Ugly Bathroom Fan Covers and How To Avoid Them

In response to our recent Design Minute about shower drain technology, long time Slow Home viewer Susan Bernstein posted a comment on our Facebook page, calling out for a much needed improvement in the design quality of other every day finishing details like bathroom fans and cold air return grills.

Her comment reads:

“Having just finished a whole house reno .. I am amazed at how many details haven’t quite caught up to design .. case in point .. air return covers and the one I stare at every day and wonder WHY???? bathroom fan covers. There’s a big hole in the market here. These finishing details are so important and so overlooked.”

Susan is so right. Most of the bathroom fan covers available on the market today look like they were designed in the 1970′s with cheap plastic contours and bad color choices. Given the significant advances in other building products like plumbing fixtures, flooring and appliances, one would think that something as ubiquitous and necessary as a bathroom fan would also be catching up to current design thinking. So the question is, what options do we have if we do not want to ruin our bathroom ceilings with an ugly looking fan cover?

We were able to come up with one idea to replace a standard bathroom fan with something a little more seamless. Watch the video to find out what it is.

  • Li-Na

    John and Matthew, today’s video made me laugh because of course, I have voiced similar complaints! ;-)

    It did also however, remind me of this video interview with Moshe Safdie, the architect behind the National Gallery of Canada (my favourite building here in Ottawa). In this video, he talks about how ugly ventilation grills usually are and what he came up with to avoid them.

    I’ve always wondered about the story behind those blue suckers and this video finally satisfied my curiosity.

    By the way, the related short videos where Safdie talks about other details of the Gallery are just as fascinating!

  • Louise

    We recently renovated our bathroom and purchased a bath fan which is reasonably attractive, as shown below.  If you go to and search on Harbor Beeze bathroom fan, you’ll find a collection which looks quite a bit better than the ones shown in the video today.

  • Louise

    Sorry, the image didn’t load correctly the first time.  Second attempt below.

  • Matthew North

    Louise – thanks for posting this! Somehow the round fans seem to work better in my head than the square or rectangular ones. I remember in some older 1950′s and 1960′s houses, the bath fans were round and had a silver or aluminum finish. They probably didn’t work well, but they looked better.

  • Matthew North

    Hi Li-Na – thanks for posting this interview – very interesting! And yes……I know you have been a long time critic of poorly designed finishing details – you and I want to change the world for the better one bath fan at a time!

  • Louise

    Oops, there’s a typo in the spelling of the brand name.  Its Harbor Breeze.

  • Meiny

    When we replaced the original bathroom fans the main consideration was noise first and looks second. Like the Panasonic where the light and fan are combined. It even has a separate nightlight. The fan is on a timer with push buttons. It certainly beats opening a window in the Summer heat to vent the bathroom. Since these bathroom fans are really quiet we actually use them several times a day.