When it comes to home value, everyone’s always talking about the importance of the bathrooms being modern — and certainly, few selling points are stronger than a “totally new, state-of-the-art bathroom!” as the listings love to exclaim.

Okay, but exactly how do you take a drab, dated bathroom and give it a second life? How much do you have to spend? What registers as refreshed, and what doesn’t?

Here are some modernizing bathroom remodeling ideas. Some involve tech, others are cosmetic; some require you to spend some green, others help the green movement. But all will help update your bathroom to increase its functionality and its buyer appeal.

Skip the tank

If you want a sleek, streamlined fixture, we have two words for you: tankless toilets. They receive their flushing water directly from a supply line built into the wall they’re affixed to. “Compared to the bulky design of a floor-mounted toilet, you can save more bathroom space with a tankless toilet,” states Joshua Blackburn, Founder and Director of Design and Construction for Evolving Home. “It also makes the space look less cluttered with its minimalist design” that makes it appear to float in space.

With prices starting from $1,000 , tankless toilets are not a small investment. Yet, they can save you money in the long run, as they reduce water consumption relative to the traditional tanked type.

Put in some plants

Plants possess a calming effect — so much so that nearly one-third of bathroom-renovating homeowners implement some foliage as part of their project, according to Houzz’s “2021 U.S.  Bathroom Trends Study.” They can also improve air quality, acting as natural air fresheners. Overall, “You will be amazed by observing the remarkable change after adding some green to your bathroom,” states real estate broker Ron Wysocarski, CEO of Wyse Home Team Realty.

What sort of plant?  Think of ones that thrive in humid environments, like bird’s nest fern. And aloe vera can pull double duty: You can squeeze its leaves to harvest its gel, which soothes and heals dry or damaged skin.

Upgrade to luxe fixtures

More than three-quarters of homeowners surveyed by Houzz indicated their bathroom remodel involved adding premium fixtures. The highest on the list included soaking tubs ($600-$3,500 ) and rainfall shower heads ($35-$210) . Shower body sprays are also trending, as they are smaller and side-mounted, increasing your shower’s functionality.

In fact, walk-in showers in general are au courant. Nothing says “granny’s bathroom” like a tub with a shower curtain around it. So, space permitting, try to install a separate one, or enlarge the one you have.

Also, “consider replacing dated, bulky vanities with sleek pedestal sinks,” adds Dave Mason, an interior designer and owner of The Knobs Company. Pedestal sinks, free-standing units that stretch up from your floor and ending in a basin, retail from $325 to $730 . Another option: a wall-affixed sink with cabinets underneath it that, like the tankless toilet, seems to float in space.

Even altering accents can make a modernizing change. “An easy way to update your bathroom is by installing new hardware such as a towel rod, towel bar, robe hook, and toilet paper holder,” states Jordan Fuller, a house flipper. “Changing from outdated hardware to [more innovative] brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze finishes will modernize your bathroom quickly and easily.

Shower with a view

A bathroom can never seem spacious enough, and one way to accomplish this — home layout permitting — is by adding a window or skylight, preferably to the aforementioned standalone shower area. It achieves multiple benefits:

  • You have a humidity outlet after a shower
  • It allows natural light in
  • You don’t have to turn on bathroom lights as much, reducing energy bills

Average prices for installing a bathroom-sized sliding window (around 26 to 84 inches wide and 24 to 60 inches tall) runs between $300 to $700, according to HomeLight, the real estate agent search site.

Add a splash of color

Where is it written that bathrooms have to be white-toned? “Painting your bathroom is one of the best ways to make it look modern and increase its value,” states Aaron Lebowski, a certified interior designer with Julieli Salone.

Of course, “you don’t want to do anything crazy but instead stick with cool, calming natural colors.”

“If you don’t feel like changing the color of your walls, you can always paint your cabinetry” as a compromise, he adds. A two-toned effect can be quite smart. The point is, don’t be afraid to add some color into your bath life.

Focus on the floor

High-quality flooring — beyond your basic tile — brings a bathroom up-to-date with both aesthetic and safety concerns. “Waterproofing the floor has become one of the most demanded features of a modern bathroom,” remarks Wysocarski. “It improves the property value and reduces the risk of injuries due to the slippery” surface.

Whether tiled or in tumbled stone form, natural materials ($100 to $300 per square foot ), such as granite, porcelain, or travertine (a type of limestone), transform the space from mundane to modern. Create continuity by extending the flooring around the tub or in the shower.

Go high-tech

Bathroom tech innovations can enhance comfort, improve functionality, and increase your home’s energy efficiency. “Consider installing a smart shower system or a programmable thermostat to help you save money on your energy bills,” suggests Mason. Smart shower systems allow you to set water temperature, flow rate, even shower duration. Admittedly, it’s an expensive endeavor, with systems ranging from $1,160  to $2,200 — though you can recoup on heating and water expenses.

Digital faucets (retailing between $150 and $600 ) turn themselves on and off with hand motions. Heated flooring (costing $8-$15 per square foo t to install) is another luxury that can save money in the long run, as its high efficiency means you can actually turn the thermostat down.

Install vertical shelves and adjustable lights

Vertical shelving instead of vanity drawers or cabinets adds a contemporary touch. With vertical shelves, you can snag towels, the hair dryer and toiletries quickly. Most importantly, it keeps your counters clutter-free.

Similarly, adding recessed lighting ($100  to $480 per fixture) instead of old-time sconces offers a cleaner, more streamlined look; if properly placed, it gives you ample illumination as you shave or put on makeup.

Consider adding a dimmer ($10 to $25 ) to the bathroom’s lights too. People always love this theatrical feature, and while the tech’s nothing new, being able to adjust the ambiance of the room never gets old.

Final word on modernizing a bathroom

Depending on what you do, costs for a bathroom remodel typically range from $6,000 to $16,000. But such renovations offer some of the highest returns on investment in the home-improvement universe, too — recouping at least two-thirds of their cost. The National Association of Realtors/NARI “2022 Remodeling Impact Report” places it even higher, saying  you can expect to receive back around 71% of the value of a bathroom reno project.

Of course, if you’re renovating with an eye to your home’s resale value, you don’t want to go too trendy with the updates, lest the bathroom resembles a time warp when you’re ready to sell. There are economic reasons not to go too wild, as well: Often the more extensive a redo, the less it recoups. According to Remodeling’s “2021 Cost vs Value Report,” a midrange bathroom remodel (costing around $24,000) earns you a 60.1% return on investment, while an upscale project (around $75,000) only achieves a 54.8% ROI.

In other words, relatively small things can refresh the space and modernize the bathroom in a way you can enjoy now and buyers can appreciate later.