6 Dated Bathroom Design Elements That are Making a Comeback in 2024

Bathrooms deserve just as much style and soul as any other room in the home. Here are the once outdated design elements we're seeing everywhere again

(Image credit: Christian Harder. Design: ASH NYC)

We all have memories of our childhood bathroom that, looking back, probably feels very different to the modern bathrooms we see these days. But in interior design, old trends have a way of coming back around, especially when it comes to these smaller spaces.

As such, we're taking a look at the design details that once felt dated but are now hitting the spot again for us — bold bathroom wallpaper, terrazzo tiles, built-in baths and more.

Adding these nostalgic design elements to your bathroom can give your space a modern twist on a different time. So whether you're looking for ways to update your bathroom without fully replacing it, or want to give your space a bit of flair, these are the retro bathroom details that are making a comeback right now.

1. Bold wallpaper in the bathroom

A bathroom vanity with playful green wallpaper and traditional gold styling

(Image credit: Stojakovic Design)

Gone are the days of clinical, plain white walls. The resurgence of bold bathroom wallpapers are here to stay, and the options are endless.

They offer a fun way to introduce some pattern and color into a powder room or guest bathroom, allowing your personality to reflect through the design and create visual interest for the users.

‘Wallpaper is a great addition to a powder room and water closet to make a small space really pop,' says Liz Goldberg, Founder & Creative Director of North Carolina-based design firm, Carolynleona. 'There are some wonderful pattern wallpapers that feel retro in a fresh way, using pops of color paired with deco and mid-century inspired shapes.’

2. Alcove bath tubs

A traditional bathroom with green wall tiles surrounding the built in bath

(Image credit: Corey Lohmann Design)

Alcove baths and built-in bathtubs in general are most definitely something that’s been avoided where possible throughout the last few years. But more recently, we have been yearning for stylish spa-like sanctuaries, like the one shown above, that offer an escape after a long day.

‘These tubs are integrated into the surrounding walls, saving space and creating a seamless aesthetic,' says Nina Lichtenstein from Nina Lichtenstein’s Home Design. 'Modern interpretations feature sleek lines and innovative materials, transforming them into elegant focal points within the bathroom.’

Why wouldn’t you want to bathe in a cozy nook like this? It’s a work of art.

3. Terrazzo tiles

a terrazzo bathroom in a new york hotel

(Image credit: Christian Harder. Design: ASH NYC)

A composite material made by setting chips of marble, quartz, granite or glass in concrete, funky terrazzo tiles are experiencing a recent comeback in popularity.

This versatile material adds texture and visual interest to bathroom floors and countertops. The flecks in various colors offer up a playful and unique outcome, and can create a statement look.

‘In modern designs, terrazzo is often used in more subdued color palettes, creating a sophisticated and timeless look,’ adds Nina.

4. Brown bathrooms

a bathroom with a brown color scheme

(Image credit: Lauren Miller. Design: Hotel Julie by Stay Here X Twenty Two Twelve)

As previously mentioned, we're saying goodbye to clinical white bathrooms more and more and a big hello to warm and welcoming earth tones inspired by nature. Though you may not have believed it, Nina says: 'Brown bathrooms evoke a sense of comfort and relaxation, reminiscent of spa-like retreats.'

She recommends incorporating 'shades of brown, such as taupe, chocolate or terracotta through tiles, paints or accessories.'

Perry Walter, Founder of Walter Studio Interior Design suggests using ‘a neutral brown palette as a backdrop for a luxurious freestanding tub to create a warm and inviting atmosphere’.

After all, a bathroom should be a stylish sanctuary, not just a functional space.

5. Retro Tiles

a kids bathroom with blue tiles and pink grout

(Image credit: Andrew Ingalls. Design: And And And Studio)

Retro bathroom tiles, with their bold colors and geometric patterns, bring personality and a playful character to modern bathrooms.

Whether used as a statement wall or for the flooring, Nina recommends pairing retro tiles with minimalist fixtures and neutral tones to achieve a balanced and contemporary look.

Carolynleona's Liz Goldberg suggests, 'Wallpaper and retro tiles are bold and better than ever! We love using matte and honed finished tiles in earthy colors. This looks great in bathrooms, and you can play with the installation pattern to achieve a custom look.'

6. Antique-style vanity units and mirrors

a kids bathroom with a sink skirt

(Image credit: Jonathan Bond. Design: Barlow & Barlow)

Antique-style additions such as bathroom sinks and vanities, sink skirts and mirrors are endlessly charming and romantic details that give a nod to the time they were originally produced and the craftsmanship that was involved.

‘Combining an antique vanity cabinet with a framed gold leaf mirror and modern tiles creates a unique and personalized space. This unexpected mix of old and new creates a fresh and visually interesting look.’ says Walter Studio's Perry.

Interior Designer Kim Colwell adds, ‘We are in a new era of bespoke bathroom remodels that feel soulful. Consider unconventional pairings, like a flea market-sourced vanity with natural finishes against glossy retro tiles and let your bathroom reflect your self-expression and personality.’

This combination of styles will no doubt give your bathroom a timeless feel that will last a long time.

Embracing the comeback of these not-so-dated design elements will help to create your own unique bathroom, and you may even be surprised of the transformation that can happen when you begin adding — or embracing — them in your space.

‘The key lies in balance and restraint — pairing retro elements with modern finishes and minimalist bathroom accents creates a harmonious blend of old and new,’ says Nina.

What's for sure is that these details will make for a memorable and sophisticated experience every time you step inside your bathroom.

Portia Carroll

Portia Carroll is an interior stylist, writer, and design consultant. With a background in interior architecture and design, she has a plethora of creative experience in the industry working with high end interior brands to capture beautiful spaces and products and enhance their qualities.