When it comes to home value, everyone always talks about the importance of bathrooms being modern – and certainly few selling points are stronger than a “brand new, state-of-the-art bathroom!” as the listings love to blurt out.
Okay, but how exactly do you take a drab, dated bathroom and give it new life? How much do you need? What registers as updated and what doesn’t?
Here are some ideas for modernizing bathroom renovations. Some involve tech, others are cosmetic; some require you to use something green, others help the green movement. But anything will help update your bathroom to increase its functionality and buyer appeal.
Skip the tank
If you want a sleek, streamlined fixture, we have two words for you: tankless toilets. They receive their flushing water directly from a supply line built into the wall they are attached to. “Compared to the bulky design of a floor-mounted toilet, you can save more space in the bathroom with a tankless toilet,” says Joshua Blackburn, founder and director of design and construction for Evolving Home. “It also makes the room look less cluttered with its minimalist design” that makes it float in the room.
With prices starting at $1,000, tankless toilets are no small investment. Still, they can save you money in the long run as they reduce water consumption compared to the traditional tank type.
Put some plants in
Plants have a calming effect — so much so that nearly a third of homeowners renovating bathrooms are implementing some foliage as part of their project, according to Houzz’s “2021 US Bathroom Trends Study.” They can also improve air quality and act as natural air fresheners. Overall, “You’ll be amazed to observe the remarkable change after adding some greenery to your bathroom,” says Realtor Ron Wysocarski, CEO of Wyse Home Team Realty.
What kind of plant? Think of those that thrive in moist environments, like bird nest ferns. And aloe vera can pull double duty: You can squeeze its leaves to harvest its gel, which soothes and heals dry or damaged skin.
Upgrade to luxury fixtures
More than three-quarters of homeowners surveyed by Houzz indicated that their bathroom remodel involved adding premium fixtures. The highest on the list included bathtubs ($600-$3,500) and rain showers ($35-$210). Shower sprays are also popular as they are smaller and side-mounted, increasing the functionality of your shower.
In fact, walk-in showers are generally au courant. Nothing says “grandma’s bathroom” like a bathtub with a shower curtain around it. So if space allows, try installing a separate one or enlarge the one you have.
“Also consider replacing dated, bulky vanities with sleek pedestal sinks,” adds Dave Mason, an interior designer and owner of The Knobs Company. Pedestal sinks, freestanding units that extend up from your floor and end in a basin, sell from $325 to $730. Another option: a wall-mounted sink with cabinets underneath that, like the tankless toilet, appears to float in space.
Even changing accents can make a modernizing change. “An easy way to update your bathroom is by installing new hardware such as a towel rail, towel rail, robe hook and toilet paper holder,” says Jordan Fuller, a house flipper. “Switch from outdated hardware to [more innovative] brushed nickel or oil-rub bronze finish will modernize your bathroom quickly and easily.
Shower with a view
A bathroom can never seem spacious enough, and one way to achieve this – if the interior design allows – is by adding a window or skylight, preferably to the aforementioned stand-alone shower area. It achieves several advantages:
- You have a moisture drain after a shower
- It lets in natural light
- You don’t need to turn on bathroom lights as much, which reduces the energy bill
Average prices for installing a bathroom-sized sash window (about 26 to 84 inches wide and 24 to 60 inches high) run between $300 to $700, according to HomeLight, the realtor search site.
Add a splash of color
Where is it written that bathrooms must be white? “Painting your bathroom is one of the best ways to make it look modern and increase its value,” says Aaron Lebowski, a certified interior designer at Julieli Salone.
Of course, “you don’t want to do anything crazy, but instead stick to cool, soothing natural colors.”
“If you don’t feel like changing the color of your walls, you can always paint your cabinet” as a compromise, he adds. A two-tone effect can be quite clever. The point is, don’t be afraid to add a little color to your bathroom life.
Focus on the floor
High-quality flooring – in addition to your basic tiles – brings a bathroom up-to-date for both aesthetic and safety reasons. “Waterproofing the floor has become one of the most requested features in a modern bathroom,” notes Wysocarski. “It improves property value and reduces the risk of damage due to the smooth” surface.
Whether tiled or in the form of tumbled stone, natural materials ($100 to $300 per square foot), such as granite, porcelain or travertine (a type of limestone), transform the space from mundane to contemporary. Create continuity by extending the flooring around the tub or in the shower.
Go high tech
Technical innovations in the bathroom can improve comfort, improve functionality and increase your home’s energy efficiency. “Consider installing a smart shower system or a programmable thermostat to help you save money on your energy bills,” suggests Mason. Smart shower systems allow you to set water temperature, flow rate, even shower duration. Granted, it’s an expensive endeavor, with systems ranging from $1,160 to $2,200 — though you can make money on heating and water costs.
Digital faucets (retailing between $150 and $600) turn themselves on and off with hand gestures. Heated flooring (costing $8-$15 per square foot to install) is another luxury that can save money in the long run, since its high efficiency means you can actually turn down the thermostat.
Install vertical shelves and adjustable lights
Vertical shelves instead of cabinet drawers or cupboards add a modern touch. With vertical shelves, you can quickly grab towels, hair dryers and toiletries. Most importantly, it keeps your counters clutter-free.
Similarly, adding recessed lighting ($100 to $480 per fixture) in place of old-fashioned sconces gives a cleaner, more streamlined look; if placed correctly, it will provide you with ample lighting while you shave or apply makeup.
Also consider adding a dimmer switch ($10 to $25) to the bathroom light. People always love this theatrical feature, and while the technology is nothing new, being able to adjust the mood of the room never gets old.
Final word on modernizing a bathroom
Depending on what you are doing, the cost of a bathroom remodel typically ranges from $6,000 to $16,000. But such renovations also offer some of the highest returns on investment in the home improvement universe — covering at least two-thirds of their costs. The National Association of Realtors/NARI “2022 Remodeling Impact Report” puts it even higher, saying you can expect to receive about 71% of the value of a bathroom reno project back.
Of course, if you’re renovating with your home’s resale value in mind, you don’t want to go too trendy with the updates so that the bathroom doesn’t look like a time warp when you’re ready to sell. There are also financial reasons not to go too wild: Often, the more extensive a restructuring, the less it gets in return. According to Remodeling’s “2021 Cost vs Value Report,” a mid-range bathroom remodel (costing around $24,000) gives you a 60.1% return on investment, while a high-end project (around $75,000) only achieves a 54.8% ROI.
In other words, relatively small things can refresh the space and modernize the bathroom in a way that you can enjoy now and buyers can appreciate later.
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