When it comes to home value, everyone always talks about the importance of modern bathrooms – and certainly few selling points beat a “brand new, state of the art bathroom!” as the listings are fond of exclaiming.
Okay, but how exactly do you take a drab, outdated bathroom and give it a second life? How much do you have to spend? What is registered as refreshed and what is not?
Here are some bathroom remodeling ideas. Some involve technology, others are cosmetic in nature; Some require you to spend some green, others help the green movement. But all will help update your bathroom to increase its functionality and its appeal to buyers.
Skip the tank
If you want a sleek, streamlined setup, we have two words for you: tankless toilets. They get their flushing water directly from a supply line built into the wall to which they are attached. “Compared to the bulky design of a floor-mounted toilet, a tankless toilet allows you to save more bathroom space,” says Joshua Blackburn, founder and director of design and construction at Evolving Home. “It also makes the room feel less cluttered with its minimalist design,” which makes it appear to float in space.
With prices starting at $1,000, tankless toilets are no small investment. In the long run, however, they can save you money as they reduce water consumption compared to traditional tanks.
Put in some plants
Plants have a calming effect — so much so that, according to Houzz’s 2021 US Bathroom Trends Study, nearly a third of homeowners who remodel bathrooms include some foliage as part of their project. They can also improve air quality by acting as natural air fresheners. Overall “You’ll be amazed when you see the remarkable change after adding some greenery to your bathroom,” says real estate agent Ron Wysocarski, CEO of Wyse Home Team Realty.
What kind of plant? Think of those that thrive in moist environments, like bird’s nest ferns. And aloe vera can do 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 said their bathroom renovations included the addition of quality fixtures. Highest on the list were bathtubs ($600 to $3,500) and rainfall showerheads ($35 to $210). Shower body sprays are also trending as they are smaller and side mounted, adding functionality to your shower.
In fact, walk-in showers are generally au courant. Nothing says “grandma’s bathroom” like a tub with a shower curtain wrapped around it. So if space allows, try installing a separate one, or increase the size of the one you have.
“Also, consider replacing outdated, bulky vanities with sleek pedestal sinks,” adds Dave Mason, interior designer and owner of The Knobs Company. Pedestal sinks, freestanding units that extend from your floor and end in a basin, retail between $325 and $730. Another option: a wall-hung washbasin with cabinets underneath that appears to float in space like the tankless toilet.
Even changing accents can create a modernizing change. “An easy way to update your bathroom is to install new hardware like towel rails, towel racks, coat hooks, and toilet paper holders,” says Jordan Fuller, a house flipper. “Moving from legacy hardware to [more innovative] Brushed nickel or oiled bronze finishes modernize your bathroom quickly and easily.
Showers with a view
A bathroom can never seem spacious enough, and one way to achieve this is to add a window or skylight, preferably to the standalone shower area mentioned above. It achieves several advantages:
- You have a moisture outlet after showering
- It lets in natural light
- You don’t have to turn on the bathroom lights as often, which reduces energy costs
Average prices to install a bathroom-sized sash window (approximately 26 to 84 inches wide and 24 to 60 inches high) range from $300 to $700, according to HomeLight, the real estate agent search site.
Add a pop of color
Where is it written that bathrooms must be tinted white? “Painting your bathroom is one of the best ways to make it look modern and add value,” says Aaron Lebowski, certified interior designer at Julieli Salone.
Of course, “you don’t want to do anything crazy, you just want to stick with cool, soothing, natural colors.”
“If you don’t feel like changing the color of your walls, you can always paint your cabinets,” he adds as a compromise. A two-tone effect can be pretty clever. The point is, don’t be afraid to add some color to your bath life.
Focus on the ground
Quality flooring – beyond your base tile – brings a bathroom up to date, both aesthetically and in terms of safety. “Floor waterproofing has become one of the most sought-after features of a modern bathroom,” notes Wysocarski. “It improves property value and reduces the risk of injury from the slippery” surface.
Whether tiled or tumbled, natural materials ($100 to $300 per square foot) like 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
Technological innovations in the bathroom can improve comfort, improve functionality and increase the energy efficiency of your home. “Consider installing a smart shower system or a programmable thermostat to save money on your energy bills,” suggests Mason. With intelligent shower systems, you can adjust the water temperature, the flow rate and even the duration of the shower. Admittedly, it’s an expensive proposition, with systems ranging from $1,160 to $2,200 — although you can recoup heating and water bills.
Digital faucets (retail between $150 and $600) turn on and off with hand gestures. Underfloor heating (which costs $8 to $15 per square foot to install) is another luxury that can save you money in the long run, since its high efficiency means you can actually turn the thermostat down.
Install vertical shelves and adjustable lights
Vertical shelves instead of vanity drawers or cabinets add a contemporary touch. With vertical shelves, you can quickly grab towels, the hair dryer and the toiletries. Most importantly, it keeps your counters organized.
Similarly, adding recessed lights ($100 to $480 per light) instead of old sconces offers a cleaner, more streamlined look; When properly placed, it gives you plenty of light when you shave or apply makeup.
Also, consider adding a dimmer ($10-$25) for the bathroom lights. People love this theatrical feature, and while the tech is nothing new, being able to customize the ambiance of the room never gets old.
Final word on modernizing a bathroom
Depending on what you do, a bathroom renovation typically costs between $6,000 and $16,000. But such renovations also offer some of the highest returns on investment in the home improvement universe – they recoup at least two-thirds of their costs. The National Association of Realtors/NARI’s 2022 Remodeling Impact Report ranks it even higher, saying you can expect to recover about 71% of the value of a bathroom reno project.
Of course, when you’re renovating with your home’s resale value in mind, you don’t want to get too trendy with the updates so that the bathroom doesn’t look like a step back in time when you’re ready to sell. It shouldn’t get too wild for economic reasons either: The more extensive a redo is, the less it often brings in. According to Remodeling’s 2021 Cost-Value Report, a medium-sized bathroom remodel (that costs about $24,000) will give you a 60.1% return on investment, while an upscale project (about $75,000) will only give you a 54% ROI .8% achieved.
In other words, relatively small things can freshen up the space and modernize the bathroom in a way that’s enjoyed now and buyers will appreciate later.