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Keep It Fresh: Design Decisions to Consider Before Undertaking a Bathroom Renovation

When moving into a new home, bathrooms are often one of the first things to get updated. They’re such high-traffic spaces that it’s important to make sure they function for your needs. (And, of course, it’s nice when they fit your design style as well!)

But bathroom renovations can be costly and involved—especially if you’re changing the layout or knocking out any walls. So, it’s important to know what you’re getting into before undertaking such a large project. And it’s worth thinking through what you actually need to change versus what would be nice to have. This can help you prioritize where to splurge and where to try and save on your bathroom renovation costs.

All of this leaves you with a lot of decisions to make! But there’s no need to worry—you don’t have to go through a major renovation alone! If you want some bathroom renovation ideas and help to design and plan your bathroom remodel, check out our Renovation Design packages. Our renovation design experts will create immersive, 3D design plans for your renovation project, customized to your style, budget, and lifestyle needs. Learn more about Modsy Renovation Design.

Your renovation design expert will tell you that, when exploring bathroom renovation ideas, there are a few big design decisions to consider:

  • Fixtures and Hardware
  • Walls
  • Flooring
  • Storage
  • Cost

Today we’re walking you through all of the design decisions to think through and plan before you start a bathroom demo. Read more about each of these bathroom renovation ideas below!

Bathroom Fixtures and Hardware

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In real estate, a fixture is anything that’s permanently attached to the house. In a bathroom, this generally refers to toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs, as well as lighting and mirrors. Bathroom hardware, like cabinet pulls and faucets also generally fall under this category.


You might be surprised to discover exactly how many styles of toilets are out there. Probably the biggest decision you’ll have to make when shopping for a new toilet is if you want a one or two-piece toilet. A two-piece toilet is the most popular option, where the tank and bowl are actually separate pieces. There are more style options available with two-piece toilets and they also tend to be more budget-friendly. One-piece toilets tend to have a smaller footprint, which is great for small bathrooms. They’re also more durable and easier to clean!

Tubs and Showers

Some bathrooms have combined tubs and showers, others have freestanding tubs and a shower stall, and still, others have only one or the other. Tub options run from economical molded kits and drop-in tubs to luxurious freestanding soaking tubs. Whatever style you choose, a tub is a must-have for households with young children. Showers can also run the gamut, ranging from simple shower inserts to custom tiled rain showers. Standalone shower stalls are the most practical choice for small bathrooms.

Vanities and Sinks

There are two general options for bathroom sinks—freestanding pedestal sinks or vanities with built-in sinks. Pedestal sinks don’t offer storage space, but they’re a good choice for powder rooms and small bathrooms. Vanity sinks are more practical; they tend to offer both drawer and cabinet storage, and you have the flexibility to have one or two sinks built into the vanity, depending on the space you have to work with.


In a bathroom, you’ll generally have a mirror above your sink. If you have a double vanity, you’ll want to choose either one large, rectangular mirror or individual mirrors above each sink. Some people also appreciate a full-length mirror in their bathroom, particularly if it’s part of a primary bedroom suite.


There are a couple of lighting areas to consider in a bathroom. You’ll generally want vanity lighting above your sink and mirror, which provides proper lighting for makeup application and other personal care needs. But it can be nice to have an overhead flush-mount light as well, plus additional recessed lighting in or around your tub or shower. This layered lighting also allows you to create the level of brightness you desire throughout the day.

Faucets, Showerheads, and Hardware

Faucets, showerheads, and bathroom hardware are a great way to drive home the design style of your bathroom. (Hardware can include anything from vanity draw pulls to towel racks and toilet paper holders.) With each of these pieces, you have your choice of a variety of finishes—from black or bronze to brass, nickel, or chrome. The shape of these pieces of hardware will also impact if your space feels more modern or traditional. Swapping out your hardware and faucet is a low-cost, high-impact way to update the look of your bathroom.

Bathroom Walls

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When it comes to your bathroom walls, you can keep it simple or make a statement. Aside from paint colors, there are a number of wall treatments you can put on your walls to achieve the particular style you’re going for. But different design choices will, of course, impact your budget, the time it takes to complete your bathroom renovation, and if it can be DIY or if you’ll need professional assistance.

Painted Walls

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Painted walls are the simplest and easiest ways to finish your bathroom walls. And, it’s a great way to easily add color or change the look of your bathroom if you want a quick refresh! It’s probably obvious, but paint is also the most affordable option for bathroom walls. We recommend using a satin sheen when painting bathroom walls.

Tile Walls

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Tile walls are durable and easy to clean—which is definitely a plus when it comes to bathrooms! And while installation may take a bit longer than simple drywall, it can also have a big visual impact. Tiling can be simple and affordable (think: white subway tiles) or luxurious and detailed, with intricate designs or hand-made tiles. There’s something to fit any and all price points!


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Millwork like beadboard, wainscotting, or board and batten can add a timeless, classic look to your bathroom. Woodwork like this—which is often just installed on the lower half of a bathroom wall—can also help protect the drywall. This wall add-on can be tackled as a DIY project, but depending on the design you choose, it can be more custom and involved. If that’s the case, bring in the professionals!


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Installing wallpaper in your bathroom is a great way to add a pop of color, pattern, and character to your bathroom! It’s great for an accent wall or peek-a-boo nook, like the photo above. However, since wallpaper can be sensitive to humidity, this type of wall treatment is best for low-moisture bathrooms—particularly half-baths where there isn’t a shower or a guest bathroom that isn’t used for showering as often. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is great for those who just want to dabble in the wallpaper trend. But if you’re going for traditional wallpaper, we recommend hiring a professional for proper installation.

Bathroom Floors

bathroom with tile flooring

The flooring you choose for your bathroom can have a big impact on the overall style of your bathroom. But the material you choose also determines how high or low-maintenance it is—and, of course, impacts your budget.

Tile Floors

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Tile is the most common bathroom floor choice—and for good reason. Tile can get wet without getting damaged and it’s easy to clean. Tile also comes in so many different materials, colors, styles, and patterns; it’s incredibly versatile for a range of styles and budgets. However, tile can be quite cold if you don’t have in-floor heating, and it’s slippery when wet. And, while tile has a long life, the grout needs to be replaced about every 10 years.

Wood Floors

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Wood floors are a great way to add visual warmth to your bathroom. And physically, wood floors are also warmer than the more common tile flooring. However, wood is more sensitive to moisture and humidity than tile—so only install wood flooring into a bathroom with good ventilation. Wood flooring is a better choice in a half-bath, where you don’t have a tub or shower that will potentially leak water onto the floor. Despite its sensitivity, wood flooring is beautiful and versatile, and when treated properly will have a long life. It can even be refinished to extend the life and refresh the look.

Vinyl Floors

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Vinyl is a durable and affordable material. Since it’s waterproof, it’s a great flooring material for high-traffic areas or bathrooms where spills are more likely to occur (we’re looking at you, kids and pets!). You can opt for vinyl tiling or vinyl planks that mimic the look of wood flooring. Vinyl flooring is also fairly easy and affordable to swap out if you want to refresh the look of your bathroom.

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Bathroom Storage

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There isn’t anyone who wants less bathroom storage. In fact, most bathroom renovations include adding storage! Having ample storage space in your bathroom means less clutter on your countertops. Plus, the proper amount of storage space can transform the usability of your space. Here are some storage areas to consider.

Bath and Shower Storage

One often-overlooked bathroom storage necessity is proper bath and shower storage. So many tubs and showers don’t have built-in niches or shelves where you can store shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Instead, you’re stuck hanging shower caddies on your showerheads or trying to get tension-rod shelves to stay put. When undertaking a bathroom renovation, it’s well worth it to think through bath and shower storage.


There are a couple of different places in the bathroom where it’s helpful to have closed cabinet storage. First off, it’s nice to have towels and toilet paper ticked away in your bathroom, rather than in a hall closet. When you need a fresh towel or a toilet paper refill, you don’t want to have to leave the bathroom to grab them. So, it’s ideal to have a linen closet or cabinet for stashing these essentials.

It’s also ideal to have ample storage space for personal care products like lotion, makeup, and medications. Some bathrooms have cabinets that hide behind the mirror above the sink, which offers easy-access storage. If you opt for a sink with vanity rather than a pedestal sink, you’ll also get some drawers and under-sink storage to keep more products close at hand. If you don’t have one or both of these storage options near your sink, you’ll want to think about other cabinetry or storage space you can add to your bathroom to give yourself enough space to store all of your products while keeping them easily accessible.

Freestanding Storage and Floating Shelves

If you need a little extra storage space but aren’t ready to undergo a bathroom remodel, consider adding some freestanding storage shelves or installing floating shelves for aesthetically pleasing personal care products or decor.

Bathroom Renovation Costs

Costs for a bathroom remodel can vary pretty drastically depending on if it’s a total gut remodel or just some hardware and paint updates. The square footage of your bathroom will also impact your budget. For example, a powder room (AKA a half-bath) will generally cost less than a full bathroom. And if you decide to change the layout, which often involves moving to plumb, the overall cost will jump significantly. While there are so many factors that impact cost, below you’ll find three general levels for a bathroom renovation.

The Starter Bathroom

Starter bathroom with blue and white tile pattern

If you just moved into your first home or are embarking on your first renovation project (especially if it’s DIY), this is probably the level of renovation you want to undertake. You want a bathroom that’s practical for your needs and reflective of your style—but it’s all about achieving this with the lowest-cost, highest-impact design choices.

The Budget: $3,000–$5,000

To keep the budget for this level of renovation reasonable, keep and reuse as many pieces of the original bathroom as possible—and definitely keep the original layout. Only swap out the fixtures that absolutely need to be updated; otherwise, opt for simple hardware updates that will make a big visual difference without a big price tag.

The Needs and Wants: 

  • Choose affordable, entry-point hardware and select fixture upgrades
  • Keep original layout, flooring, and large fixtures, but use wall treatments, decor, and hardware to update the look to your preferred style
  • Select durable materials that can handle wear-and-tear
  • Use paint and decor to drive home your unique style

The Family Investment

Family style bathroom with lots of closed storage

This level of renovation is generally embarked upon to meet the lifestyle needs of a homeowner. Sometimes that’s accommodating a growing family or guests and other times it’s reflective of storage needs or outdated fixtures. Often style preferences play a role in the direction of the final look of the space.

The Budget: $10,000–$30,000

With this renovation level, you’re investing enough that you want to make sure the materials and fixtures you choose are ones you love and can live with for a while. You want to make sure the materials you choose are durable and can withstand plenty of foot traffic over a long period of time.  It may not be 100% your dream bathroom, since practicality is definitely a factor—but it’s going to come pretty close, with the added benefit that it will better serve you or your family’s needs.

The Needs and Wants: 

  • Update wall treatments and flooring
  • Install new hardware and possibly fixtures
  • Add storage to meet your or your family’s needs
  • Prioritize a highly functional and durable design that’s adaptable for a growing family or changing needs

The Luxe Bathroom

Luxurious bathroom with wood paneling

This is the type of bathroom that dreams are made of. This is generally a bathroom renovation that you plan and save for quite a while, with the end result being a high-end, spa-like bathroom that’s tailored to your exact needs and wants.

The Budget: $30,000+

For a luxurious bathroom renovation, you’ll want to make sure you have a pretty robust budget so that you can make all the updates you desire.  For this renovation, go big and splurge on beautiful, high-quality materials and professional labor to make sure everything is installed to perfection.

The Needs and Wants: 

  • Reconfiguring the layout and potentially moving walls and/or fixtures
  • Update flooring and possibly install in-floor heating
  • Install custom tilework
  • Update hardware and fixtures throughout the space
  • Add storage space

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