Create the Look: Mastering the Elements of Modern Bathroom Style

Modern interior design is characterized by crisp clean lines, minimalist furniture and ultra-modern appliances. Thanks to its fresh, uncluttered look and universal appeal, more customers in the bathroom market are leaning towards modern furnishings.

Since modern interior design often overlaps with contemporary and minimalist styles, it’s important to know its key characteristics. Here’s an overview of design and styling tips that will help you learn the essentials of modern bathroom style.

Understanding Modern Style

In the bathroom, modern design tends to follow a strict set of rules that apply neutral colors and bold geometry.

Additionally, well-lit, airy floorplans are almost always the goal of modern interiors, according to Madeline Martin at Hotondo Homes. She adds that modern spaces tend to feature large tiles, polished concrete and organic materials like wood and stone. These elements help a bathroom feel open and enhance the sense of space.

And since modern elements make a space feel larger, designer Gail Drury of Drury Designs says that it’s a great option for clients with small bathrooms. If your customers are seeking out a remodel specifically because they want to make a bathroom feel bigger, modern design is a viable suggestion.

Modern vs. Contemporary

Since modern design is often confused with contemporary design, it’s important to understand the difference between these key styles. At its core, modern style is derived from mid-century modern interiors that emerged in the early 20th century. South Florida-based design studio Interiors By Steven writes that for this reason, modern design never really changes. It always pays homage to a specific period in time, making it easier to determine which elements do and don’t fit.

In contrast, contemporary style tends to lean more towards eclectic colors and mismatched elements. In particular, design blog Relish Interiors notes that contemporary design melds pieces and styles from different eras. In other words, contemporary design is a combination of other popular looks.

It’s important to note that modern interior design never makes a space feel stark or cold, writes Sarah Beaumont at Laurel & Wolf. Modern design usually incorporates warmer natural elements and neutral colors. This differs from contemporary design, which is marked primarily by its starkness. Bold black and white combinations, along with monochromatic color schemes, almost always show up in contemporary design. That being said, a contemporary design style can be transitioned to modern style with the incorporation of warm, natural decor.

Modern Materials: Marble

Achieving modern style is all about using the proper materials.

Marble is a key element of modern interior design because it always gives bathrooms a fresh, sleek and luxurious look. It also has the added effect of making a space feel lighter and brighter. Sefa Stone, a company that manufactures travertine, marble and limestone, explains that since marble has such a smooth and shiny texture, it reflects more light and elongates the apparent width of the walls. For bathrooms that have limited natural light, marble is the best material for adding inherent brightness.

When considering marble in a remodel, it’s best to choose which variety of marble your client would like to work with. This can inform the fixtures and colors used throughout the bathroom and help maintain a modern style. Jess Ormsby, founder of La Abode luxe home decor hampers, says she’s particularly drawn to terracotta and blush-toned marble tiles in modern bathrooms. She thinks that warm marble tiles are a great choice because they compliment brass and copper tapware, which are universally popular across all bathroom styles today.

Alternatively, marbles streaked with charcoal and indigo can add a dream-like feel to the bathroom. This is seen in a modern bathroom design created by British designer Ilse Crawford of Studio Ilse. Crawford outfitted the entire bathroom with a dynamic variety of marble that features blue, green and warm beige hues. Copper fixtures pop against this extreme, all-over look, which feels equal parts earthy and sophisticated.

Modern Materials: Stone

Stone has a similar design aesthetic to that achieved by marble.

As seen in a bathroom designed by interior stylist Darryl Carter, stone can be incorporated into a modern bathroom floor to make a space feel more dynamic. In this case, multi-colored stone tiles are arranged in a herringbone design that adds more character to the rest of the all-white space.

To make sure that white elements like stone don’t come across as too stark, incorporate warm and inviting elements which keep the space feeling more approachable. Interior designer Rosa Beltran says that in current design projects, she leans towards a softer modern design style called organic modern. This approach involves mixing natural wood tones with white elements like stone and quartz. Beltran suggests adding touches of charcoal and light black to help tie the wood tones in with white marble.

Modern Materials: Wood

Wood is another important element of modern style that’s taken from mid-century design.

Portland-based interior design studio Bright DesignLab adds a new spin on classic modern style by including white-oak custom cabinets in a modern bathroom. The cabinets are lined with brass edges and adorned with brass handles, a metal that appears in seamless unity across the bathroom. If a client is interested in adding color to a modern bathroom, this example also shows how wood compliments a gem-toned accent color like emerald green.

Balancing Modern Style

Many people associate modern interior design with minimalist materials and sterile lines. And while many modern bathroom do use this approach, it’s not the only way to achieve modern design. In fact, many of today’s modern bathrooms continue to use deep wood elements to make a space feel sleek, yet warm and inviting.

This is demonstrated by Home Stratosphere, which features a beige tile bathroom with natural wood cabinets and a wood-framed mirror. These wood elements keep the space feeling comforting and approachable, while square sinks and a plate glass shower amp up the modern feel. 

Another tip for blending modern styles with other design theories comes from Donna Mondi of Donna Mondi interior design. For example, Mondi says that if you want to incorporate a clawfoot tub into a modern bathroom, it should be balanced with a minimalist sink. She also says that mixing metals is one of her favorite ways to blend multiple design styles.

Modern bathroom styles can also work well in older homes, as long as the right elements are included. This is demonstrated by Jenni Zellner and Rebecca Bates at Architectural Digest. They showcase a modern bathroom in a late 19th century home. The goal of this simple bathroom update was to maintain the integrity of the house while infusing a more modern touch. This achieves an “ultramodern and livable” vibe by balancing the intensity of marble flooring with the softness of green-hued walls and lots of natural light by way of large windows and mirrored surfaces.

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