Projects & Improvements

7 Timeless Bathroom Upgrades You Won’t Regret in Five Years, According to Pros

updated Aug 6, 2020
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The bathroom is a hotspot when it comes to doing home renovations and remodels. And there are so many ways to level up your bath design, from heated floors to eye-catching tile, that it can be tough to decide on which ones to take on. Especially important to keep in mind? Whether your upgrade investments will stand the test of time. To help you make that call, top interior designers across the country share their tips on the wisest ways to invest when it comes to renovating your bathroom.

Go frameless for the shower

A clunky feature of older shower enclosures is the metal strip that runs around the edges. If you’re updating your shower, leave off the metal frame, says interior designer Laura Hodges of Laura Hodges Studio. “It helps show off the shower tile and make it feel more clean and streamlined,” says Hodges, whose residential, commercial, and hospitality design practice is based in Catonsville, Maryland. 

Install an LED mirror

Here’s a neat way to make sure you can always see things clearly: vanity mirrors with LED lights built into the frame. “It’s a great clean look for a more modern bath, and it has a feel of sophisticated luxury like you would find in an upscale hotel,” says Jennifer Stoner of Jennifer Stoner Interiors of Richmond, Virginia. Since LED lights have expected lifespans lasting multiple decades, you’ll be able to move “replace bulbs” off your list for the long haul.

Do a riff on classic subway tile

Subway tile is a timeless and traditional choice for the bath. But you can make it more interesting by changing up the color or the way you install the rectangular bars. “Take a humble material and think about the different ways you can use it,” says Lynn Kloythanomsup, of Landed Interiors & Homes based in San Francisco. She’s done projects with subway tile in ceramic with smooth and irregular glazes and marble. And instead of being laid in the horizontal brick pattern, try them stacked or turned on their side vertically. 

Credit: Helen Norman

Add a freestanding tub

They’re the original style tub since the invention of bathing, Hodges points out. Whether you go with a vintage style claw foot tub, a hammered copper French bath or a sleek Japanese number, you can’t go wrong. “They are just statements,” says Hodges. Plus, the cast iron keeps your bath water hot longer. 

Choose a warmer white

There’s a reason white is a popular color choice for the bath. It immediately sets a serene and clean tone, even if the bathroom could use some tidying up. Pure white can be rather harsh, so Kloythanomsup suggests a creamy white instead. “Off white is more interesting than bright white,” she says. “It’s not as stark, it feels more forgiving.” 

Put your tub inside your shower

Add a spa-like element to your bathroom by placing the tub inside an extra-large shower enclosure. This effect is called a wet room, says Stoner, and it’s becoming more popular. “Imagine how nice it is to step out of the tub directly into a nice warm shower where you can rinse off before stepping out,” Stoner says. 

Upgrade your shower tile enclosure

Little changes to your shower tile can be life-changing, says Hodges—think: adding a little 3 x 3 outcropping or a tiny niche at ankle height so you have a place to rest your foot while shaving in the shower. And while you’re at it, make the niche to hold your soap and shampoo larger than you think you’ll need, she says. They recently did one that ran the entire length of the tub. For another project, they created a vertical niche with a glass shelf. She likes using the same tile inside the box so it looks streamlined and high-end.