Powder Room Drama sounds like a grade B movie. But it's one of the many things Washington interior designer Susan A. Vallon creates for her clients, among whom are powerful Washington lawyers and top journalists. When I ask if she has worked with anyone in Congress, she tells me one senator met with her but didn't want to pay her rates.
They all have second homes to support, she points out. But, she adds, you don't have to spend a lot to create drama. This is a relief, since I worry about cost too.
A good place to start is the powder room; it's small, she notes, and nothing much has to happen there. One fun powder room she designed was tiny, only 30 inches by 4 feet. Susan advises putting drama where it surprises or just makes you feel happy when you enter the room.
A Monochromatic Look
During a visit to Susan's home, I see that her own powder room is exemplary. The first thing I notice is a spray of sea-green tiles, which look scattered like confetti. They are imbedded in the floor of taupe-colored limestone tiles. In fact, except for the sea-green tiles and beige toilet, the entire room is taupe. Right there with the monochromatic look you have drama, says Susan.
Dramatic Lighting and Candles
Susan suggests trying interesting low lighting, an effect you can achieve with dramatic sconces for example. It can be fun for not a lot of money. You can buy unusual fixtures, such as the extraordinary ones at The Brass Knob in Washington, that have been salvaged from demolished buildings.
In Susan's powder room, two small, glass, pyramid-shaped low-voltage fixtures hang from the ceiling, while the countertop that surrounds the polished stainless steel sink is crystal. At night Susan enhances the drama with dim lights, flowers and a lit candle.
Wallpaper that Looks Like Library Books
For one of her clients, Susan designed a diminutive powder room using a Brunschwig & Fils pattern of library books on all the walls. "It was an unexpected experience when you walked through the door," she says.
You can also get a great effect with paint. For another client, Susan used Benjamin Moore Metallics paint in a gray-slate color, called liquid mercury (the names sometimes change), that sparkled like, well, mercury. Called Pearlescent Tints, the paint comes in some 30 colors.
"I am not Ms. Kitsch," says Susan. Then she tells me how great a neighborhood theater's bathroom looked after they put up movie posters, glued to the wall the way you would put up wallpaper.
For a dressier look, Susan suggests putting up wallpaper that has tiny beads. Among the handful of companies that make this is Innovations, which offers the pricey wallcovering in a great array of colors. "It's like being inside jewelry," says Susan.
How do you create drama in a room? What fun ideas have you used in a powder room? Let me hear from you in the comments box below.