a look at this bathroom remodel. It features beautiful black and white scallop tiles in the shower, hexagon tile floors and black fixtures. These modern design elements are balanced with a custom-made wood vanity. Small details like the bamboo door shade, wooden stool and towel hooks make the space feel warm and inviting.
When tasked with renovating a Malibu ranch home, interior designer Kate Lester struck a balance between ranch and coastal design. “To balance some of the heavier architectural details, we kept the décor clean, simple, textural and neutral,” Lester told MyDomaine. The bathroom features farmhouse doors, natural stone walls and a wood vanity. The basket made out of natural material adds to the Californian rustic feel.
Keep it Simple
Sometimes all you need to add to your bathroom is a vintage wooden chair. This bathroom designed by the G.P. Schafer Architect firm features a luxurious bath with a rim mount tub faucet and stone and wood surround. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the floor and door are also made from hardwood, but touches like the simple wooden towel hooks and chair really make this bathroom feel like it belongs in the country.
Exposed Wood Beams
Wood doesn’t need to be reserved for vanities, floors or accessories. “Exposed ceiling beams are one of our favorite architectural elements in a home,” says the team at Nandina Home & Design. “Whether you embrace the natural wood look, or go for a more dramatic style, you’ll love the character they bring to your space.” Exposed wood beams can add visual interest to your space. Even a black matte bath surround with modern decor looks more rustic in this A-framed ensuite bathroom with its whitewashed beams.
A Vintage Farmhouse
This renovated farmhouse mixes new and vintage to offer a charming retreat for those visiting Round Top, Texas. Designed by the founders of The Vintage Roundtop Paige and Smoot Hull, the bathroom combines wood countertops and brushed white cabinets to create a farmhouse look that feels authentic, rather than forced. The white walls add to the simple, rustic feel. This bathroom will make you want to have your own farmhouse in the country.
Wood Downplays Elegant Stone
You don’t have to go overboard with natural and unpolished design elements to add a bit of rustic to your space.The team at DFW Improved infused a modern bathroom with wood accents to create a more casual space. The natural wood door and mirror frame balance the gray tile and white and iron ore paint. One thing that separates this bathroom from the rest is that it doesn’t have a tub. Walk-in showers can also pair well with rustic touches.
A Vintage Farmhouse Sink
If you have a small bathroom that doesn’t fit your dream clawfoot tub, another choice is to install a vintage farmhouse utility sink. When real estate agent Courtney Poulos remodeled her A-frame cabin in Big Bear, CA to look more modern, while retaining its cabin roots, that’s what she did. The wall mounted service sink keeps the bathroom modern yet rustic.