Portland Traditional Bathroom

When we consider a remodel or new construction, we often hear terms like ″traditional″ and ″contemporary,″ but, what do these things mean? Was our grandmother’s bathroom traditional and our friend’s new work contemporary? The tendency in Portland for homeowners to mix and mash styles in search of an eclectic, individual style.

Is the bath contemporary if it uses eco-friendly materials? Maybe, but more design elements need to be considered.

In fact, there are no clear-cut answers to this question. However, there are a few guidelines we can keep in mind when identifying the style we desire.

At the end of the day, I can work with you to create the ideal bathroom for you and your family.


A contemporary bathroom might include all of the standard elements we expect in a bathroom: a sink, bathtub, shower, and toilet. However, each of these fixtures are likely to have unique design features, such as smooth surfaces, bold colors, or artistic elements. For instance, a contemporary sink may comprise a flat counter with a glass bowl resting on top and a long, curved fixture dispensing water.

Modernistic bathrooms give the illusion of space where there might not be much. The clean, unbroken lines don’t restrain the eye, so it moves clear to either side of the surface without fussy millwork to trip up the experience.

The walls in a contemporary bath might be completely bare, with no trim, or perhaps a geometrically-shaped trim to lend a spartan aesthetic. There may be tiled walls, but rather than the standard 4″ square tiles, small, 1″ tiles in unique colors might lend the wall a mosaic-like quality. So, a contemporary bathroom might have either a spare, spacious look or a very busy, frenetic look to it. In either case, the planes are not constrained, but let the eye roam clear to the corners.


When you enter a traditional bathroom, you often find that the cabinets are milled, the sinks sunk into a plain granite or tile counter, and all of the fixtures are rather plain. A traditional bathroom welcomes you in rather than making a bold statement. The idea is to put a person at ease. The millwork on the cabinets and trim move the eyes in a pleasant manner, usually on a horizontal or vertical plane.

The standard bathroom design uses the extra millwork to give a sense of comfort and ease. Where a contemporary design puts a person on a blank plane, traditional elements are used to lend a sense of cozy space, even though the bathroom itself may be quite large.

Mixing Styles

Frequently, we want to mix things up a bit. In this case, you might have a traditional vanity with milled, white cabinets, but a sink which looks like a museum piece. Your bath might have a clean, space-age look, but be surrounded by standard-sized tiles. The sky really is the limit, so consider these things carefully and even consult with an expert if needed. Styles may blend, but they also might clash. Given the range of possibilities, the final judgment lies in the eye of the beholder.