Bathroom Style Guide

By Mark Noonan                                             Plumbing Mart President

 When you are retaining a renovation consultant to design your bathroom, it is useful to have a style in mind as a focal point. Bathroom style (and design in general) can be broken down into a few unique categories: Traditional, modern, contemporary and transitional. Of course, these categories are not limiting, and you can design to fit anywhere in between to suit your personal taste. But by aligning yourself within one of these themes in the initial stages of design, you have an excellent reference point to start your planning.

 Yet the question remains – how do we distinguish between the categories? What is your best fit?


 Traditional design is generally formal in style, with the added touch of classic architectural detail. Typically in a traditional bathroom, you would see heavy use of natural stone alongside embellished cabinetry and vintage-looking fixtures. Traditional design is classical, elegant, and luxurious.

 In this traditional bathroom, we see the use of natural stone, both in the flooring and on the countertops. The traditional theme is continued with the use of vintage fixtures, and the architectural detailing in the wooden crown molding. By adding in the ornate vase and comfortable touch of upholstered furniture, we see how the accessories of this room mirror the traditional theme.

 Here, we see some darker tones incorporated into the traditional design, but many of the themes remain the same. The embellishment on the cabinetry and the hardware add great detail to the woodwork. The turn knobs on the faucet give a classical feel. Also, the horizontally lined wallpaper adds a subtle colour, and show how wall coverings can effectively be used in a traditional bathroom.


 The modern bathroom is sleek, streamlined, and clutter-free. Long and low lines are common. You will see liberal use of smooth and reflective materials, such a glass, ceramics, and chrome solid-surface tops. Cabinetry is free of the details seen in the traditional bathroom design, and eco-friendly choices such as bamboo are often seen in the cabinetry. The colour palette is focused on white, with the touches of glass and chrome, and sometimes there is a splash of colour, such as an orange, turquoise or red.

 In this masculine modern bath, we see how cabinetry can create the feel for the design. The long lines of the floating cabinetry give this space a clutter-free feel. The minimal use of colour in this modern space is compensated for by the incredible detailing in the metal wall tiles. Details such as the chrome hardware on the cabinetry, and the unframed mirror give this space a clean look.

 In this space, we see a great use of colour, while still maintaining that clean feel of the modern style. The use of wood above the floating cabinetry and the bamboo on the back wall soften the feel of the room, and the plush rug adds some comfort. The sink, cabinetry and toilet maintain the same white colour pallet, with touches of chrome throughout the fixtures. The mixed shades of green in the tiled floor add interest to the design and break up what could be a monotonous colour tone.


 Contemporary design is often confused with modern design, but the two styles are entirely unique. Modern design is static (referring to a design developed in the mid-century), whereas contemporary design is dynamic, referring to what is in today. There are fewer rules in contemporary design than in that of modern design, it more follows your design freedom and current trends. Here, inventive use of colours, mixing of patterns and combining materials is a great way to achieve a contemporary look.

 The simple style here shows a contemporary design. Differing from a modern design, where you would see a white countertop to match the white sink, we see a mix of a dark granite countertop with a white undermount sink. The rounded mirror on the rectangular tiled wall offers a contrast of shape that adds interest. The soft colour of the tiles and the dark colour of the granite are successful in mixing both colour and material.

 The great blend of materials in this space creates a contemporary feel. The natural stone flooring contrasts the vanity, with its wooden base and dark stone top. The earthy red horizontal tiles and rounded mirror creates a contrast of shape. Though the vanity base and sink have smooth, low lines like a modern design, the bold legs of the vanity base and the texture in the bowl of the sink create a dynamic feel.


 Transitional design can be considered a fusion of contemporary and traditional furniture, finishes, materials, and fabrics. By incorporating the current trends in contemporary designs, and the always elegant look of traditional design, transitional design creates a classical and timeless representation. The transitional palette relies on a lack of colour, thus creating a clean and serene atmosphere. The only colour contrast in this design is between the dark brown accents to the neutral balances of taupe, tan, and vanilla. A minimalist approach is taken with accessories that are carefully selected to act as a counterpoint to the furniture. The furniture combines curves with straight lines to balance masculine and feminine attributes. The scale of your pieces, such as the vanity or cabinetry, is ample but not intimidating, and lacking the ornamentation you may see in a traditional design. The focus here is on simplicity and sophistication.

 Clean, straight lines are echoed throughout this space, from the tiled floor, to the wainscoting, to the design on the cabinetry. The free-standing tub combines a classical look with the claw foot with the contemporary feature of a nickel faucet. There is minimal departure from the neutral tones here, save for the select few blue accessories that dot the room.

This master bathroom shows off the smooth lines of the furniture and the décor. The long lines of the vanity are maintained and minimal embellishment is used, so the elegant feel is maintained. The rounded bowls of the sinks offer a shape contrast to the large square double-mirrors. Textural elements are incorporated in the glass tile behind the vanity, so that even in the absence of colour the eye is intrigued. The glass enclosure for the shower maintains a clean and serene atmosphere.

 So, as you enter into your initial planning process with your renovation consultant try to create a picture in your mind as to which style in the best expression of YOU!  Preparing a selection of magazine cut-outs or web site pictures can go a long way in helping to visually represent the fixtures, features and design elements that best suit your feelings.  Engage and have fun.  Don’t feel limited or intimidated by trends or established practices.  An experienced consultant will help you to avoid any serious mistakes that may be regrettable later, so push your limits and make your next renovation a perfect renovation.