What Is a Powder Room?

Powder room sink with running faucet, flower vase and bathroom accessories

LOOK Photography/Getty Images

A powder room is smaller than a bathroom and typically contains a single vanity and a toilet. While it is only a small room that's usually located on the main level, it can add great value to your home, even more so if the number of full bathrooms is limited. A powder room is essentially the same thing as a half bath, although there are rare instances where a powder room only contains a sink and no toilet. These small rooms date back to the 1700s and originally only appeared in wealthy estates. Their main purpose was to provide a place to powder one's wig and nose, hence the name powder room. It wasn't until the second half of the 20th century that it became a more common feature in regular homes, with a slightly different purpose, of course!

What Is a Powder Room?

A powder room, typically located on the main level of a house, is smaller in square footage than a full bathroom and contains a sink and a toilet. Sometimes referred to as a half bath or a guest bath, it provides a place for guests to use a bathroom without having to go to the private living spaces of a home.

Benefits of a Powder Room

One of the main benefits of a powder room is that it greatly adds to the resale value of your home. If you've scrolled through real estate listings, they will always list the number of full and partial bathrooms, and potential buyers love to see both included. The fact that a powder room is usually located on the main level of a home and is separate from the main bedroom makes it extra practical when guests are visiting your home. It keeps your full bathroom private and provides an extra bathroom that guests can easily access.

powder room ideas

Leclair Decor

A powder room is also a great space to make a bold design statement. Because it tends to have smaller square footage than a full bathroom and there isn't as much of a moisture concern, it's a great place to experiment with wallpaper. The smaller wall space will cut down on wallpaper cost (especially if you use wainscoting on part of the wall) and allow you to use a fun wallpaper in a smaller dose. The same goes for a bold or dark wall color. It's a common misconception that a dark paint color will make a room look small; it can actually make a great statement and bold visual impact and allow you to experiment with color and pattern. It's also a great place to go bold with trim; painting baseboards and crown molding a dark color or pulling a fun shade from a wallpaper you used on the walls is a great design trick to add an extra layer and visual interest to a space. Go dramatic with a funky light and cool mirror or incorporate a unique vanity — a powder room is the perfect room to stretch your design muscles.

Practical Concerns

A powder room is usually a high traffic area, so make sure to stock it well with plenty of highly absorbent hand towels and extra toilet paper. If your powder room only has a pedestal sink or a small single vanity that has minimal shelf space, get creative with storage. Use floating shelves above the toilet and place folded towels, candles and bathroom accessories on them. Get a nice basket and use it to store extra rolls of toilet paper. If there is a vanity with closed storage, use the hidden storage to store items such as cleaning supplies that you don't want to be visible and use any existing open shelving (or add open shelving) for more visually appealing items.

Powder Room vs. Bathroom

While they both have some similar features such as a sink and a toilet, there are significant differences between these two rooms.

Powder Room
  • Includes a sink and a toilet

  • Has a single vanity

  • Smaller square footage

  • Not always a standard house feature

  • Usually located on the main level

Bathroom
  • Includes a sink, toilet and shower and/or tub

  • Has a single, double or multiple vanities

  • Larger square footage

  • Standard house feature

  • Located on any level of a house