The Hottest New Trend In Bathroom Design Is… Wood?

Tile is the most popular material in bathroom design, to the point that it’s often less a question of tile versus something else and more a question of what type of tile to use – in the shower, on the floor, and even on the walls. But with the trend toward more relaxed, natural, spa like bathroom spaces, wood has become an increasingly popular option in all areas of the bathroom. Intrigued? I’ve got a few of the places where wood works the best, as well as what you should do if you’re worried about water damage.

Wood Floors

Wood Flooring And Other Wood Elements Can Give A Bathroom A Warm, Rustic, Homey Charm (by Carney Logan Burke Architects, photo by Matthew Millman)
Wood Flooring And Other Wood Elements Can Give A Bathroom A Warm, Rustic, Homey Charm (by Carney Logan Burke Architects, photo by Matthew Millman)

One of my absolute number one favorite ways to incorporate wood into a bathroom design is probably also the most taboo: wood floors. Many people have the impression that hardwood floors in a bathroom are a recipe for disaster. But while it’s true that leaving water standing on many kinds of wood is a good way to ruin them, this isn’t true of all types of wood. Some can hold up quite well to water, and a simple waterproof finish can go a long way to increase any wood floor’s durability. It’s important to note, though, that damaging the wood is only half the concern. While many types of wood hold up quite well to repeated exposure to moisture, the material underneath your wood floor is probably less forgiving.

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Wood Floors Can Even Work In A More Modern Bathroom, Giving It A Warm, Natural Touch (by Marmol Radziner)
Wood Floors Can Even Work In A More Modern Bathroom, Giving It A Warm, Natural Touch (by Marmol Radziner)

A tongue-and-groove installation can help prevent water from seeping in between the planks and to your sub floor, and installing a waterproof material (like tar paper) is never a bad idea either. Other than their slight aversion to moisture, wood floors are actually great for the bathroom, as they’re warm to the touch and are much less slippery than porcelain, ceramic, or stone. That said, if you like the look of wood floors but don’t want the extra upkeep of keeping them sealed and dry, consider opting instead for wood printed porcelain tile. These come in long, wood-like planks and are printed to look like the real deal, but are made of porcelain, and offer all the water-resistant benefits of tile.

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Wood Shower Floors

Wood Shower Floors Are Beautiful And Slip Free, And Add A Beautiful Spa Touch To Your Bathroom (by modern house architects)
Wood Shower Floors Are Beautiful And Slip Free, And Add A Beautiful Spa Touch To Your Bathroom (by modern house architects)

Wood shower floors are actually a really nice compromise for anyone that loves the look of wood in the bathroom but doesn’t want to go all out with a full wood floor. These are made of highly water-friendly woods (usually teak) and are either installed directly into the shower floor or, more commonly, are used to build inset planks above a tiled floor or shower pan. Again, these have the advantage of being much less slippery than a tile shower floor (and more attractive than a fiberglass one), and also have that wonderful, natural feel underfoot. With a glass shower enclosure, a plank wood floor makes a nice natural feature, even if you don’t put wood anywhere else in the bathroom.

Wood Walls

Less Than Perfect Paint Or Installation Of Plank Style Wood Walls Can Add Wonderful Rustic Charm To A Cottage Style Bathroom (by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design)
Less Than Perfect Paint Or Installation Of Plank Style Wood Walls Can Add Wonderful Rustic Charm To A Cottage Style Bathroom (by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design)

Wood plank walls are another personal favorite of mine, and are actually probably one of the safer options for getting wood into your bathroom. Water is much less likely to collect on your walls than on the ceiling or floor, and a tongue and groove installation can, again, help keep water from getting through. Wood planks can often be installed directly to your existing drywall, too. What I love most about this, though, is the huge variety of looks you can get so easily. Blonde or soft pink wood will have a relaxing, spa feel; whitewashed or painted white planks have a picture perfect cottage style; older wood, especially “found” planks can create a rustic or maritime theme, and compliment a Cape Cod or even shabby chic style. Definitely poke around with different materials before you decide, because even a single wood accent wall can make a bold statement in your overall bathroom decor.

Wood Ceiling Or Beams

Structural Or Not, Wood Beams Or Planked Ceilings Can Make Just About Any Bathroom Look Absolutely Stunning (by Alan Mascord Design Associates Inc, photo by Bob Greenspan)
Structural Or Not, Wood Beams Or Planked Ceilings Can Make Just About Any Bathroom Look Absolutely Stunning (by Alan Mascord Design Associates Inc, photo by Bob Greenspan)

Wood ceilings – either ones made entirely of wood or simply ones featuring wood beams – are another excellent way to bring a warm, natural element into your bathroom. Now of all the items on this list, this is far and away the most involved and architectural one – but it isn’t necessarily a feature you either have or you don’t. Shiplap boards can be applied to a ceiling as well as a wall, and beams can be decorative as well as structural. If you go this route, though, make sure that your bathroom is adequately ventilated, and consider adding a waterproof layer before you install the wood.

Wood Bathroom Vanities

Genna Natural Oak Double Bathroom Vanity From James Martin Furniture
Genna Natural Oak Double Bathroom Vanity From James Martin Furniture

If you’re really genuinely worried about water damage – say if you want to incorporate wood into a bathroom that will be used primarily by kids (or anyone else who’s bad about cleaning up puddles), the safest way to incorporate a little natural wood into your bathroom design is with a bathroom vanity. Wood bathroom vanities come in every type of wood, every stain and finish, and every type of veneer. But for that relaxed feel, look for bathroom vanities with lighter blonde or golden wood tones. These reflect light better, and have an unfinished, homey quality without the risk of water damage.

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As a final bit of advice, keep in mind that a little bit of wood goes a long way. Note that most of these bathrooms have either only one wood feature, or each of the features done in a slightly different type of wood. After all, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and too much wood can feel a little overwhelming, or at the very least give your bathroom more of a log-cabin vibe than you might be going for! But what wood features do you like most in a bathroom? Let me know in the comments!