I think we can all agree, 2020 wasn’t a great year for getting things done. And all that time at home has certainly helped highlight what we wish our spaces could do better. So it’s no surprise that 2021 bathroom trends have two big, very 2020-influenced themes: comfort and cleanliness. The biggest trends this year revolve around making relaxing, spa-like bathrooms with easy-to-clean and self-cleaning features. Your bathroom should be a haven from outside stressors.
High-end bathrooms have always been described in pretty decadent terms: an oasis or sanctuary. But in 2020, bathrooms of all sizes and styles became pretty literal retreats for people looking for a good way to unwind (or even just get extra clean). Now, some of the biggest 2021 bathroom trends are all about emphasizing tranquil relaxation, comfort, nature, and nostalgia.
Organic Materials (And A Little Touch Of Greenery)
Bathroom design has been getting steadily “greener” since the 90’s. In 2021 that’s not just about being eco-friendly. Water-saving features and more sustainable materials have started to become the default; this year, many homeowners are looking to add a more visibly natural feel to their spaces as well. Hardwood, tumbled stone, and warm metals are skyrocketing in popularity both as accents and as primary materials throughout the bathroom. Many homeowners are even opting to keep low-light, moisture-loving plants in their bathrooms. All together, you get a bathroom that’s lush, natural, and inviting – beautiful but not overly-ornamented. Bonus: spending time near any kind of live plant helps decrease stress and promote relaxation.
Big Showers, Big Tubs
For all the years I’ve been working in interior design, no one has ever agreed on the perfect shower vs bathtub configuration; and everyone always has a strong opinion. That said, this year the trend is pretty clear: a soaking tub is an absolute must-have for ideal bathroom comfort. Smaller acrylic freestanding tubs are winning out over very high capacity models or whirlpools. Slightly smaller tubs can fit in a wider variety of spaces, and won’t require an upgrade to your water heater. Look for decorative freestanding tubs with flat bases rather than claw feet. You’ll get a little more room and a more modern feel.
Shower design, on the other hand, is trending the same way it has been for years: big, seamless, and barrier-free. Walk-in designs with minimal frameless glass shower enclosures are the ideal. If you can swing it, try for a curbless shower. Aka, use a single tile throughout your bathroom or an inset wood floor, so your shower doesn’t have a threshold. Linear shower drains will help enhance this seamless look, and keep water where it belongs. Buyers are looking for showers that are an experience. Think big enough for two, with built in lights, luxury showerheads, and even steam or aromatherapy. That said, it’s also worth considering adding accessibility features like a shower seat or grab bars; buyers ask for them more consistently than even common features like a rainfall showerhead.
If you’re planning on replacing your bathroom flooring this year, you should strongly consider heated flooring. This luxury feature isn’t anything new, but it’s gone from a novelty to a borderline must-have. If you live somewhere with cold winters, heated floors will give you a big boost in comfort. There are a few different types of in-floor heating, but they all heat the floor from underneath. That means they need to be planned out and installed before your main flooring. Installing stone- or wood-look tile on top of your heating system will give you that extra warmth and organic feel, but with the durability and ease-of-cleaning you expect from porcelain. If it’s too big a project for now, consider adding other comfort or heating elements. Even something as small as a decorative (washable!) area rug, or a standalone towel warmer can help.
Backlit Mirrors and Better Lighting
Upgraded lighting is another big comfort feature that’s grabbed a high spot on the list of 2021 bathroom trends. Backlit mirrors or medicine cabinets and integrated cabinet lighting are two of the big-yet-easy-to-obtain ones. They make using your bathroom at night safer and easier, and backlit mirrors will give you a more accurate reflection. That said, don’t stop there. Experts disagree on whether you should opt for one big, beautiful decorative light (like a prominent chandelier) or lots of little adjustable lights (with dimmer switches for better mood lighting). But absolutely everyone agrees that good, attractive lighting is a comfort-must.
After 2020, it shouldn’t be any surprise that people have cleanliness on their minds. That means both spaces where you want to go to get clean and spaces that are easy to keep clean. 2021 is probably the one year where minimizing the time and effort you have to put into cleaning your bathroom is a side benefit. Mostly, homeowners are looking to build spaces that feel (and are) so clean and sterile that they can leave their worries about the outside world where they belong – outside.
No Touch, Self-Cleaning, And Sanitary Upgrades
The first part in making this happen is upgrading to fixtures that will actually make your bathroom more sanitary. Things like touch-free faucets, self-closing and self-cleaning toilets, and better ventilation will help keep your air and surfaces cleaner. You can even find many common bathroom fixtures made from materials that have antimicrobial properties, like copper. Knowing that your high-touch surfaces can self-sanitize might help put your mind at ease. Basically all sanitary bathroom features are hot items right now, but not all of them are effective against airborne viruses. If you have to pick one project, improved ventilation will have the biggest impact in this regard. But sanitary measures don’t have to be one-size-fits-all, especially if you just want a space you know is CLEAN.
Wall Mount Vanities (And Other Seamless, Easy-To-Clean Surfaces)
Beyond actual sanitary upgrades, one of the biggest 2021 bathroom trends is a move toward designs that look clean and are easy to keep clean. Floating sinks and wall mounted vanities are at the forefront of this trend, with simple, streamlined, minimal designs that will keep your bathroom feeling uncluttered. Integrated or undermount sinks make it possible to clean your whole vanity space with one swipe of a wipe. Wall mounted vanities are also easy to clean underneath, with no nooks, crannies, or dust-catching feet to gum up the works. It’s another reason to look for smooth-sided, flat-bottomed bathtubs, seamless floors, and large format tile with minimal grout. Not only is the look sleeker and cleaner, but the fewer the bumps, grooves, and gaps, the easier it is to do a quick but thorough surface clean and be sure you aren’t leaving anything behind.
Many of the biggest 2021 bathroom trends have been a long time in the making. Having to put off remodeling for most of 2020 certainly has made for a few trends from 2020 and 2019 that are still going strong. But the fundamental elements of 2021 bathroom design are all about building a clean, comfortable, space that you can to go get away, unwind, and relax.