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5 Tips for Updating a Traditional Bathroom

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White oak bathroom vanity with soapstone counters and mixed metal finishes.

Traditional Bathroom Ideas
If you want to honor your home’s traditional style while bringing modern updates to the bathroom, these simple ideas will give you the best of both worlds.

Recently, I had the privilege of redesigning the primary bathroom in my childhood home — which, yes, meant that my parents were my bosses on the Bluemont Bath project. It was so fun to bring an elevated, updated feel to a space I’ve known my entire life, while honoring its original, traditional style that we all still love.

I get it: sometimes, it can feel hard to know how to update a traditional space without compromising its classic style, especially when the rest of the home is still firmly set in its traditional ways. Learning to blend modern elements without losing the original charm is an art form, to be sure, and I learned a lot as we renovated the Bluemont Bath!

We took everything to the studs in this bathroom, bringing in new materials and adding details that paid homage to the original design and color palette. We wanted to honor this home’s roots, not cover them up! One of my favorite choices we made in this room: the custom flooring. The subtle checkerboard pattern is traditional while also offering a modern look that’s light and bright, and the custom 12×12 porcelain tiles made this floor totally unique. No matter what material you use, a patterned floor is a great way to update a traditional space.

Traditional bathroom with dramatic curtains, picture frame molding, brass accents and a modern free standing tub.

White oak bathroom vanity paired with brass lighting and art and nickel fixtures.

A New Way to Think About Bathroom Design

Traditional bathrooms have long been known for gorgeous marble and clean white tones — which is beautiful, but on its own, it can make a space feel stale or cold. I truly believe that when it’s designed well, a bathroom can feel every bit as beautiful, warm, and inviting as a cozy living room. We may not think about this too often, but we use our bathrooms all the time. Why shouldn’t a space we step into multiple times a day feel like a spa, an everyday luxury we love to use?

In every bathroom I design, I try to incorporate elements that feel more like a living room than a bathroom. These choices might be unexpected, but those “non-bathroom” elements are often the key to elevating a space and creating an inviting atmosphere.

I also love to venture outside of the “typical” bathroom choices as I choose natural materials, shower tiles, and finishes. In the Bluemont Bath, we mixed various brass and nickel finishes for a look that’s somehow both totally modern and completely classic. By steering clear of uniformity in our hardware, lighting, and accent choices, we brought a new look to an older space. Matching is not the only way to create flow and continuity!

William Morris Fram the picture windows and modern curved tub in a traditional bathroom with marble checkerboard floors.

Brass shelving is styled with glass, white and brass objects including vintage art.

5 Tips for Updating a Traditional Bathroom

If you’re looking for tried-and-true traditional bathroom ideas, here are a few of my favorite updates and unexpected choices that can make a huge difference.

1. Add foliage.

Honestly, this is my easy trick for bringing life into any space — no matter what kind of room you’re redesigning. Greenery is the perfect organic element to add texture and color to a room, and even better, you have endless possibilities!

Grab fresh florals for a sensory upgrade that wows with sight and scent, or choose a few dramatic branches to bring natural texture into a space. Select plants or florals that match your style and bring some visual interest to the room, especially in bathrooms that can appear cold and sparse otherwise.

Feverfew daisies in a vintage white pitcher bring greenery to a bathroom.

2. Use drapery.

If your bathroom has a large window, I always recommend drapery in the bathroom. It might seem a bit impractical, but in my opinion, that’s what makes it magical. Draperies add both privacy and personality to a room, and they give you a chance to soften the harshness of so many hard surfaces in a bathroom.

We made sure to design our Bluemont space in a way that the curtains were far from the soaking tub, so we never had to worry about splashing. We also doubled up with electronic shades for privacy, because we didn’t want the curtain fabric to be touched day after day. If you’re concerned about the longevity of fabric in your bathroom, I totally understand! Thankfully, there are so many great perennial or indoor/outdoor fabric selections these days. They’re specifically designed to withstand the elements, so moisture won’t be a problem.

A vintage inspired rug, blue delicately patterned curtains and a wood cocktail table adorn a traditional bathroom with a white oak vanity and marble checkerboard floors.William Morris pleated curtains in bathroom with checkerboard marble floors.

3. Incorporate natural wood.

When most people think of traditional bathrooms, marble immediately comes to mind. It’s a beautiful material, and I absolutely love using it! But it’s important to balance that cold, sleek look with some textured warmth, and natural wood is the perfect solution.

In the Bluemont Bath, we actually opted for porcelain and Quartz over marble, but softening the space with wood had the exact same effect. We used light white oak for a classic vanity that creates beautiful contrast with the more stark elements in the room. It also complements the brass finishes perfectly!

Modern bathroom with traditional influences including brass lighting and a vintage inspired rug.

4. Embrace brass.

Want your bathroom to feel customized? Layer and mix your metals. Truthfully, there are lots of great metal combinations that mix warm and cool tones, but we’re partial to unlacquered brass in bathrooms. It allows for natural oxidation that adds character over time.

In the Bluemont Bath, we actually mixed four different finishes, if you can believe it! We used a combo of nickel, a stainless steel/brushed nickel hybrid, and steel, but of course the real star of the show is the unlacquered brass. Brass plays well with others and adds natural warmth and patina, and it really does get better with time! There’s a good reason the brass and marble pairing has been a classic since the days of ancient Greece and Rome – it really works in almost any space.

Linear brass sconces frame large nickel mirrors above a white oak cabinet with soapstone counters.Brass shelving decorated with bathroom accessories and vintage art.

5. Use vintage.

As we renovated the Bluemont Bath, we incorporated vintage art from The Atelier Collection, and recovered a stool my parents already had. You can shop all of our bathroom selections right here, but your options are really endless when it comes to vintage finds for a unique bathroom. A vintage rug or stool adds warmth and character, especially when you’ve chosen modern elements with your shower tile or flooring selections. One-of-a-kind- pieces really ground a room, adding an inviting, lived in feel that honors the traditional style of the original space.

Traditional bathroom with marble checkerboard floors, brass lighting, nickel fixtures and a custom white oak vanity with soapstone counters. A vintage stool decorates the space.A vintage oil painting and a floral print hang above the toilet in a traditional bathroom.

I hope you feel ready to update that traditional bathroom with these ideas! Check out the full reveal of my parents’ bathroom for inspiration and sourcing, and then start planning for your own dreamy update.

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