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15 Ways to Modernize Your Old Fashioned Bathroom

Does your bathroom remind you of time spent at your grandmother’s house when you were a kid? If the answer is a resounding yes, then it’s in dire need of a few modern updates. This article provides you with trendy ideas to transform your antiquated bathroom into a modern-day space. You can select the makeover ideas below that appeal to your remodeling budget, available time, and design vision to achieve an updated bathroom space where you might want to linger longer.

1) Pick a theme.

Prior to grabbing a paintbrush, purchasing new fixtures, or buying accessory items, you need to look at the rooms in your current home to identify the design style and color palette. For example, if a farmhouse theme is predominant throughout your home, carry it into the bathroom. Perhaps your home’s interior design style is rustic lodge, trendy contemporary, or classic traditional. Whatever the case, extend your current design style into the bathroom to provide a cohesive look all through your home.

contemporary bathroom example

2) Refresh the walls.

You can get the biggest design bang for your buck by refreshing the bathroom walls with a new coat of anti-condensation paint. Not only will a new paint color make your bathroom feel and look fresh but choosing an anti-condensation paint will help to reduce moisture on the walls, which will aid in preventing mold. Choose a paint hue for your bathroom to complement the wall colors throughout your home. Substitute an outdated tile backsplash with a white subway tile replacement for a fresh appearance to complement any decor.

3) Inspect the vanity.

Examine your existing bathroom vanity. Is it in good structural shape except for the dated color and hardware? If it is, you can save yourself a lot of money by simply painting or staining your current vanity a modern shade and exchanging unfashionable hardware for trendy replacements. Neutral paint tones in gray, white, brown, or black provide good choices to complement almost any design palette. Swap out an unstable or damaged vanity in favor of a chic replacement. Design and refurbish a custom, free-standing vanity from an unused dresser or sideboard for a one-of-a-kind piece.

4) Update old countertops.

White laminate or tile countertops were in vogue years ago, but not so much today. Substitute obsolete bathroom countertops with a suitable upscale replacement, such as granite, marble, or quartz. Or, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly alternative, check out the modern, new laminate countertops that are available in a wide range of colors and patterns to mimic natural wood, granite, marble, soapstone, and just about any other material you’re looking for.

5) Assess the sinks.

Whether you keep the current sinks in your bathroom is entirely up to you. Examine the condition, style, and overall appearance before you decide to preserve them or toss them out. Install a vessel sink on top of your vanity counter to create a modern look with upscale appeal. These are available in a variety of colors, patterns, sizes, materials, and shapes to incorporate a distinctive wow factor into your bathroom. Should you decide to keep your current sinks, the hardware — faucets, handles — are probably screaming old-fashioned, so exchange them for up-to-date substitutes. Choose polished chrome for a modern touch, oil-rubbed bronze for a traditional flair, or brushed nickel for transitional appeal.

More Information

Read our Vessel Sink Buying Guide for more information about what it takes to install a vessel sink and the variety of styles you can choose from.

6) Examine the shower and toilet.

A shower can be an eyesore or a focal point in your bathroom. You determine which category your existing shower fits. More than likely, it will fit into the eyesore group and needs a total overhaul, which means ripping out the old structure and inserting a new shower stall. Inexpensive one-piece shower replacement kits can add new life to an aging bathroom. At the very least, your shower probably needs a thorough scrubbing to get rid of old grime and water stains.

Instead of a one-piece shower replacement, you can opt for a custom design created with gorgeous, hand-laid tiles. Create a relaxing but invigorating experience in any type of shower by switching out your current shower head for a sensational rain shower head. As for the toilet, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to simply replace the existing one with an updated version. A standard new toilet isn’t a pricey update.

7) Evaluate the tub.

If you have an old-school hot tub with mildew-clad water jets, you might want to just get rid of it. Replace it with a striking free-standing bathtub that is both functional and gorgeous. White tubs are traditionally classic and harmonize with almost any design style. Be forewarned that this project is not a cheap update and may require some space remodeling, so do your research and budget for it accordingly. If your existing bathtub is part of a one-piece bathtub and shower combo, consider replacing the entire unit. This update won’t break the bank but will provide a refreshing, modernized spot to bathe and shower.

8) Pay attention to the flooring.

Outdated vinyl or asphalt tile flooring can draw your focus toward the unattractive floors instead of your renovations. If your flooring was manufactured before 1980, it might contain asbestos. The Bergman, Draper, Oslund website contains this statement.  “Many types of vinyl flooring manufactured before 1980 contained asbestos. After 1980, asbestos use in this type of flooring was phased out. If paper-backed vinyl flooring in your home was manufactured prior to 1980, for safety’s sake, assume that it contains asbestos.” Contact a professional if you think your flooring contains asbestos before proceeding with floor renovations.

9) Hang new window coverings.

Liberate your bathroom windows of cheap aluminum blinds, faded curtains, or valances that went out of style years ago. Install fashionable faux wood white blinds with 2-inch slats to accompany any decorating style. These blinds allow you to create the amount of privacy you prefer by adjusting the wand. Layer semi-transparent sheer curtains over the blinds for a softer appearance. Fabric Roman shades, natural woven blinds, or energy-efficient cellular shades offer alternative window covering choices for your bathroom. Pick out a patterned fabric shade for added color and visual interest or a woven blind made from natural grasses or wood to instill an outdoor aura. 

10) Redo the light fixtures.

If you have a lovely chandelier or pendant light hanging in your bathroom, but its age is showing with a ghastly gold-toned color, simply take it down and paint it. Choose a metallic paint, such as silver or bronze, or opt for a midnight black patina. Spray the fixture with a snowy white paint for an airy, fresh appeal. Don’t forget to also paint the chain or you can purchase a new one to match your light fixture. Switch out a dated light strip over the vanity with a tasteful replacement and exchange ancient ceiling light coverings with good-looking substitutes.

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11) Incorporate some furniture.

Add a couple of functional furniture pieces to your bathroom for a more purposeful, charming space. For example, a comfy armchair provides a cozy place to sit and relax for a few minutes after a warm shower. Include a fabric storage bench as a convenient spot to remove shoes, socks, and jewelry. Integrate a free-standing makeup vanity and chair to sit comfortably while applying your makeup, nail polish, or body lotion. Add a small chest for storing clean towels, washcloths, and paper products. If your bathroom is on the smaller side, place an over-the-stool shelving unit to provide a spot for storing items, such as folded towels, without occupying your limited floor space.

Check Out Our Shower Bench Guide

Shower benches can add extra storage and seating whether or not you have a large walk-in shower or are just looking to add a natural look to your bathroom. There are a variety of shapes and sizes you can see in our Shower Bench Buying Guide.

AquaTeak Corner Shower Bench
AquaTeak Corner Shower Bench

12) Install new mirrors.

If your current bathroom mirror is in great shape but lacking the modern ambiance you desire, refurbish it instead of replacing it. Add modern sophistication to a plain beveled mirror by installing a frame around the outer edges. You can custom create the frame yourself or purchase a frame kit in acrylic, metal, plastic, or wood. Or, you might want to break up a long double-sink vanity complemented by a single over-sized wall mirror with two separate eye-catching wall mirrors.

13) Provide a soft landing.

Because most bathroom floors are composed of wood, tile or linoleum, the hard, cold surfaces aren’t very friendly to your bare feet. You can update an outdated bathroom floor by covering it with posh throw rugs that your feet will love. Choose scatter rugs with a slip-resistant backing for safety and a plush pile for coziness. Light rug colors, such as white, ivory, or a pastel tone, keeps your bathroom feeling light and airy. Lay a memory foam bathmat with a non-skid backing to step onto when you’re coming out of the shower or bathtub.

14) Add a bit of luxury.

Don’t forget to add a few luxurious items to your newly renovated bathroom. For example, you might enjoy soaking in your bathtub a bit longer if you install a flat-screen television on a nearby wall. A heated towel rack can offer toasty warm towels on cold winter days. Listen to your favorite music while showering with a water-resistant shower speaker with blue-tooth capability. Lush Egyptian towels, scented hand soaps, aromatic bath salts, and sweet-smelling lotions enhance your bathroom updates.

15) Decorate with style.

Accessorize your bathroom makeover with framed art prints or canvas paintings for the walls. Abstract art adds a modern touch, colorful flowers inject a happy vibe, and country landscapes provide serenity. Inject a touch of whimsy with witty sayings on small signs. Bring the outdoors inside with a few green plants, such as a fern, English ivy, and philodendron. Place a couple of framed family photos on a bathroom shelf to create a homey atmosphere. Select theme-inspired containers, such as waste cans, liquid soap holders, lotion bottles, and bar soap trays.

You don’t have to knock out walls and spend a small fortune to modernize your old-fashioned bathroom. Choose from the updating tips discussed in this article to assess which ones are feasible for you to implement. If you are planning some of the major renovations, proceed with those first. Adding luxurious items and accessorizing should come last on your list of modern updates.  

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