Transitional bathroom ideas – 12 ways to embrace this increasingly popular style

Can’t decide on which design era you love best? Then a transitional bathroom is for you

bathroom in trad setting with black and white graphic tiles, art deco vanity, mid century armchair, wooden stools
(Image credit: Fired Earth)

Sitting between trad and modern interior styles, a transitional bathroom will give you the best of both worlds. Merging contemporary design elements along with all the warmth and character of a more classic interior style, if you're undecided about how to decorate your bathroom space, this look is for you.

What’s exciting about this increasingly popular, modern bathroom style is that it doesn’t matter which pieces are old or new, as long as there’s a mixture. You could have a floating vanity or one that’s over 100 years old, polished marble floor tiles or weathered floor boards. How you mix it up is up to you as Nishtha Sadana, interior designer and writer at Decorated Life explains:

‘Transitional interior design mainly requires an amalgamation of modern and traditional elements. In your bathroom, it could be a blend of a pedestal sink and modern and contemporary cabinets and fixtures. That way, you can achieve the best of both worlds and have a statement of style!

On the other hand, you can have a modern vanity and sink along with traditional brass-tinted fixtures and accents! This contrast is something to look forward to.’

How to define your own transitional bathroom

‘This style is all about neutral palettes with smooth, polished lines and brushed metals. To achieve the look, layer whites, creams, greys, and splashes of black for the modern aspect, while adding in elements of warmth with wood that will bring in the farmhouse feel to the bathroom decor,’ advises Anna Franklin, founder and interior designer at Stone House Collective

1. Mix vintage inspired pieces with 1930s accessories

white bathroom with vintage sink, retro mirror and wall lights, stool, walk in shower and vintage rug

(Image credit: Davis Interiors)

‘The client loves color and vintage-inspired design. I immediately thought of adding a wall mounted basin sink and the design came together around that. I was concerned that if we did a cabinet, it would look just like every other new bathroom. 

The arched mirror and brass pendants give the bathroom a modern touch among the vintage-inspired elements. I wanted something bright and fresh since this was on the lower level of a 1940s house,’ says Jennifer Davis, founder and principal designer at Davis Interiors.

2. One piece is all you need

farmhouse style bathroom, blue painted roll top, shiplap, marble side table

(Image credit: Crown Paint)

In this charming farmhouse style bathroom there’s one key element that ensures it’s also a transitional bathroom – the contemporary marble side table. It would suit a sleek minimalist scheme too, but here it fits in really well to this look. One key element is all you need, and this chunky design will be useful for plants, toiletries and candles.

3. Have fun with retro tiles and furniture 

bathroom in trad setting with black and white graphic tiles, art deco vanity, mid century armchair, wooden stools

(Image credit: Fired Earth)

The beauty of the transitional bathroom style is that pretty much anything goes. You can team different eras together, as long as they are different, it will work. 

This look proves how combining bold and graphic bathroom tile ideas with a more laid back art deco style vanity works so well. Wooden floors add warmth and the mid-century armchair and stools add depth and charm.

4. Complement monochromes with a hint of antique

monochromatic bathroom with vintage rug and rustic stool, black framed window and tub

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway Studio/Chad Mellon)

This smart monochromatic bathroom with its modern black window frames, tub and pendant has a minimalist touch. To prevent it from looking too start an antique rug has been placed on the white floor tiles together with a rustic stool. The rest of the scheme is modern but the whole look works together really well due to the light and airy space.

5. Choose a marble topped rustic vanity 

rustic bathroom in neutral shades, walk in shower, wooden vanity

(Image credit: Tile Mountain)

A transitional bathroom isn’t for those who love minimalism, the overall feel is of a contemporary space. This bathroom has a porcelain tiled walk in shower, that’s most definitely modern in style. However, the vanity is rustic and oozes farmhouse style charm. Countertops in transitional bathrooms do tend to be marble, granite or quartz as they fit in well with this mix of styles. 

6. Let curved shapes soften modern elements 

grey bathroom with grey studded wall, chrome roll top, shower ring and curtain, stool

(Image credit: Albion Bath Company)

If you love the industrial look you can still embrace a transitional bathroom style. This studded wall provides the perfect backdrop for this curvy bathtub and shower curtain rail. The colors match which helps, but the contrast of the angular lines with the rounded edges help to create this look. Add in a retro style stool and the look is complete!

7. Get decorative with retro wallpaper and tiles 

bathroom with retro wall covering, taupe graphic floor tiles, walk in shower, wooden vanity

(Image credit: Kim Armstrong Interior Design)

Furniture doesn’t have to be the star of the transitional bathroom show so to speak – a fabulous retro wall covering teamed with graphic tiles can do the trick nicely. The vintage wooden vanity blends in well with the taupe tones in the designs.

Carry the tiles through to contemporary glass shower and add in a brass faucet with matching mirror and wall lights.

8. Keep the colors muted – with a side of black

modern bathroom with black shower, black tiled floor, wooden rustic stool, white walls

(Image credit: Stone & Ceramic Warehouse)

On the whole, the transitional bathroom has muted tones of taupe, whites, greys and blue – with a hint of black. The general feel is light and airy whichever era is dominant, and the key is to have a good balance of light and dark as seen in this predominantly modern bathroom – aside from the rustic stool.

9. Team modern paintwork with floral tiles for elegance

classic bathroom with roll top bath, floral tile focal wall, navy painted woodwork and window

(Image credit: Original Style)

Use paint in a contemporary way by finishing all woodwork in a single shade and teaming it with a beautiful band of floral tiles that sit behind a classic roll top tub. 

An retro upholstered armchair with slim tapered legs adds interest as does the warm wood choice of bathroom flooring.

10. Contrast patterned floor tiles with charming wooden beams

blue bathroom with blue shaker vanity, blue patterned floor tiles, exposed beams

(Image credit: Roper Rhodes)

Strike the perfect balance between classic and contemporary with bold blue patterned bathroom floor tiles in a space that has beautiful old ceiling beams. 

Shaker cabinetry is a popular transitional bathroom choice as it cleverly sits between timeless and modern styles. Add in a pair of LED mirrors and your bathroom will be a good mix of two styles. 

11. Add warmth to a minimalist scheme with an illustrative mural

modern bathroom with patterned floor tiles, illustrative mural, modern white tub

(Image credit: Bathroom Mountain)

It’s not always about the fixtures and fittings, a sleek yet on-the-verge-of-clinical bathroom can be softened visually with a traditional style illustration mural in black and white. 

Make sure the colors blend together – remember this look is subtle, not bright and bold – and keep your accessories minimal. 

12. Note that simple shapes work best

white bathroom with metro tiles, white basin, mirror, wall lights, blue door

(Image credit: Fritz Fryer)

This transitional bathroom look proves how sinks in white or cast iron work best. Consider the shape too, this wall hung design mimics the shape of the metro tiles perfectly although the shape is quite contemporary with the edging. Keep your bathroom organized so that clutter is at a minimum, this particular space has utilitarian feel which is contrasted with by the exposed brick wall that you can see in the mirror reflection. 

What is a transitional bathroom? 

‘The idea behind the design of transitional bathrooms is to create an environment with enough modern amenities to provide ease and comfort while also maintaining some sense of history through traditional features. A transitional bathroom can be both aesthetically pleasing and practical for homeowners who are not sure what they want in their new space,’ explains Dan Wiener, founder and lead designer at Homedude

‘The most crucial feature of transitional bathrooms is the colors. They need warm tones that give the sense of relaxation and not the bright colors people associate with contemporary designs,’ adds Marco Bizzley, interior designer and consultant at HouseGrail

What is a transitional vanity? 

‘Transitional design is all about balancing old and new; or contemporary and traditional. Shaker-style cabinet doors are the most popular option for a transitional vanity. 

If you want to achieve this design style, look for vanity doors that are ornate, or on the other hand, doors that are very simple. The key is to mix elements that are modern and traditional,’ explains Anna Franklin, founder and interior designer at Stone House Collective

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor of indie magazine, 91, Sophie trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for the modern bride.