2021: Tale of Two Bathrooms

by Blake Herzog

Bathroom design trends are heading in two opposite directions for 2021, yet they point to the same destination — a refuge where you can perform cleansing and self-care in comfort, peace and tranquility. Many will attempt a fusion of modern spa and folksy elements to create a totally personalized sanctuary.

Memory Serves — Many of this year’s trends are heading toward homespun, “cottagecore” details that aren’t out of step with mom’s or grandma’s bathroom, tied to memories of mom or grandma but often with a greater emphasis on nature and the environment. 

Dresser Sinks With Vintage Fixtures — Old wooden dressers can, with some effort, be repurposed as a cabinet for your sink, or purchased to send a bathroom’s vintage-y vibes off the charts. And the look won’t be complete without some shiny brass or iron-finished fixtures to bring a solid, durable feel to your home and life. 

Round Mirrors — These also hearken back to smaller bathrooms and the “mirror mirror on the wall” stories you heard over and over again as a kid, and push back against the straight lines and right angles that took over bathroom design quite a while ago. 

Wallpaper — The most versatile and affordable of all wall coverings, it softens the noise level and can transport you anywhere, with vintage prints capable of triggering time travel and wild tropical designs giving a mini-vacation to anyone who enters. 

Indoor Plants — Both real and artificial versions are having a moment with interior designers in all rooms, maybe to compensate for having to spend more time inside. The comparatively warm, steamy climate found in most bathrooms is especially conducive for growing ferns, pothos and other tropical species. 

Freestanding Tubs — These occupy more real estate than typical bathtubs but are valued for their depth and the image of the luxury they project and also deliver. There’s nothing quite like soaking in a tub suspended in the middle of the room with the depth needed to really soak, without needing to shift to make sure everything’s covered. 

Wet Rooms — The “shower person’s” freestanding tub, these typically are areas separated by a glass partition from the rest of the bathroom, creating a larger shower with zero barrier to entry or an all-purpose bathing area with a showerhead and a freestanding tub. Such a setup won’t work in all homes, but when it does it can add to a home’s value. 

Marble — This natural material that screams “luxury” yet has a traditional feel is making a big comeback in bathrooms, with homeowners and designers getting more adventurous with nonwhite varieties — pinks, greens and blues are showing up with increasing frequency in sinks, counters, even walls. 

Tile Walls — These are moving way beyond the subway tile that dominated kitchens and bathrooms for much of the last decade. Moroccan and other Arabic designs are increasingly popular, while light neutral-colored tiles, textured tiles and those with hexagonal or other unusual shapes are stepping into the limelight as well.