Sarah Sherman Samuel’s IKEA Vanity Hack and 13 More Fresh Bathroom Ideas
Including a transformative renter’s trick.
Updated Dec 20, 2023 10:30 AM
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You know good bathroom ideas when you see them—that cool gallery wall in the WC of your favorite bar, a clever paint pairing in a friend’s powder room, the genius layout at a boutique hotel spa. The best bathroom ideas have serious range: Small details bring a smile, mid-lift projects transform a room, and complete renos manifest into a magazine-worthy scene that still feels authentically yours.
Like any project worth the effort, brilliant bathroom ideas cover all levels of skill, budget, and time commitment. To help you get started on figuring out how to make your bathroom a standout space, we pulled inspiration from 14 of our favorite homes—from a stylish storage solve to a cool rental upgrade.
Think Outside the Typical Shower-Bathtub Box
If you thought you didn’t have room for a shower and a freestanding bathtub, well, get ready to tear up your blueprints. French style setter Garance Doré’s entire Mar Vista, California, home exudes peaceful vibes, but the airy bathroom—with its rain showerhead floating above a round soaker tub and subtle glass partition—far surpasses any typical shower-bath combo expectations.
Stick to a Material Theme
We’ll be the first to say it: Wood-on-wood can look outdated as far as bathroom ideas go. But in jewelry designer Malia Mau’s Los Angeles home, natural wood is the anchor for a seriously cozy space. Polished concrete floors and matte black fixtures offer a cool contrast, while the floating vanity gives the room’s Scandi sauna vibes a streamlined modern twist.
Add Sneaky Storage You’ll Want to Show Off
It doesn’t matter how little or how much you have to stash in that “hidden” vanity drawer; it’s going to get disorganized and your counter space will become cluttered. We love the optical illusion that plays out in designer Evgenia Merson’s solution for a San Mateo, California–based client: Vanity! Towers! Add two slim cabinets on either side of your mirror for extra storage space—they’ll even make the room look taller.
Re-create the Perfect Patina
Want to channel a classic old bathroom? A little wainscoting can go a long way. Take a cue from Houston-based content creator Ryia Jose, who dipped hers in an eye-catching glossy burgundy hue (inspired from her childhood in India). A pair of fabric sconces and console-style sink keep the theme going without overpowering the room’s petite proportions, while the delicate tiled floor wraps it all up in a nostalgic bow.
Blur Outdoor and Indoor With Twin Showers
An outdoor shower is a dream—but an indoor and outdoor shower seamlessly connected and equally attractive? That takes things to another level. To make the most of the coastal lifestyle at their Montauk, New York, home, fashion designer Maria McManus and her husband doubled their shower setup. Inside, the clapboard and plaster-style walls, rain shower fixtures, and wood floor feel entirely luxe but look as relaxed as a beach day.
Upgrade a Rental From Floor to Ceiling
Renters can make a big impact with a few small updates: Add wallpaper, flip the vanity doors, and swap out your bathroom accessories. But there’s a major wow moment hiding in designer Katherine Thewlis’s Tennessee ranch-style rental: the popcorn ceiling. Wait, you can’t see it? Of course not—that’s the beauty. A set of wood slats were placed on the ceiling, banishing the texture without damaging a thing.
Make Subtle Color the Main Character
Sometimes successful bathroom ideas can be achieved by simply focusing on the basics: a white tiled floor; a floating vanity sans hardware; and textured wall tile in a warm, light-bouncing shade of apricot that flatters anyone who steps inside. You won’t find extravagant fixtures or fancy design moves in Surrounded by Color founder Robin Heller’s Baltimore home, but it makes you feel (and look) great.
Feature Expected Materials in Unexpected Places
Marble in a bathroom may not sound entirely new, but tucking it in a space generally reserved for long-forgotten wood—as seen here in Ome Dezon design studio cofounders Joelle Kutner and Jesse Rudolph’s L.A. home—is A+ in our book. Lining the arch in the same luxe material as the vanity counter creates depth, plus it frames the space perfectly.
Bring Cottage Vibes to Every Corner
Worn wood-plank floors give off a cozy, rustic look in textile designer Molly Mahon’s English country cottage, but it’s the pattern-on-pattern that really drives the cottagecore theme home. Inspired by the Bloomsbury Group (who vacationed in a town nearby), Mahon layered wallpaper and textiles in the same print but in differing scale and colorways. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to mix and match within a set palette and pattern.
Consider a Spa-Level Soaking Tub
Yes, you will need a bit of budget for this move. But if you’re already considering a freestanding bathtub, look into a Japanese soaking tub to transform your space into the ultimate zen retreat. L.A. designer Shelby Kass had her hinoki wood tub custom-made after visiting a Japanese onsen. Layer in serene neutrals and a view of greenery, and you have major bathing ASMR.
Swap Out the Shower Door for Something Architectural
An easy way to reset your bathroom? Switch out the shower door. If you don’t have the space, budget, or time for a reno—or if you’re renting—this is a relatively quick project. For inspiration, take a page out of interior designer Amber Lewis’s (literal) book, where she sings the praises of enclosing your shower in its own little world. It’s where everyone gets their best ideas, after all.
Ditch Tile for Swoon-Worthy Stone
If you want to invest in a really special wall moment, consider skipping the tile and going for an ethereal stone to cover your walls. Designer Jen Samson set the bar very high with a client’s bathroom in Laguna Beach, California, which is elegantly draped in jade green marble, from the vanity countertops to the massive shower, creating a calming cocoon. The white tile floor is simple, offering a great balance for the stone to really shine.
Bathe the Room in Monochrome
The peachy pink bathroom in musician Lourdes Hernández’s Los Angeles home is an exercise in subtle statement making: You don’t need to cover an entire room in tile to get a full-on color-wash effect. Choose one area to tile, like the bathtub or shower, then match your paint color and carry it all the way up the walls. Another detail we love: The hexagon shape softens the room and adds interest to the monochrome space. File this under foolproof bathroom ideas.
Go Big With an IKEA Hack
We love Sarah Sherman Samuel for many reasons, but the guest bathroom in her Michigan family home is high on the list. It gets better: The superlong vanity is actually an IKEA hack. Samuel took two Godmorgon pieces, swapped out the door fronts with designs from her Semihandmade line, and unified them with one massive slab of sleek marble—proving the best bathroom ideas are about following your vision (and getting a little scrappy).