11 tips to tone down your pink bathroom

pottery craftsman sink in a 50s pink bathroom

So I get the question often enough: “I hear what your saying about pink bathrooms. But much as I try, I just can’t love mine. And, I’m not really into retro. What can I do to tone it down?” Fair enough. Here are some thoughts…

How to minimize all the pink in your pink bathro0m? Note — These tips apply to bathrooms with pink walls and either pink or white fixtures.*

  • No brite white. Do not paint the walls bright white. This will just accentuate the pink. How about a light brown or a gray that harmonizes nicely with your particlar pink.  The goal is: Balance…equilibrium…between the wall and the tile.

Two main colors: Pink and yellow, you kind of see them both first. Accents: bold yellow and orange — pretty close to both the yellow and pink on the color wheel. The green really makes everything pop.” src=”http://retrorenovation.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/pretty_in_pink-751×1024.jpg” width=”179″ height=”242″ /> Two main colors: Pink and yellow, you kind of see them both first. Additional ccents: orange and red — each adjacent fo yellow and pink on the color wheel. The green is what makes everything pop…and all color are unified on the rug.[/caption]

  • Yellow for perky-today. You can use the same technique using yellow paint for the walls. A year ago, Portland Amy sent this story from Real Simple magazine. I know a lot of folks love this bathroom. It doesn’t feel ‘retro,’ I think, because we are not accustomed to seeing pink and yellow together. Also, because it uses other, more contemporary floral references — especially in the shower curtain and rug.
This Shakira shower curtain is new at Target - you can see how putting this into a pink-tiled bathroom would give you numerous possibilities to use other strong accent colors to draw attention away from the pink tile. And it's not "retro" feeling, it's very "today."

This Shakira shower curtain is new at Target – you can see how putting this into a pink-tiled bathroom would give you numerous possibilities to use other strong accent colors to draw attention away from the pink tile. And it’s not “retro” feeling, it’s very “today.”

  • Two accent colors. Once you have your wall color, you want to choose two additional accent colors — A is your main accent color and B is your secondary accent color — and one that is super duper harmonious with your accent A.   So in the end, you have 4 colors: (1) Pink, (2) Brown or Gray, (3) Accent A and (4) Accent B.  You may also have white in your fixtures or floor – that’s great. Personally, I think that adding any more colors than this — and you risk getting too busy, unless you have a very careful hand. The idea here, for the most part: Elegance, quiet. I am guessing the pink is giving you a headache, so we are “toning it down.”
  • …Jewel tones. Accent colors should have some force — jewel tones are good.  Anything quieter than your pink will get lost. You want your accent color(s) to emerge — from the pink — and keep your eye dancing around the bathroom.
My bathroom. Design elements: Color, pattern, size, scale, texture. Patterns, for example: square (tile), atomic (wallpaper), floral (prints). Colors: rose beige, aqua, turquoise, brown, white.

My bathroom. Design elements: Color, pattern, size, scale, texture. Patterns, for example: square (tile), atomic (wallpaper), floral (prints). Colors: rose beige, aqua, turquoise, brown, white. The same formula works in ANY bathroom.

  • Artwork to scale. The first place that I would work to integrate an accent color would be in a good-sized piece of artwork. Look for a piece, or pieces, that use your two main colors (yes, including the pink) as well. Don’t be too dinky with your art — or, mass smaller things into one grouping. Continue adding art until you’re happy. Clutter isn’t good either, so take it slow, edit.
  • Shower curtain. When in doubt, match your shower curtain to your paint color. A subtle weave might be good – to add texture and visual interest. If you are feeling more daring, use your shower curtain to bring more color into the room – being sure to include references to your tile and paint colors, as well.
Probably too retro for anyone who already does not like their pink bathroom -- but it gives some ideas on how to play with color and pattern.

Probably too retro for anyone who already does not like their pink bathroom — but it illustrates some great ideas on how to play with color and pattern.

  • Soft goods. Towels and rugs can match the wall color or be a few shades darker…And, I’d buy a second set in an accent color as well. This can be really pretty.
  • Window treatments = pattern. Window treatments are a great place to add pattern — and fabric softens up the hard edges of tile. How about an inexpensive pleated shade for privacy and light control, and soft and decorative curtains on a pretty rod to frame the window.
  • Bathroom jewelry. Ensure you have an eye-catching light fixture…and mirror…and the waste-basket is a great place to have fun, too.
Cindy's bathroom has great balance between what's going on with the tile and what's going on with the walls. I'd call it -- artsy/eclectic...When I was in it, I didn't think "pink," I thought "pretty." That's my pretty sister Jenni BTW.

Cindy’s bathroom has great balance between what’s going on with the tile and what’s going on with the walls. I’d call it — artsy/eclectic…When I was in it, I didn’t think “pink,” I thought “pretty.” That’s my pretty sister Jenni BTW.

  • Alternative twist #1: Choose art, accessories, linens, and faucet handles that build out a theme that’s even bigger than the pink — like French,  Country, Artsy/Eclectic or…? That way, when you walk in, you think “French,” rather than “Pink.”
  • Alternative twist #2: Pick up some Rachel Ashwell books at the library — and consider the Shabby Chic look. Put up crystal chandelier light fixtures, add chippy shelving set with pastel colored vases shiny crystal, and add fluffy white towels, some embroidered hand towels and a luxurious linen shower curtain, etc.. If I went for this look, I think I’d paint the walls a very light slight dove gray. Anna over at Door Sixteen used Benjamin Moore Lacey Pearl (matte) on her walls and say “it’s like the world’s palest neutral gray.” That might work well.

*If you have pink walls and fixtures of yet-another pastel color: Embrace your pink bathroom. Get wallpaper that includes both colors. The retro decorating gods have sent you this jewel for a reason.


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  1. sumac sue says

    Love the pink/brown/gray combination in your bathroom, Pam. The formal flower prints look surprisingly just right against the atomic wallpaper. Very classy look. What I love about Cindy’s bathroom is the concentration of pink on the floor instead of the walls.

  2. Elaine says

    Toning down is a great idea for any color tiles. For me, my yellow hall bath was getting on my nerves. I love the color and initially added yellow rugs and yellow towels, but over the years, this began to be ‘too much.’ I finally had enough of it, and went for a different look. The fixtures, base cabinets and countertop are all white. We took down the original wallpaper which was white with little yellow tulips and green leaves, and put up a woodsy look wallpaper, creamy beige sponge look sprigged with little dark green spruce trees with dark brown trunks. It made a huge difference. Next we added print hand towels (dish towels really) with bears, trees, canoes and paddles, that pick up the creamy, brown and green colors. That looked great so we picked up two matching rugs, a toilet base rug and a toilet seat cover in cream with green pine sprigs and brown pine cones on them. We painted the cabinets cream color with round nickel knobs. Piece de resistance was two new light fixtures over the mirror, cut tin outlines of trees and bears, with the trees painted green and the rest mottled brown and rust. The shades are opal glass. I put a copper bowl full of pine cones on the counter. Now the yellow is not dominant but goes well with the woodland theme, a little ray of sunshine in the clearing. We have the MCM glass shower doors in there. I can try to send a picture, but it is dark and rainy today so we’ll have to wait til it clears up a bit.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Elaine – yes, what you’ve described having done to your bathroom is right in line with what this post is about. “Now the yellow is not dominant but goes well with…” Well done, and I would love to see a photo.

  3. MrsErinD says

    Oh your bathroom looks beautiful Pam! Love the Turners.

    Now the vintage illustration of the pink aqua and black bathroom is just perfect for me! ;O)

    • pam kuebe says

      My wall tiles are actually “fawn beige.” Beige with just a teensy little pink warmth. Dirt cheap at Home Depot 5 years ago. I could not find pink tiles at the time — although I searched. I did not know about B&W. If I had – one of the three bathrooms for sure would have been Mamie pink. I have to post more pictures sometime…The renovation of the three bathrooms in my house is what got me started with this whole retro renovation thing. Trying to find resources in 2002 was SO HARD. It led me to post everything I found on a blog for others to share, and then it grew and grew and grew.

      And thanks for noticing the Turners, Erin. The photo is actually a little sun-washed…the strength of the paper and tile actually work well with the brown art. Even though I consider the Turners to be more 40s, I love how all the colors and design work well together. I choose stuff from the whole broad period…Oh, I so love it all. 🙂

      • Patty Belcher says

        I think your bathroom looks great. The atomic wallpaper is perfect. The white trim is nice. I am searching and considering many samples and your pattern I cannot find. If it’s still made, would you mind mentioning the pattern number and brand. My tile is pink with maroon trim. Thank you!

  4. Jim C. says

    I stained the existing grout, which was in good condition, a deep brick red/brown to “cut” some of the pink. It was tedious work, requiring removal of all grout sealer and multiple applications of stain. I used concrete stain which required purchase of a gallon can, much more than needed, but the results were great! I used stain made for use on grout in another bathroom, but it was more work and I wasn’t as happy with the results. If the grout isn’t in good shape, or if you’re so motivated, it can be removed and replaced with another color grout.


  5. Delilah Clark says

    Where do I get the paint to paint flowers in my bathroom sink like that beautiful floral sink in the pink bathroom??? What kind of paint do I use that won’t wear off, being in the sink.

  6. Barbara says

    Sadly, the shower curtain is sold out.

    I’d love you to find a curtain to go with my pink and green bath – floor and shower surround are pink, trim green – the green matches the wall color called “Laurel Village” (Kelly Moore paint # KM3277-2). My bathroom is TINY – floor space is literally 3 x 5′!

  7. pam kueber says

    Hi Barbara, I’ll keep an eye out but my #1 recommendations: Get thee to a Calico Corners and see what they have… I bet they could even sew it up for you into a shower curtain. Good luck.

  8. Carrie says

    I’ve been going crazy trying to find that Real Simple article. Does anyone know what issue it is from?

    • pam kueber says

      carrie, click back thru the links in the story and you will see: july 2008 issue. a reader sent me the scan. actually, i am now scaling the image down to a thumbnail, which i now understand to be consistent with copyright. (i originally posted it in the wee early days of the blog before i understood these issues as well).

  9. says

    Almost every fixture and tile in my bathroom is pink, with built in soap dishes and tooth brush holder and trim tile being light green. To tone down my bathroom, I used off white paint on the walls, and I used a simple, small pleated, cotton, slightly shear, chocolate colored bathroom curtain from West Elm. For a window curtain, I hung a simple, Victorian, linen, white, embroidered and cut-out textile over a simple rod. Even though the use of white is not suggested in the article, it works well when combined with earth tones and authentic, quality antiques. I also used an antique tapestry in the room. For towels and small bath rug, I chose white, because I like to be aware of dirt that accumulates. I also installed a dimmer on the light switch. The ultimate effect is a handsome, not frilly, bathroom that is soothing to be in. Even though I don’t like pink bathrooms, I discourage my landlord from replacing my bathroom for two reasons: 1) The quality of the fixtures are better than low end fixtures of today and he is not willing to spend a lot of money to renovate; and 2) Some people love pink bathrooms and I wouldn’t want to rob them of something that is becoming harder to find.

  10. Jennifer says

    Wow I am so glad I stumbled upon this website! Instead of ripping out what pink tile I have,I certainly see that there are so many options!!now my only dilemma is to decide what wall color to replace hidious pink and green leaved wallpaper which lines upper walls in our bathroom. I would like the ease of painting,but admired the atomic wallpaper,maybe someting in a brownish earthtone? Where did you find it may I ask? I have no eye for house-helping.The floor needs replacing,too.The toilet is white. The basic theme to our house is comfy-warmth.Again,thanks!! Jen

    • pam kueber says

      Welcome, Jennifer. Take a look at bradbury.com for atomic wallpaper. They are an advertiser – link is in the right-hand column. See all my Wallpaper posts in the Categories.

  11. Shelly says

    Wow! I must post a photo soon. I would love to “tone down” my pink bathroom, or even find a way to highlight what I have. The bathroom is pink tile throughout. I’m talking every inch of wall space, ceiling, sink, toilet and floor! Black tile for trim around the one window and doorway and as a baseboard. THEN, a pale yellow tub! Hmmmm. The only place to add any paint is one cupboard and the actual window, which I have in white for now. I have tried to use pale yellow towels and rugs, black, brown, white, and nothing is snazzy. I hope more readers will post photos of what they have done with their vintage baths!!

  12. Holly says

    I have a white bathroom with light pink tiles and a pink and grey tiled floor with pink grout. The sink and counters and mirror are all different shades of white. I have glass shower doors. The bathroom is small. Can anyone help me make a sensible color choice? The light colors just look too pink and I really didn’t want a gray bathroom. Are there any other options?


    • Mommaduck says

      We just redid a small bathroom and I was happily surprised to discover that a Dremmel tool equipped with a grout blade really did make it easy to remove the grout. At least you could get rid of that layer of pink!

  13. Donnasu says

    My bathroom has white wall paper with little sprigs of mauve and a dark aqua prints .I have two old home interior shelves that are white.I want to paint the shelves to make my bathrooom look pretty.I need suggestions on color for the shelves that will really change the look .Anybody have a good idea for this .

  14. brittany says

    I have a lavender and white bathroom with lavender poodles in some of the tiles on the wall (i do love it), but i have no idea what colour towels and accessories i could use that aren’t lavender! Someone help me!

  15. Kate says

    I love the atomic wallpaper. It’s exactly the look i’m trying to include in my bathroom. Where did you find it? I love both the colors and pattern.

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