Your approach in this area can be similar to what you do in your kitchen: Go with clean looking quartz countertops, tile floors, cabinets, tile backsplashes and single-hole or triple-hole faucets.

Tip: If you have triple-hole faucets and will be replacing your countertop, consider single-hole faucets instead. They are more convenient and modern looking.

In addition, consider replacing your bathroom sink because it typically will not look so good if it is older.

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Tip: If you have children, it’s best to pick a sink with an overflow drain hole. While you lose a little in terms of looks, the gain in peace-of-mind is well worth it.

Some other components of a modern bathroom upgrade include vanity lights, additional lighting, towel bars, a towel hook for the door and a toilet paper holder. Mirror-wise, go for simplicity.


Turning to bathtubs, while the current trend is away from large, spa-type bathtubs, having at least one bathtub in your house is a good idea, particularly if you have children. Most bathtubs out there are fairly simple in design, so your existing tub should work fine.

Tiling your bathtub area with modern looking tiles can freshen up your bathroom. A retro, but still modern effect can be achieved with subway tile.

Glass shower enclosures

If you are replacing a stand-alone shower, a glass shower enclosure is a good choice. In fact, the availability of shower systems from Wedi® and Schluter® make this a great time to do so.

Increasingly popular in the United States, these systems have been used in Europe for some time. They consist of pre-formed shower pans made of foam (extruded polystyrene) that are perfectly sloped. The shower’s walls are composed of waterproof foam backer board panels. Tile goes over the foam and that’s it.

Tips: While they are fairly straightforward to install, make sure that your installer has experience installing your shower system.

Your tile installer will get much better prices on the components of these systems than you can, so let him or her buy them for you.

By way of comparison, traditional tiled showers use a complicated process involving a poured floor pan, a waterproof membrane and cement board panels that are at best water-resistant unless waterproofed. It’s the rare tile installer who has the skill and will take the time to do everything right.

Failure to properly pour the pan can cause water to pool on the shower floor. But, that could be the least of your worries if poor installation results in a leak. In that case the entire shower might have to be replaced and the drywall below repaired.

We explored other alternatives to traditional poured shower pans, but none really made sense for us. For example, those made of Corian look fine but get pricey if anything but standard sizes are involved. Enameled cast iron pans are attractive, but they are expensive, heavy, come in limited sizes and color choices and the actual floor space provided is restricted by wide outer frames.

Tile choices for your shower are almost endless. Eleganza Tiles, Daltile® and Happy Floors offer some appealing options. Again, for a modern look you don’t want anything too busy. In fact, the simpler the better.

Glass options include framed, semi-frameless, and frameless. Delta and Kohler cover all these options. The glass comes in limited sizes and you need to design your shower based on what is available. Custom glass allows you to build any size shower you want. Find custom glass companies that are local to you; they also sell custom mirrors.

Often a perfectly nice glass shower door is marred by overly ornate and/or large door pulls. A modern squared off or rounded pull will work nicely. Or use a clean looking shower door knob.

Much of the shower hardware you typically find is traditional and ornate. Kohler’s Purist® Rite-Temp line has modern options.