How To Design a Modern Bathroom

by | Last updated Oct 23, 2021 | Apartment Renovations, Interior Design, Renovations

Modern bathroom design requires careful planning and thoughtful decision making. Modern design is often minimal, clean, and orderly, which adds a level of complexity, as it must be precise and aesthetically pleasing.

There are many issues to take into consideration for bathroom design. I am an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture. In this post, I will review an outline of how to design a modern bathroom using my own projects as examples.


Bathroom Layout

The first step for designing a bathroom will always be to determine what fixtures you want and how many of them. Of course, you need to figure out what physically fits in your space during this process. As an architect, I always begin a bathroom design by assessing the space for the bathroom and outlining the Bathroom Program. The Program is an architectural term for what goes into a space. For example, a potential program of a three piece bathroom could be a bathtub, one sink, and a toilet.

After you come up with this list, we determine what sizes of fixtures will fit and what is optimal. We then figure out the appropriate layout. Once the layout of the bathroom is figured out, you can move onto the fun parts. Below is a list of some issues to consider when designing a bathroom layout.

Bathroom Layout Considerations:

  • Tub vs Shower, or Both
  • Number of Sinks 
  • Toilet and Bidet, or a Combination
  • Storage Cabinets / Vanity / Shelves
  • How Much Open Space You Want
  • Door Location
  • Wall Surface for Mounting Accessories
  • ADA Accessibility 
  • Plumbing and Code Clearances
  • Unique Items or Wish List Items
Modern Bathroom Design
Modern Bathroom Design


Minimalist Bathroom Design

Minimalism is at the core of modern architecture and interior design. Some of the best advice you will ever get when planning a renovation or a new building is to keep it simple. This will really have to do with your personality. You may not be a “keep it simple” kind of person, but if you want to keep it modern, consider a more minimal & simple design for your bathroom.

Textural materials can be one way to add a more dynamic level to a simple bathroom, such as this weathered look porcelain tile in what still feels like a modern and minimalist bathroom.

Minimalist Bathroom Design
Minimalist Bathroom Design


Wall Mounted Fixtures

We are wall mounting almost everything these days. The very modern trend of wall mounted fixtures and cabinets is one real strong detail to achieve a more modern bathroom design. Wall mounted fixtures and cabinets makes it easier to clean underneath and provides a really sleek aesthetic to the overall bathroom.

Wall mounted toilets also have a great technical advantage. As an architect in NYC, I often renovate existing apartments in large buildings with concrete floors. If you want a floor mounted toilet and you wish to relocate the toilet, it would require cutting into the floor for the drain. If you want to avoid cutting into the floor, a wall mounted toilet is ideal, as all the plumbing is in the wall. It has a carrier inside the wall with a tank, with a push plate on the wall that can be easily removed for maintenance.

The following bathroom fixtures and cabinets can be wall mounted:

  • Toilet
  • Sink Faucets
  • Tub Filler
  • Vanity
  • Open Shelves
  • Storage Cabinets
Wall Mounted Toilet and Vanity
Wall Mounted Toilet and Vanity


Bathroom Material Selection

There are many options for bathroom floor and wall materials. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Marble
  • Porcelain
  • Glass Tile
  • Concrete
  • Stone Slab
  • Mosaic Tiles
  • Venetian Plaster
  • Painted Walls
  • Metal Accessories
  • Wood Cabinets
Wall Mounted Bathroom Vanity
Wall Mounted Bathroom Vanity


Monolithic Marble Tile

Monolithic means one stone. A monolithic bathroom is a bathroom built with only one type of material. You can use one marble for the walls and floors to create a monolithic look. Keep the grout lines minimal to have an even more seamless look. Also consider that the larger the tiles, the more awesome and luxurious the bathroom will feel. Larger pieces can be more expensive. If you want very large pieces these are called slabs. A marble slab can often come up to 10 feet by 5.5 feet. These pieces need to be 3/4″ thick and will be much more costly.

Monolithic Marble Bathroom Tile
Monolithic Marble Bathroom Tile


Unique Bathroom Materials and Finishes 

When planning a modern bathroom, I would think about what can make this bathroom unique and special. We call this a bespoke bathroom, meaning something made just for you. One way to make a bathroom more custom is to use unique finishes.

Nothing is more modern than industrial features. Concrete is one popular material for modern design. The good thing about concrete is it is all made and mixed on site. There are additives you can use to add color and texture. This means that even if concrete is growing in popularity, you can still have a very unique finish.

Concrete Shower Walls and Floor
Concrete Shower Walls and Floor


Tile Insert Linear Shower Drains

Linear shower drains are the most modern way to drain a shower. There are many different types of linear drains, but the one I really want to consider is a Tile Insert Drain. These types of drains have a pan or trough that can receive tile. This is a great look, as it leaves a modern continuous floor with a reveal around the perimeter.

Linear Shower Drain in a Concrete Floor
Linear Shower Drain in a Concrete Floor


Custom Features

If the budget allows, you can commission custom features to be designed and made for your bathroom. Anything can be custom-made, but this really increases the budget, so take that into consideration.

The picture below shows a custom black metal ceiling mounted towel bar in a concrete bathroom.

Concrete Bathroom Design NYC
Custom Concrete Bathroom Design with custom towel bar


Industrial Hardware for Modern Design

Modernism has its roots in the industrial revolution, when manufacturing and mass production changed architecture forever. It is very fitting to incorporate some industrial features into your bathroom design. Industrial hardware can be one way to add a little extra character to a modern design.

Industrial Bathroom Door Hardware
Industrial Bathroom Door Hardware


Free Standing Tub

If you have a large enough bathroom you may want to consider a freestanding tub. These can have a very modern and sculptural look, where they act as the main feature in the bathroom. A freestanding tub also has a very luxurious feel when in a spacious bathroom. The picture below is of a tub in a Tribeca Loft bathroom in NYC.

Freestanding Tub Modern Bathroom Design
Freestanding Tub for a Modern Bathroom Design


Mix Classic and Modern Features

It is absolutely okay to use some classical features in a modern bathroom design. One popular classic design idea would be to install a claw foot tub. These have a great traditional look that works quite well in a modern bathroom.

Claw Foot Tub
Claw Foot Tub


Align Wall and Floor Grout Lines

Good design is consistent and thought out. Do not lay out the bathroom floor and the bathroom wall tiles separately. Lay them out together, so that you can make the wall grout lines match up with the floor grout lines. You want to think about how the tiles are centered and what they line up with.

As an architect I have a job site meeting with the contractor when we do high end renovations and lay out all the tiles together. We also can do this in drawings, but in my experience, doing it on the job site is more productive.

Plan Bathroom Grout Lines
Bathroom with wall and floor grout lines matching up


Square or Rectilinear Fixtures and Accessories

Square or rectilinear fixtures and accessories can be very modern and simple. A square sink also can be a good idea for your design. There are of course many modern round fixtures and accessories, but consider both and see what suites your tastes.

Square Bathroom Faucet and Sink
Square Bathroom Faucet and Sink


Modern Shower Doors

The shower doors are the last thing to be installed on a bathroom renovation, but that does not mean that they should be an afterthought. You want to select shower doors that work with the overall design. If you are looking for a modern design then frameless shower doors or barn door style shower doors are the way to go.

Barn Door Style Shower Doors
Barn Door Style Shower Doors


Coordinate Fixtures, Finishes, and Accessories

You need to coordinate every aspect of the bathroom design. This means decisions should not be made in a vacuum. All your choices should be thought out as part of the overall design. An example is you will have various fixtures and accessories in metal finishes. In most cases you want to coordinate the finishes; if you pick a polished chrome tub filler you should probably select a polished chrome shower head as well. Also the overall design should match. This could be easy by purchasing a set, but you may want to mix and match for more flexibility.

Matching Plumbing Fixtures
Matching Plumbing Fixtures


Bathroom Design and Construction Process

The bathroom is one of the most important and expensive rooms in a home. The design should be thoughtful and well planned. You do not want to spend time and money on a bathroom just to be disappointed with the final product. Make sure to work with a good team and always hire quality professionals.

As an architect, I study design and construction, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. Every project is different and must be assessed on its own unique characteristics. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but rather to provide a general overview of the topic.


Thank you for reading our blog post on our Modern Bathroom Designs

I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect you can contact us directly.


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Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.