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Bathrooms are equal parts sanctuary and utility. They're simultaneously a room where you can light a candle and send the day's thoughts away, and a practical space for getting ready, grooming, and bathing the kids. Aesthetically speaking, bathrooms should feel welcoming, serene, and functional. When a décor choice works against any of the above, it's a recipe for a space that doesn't feel quite right.
While everyone has their own sense of style—including color palettes that speak to them or unique features that enhance their own bathroom experience—certain design fixtures and motifs have overstayed their welcome. We asked interior design pros to help us pinpoint the outdated bathroom trends that are best to retire—and what you should do instead to create a space you'll feel excited to walk into time and again.
The all-white bathroom trend was predicated on the idea that bright white equals squeaky clean. With a creamy backdrop (and wall color and tile shade), you'd be able to see dirty spots more easily, so they could be tended to swiftly. The downside of all that white? It requires vigilant, expert-level upkeep—or else it really does look dirty.
Tanya Smith-Shiflett, an interior designer and the founder of Unique Kitchens & Baths, adds that it can also "come off as harsh, cold, or fragile," which isn't exactly welcoming. "We love designing with colors and textures to help bring new life to a bathroom," she says. "White is still a color that you can incorporate, but bringing in another color choice really elevates the space."
If you like that neutral, clean look, try weaving in earth tones and textures, which can provide a feeling of comfort. Think stone-colored linens, marble trays, a rich earthy accent wall, or textured wallpaper.
Oversized tubs make a bold statement in the bathroom, but they often take up critical real estate. "For most people, the idea of the oversized tub is more appealing than the reality of taking the time to use and clean it," says Smith-Shiflett. It's also an unsustainable and expensive option in terms of water consumption.
If you want to make your bathtub the focal point, "try a traditional size tub with a pop of color—perhaps matte black or white with unique hardware," says Heather Caine, a former HGTV designer and the co-founder of KW Style to Design. "[Alternatively], try a strong botanical wallpaper behind the tub."
Interior designer Mary Patton recommends swapping out any bathroom vanities and cabinets with overly ornate millwork. "Unless you have a historical home, ornate millwork in the bathroom can read as '90s Tuscan," she says. If that's not what you want, then it's best to swap in something more streamlined. "I recommend a shaker style or flat front vanity—or completely hidden cabinetry."
Curbless showers—or walk-in showers without a lip separating the floor tile from the bathing space—are a relatively new bathroom trend that began with good intentions; it does look sleek when incorporated into the right area. So, what's the catch? "Yes, it offers advantages, such as easier access, but people tend to forget that having a linear drain presents other problems," says Janette Mallory, a Los Angeles-based interior designer. "I've had so many calls from clients saying that the drains clog easily and overflows into the bathroom, which can lead to accidents."
If you love the look of a curbless shower, consider opting for one that's quasi-curbless—or at least prioritize excellent drainage.
Ceilings With Wooden Beams
Wooden beams and ceilings add cozy, earthy warmth, but they're not the most practical choice for a bathroom. Wood loves to absorb moisture, which causes it to swell and could become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. You can seal and treat wooden ceilings, but keep in mind that this requires upkeep over the years. You'll also need top-notch ventilation.
"If you feel you need a wooden element in your bathroom, try a teak bench in the shower," Caine says. "It offers a home spa feel, and provides space for your shower essentials such as a loofah, soap, and brushes. Teak wood is also waterproof and mold resistant and offers a long lifespan of 10-plus years."
Large, Rectangular Wall Tiles
Large, rectangular wall tiling has remained the default go-to for decades. While it might have once felt "trendy"—particularly in the '90s and early aughts—it now tends to read as boring and "model-home." Instead of going with the expected shapes, turn to tiles with a sense of personality.
"We love using handcrafted, zellige-style tiles—or tiles that offer variety in shapes, prints, and textures," says Smith-Shiflett. "You can even try installing these types of tiles in different patterns, which adds a hint of character and creates a sense of uniqueness in a space."