Can I Use Wallpaper In My Bathroom?

Sam contacted mad about the house to ask about wallpapering her bathroom. But she didn’t want just any old wallpaper…

image from

Q: What do you think about maybe using the Brooklyn tile wallpaper for our main bathroom ceiling? At £219 a pop it feels a bit risky. Is it true that using some kinda varnish over the paper would prevent any water damage or from simply peeling off? Am gonna have to ask Santa for a roll or two as budget very tight but I HAVE to have this wallpaper somewhere in this house…

the brooklyn tin tiles wallpaper is available from rocket st george

A: You’re absolutely right, Sam, I love this wallpaper too. In fact I put it up on the blog as wallpaper of the week so long ago that it will soon have to be changed to wallpaper of the year. I haven’t managed to find anything else I like quite as much as this.

image from

It was designed to mimic the look of vintage painted tiles found in factories and warehouses in North America at the turn of the century. Those painted tiles were made of press tin and were, in turn, designed to mimic plasterwork found in European houses at the turn of the century. The paper has an aged look with paint cracks imbedded in the image and was created in collaboration with Merci, the Paris boutique. It is available in eight colourways and supplied in a 10 metre roll.

But can you use it in a bathroom? Well, I spoke to Peter Wells, of Polyvine decorating products and, to paraphrase the old Tropicana adverts; the man from Del Monte (or in this case Polyvine) he say YES!

Decorators Varnish costs less than £10 for a 500ml tin and you simply paint it on your wallpaper and it will be perfectly sealed.

image from

“Even interior designers who are working with wallpapers that cost £500 a roll use our decorators varnish to protect the paper,” he said.

“We suggest the dead flat finish as it won’t show, although we would always suggest a small test patch first, even though we have never heard of any problems.”

He said that if you are using wallpaper in a kitchen, the satin finish provides better protection against grease but added that you can do a top coat in the dead flat so that you achieve the protection you need and the finish you desire.

So there you have it. Suddenly the whole world of wallpaper is open to you for use in any room/wall/ceiling in the house. And if you like the trompe l’oeil effect then then you will be a fan of Young & Battaglia which means you can paper your bathroom in wooden panelling or planks.

Mineheart White Panelling Wallpaper by Young & Battaglia

Or what about using the real thing? I have used pressed tin tiles on my kitchen ceiling. And, as you can see from the picture below, they create a beautiful iridescent lustre.

pressed tin tiles in my kitchen

Now this isn’t straightforward either as tin rusts incredibly quickly. But if you buy it from Andy Thornton  you have the option to have it pre-treated to make it rust-proof. Obviously it costs more and we chose not to do that on our kitchen ceiling and neither did we manage to varnish it fast enough to prevent some rust appearing. Having said that a little rust adds a pleasingly vintage look to the overall effect. We used the decorators varnish on these too.

As you can see from the picture below, this bathroom, which does admittedly have a very high ceiling, has pressed tin ceiling tiles.

real tin tiles on a bathroom ceiling image from

This bathroom has used them in the shower. These ones are from an Australian company called Pressed Tin Panels who use aluminium sheeting and they specifically state that they are suitable for use in the bathroom as long as they are powder coated.

pressed tin panels used in a bathroom

Price wise, the wallpaper is £219 a roll but you don’t say how big your ceiling is and you will have to match the pattern so you will inevitably need more than one roll. When we wallpapered our younger son’s bedroom door with the book paper it took three rolls to get the effect and to allow for the matching.

Young and Battaglia book wallpaper. Look closely and you can see the outline of the door but this took three rolls of paper

The tin tiles cost around £17 a tile (mine were about 50cm square) excluding vat and delivery. There may not be that much difference between the paper and tin depending on the size of the room. One thing to bear in mind: we were told that the tiles should be nailed onto a wooden frame attached to the ceiling. We didn’t want to make our ceiling any lower and, as it was only covering part of the ceiling we need it to be flush with the other end of the room, so we glued them on. You will need to check that the glue will be all right in a hot steamy bathroom.

And one last image of a pressed tin ceiling:




Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Hi thanks for the information. I’ve been hankering after Zoffany’s distressed lustred mirror-effect wallpaper for the bath-end wall of our bathroom, and work is about to start and I still haven’t got a decision made. Hubby is also unsure whether it will peel off in a ‘steamy’ atmosphere, but it is not going to be a heavily used bathroom with just two of us here and the occasional weekend guests.
    Perhaps the sealant will persuade him it can be practical as the real thing (antiqued tiles) would be beyond budget!
    My question to you Kate is: at the top end of the wall there is coving and some slight curve in the wall. Do you think this would ruin or detract from the trompe l’oeil effect because the ’tiles’ would not be square….?
    Hmm not sure.

    1. Hi Rhian
      I think if you have a well ventilated bathroom – with a window etc – then wallpaper should be fine as it won’t be that steamy. As for the curve in the wall I think only you can decide. Do you have a sample – can you stick on that area to see how it will look. There is an argument that distressed mirrors are a bit bent and don’t give a true reflection anyway so if any paper can work on a bent wall it might be something like that. Imagine a geometric pattern – that would really show. It is also likely that by the time you have the paper all over the walls and the other things in the room that one wonky corner won’t show. I guess the question is – will it look wonky because of the wall or will it look like it wasn’t put up properly? I suspect the former and if you love the paper then why not go for it? I am looking for a similar paper for my bedroom wardrobe – I was thinking of the Cole and Son Albemarle. I will check out yours.

    1. I think that it will be the plaster underneath that is made from horsehair, rather than the wallpaper. I have done a little research and the general opinion seems to be that you should try and remove the paper before you redecorate, although this is likely to mean that you will need a light skim before you repaint. I once removed nine layers of wallpaper that had been stuck on with horse glue. It was very hard work but it did look better at the end of it. The danger of painting over the top is that the paint won’t stick very well and might cause the paper to peel at the edges. I think it might be a case of if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly and all that. Hope that helps.

  2. Thanks so much for this! We’re looking at gutting our bathroom next year and I’d resigned myself to thinking I could never have wallpaper! Goodness, it’s like a whole world has opened up now that I know I can!! Eeek! So excited now 🙂 I love the tin wallpaper and tiles – looks amazing in your home x

    1. I was quite excited when I found out as well! Thanks for the comments about the house. It’s in the January 2013 issue of Living Etc too! Good luck with your bathroom, let me know which wallpaper you choose.

Comments are closed.