The bathroom is one of the most important spaces in our homes, and often one of the most underappreciated.

They’re instrumental to our health: imagine life without sanitation and clean water. But they’re also an antidote for our stressful modern lives. A hot bath or shower helps us relax as well as get clean. For those of us with kids, the bathroom is one of the few places in the house where we can get a moment to ourselves.

If you’re planning a bathroom renovation in the next year, consider including one or more of the following ideas. Some are older trends that are still going strong, and some are things we’re starting to see in the design world in North America and Europe.

In some of these designs, you can see several trends working together harmoniously.

1. A Flair for the Dramatic: Black and White

Black and white bathroom

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As we reported back in the fall, we’ve been seeing plenty of matte black plumbing fixtures in the bathroom and the kitchen. Now black has taken off, and we’re seeing it all over the bathroom on floors, countertops and walls.

The surprising thing about this trend is that despite a dramatic touch of black, the bathroom retains its overall atmosphere of restfulness. This Elle Decor photo gallery shows you 20 different approaches to the black and white trend. You can completely tailor the look to your tastes: if you want more drama, use more black. If you want more of an airy feeling, use more white.

It seems that after many years of all-white bathrooms, some people are ready for a bit of contrast. While all-white bathrooms will never go out of style, especially if you’re getting ready to sell your home, a bit of contrast is nice to see.

2. Freshen Up Your Look with Marble

We’re seeing lots of marble in vessel sinks, floor tiles, wall tiles, accents and pretty much everywhere. Whether it’s real marble or more budget friendly marble-like patterns, it’s a look that adds visual interest while keeping things light, fresh and neutral.

3. Exposed Plumbing

Martha Stewart Living Bathroom Pipes

Martha Stewart Image.

If you have plenty of storage room and can do without a vanity, why not go for a look that exposes the pipes under the sink? While this idea isn’t new, it’s something that can add interest to keep bathrooms from looking overly sterile.

This idea can be done in a minimalist, contemporary way or a classic or even nouveau-Victorian direction.

4. Freestanding Bathtubs

Bathroom Freestanding tub

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More and more people are choosing freestanding bathtubs – if they have the room to fit one in.

We think it’s a reaction to the frantic pace of life these days; people are looking for simple ways to relax. We’re even seeing articles in all kinds of style magazines on how to take a bath properly.

In recent years, freestanding tubs have, for the most part, been mounted on raised decks or inserted in surrounds away from the wall. What’s new is that they’re now usually left sitting right on the floor in a perfectly simple, elegant way.

Before you add a freestanding tub to your bathroom, however, make sure you understand the pros and cons.

5. Clever Storage Solutions

Typical homes come with a single small vanity and sometimes a medicine cabinet. But unless you’re a Zen monk, most people need more storage than will fit into these spaces.

Homeowners are demanding more storage in the bathroom these days. To answer that need, niches, cubbies and extra cabinets are popping up wherever there’s room for them. Depending what’s being stored, storage can be on display or hidden in a cabinet.

To make the most of bathroom vanities, they can be made with multiple drawers instead of just a single open space. You can also get tons of options for built-in organizers that allow you to keep everything where it’s handy.

6. More Power to You

Our “water closets” are no longer just about washing up. People use bathrooms for shaving, makeup, and hair styling, and want a salon-level electrical supply to power multiple styling aids.

People are plugging in electric toothbrushes, razors, hair dryers, flat irons, curling irons – the list goes on. Leaving everything plugged in but stored neatly can save so much time by eliminating a lot of tedious shuffling appliances around and unplugging.

USB charging stations in bathrooms are also starting to take off (we know you’re all secretly on your iPads while you’re in there 😉 ).

7. Smart Toilets

Yes – you read that correctly: smart toilets. Since we learned that “flushable” wipes will clog the plumbing, people have been searching for better ways to improve their toilet hygiene.

Bidets have long been a regular fixture in many European and Japanese homes. Today’s smart toilets are going even further, with automated lid open and closure, temperature controls, blow dryers, and even self-cleaning features like UV sterilization lights.

They’ve been appearing at the Consumer Electronics Show for years, and while many are too pricey for most of us, it won’t be long until most homes are equipped with them. Remodelista has a good overview of the different models and prices.

8. Balance Privacy and Natural Light with Glass Brick

Bathroom Glass Brick

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Let’s face it: it’s not often to have a problem like too much daylight in a room. In a bathroom, however, the need for natural sunlight has to be balanced with the need for refuge and privacy. In the last year or so, homeowners have been turning to glass brick to solve the problem.

Glass brick may have gotten a bad rap from being overused in the 1980s, but just like leggings, they’re back and more beautiful than ever. Because they’re waterproof they’re also a very practical material in the bathroom – just ensure you use a mortar that’s appropriate for moist spaces between the bricks.

Great Bathroom Design Doesn’t Just Happen

Designing a great bathroom isn’t as easy as many other rooms in your home. As with kitchens, bathrooms are definitely multi-use spaces, and effective planning is essential to get the best workflow possible for as many members of your family as possible. If your bathroom is small, the challenge is even greater.

Spending the time on planning is definitely worth it, however, as you can get benefits like faster morning routines or a more relaxing space to unwind at the end of a long week.

If you need help with an upcoming bathroom renovation, Laurysen has award-winning designers on staff who will work with you to get you the bathroom of your dreams. Let us put our decades of experience at your service!

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