5 tips to create a modern bathroom you’ll love forever

An interior designer shares her secrets.
Modern bathroom with timber vanity and stone composite sink.The Palm Co

Giving a bathroom a modern update always sounds like such fun until you actually have to start making so many decisions around planning and plumbing that the design choices can almost feel like an afterthought. But for interior designer and founder of Soul Home, Simone Mathews, the secret to creating a truly modern bathroom is to streamline the design, stick to a restrained materials palette and focus on oh-so-touchable textures. It’s a formula she swears by, after completing countless property renovations, including most recently, The Bach, for which she created not one, but two, modern bathrooms. 

“We wanted the bathrooms to feel calm, but not boring,” says Simone, which pretty much sums up the challenge many renovators come up against when trying to decide on a modern bathroom aesthetic that feels at once current and timeless. We spoke with Simone to find out her best modern bathroom design tips to suit those dreaming of a luxury bathroom makeover, and those working towards a budget bathroom revamp.

Modern bathroom with floating timber double vanity and large timber framed mirror.
Main bathroom: Zellige tiles in clay from Tile Bazaar feature on the wall of the main bathroom. The floating oak vanity was custom designed by Hegi Design House and accessorised with a pair of stone composite basins from Natural Stone BathWorx and ‘Elysian’ brushed nickel tapware from ABI Interiors. (Credit: Photographer: The Palm Co)

1. Be inspired by nature

One of the things Simone loves most about the bathrooms she created for The Bach is the way she feels when she walks into them. “It almost feels like you’re at the ocean’s edge,” she says. One way she achieved this is by working layering neutral colours with natural materials such as timber and stone. “These are all timeless materials that will stand the test of time.”

2. Select a single hero feature

A beautiful bathroom will exude calm and relaxation. To achieve this, it’s important to select just one hero feature, rather than a whole bunch that will end up competing for attention. “You want a bathroom that feels coheivse,” says Simone. Ideas for a modern bathroom hero feature include: tiles, a gorgeous vanity or statement wallpaper. At The Bach, feature tiles were the hero. “You are just drawn to touch the feature tiles on the wall,” says Simone. 

Modern bathroom with feature wall tiles, timber vanity, bowl sink and indoor plant.
Simone says storage wasn’t a priority for the bathrooms at The Bach, which is primarily a holiday home. In the ensuite, Bejmat tiles in snow create a feature behind the vanity and a ceramic wall light by We Ponder creates subtle illumination. The skylight was added to create privacy and maximise natural sunlight. (Credit: Photographer: The Palm Co)

3. Let there be light

Tile and tapware choices may be front of mind when updating a bathroom, but one thing that deserves just as much attention as the material elements in the room, is the way the space will be lit. Is there natural light (via windows or a skylight?) or will you need to substitute it with a considered lighting design? 

Simone says The Bach’s main bathroom originally had a large window that looked directly into the neighbour’s house. You can see why this posed a problem, not just for privacy reasons, but for lighting reasons too. “We opted for an electric opening skylight above the shower that flooded the space with natural light whilst providing privacy.” She said another option they considered briefly was the installation of an obscured glass window. 

The definition of a ‘modern bathroom’ is constantly changing. But there are some things contemporary bathrooms all have in common: clean lines, a simple colour palette, rich and natural elements including stone or timber, and lashings of natural light. 

What is a modern bathroom?

4. Love the layout

“Bathrooms are one of the most used rooms in a home, so although you want to create a space that has gives you that all-important ‘holiday feeling’, you do also need to ensure that the materials and the layout are practical,” says Simone. 

To nail your bathroom’s layout, ask yourself the following questions: who will use the bathroom? How will it be used? Do you prefer separate shower and bath areas? Would you like a tub that accommodates more than one person? How much storage do you need? Then there are budget considerations. 

At The Bach, Simone kept the renovation costs of the main bathroom down by working with the home’s existing floor plan. This allowed her to spend more on the room’s finishes. But, on the other hand, the ensuite bathroom needed to be built from scratch in a spot where the laundry used to be. “There was a lot of build work involved. We removed the existing laundry and the ensuite space was created from scratch starting with the timber framing.”

Shower in modern bathroom with large natural stone tiles and brass showerhead and skylight.
Large format tiles in a soft, neutral shade create a serene shower space. Brushed nickel tapware from ABI Interiors. (Credit: Photographer: The Palm Co)

5. Personalise storage

If you’ve ever watched bathroom week on The Block, you may be familiar with how fond the judges are with bathroom storage (whether it be a shaving cabinet or a large vanity with drawers). While Simone says storage is critical for an everyday family bathroom, she said at The Bach, which is essentially a holiday home, large storage spaces weren’t required. 

“Would I create this open-style vanity in a client’s everyday home? No. When on holidays, open style storage is a great option as you have somewhere to place your toiletries and when you leave you can see everything, so it makes it easier to pack everything back up and not forget items.”

What features should a modern bathroom have?

The features you include in a modern bathroom will ultimately depend on your lifestyle, family, budget and the amount of available space in your bathroom. That being said, here are some of the features most modern bathrooms should have: 

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