I’ve spoken a bit on this blog about the growing popularity of spa style bathrooms. Often, these are inspired by high end hotels that have a posh, streamlined modern appearance. But the idea of a spa bath is much, much older, dating back most famously to the opulent public baths of Rome and Turkey. These ancient baths have inspired a more traditional sort of home spa. Mediterranean style bathrooms offer a more traditional look, combining bright colors and slightly exotic design and architecture with all the modern luxuries and conveniences.
If there’s one key element of Mediterranean style bathrooms it’s the use of bold, assertive colors. Burnt terracotta reds, brassy oranges, and bright, primary blues command the decor on a backdrop of earthy neutrals, immediately evoking the traditional architecture and design of the Mediterranean coast. To a great extent, the type and amount of color used will determine how sophisticated or casual the space is, as well as what country’s style the decor most resembles. Moroccan, Spanish, and Turkish styles tend to be more colorful, while a more classic Romanesque bathroom will generally stick closer to warm neutrals and more subdued tones.
Tile of all kinds features prominently in Mediterranean style bathrooms, but the size, style, and material of the tile have a huge impact on the final appearance of the bathroom. Terracotta tile is quite common, creating a nice earthy, vibrantly colorful base that pairs well with blue mosaic tile or white adobe walls, while fine stone tile, particularly marble or travertine, give a Mediterranean style bathroom a more posh, elegant look. Practical and decorative mosaic tiles are common on every surface, and unlike most other popular bathroom styles, a Mediterranean bathroom can easily be covered entirely in intricately laid mosaic tiles.
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In fact, the use of mosaic tiles is another hallmark of Mediterranean style, especially Moroccan style zellige or zillij style mosaic tile. This type of mosaic is made of small chips of enameled terracotta set, traditionally, in plaster to form an incredibly colorful, intricate piece of artwork. Blues and whites feature prominently in these mosaics, which can be as little as a small accent in the floor or on a wall or large enough to cover practically the entire bathroom. Having such small tile laid by hand can be quite expensive, but it’s possible to get a slightly more traditional version of this look on a more limited budget with pre-assembled mosaic tile sheets or floor medallions.
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Arches are a common architectural feature in Mediterranean bathrooms, from basic horseshoe curves to more intricate pointed, peaked, or shaped arches at the tops of windows, doors, and passageways like the entrance to the shower. Unfortunately, installing true arches (and finding doors or windows to fit them if needed) can be a tad tricky, not to mention expensive. But these features can easily be emulated without actually altering your existing structure by installing mirrors or mosaic tiles with strong, prominent arches.
Mediterranean style bathrooms are typically associated with luxurious getaways – sprawling spaces with dazzling blue seaside views. They offer a more relaxed, sensual atmosphere than the rigid, aristocratic opulence of more-familiar French and British inspired designs. And it’s no wonder: some of the world’s most famous and luxurious baths hail from the Mediterranean region, especially Rome and Turkey. Roman baths and hammams are both traditionally public spaces, but including a beautifully tiled steam shower and deep soaking tub can allow you to recreate some of the ancient medicinal spa treatments of the Mediterranean region in your own home.
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Finally, the Mediterranean region is famed for its light, offering some of the most stunning sunsets and golden afternoons of anywhere in the world. So it’s incredibly important to pay attention to the lighting in a Mediterranean style bathroom, whether or not you get a lot of natural light. Of course, big windows with a coastal view are ideal, but for the rest of us, focus on quantity, layering task lights and ambient lights so no corner is left in shadows. Make sure your lighting fixtures are attractive, too, because you’ll likely be looking up at them while you soak in a big bathtub, and recessed lighting, while good for quantity of light isn’t great to stare into when you’re trying to relax!
What appeals to you most about a Mediterranean style bathroom? Do you want a look that’s more casual, more elegant, or more traditional? Let me know in the comments!