Building An Aquatic Bathroom Theme That’s Shore to Please

When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have my own bathroom. My parents decided to appropriately theme it to make getting ready for school fun in the mornings. It was an aquatic style, with bubbly wallpaper, soothing blues, and a ton of fish accents. I loved it. As an adult I wanted to break it down into its thematic components so others can recreate the look. Whether you want the same for your kids or just want to shake things up in your bathroom by giving it a theme, here’s what you need to know to make an aquatic bathroom.

What is Aquatic Style?

The aquatic theme differs from similar bathroom styles through the use of key elements like fish imagery (by Town & Country Kitchen and Bath)

First thing first: what’s the difference between an aquatic bathroom, a nautical one, and a beachside one? To be fair, they are all loosely defined styles with a lot of overlap, so you could argue that they’re interchangeable. But to pick apart common patterns in decorating, an aquatic bathroom is focused on underwater displays and the abundance of sea life. It’s much more colorful than similar styles due to the notable color ranges of fish and coral. It’s busy, bright, and generally more fun, giving it a wide audience.

How Is It Different?

Color choice and accessories mark the biggest differences between aquatic, nautical, and seaside bathrooms - and are often distinct at a glance, despite their thematic similarities (by Michael Pagnotta Architects)
Color choice and accessories mark the biggest differences between aquatic, nautical, and seaside bathrooms – and are often distinct at a glance, despite their thematic similarities (by Michael Pagnotta Architects)

Nautical designs revolve more around ships and their accessories than the water itself. Nautical bathrooms typically have heavy roots in the aesthetics of vintage sailors. Navy blue is the most prominent color used, and ropework is regularly incorporated. Beachside is, well, about the beach. Sand, waves, and seashells reflect the gentler side of relaxing by the sea, using light blues and beiges to keep you calm. You can mix and match elements from each to create a unique bathroom to fit your space and sensibilities and still be aquatic style, so don’t feel limited by what everyone else is doing.

Age It Up

Cruz Shower Curtain Bath In Multi, GL-1709GSHW by Greenland Home Fashions

All that said, which elements you want to draw from will depend a lot on who will be using the bathroom. For someone older or with a sophisticated palate, you don’t want to go overboard with the fish. Subtle sailor stripes, tasteful shell placement, and ocean views are more likely to please. I would also recommend muted colors to give the space a tranquil atmosphere meant for relaxing. In this case, the aquatic theme can help you wind down without resorting to a less visually appealing, very no-nonsense, plain bathroom.

Or Make It Kid-Friendly

Aquatic style lets you get very colorful so you can try more unusual color combinations for the bathroom (by Phillip Smith General Contractor, LLC.)

For someone younger or more eclectic, you can lean into the energetic aspects of the sea. Vibrant underwater scenes, friendly fish, and brighter colors are better because the point is to make the bathroom fun rather than relaxing. If you’re having a hard time getting someone to brush their teeth twice a day and wash their hands, making the bathroom feel enticing goes a long way in ensuring they actually use it. Of course, you can always mix and match your aquatic elements to create a balance between style and whimsy.

Color Choice Is Key In An Aquatic Bathroom

Adding blue in key places in your bathroom can emphasize your aquatic theme (by Waterford Construction)

One way to create a strong association between your bathroom and seaside decor is through color. When you think of the vast ocean you picture its deep blue water, so it makes sense to define your theme through that association. It’s easy to incorporate blue in several places in the bathroom, from the finish on your bathroom vanity to the tile on your floor. The shade matters less than it does for other bathroom themes, so you can combine several analogous blues (and more green-tinted teals and seafoams) and still have it be a cohesive aquatic bathroom.

Go Wild With The Accessories

Sea Turtle Study Watercolor Prints, S/2, 33720 by Uttermost

It’s the additions to the bathroom that really bring the aquatic theme together in a way that colors and tile can’t. Things like wall accents, candles, and little knickknacks that don’t get in the way of using your bathroom can delight without a high price tag. Depending on which bathroom you’re using the aquatic style for, you may have to be careful about introducing paper and canvas; in a high traffic bathroom, the shower and bath can produce enough steam to warp these materials. If in doubt, pick wall art that is made of metal, wood, plastic, or glass, or has a protective casing (like a sealed frame).

A Few Good Pieces Will Cement The Theme of an Aquatic Bathroom

Octopus Oval Wall Mirror, 51009 by Spi Home

If there isn’t a lot of room to add purely decorative things, consider replacing existing bathroom pieces with more thematic counterparts to enforce the aquatic look you’re going for. The easiest and most obvious is the shower curtain, but that doesn’t work in a half-bath or a bathroom with only a tub. One I really like, and also follows the current decorative mirror trend, is changing out your plain bathroom mirror for one with aquatic flair. It could be as simple as the frame being a color in your desired palate, or as whimsical as the frame being a sea creature itself. Bath mats, towels, and your soap dispenser are also quick and affordable replacements to turn your bathroom into an ocean wonderland.

While the bathroom isn’t the most fun room you have in the home, adding an aquatic theme can liven up the space to make all your bathroom chores just a little more tolerable.