Our Modern Bathroom Design
We had a great master bathroom in our last house, but it was very plain. It lacked personality. For our new bathroom design, I wanted something more interesting, more us.
We’ve learned over the years that we prefer a minimal bathroom. Nothing unnecessary. Clutter-Free. Décor-Free. We like clear countertops and floors. But that doesn’t mean the bathroom has to look utilitarian. A little pattern and color can go a long way.
Our vision for the new bathroom is to use a pattern on the floor tiles, instead of adding rugs. To put color on the light fixtures, instead of adding decor. We want the permanent elements of the bathroom to carry the design.
What the Builder Includes Standard
Before I get into our finish selections and the upgrades we made to the owner’s bathroom, let me share what our builder, Cambridge Homes, includes as standard with our home.
Pro tip: These items might be upgrades with other builders. When looking at different builders, always ask for a list of standard features so you know what is included and what you’ll have to upgrade.
The standard owner’s bathroom is one of the things that attracted us to our builder. On all their floor plans in our neighborhood, the owner’s bathroom includes an oversized walk-in shower as standard, instead of a shower and garden tub combo. Since only our kids ever used the garden tub in our last house, we often dreamed of a larger shower in place of the tub.
Standard Owner’s Bathroom Features for Cambridge Homes Traditional Series:
- Oversized walk-in shower with step down tile floor
- 36″ tall stained, site-finished cabinetry
- Engineered marble vanity with undermount sinks
- 4” chrome faucets
- Linen closet
- Ceramic tile floor
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Our Bathroom Design Selections and Upgrades
We customized quite a bit in the bathroom but used a few tricks to keep the upgrades budget-friendly.
Statement Floor Tile
Tile is where the bathroom design started. We’ve always had boring beige bathroom tiles. Finally, we had the chance to pick something more interesting.
In our first design meeting, I chose a different floor tile. It was a pretty gray and white patterned tile. But before our second design meeting, I started rethinking everything.
I loved the tile I chose for the powder room more than the tile I chose for the owner’s bathroom. Our first choice was pretty, but it felt out of place with the modern style we were after.
In the powder room, I chose this Union Square Fisher tile (here’s a similar tile from Home Depot). It’s a ceramic tile that mimics the look of cement tile. Since we loved it so much, we decided to use it in the owner’s bathroom, and we kept it in the powder room, too, for the enjoyment of our guests.
We chose a dark gray grout to match the darkest gray in the tiles.
Here’s what an individual tile looks like and what the pattern on the floor will look like:
Vertical Offset Shower Tile (Budget Trick #1)
After splurging on the floor tile, we needed to save money in the shower. The shower interior isn’t visible from most of the bathroom except through the shower window, so I didn’t feel the need to use a more decorative tile. Instead, we decided to go with the included 6″x6″ ceramic tile in gray. To make it special, we asked them to install it in a vertical offset pattern (like the examples in my bathroom inspiration post). We chose white grout to contrast with the gray tiles.
Shower Tile to Ceiling
Although we didn’t upgrade the tile, we did pay to have the tile go all the way to the ceiling in the shower and dry off area. It’s a much cleaner look.
Hexagon Shower Floor
We made a mini-splurge on the shower floor. It was sort of necessary. The included option was large ceramic tiles cut into 4″x4″ pieces for the shower floor, but all the options were in the beige family. The floor tile we chose was too large for the shower floor and with the pattern, might look weird if they cut it into pieces. So, we picked a fun white hexagon tile for the shower floor.
Here’s what all of our tile choices look together (along with the carpet we chose for the bedroom and closet):
Double Shower Head
In our apartment now, the showerhead is a handheld shower on a bar. My boys love that they can lower it on the bar to make a shower perfect for their height. In the new house, we decided we wanted dual shower heads and opted to make the second one a handheld.
We had the top of the handheld installed at 7 ft so we can use it as a regular shower too. The two shower heads are on a three-way diverter, so they can be used individually or both be on at the same time.
Shower Heads at 7 ft.
We’re both tall. I’m 5’10” and my husband is 6’2”. Our boys will probably be tall too. We asked to have all the shower heads installed at 7 ft.
After we chose white cabinets in the kitchen, we knew we wanted to continue that choice throughout the house.
Included Engineered Marble Counters
We chose the included engineered marble countertops in Polar Paciugo, which is a creamy white. We considered quartz, but it wasn’t in the budget. We chose the standard oval sinks. The builder offered an upgrade to rectangular sinks. We had oval in our last house, and we have rectangle in our apartment now. I don’t prefer one over the other, so we went with the free option :)
8” Spread Faucets
I am so glad I found this tip on Frills and Drills blog—she said her biggest mistake when building her house was not upgrading the 4″ spread faucets to 8″.
Our builder includes 4” faucets, which means the handles are 4” apart and there is a plate under the handles and faucet. We’ve always had these and they’re a pain to clean between the handles and around the plate. So, we upgraded to 8” spread faucets in all the bathrooms.
Pro Tip: This upgrade is NOT easy to DIY later. It would require new countertops because of the hole pattern is different.
Since we paid to upgrade to the 8” spread, we went with the included chrome faucets. We can upgrade them on our own later. Besides ease of cleaning, the 8” spread will give us a lot more faucet choices in the future. The selection for 4” spreads is more limited.
Included Lighting (We’ll Replace)
The lighting package for the house includes vanity lights, but our options were very limited. Our builder uses lighting packages and you can’t switch out individual lights or mix and match the packages. So, we’ll be replacing most of the lights in the house, including the vanity lights. I already picked out the replacements (see #2 above).
The builder includes a large plate glass mirror, but we plan to add our own individual mirrors over each sink. So, we asked them to “delete” all the bathroom mirrors in the house. That way, we don’t have to remove them later AND the builder will texture and paint the wall above the vanities to match the rest of the bathroom.
Pro tip: The builder did not give us credit back or a discount for removing the mirrors, but it will save us a lot of hassle in the future. You should delete things you don’t want the builder to put in your home, but don’t expect a credit or discount.
Upgrades We Skipped
Fancy Shower Tiles
The way our bathroom is designed, the shower is not the focal point. You can only see the tile if you’re in the shower, through the window, or if your standing in the doorway to the closet. So, it felt unnecessary to splurge on shower tiles.
Instead of upgrading the tiles, we asked to have the standard 6” square tiles (we chose a light gray) installed in a vertical offset pattern.
Pro tip: Our builder did not charge us to change the pattern, but other builders might. Still, it’s a great way to “upgrade” the standard tiles.
It was a $240 upgrade to add a 14″x14″ tile niche in the shower. To make it functional, I figured we’d need two niches because my husband and I don’t share shower products. One thing I liked was the designer’s recommendation to install the niches below the shower window, so our shower products would be hidden from view.
Ultimately, I didn’t think two niches was worth an almost $500 upgrade. Plus, I’ve always found built-in niches and shower shelves a pain to clean. I’m okay with hanging a nickel shower caddy (see #7 above) over the showerhead and adding a pretty teak bench (see #6 above) in the corner.
Metal Tile Trim (Budget Trick #2)
To finish the edges of the tile, the designer recommended Schluter trim. We didn’t need this at the top since we took the tile to the ceiling inside the shower. For the other exposed tile edges (mostly in the dry off area), it would have been $700+ for the metal trim pieces.
We opted instead to tile the full back wall in the shower and dry off area. With wall to wall, floor to ceiling tile, we eliminated the need for the metal trim.
We also switched from a horizontal offset pattern to a vertical offset pattern for the tile, ensuring the end row on the short window wall wouldn’t have cut tiles.
Extra Recessed Lighting
The bathroom already has two recessed lights in the shower/dry off area, one over the toilet, and two vanity lights. We didn’t feel the need to add additional lights. Instead, we plan to replace the builder grade vanity lights with something more stylish.
Glass Block Window
For a while, we didn’t know if we would or would not have a glass block window in the bathroom. We did not choose it as an upgrade option. But after that, it showed up on our house floor plan and elevation pictures. Did they forget to remove it? The designer assured us, we would not have a glass block window because we did not select it.
Then, when they came to frame the house, they framed for a glass block window in the bathroom. Hmmm. I guess we’re getting one?
After meeting with the builder on something else, he broke the news to me that we were NOT getting a glass block window. A window was never ordered because we didn’t choose that upgrade. The framers had to come back and change the framing.
We’re fine with it. We didn’t want the window originally. We like a dark bedroom and didn’t want to worry about light coming in from the bathroom. It’s just funny that the window kept showing up.
In our first design appointment, where we chose all our dream options, we upgraded the bathroom countertop to quartz. That was a $1000 upgrade. We later decided, although the quartz is beautiful and more durable, we’re happy with the included engineered marble countertop. $1000 saved.
We did not upgrade the faucet finish. We went with the standard chrome faucets. Instead of upgrading the finish, we upgraded to the 8” spread so we can change out the faucets later on our own. (See above for why 8” spread is preferable over 4”.)
Comfort Height Toilet
Maybe this is TMI, but we did not upgrade the height of our toilets. High toilet seats are so bad for your body. Just look at the success of the Squatty Potty. For healthy bowel movements and to keep our youthful mobility, we chose the standard height toilets. (In case your curious, we have a Squatty Potty now because our apartment toilets are comfort height.)
After decluttering to move across the country, I can proudly say we don’t store very much in our bathroom. Other than the toiletries we use daily and our first aid stuff, there’s nothing else. So we declined all upgrades to add more storage to the bathroom. We’d rather keep the space open and minimal.
What We’re DIYing
We asked the builder to remove all mirrors from our house. In the master bathroom, we plan to hang two IKEA Stockholm mirrors in the walnut finish.
We will replace the builder vanity lights with these amazing Scepter Sconces in Slate/Nickel from Dutton Brown. Love that you can choose the color! Plus, these lights are made in Minnesota—we visited the showroom earlier this summer.
When I made my kitchen hardware roundup, I figured one of the knobs we didn’t choose for the kitchen could go in the bath. Then, CB2 came out with some new knobs and I fell hard for these fluted knobs. The shape ties in so beautifully with the star shapes in the tile pattern. Plus, at only $5.95 each, it’s less than an $85 upgrade for our vanity.
Our Upgrade Budget
The total for our bathroom upgrades was about $4,257, which is about 17% of our overall $25,000 upgrade allowance.
As a reminder, we spent 35% of our upgrade allowance in the kitchen. So combined our kitchen and owner’s bathroom upgrades were just over 50% of the budget. I feel like we did a really good job managing the budget without sacrificing our design vision for these rooms.
With the remaining 48% of our budget, we were able to do a variety of other upgrades throughout the house. I’ll share more details about those soon. I’m waiting for some of them to be installed so I can show you pictures.
Susan Ling says
I love reading about your new home updates. You are incredibly detail-oriented, thorough, and analytical with your research with the builder plan and preferences. Your blogs are such a great resource for any one –whether they will build a house or just want a kitchen or bathroom renovation! I really appreciate your graphic images, links, and topical organization! I’m so excited about your new home and what it will look like once you’ve settled in and furnished it! Thanks for sharing this exciting journey!
Thank you, Susan. I’m trying to pay it forward. One of the most helpful things for me during the design process, was reading blog posts where others shared their experiences and mistakes building a new home. I soaked up every detail and every tip. I hope documenting my journey helps someone else with their new home or renovation.
Your designs for the new house are so beautiful. I love that the design is clean but still feels homey. Although I don’t generally love mid-century modern, I wish this house was going to be MINE! (Maybe my anti-MCM bias is because I lived through the mid-century!! Or that I always picture my clumsy self tripping on those MCM furniture legs that stick out!) I hope that the rest of the build goes well and that you and your family happily live here for a long time.
Lynne, What a lovely compliment. We are definitely cherry-picking our favorite parts of MCM-style. There are plenty of MCM elements we dislike too. Thank you for the well wishes!