As a second-generation contractor, Matt Papa has seen bathroom trends come and go. “From the ’90s to the early 2000s to where they are today—the trends are night and day,” says Papa, owner of Premier Home Remodeling Group in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.
Credit social media, a primary source of entertainment during the early days of the pandemic, says Diana Viera, managing partner of Miami-based ITALKRAFT, which offers custom kitchens, baths, and closets.
Homeowners on Pinterest and Instagram took a hard look at their powder rooms and bathrooms. “Easy-to-maintain and tranquil spaces are the call of the day,” says Chris Barrett, a Los Angeles designer. “Bathroom renovations are in high demand.”
A clients’ needs and space restrictions often dictate a renovation, notes Papa, who has customers in the affluent suburbs, downtown Philadelphia, and along the shore. That said, certain elements are more fashion-forward than others.
Enter the bathroom, and your eye often falls on the vanity. Today’s wall-mounted vanities offer a clean, open look, Papa says. Plus, you can clean underneath them. Vanities with an open shelf for towels are also popular, he adds.
Viera, however, has noticed more vanities that touch the floor and resemble furniture, not kitchen-style cabinets. These vanities are contemporary-looking—light, not heavy.
Any vanity should offer storage. “If we do a custom vanity, we offer both doors and drawers,” says celebrity designer Jonathan Rachman in San Francisco. “When space and design permit, we suggest upper cabinet towers. The key is practicality without ignoring aesthetics.”
Stay away from over-counter mounted sinks or vessel sinks, he says. Not only are they hard to clean, but they’ll look dated in a few years.
Move over granite. Quartz is now the leading solid-surface countertop material, says Gregg Cantor, president of Murray Lampert, Design, Build Remodel in San Diego. “It’s factory-sealed, unlike granite or marble, so there is no maintenance required.”
Besides requiring less upkeep, quartz still delivers the “back-to-nature” look that homeowners still love, Viera says.
Avoid quartz that resembles marble or natural stone, says Rachman, who’s keen on the real deal. “They look fake. Don’t try to make it something it’s not.”
For a luxurious look, pair natural wood vanities and shelves with warm metals, such as brass or the new “Champagne gold,” Viera says.
The latest fixtures are black metal, which appears on cabinet hardware and in showers, Barrett says.
Don’t be afraid to combine colors.
Homeowners who appreciate smaller tiles (1-inch-by-1-inch or 2-inch-by-2-inch) are leaning toward shapes, such as triangles and hexagons. Many offer an old-fashioned look. “Vintage is coming back,” Papa maintains.
Take, for instance, the popularity of round penny tiles and picket tiles, which have an elongated diamond shape. There are even micro-penny tiles, Barrett notes. Use them as accents in a nook or shower floor.
On the spectrum’s opposite end, Papa worked on one floor with 15-inch-by-56-inch tiles.
Brian Strauss of Red Star Decorating in Newark, Delaware, used 12-inch-by-24-inch tiles for his shower. “Each one probably weighs 13 pounds,” he says. He used 2-inch-by-2-inch mosaic tiles on the shower floor.
Hard-to-clean corner soaking tubs and slipper tubs with claw feet had their time in the spotlight. Now freestanding tubs with flat bottoms are the star.
Those with plenty of room can place a bathtub inside a spacious shower to create a wet room, Rachman says.
Walk-in showers, meanwhile, fell out of favor when they leaked. New sloping shower pans and waterproof membranes, however, have led to a resurgence, according to Strauss.
When it comes to keeping water where it belongs, seamless shower doors are on point. “It’s clean looking and easy to clean,” Papa says.
Heated floors once required radiant heat. No longer. Now easier-to-install electric units warm the tile, and touchscreens bring the floor to just the right temperature.
Other bells and whistles include steam showers with aromatherapy, heated towel bars, backlit mirrors and automatic faucets. Strauss installed a smart shower panel that immediately delivers 104-degree heated water.
Then there is the “smart” toilet, which Rachman describes as a luxury. Models offer heated seats, varying water pressure, night light, and other functions. Choose a brand with a proven track record, he says.
No matter what you add, don’t sacrifice your style or health for gizmos. “Know your space and what you have to work with,” the designer concludes. “Pay attention to clearance, codes, and safety — they’re there for a good reason!”