7 Upgrades for A Modern, Spa-like bathroom—For Everyone


What is it that makes a gym, spa, or hotel bathroom so luxurious-feeling—and how can you take that feeling home to your own bathroom? We did some research, went through our project archives, and compiled our top seven features to tackle for the ultimate home bathroom upgrades. 

Gritty and sooty from life in the city, many of us will make a beeline for the sauna upon arrival to a spa. Ensconced in glass and bursting with mysterious steam, it tries its best to offer a loss of time and place (after the week we’ve had—please) through reduced visibility and the ever lasting-allure of pure, shining glass.

Why glass? It mimics water, it’s transparent, so it brings in sunlight, and it’s honestly just pure magic! How can something so invisible be so strong (and so heavy!). And it’s made of sand. Will wonders never cease?

Because of its water-like qualities, glass reflects and refracts, making spaces appear bigger and less boxy than they truly are. In a smaller space (like a bathroom) this becomes especially valuable, adding dimension and breadth to what is often a tiny room relegated to a daily routine.

A shower stall is a water saving, spa-like enclosure that can readily clean up a cluttered-looking bathroom. Whether or not you have an optional tub, a separate shower stall—particularly a curbless one—is the more inclusive option, allowing for children, the elderly, wheelchair users and those with mobility disabilities to access the shower facility safely. Installing a couple of grab bars, a ledge or throwing in a helpful bench can be super advantageous for shower accessibility, too.

Perhaps the idyll of the marble-white and porcelain bathroom came into being because people like clean bathrooms, and light colors allow every last speck to be seen. But whether you like a milky palette or prefer neutrals, earthtones, or rich oceanic hues, the key to a fancy-looking powder room is transparency, and that means laying it all out on the table. Even with a glass door, a shower stall can look grimy or tiny with plastic borders and appliances that have turned cream-colored with the sands of time. If possible, do away with the sliding doors on your shower stall–that overlap area is extra hard to clean, and that’ll take your mind out of spa-mode in a jiffy. Simple, clean lines, minimal borders, crevices and steps—all of these contribute to easy cleaning and that coveted “no one has ever used this bathroom before”-look.

continuous shower trench drainIn our West Loop Loft renovation, we opted for a continuous shower floor with linear drain, simple, minimal bathtub and fixtures, barely adorned shower glass partition—all of the features of a truly spa-like bathroom. 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever showered with your feet in a half inch of cold water because the drain wasn’t working fast enough. Maybe in 2022 that’ll be some kind of new fangled spa-treatment, but for now, it’s just plain uncomfortable and completely undoes all the “take the day off” business that a hot shower is supposed to. A well-functioning drain is like a well functioning furnace. When it’s working, you don’t notice it, but when it doesn’t—you really do. For this reason, we love a linear drain. A linear drain is a long, rectangular drain that spreads across the wall-side edge of a shower stall or shower. The greater surface area allows for more water to drain at once, and it’s also easier to clean. Yes!

Raise your hand again if you’ve ever appreciated the base of your toilet as an aesthetic feature of your bathroom. This very essential appliance occupies entirely too much real estate in most bathrooms, and for the most part, it doesn’t do much for the design of a space. While I’ve had daydreams about incredible shower stalls that washed my stress away, i’ve rarely told someone they had to check out the toilet in a hotel or restaurant (except in Japan). A wall hung toilet is one way around this. We have a whole post on why we love the wall hung toilet, it’s easier to clean, it’s more accessible, and it takes up less up a footprint to boot.

The set designers on a movie know how to make a motel bathroom look unappealing. It’s all about the lighting. Fluorescent, ghastly and overhead, it’s enough to make you wanna split in a hurry. Light designing can be intimidating with dozens of options and temperatures to choose from, but the quickest fix is to simply have an additional light to the overhead light. Overheads are generally nice in bathrooms because they are far from water sources, and provide a strong glow for detail views. But they are often far too harsh to encourage true relaxation in the bathroom. A shower light, vanity light, wall sconce at a warmer temp —all are great options. Just veer away from the exposed bulbs and floor lamps for safety reasons.


When revamping Jordano Photography Studio for our client we had a mission to give them multi-directional light for all their photography needs. In the process we added several PV operated skylights in the main studio, and even a skylight over the bathroom, bringing in tons of natural light without losing privacy. The feeling of pure sunlight streaming through is one of the most luxurious we could conjure. Same goes for making sure there’s an operable window in your bathroom, the sound of birds chirping and fresh breeze flowing in helps create that escape sensation (barring car alarms, of course).

Jordano Photography Studio Has a Spa-like Bathroom due to its skylight

Perhaps the best thing about a hotel or spa bathroom? It doesn’t have any of your junk from home lying around on it. I remember a walk-in shower from a visit to a friends rural, stunning cabin. All that lay on the recessed tile shelf was a single bottle of Dr. Bronner’s and a conditioner. While not everyone is a minimalist (we enjoy our soaps, ok!) having just a few items out on display is one of the best ways to help the brain recover from visual information overload, which after a long day can sometimes be as distracting as a crowded concert hall. In a bathroom with limited space (or with most of it swallowed up by a cavernous undersink cabin, where the threat of a mini-flood is always locked and loaded), keeping sinks and shelves near-bare can be a challenge. The solution? Some customized millwork that works to the exact proportions of your restroom can certainly take the edge off an overstuffed vanity or sink ledge and will stand up to moisture and temperature changes. If this is out of your budget, a couple floating shelves and some DIY hooks can really help.

And of course, the recessed shower shelf (pictured above from our Melrose House renovation) keeps bathtub edges and shower floors free, and lessens the need for those often unsightly coated plastic shower organizers that hang off the shower. Practical? Sure. Spa-like? Not a chance (except this one is pretty cute).

While the whole bundle of these upgrades would be grand, one or two would make an excellent start to a luxurious bathroom renovation for a variety of budgets.