I'm refurbing my bathroom and I'm not following this key 2024 spa-like trend – here's why

There's a design trick that is seemingly easy to do and that designers love for creating spa-like bathrooms. I'm right not to be following along?

bathroom with open shelving and folded towels
(Image credit: Future)

My bathroom refurb should have been finished by now. I ought to have pictures of it to show you. It ought to be a calming, spa-like space, one that I go into and feel instantly relaxed, that is elevated by creamy marble tiles, and bathed in a gentle beauty from the soft yellow paint on the walls. It ought to feel like a spa, as that was my main focus going into the project.

The project is currently running ten weeks late, a maddening series of supplier hold-ups and tradespeople dramas. But in all of this the one thing that hasn't wavered is my commitment to ignoring the one bathroom trend that designers seem assured is a shorthand for creating a spa-like space. And I'm pretty sure I'm doing the right thing. Here's why I am going anti-trend with my bathroom ideas.

spa-like bathroom with stack of towels

(Image credit: Future)

A simple finishing touch that designers and social media users swear by is the addition of neatly folded towels. These are usually placed in open bathroom shelving, with space around them so that they look a little like how you might place a sculpture. But equally, they could be on the side of the vanity, ready for use, if you don't have open shelves.

'It feels more luxe to have a stack of towels, freshly pressed, absolutely,' says Molly Kidd, chief creative and principal designer for the Oregon-based studio Light and Dwell. 'Even if there's not a ton of towel storage space, give the towels a moment, put them on display.' A stack of towels, ready for use, instantly reminds of you of what it's like to be in a spa, ready to relax, putting you in that frame of mind. 

patterned bathroom with towels on display

(Image credit: Madeline Harper. Design by Arterberry Cooke. Build by Danny Spears of Captex Construction)

It's an approach that the Texas-based interior designer Alice Arterberry of the studio Arteberry Cooke took for this patterned bathroom. And the result is truly spa-like space.

'The design of the entire home is truly reflective of the homeowners' personalities, and this bathroom is no exception,' Alice says. 'The homeowners wanted the space to feel vibrant yet elevated. I think the overall look feels very spa-like with a twist. Even though there are a lot of materials and textures, all of the selections are simple and muted and the wallpaper was the area where we wanted to bring the vibrancy to match the homeowner's personality.'

Again, it's that ability to be able to just grab a towel, freshly laundered and recently pressed, that gives the feeling of utter luxury here. I get it – it works, it does the job and it's very appealing. But I've decided not to follow it, and here's why I think I'm doing the right thing.

spa-like bathroom with closed storage

(Image credit: Future)

Sadly, this isn't a picture of my bathroom–- it's still a long way from looking like this (though the flooring is now in, and much of the tiling is done). But while I do have the perfect space for open shelving, where I could easily keep a stack of perfectly pressed towels on display to put me in a spa-like mood, I've chosen to go for closed-off storage.

Why? Because I am not convinced I could keep the stack of towels looking fresh, fluffy, well-pressed, and inviting at all times. Trust me, I wish I could. I wish I was the sort of person whose bath linens came out of the wash as bouncy as a newborn baby, as puffed up as a balloon, as soft and pillowy as a cloud. But try as I might to mend my ways I just never seem to be able to be the sort of person who can keep on top of this sort of thing. I know that I'll end up doing them in a hurry, shoving them onto the shelving, planning to come back later and sort them out. That the latter will never happen, the towels will look in disarray, and the shelves, inevitably, will start getting dusty.

Much as my heart is in the right place, and much as I see the benefits of this towel-folding trend to create a spa-like bathroom, eschewing it for closed storage is a better fit for my personality. I'm doing the right thing, right?

yellow bathroom

(Image credit: Future)

Of course, neatly folded towels aren't the only way to give a bathroom some soothing, spa-like vibes, and with this in mind, I wanted to invoke some other tricks that I'd find easier to maintain.

Surprisingly, not every idea is based on decorating with neutrals. 'Wellness is as much around feeling invigorated as it is soothed,' says the artist Emily Forgot, who recently created a brightly colored bath for Clearwater Interiors. 'Imagine the idea of summer, and how tranquil that notion can make you feel. The colors associated with summer tend to be more vibrant – the yellows of the sand on the beach, the blues of the sea and sky, or the deep greens of a walk in the forest. These hues can be so rejuvenating and are perfect for a bathroom, where they can wrap you up and made you feel held, like a quilt. Infinitely comforting, and just as much of a luxury as any traditional spa.'

In fact this advice, and discovering this image, above, in an old issue of Homes & Gardens, is what has led me to embrace yellow as a calming, spa-like bathroom color. My bathroom has pretty big windows, is south-facing, and gets a lot of light, so leaning into that and filling it with the color of morning sunlight should make me feel instantly soothed.

What designers tell me regularly is to not rush into any decorative decisions, to not follow interior design trends blindly, and to think about how you will actually use a space and what will work for you. I feel pretty pleased with myself – not for being unable to fold a towel neatly but for recognizing that I'm unable to do that, and that I'm too old a dog to be taught new tricks. 

Yes, the towel-folding idea is a quick one to update a bathroom with, a seemingly easy one to follow. But I'm right in deciding not to go after this trend, to focus on others instead. Aren't I?!

Pip Rich

Pip Rich is an interiors journalist and editor with 20 years' experience, having written for all of the UK's biggest titles. Most recently, he was the Global Editor in Chief of our sister brand, Livingetc, where he now continues in a consulting role as Executive Editor. Before that, he was acting editor of Homes and Gardens, and has held staff positions at Sunday Times Style, ELLE Decoration, Red and Grazia. He has written three books - his most recent, A New Leaf, looked at the homes of architects who had decorated with house plants. Over his career, he has interviewed pretty much every interior designer working today, soaking up their knowledge and wisdom so as to become an expert himself.