Vintage and Retro Bathroom Design and Fixtures

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An older house is a treasure to be protected and very often features design elements that you will want to preserve.

A vintage bathroom, for example, features classic elements that hearken back to a simpler time, such as pedestal sinks, graceful chrome fittings and substantial moldings and millwork.

But, although you might want to preserve the vintage look of your bathroom, you’ll certainly want to update all the fixtures and amenities. Luckily you can have the best of both worlds.

Wainscoting, chrome fixtures and mirror frame and black and white title give this bathroom a nice vintage look and feel.

Vintage Bathroom Décor Basics

Recent years have seen a great revival in ‘traditional’ bathrooms that evoke the stately, rather masculine style of the Edwardian and Victorian eras, when bathrooms were sumptuously, if rather cumbersomely, decorated. Think capacious claw foot bath tubs, polished brass fittings, freestanding vanities, masculine deep rich colors, heavy rugs and elaborate curtaining.

A vintage style bathroom design aims to feel warm and well lived-in. The graceful detailed finishing touches add an ornate decadence that never loses its timeless appeal.

Vintage Bathroom Color Schemes and Materials

The vintage bathroom design tends toward masculine themes with rich, deep colors, and plenty of dark polished wood set off by heavy rugs and elaborate curtaining.

Wood paneling is a popular choice of wall cover for vintage style bathrooms as it is ideal for concealing the less-than-perfect surfaces often found in an older house. Tongue-and-groove boards are widely available from DIY stores and are easy to install and can be painted in any color to suit your personal design.

Faux paneling, either throughout the room or just below a chair rail, can be painted in, while wallpapers inspired by archive print collections can lend an authentic touch.

Window treatments in faded, tea-stained linens, old chintzes, silks and damasks can be hung on heavy wooden poles with decorative finials, or enhanced by pelmets finished with lavish fringes and tassels.

Vintage Bathtub Styles

For any bathroom that aims to evoke vintage charm, the centrepiece of a large, cast-iron roll-top tub with decorative ball-and-claw feet and polished brass taps in a necessity.

These large, cast-iron bathtubs originated in the nineteenth century but many bathroom dealers now offer authentic looking, lightweight reproductions. If you prefer not to purchase a roll-top tub, alternatively, a standard bath can be set into a marble surround with side panels of glossy, dark-stained wood, evoking the mahogany fixtures of times gone by.

Whatever its size and shape, however, the bath should always be a cast-iron one; this bathroom design looks back to the days well before the invention of acrylic.

Retro Bathroom Design Fixtures and Fittings

Original fittings have come back into vogue and architectural salvage firms are flourishing as home decorators scour the country for old brass taps, basins, roll-top baths and commodes. While these are invariably beautiful to look at but they need careful restoration to function properly and a lot of time and effort is required to keep them looking good.

Luckily for all those who have little time to seek out the genuine article, manufacturers have been quick to respond to demand and most bathroom showrooms and catalogues now offer well-designed and authentic-looking traditional ranges.

Basins are usually capacious affairs, either freestanding complete with matching pedestal, or built into a marble of mahogany surround. Many custom and semi-custom cabinetry collections include unfitted vanities so shop around. Faucets should be pillar-style with handles rather than modern levels or mixture controls.

Toilets can have wooden seats and high-level cisterns with pull-chains. Finish the pipes, chains and taps in a gleaming brass finish or gold plating to add that feeling of vintage opulence.

Vintage Bathroom Design Accessories

It is the small details that will really make your vintage bathroom theme work. This is especially true if you are trying to create a vintage look in a new bathroom space. The small touches will mellow into a soft patina over time, and give a newly remodeled bathroom some antique appeal.

When choosing your accessories, the key is to evoke a well-lived in, aged atmosphere. Ornaments, photographs and books reflecting your interests could be arranged on every possible surface. Glass-fronted prints and paintings hung on every wall would look equally at home in the vintage bathroom design.

Furniture can feature prominently. A large mahogany chest of drawers topped with a dressing-table mirror or perhaps a set of silver-backed brushes to provide storage for linen of clothes. Space permitting, you might also install a wardrobe, a linen press or an upholstered ottoman.

Any occasional furniture will give the bathroom a comfier, lived-in look. Even a simple wooden chain and table can provide a contrast in the gleaming brass and marble style to highlight the ornate vintage design of the bathroom.

Vintage and Retro Bathroom Decorating Tips

Here are some final tips to add the perfect finishing touches to your opulent vintage bathroom design:

  • Mounting accessories on the wall via shelf brackets will help to keep your vanity space clear of clutter.
  • Little ceramic bowls decorated with light pink and yellow flowers are typical of this era and also add accents of a brighter color.
  • A chandelier would be an opulent and romantic lighting device.
  • Add a gleaming brass or chunky chrome bath rack and hang monogrammed linen hand towels on it to continue the detailed old-fashioned theme.
  • Further old-fashioned glamour can be added with a gilt frame in the mirror. This also reflects the fine craftsmanship typical of homes built in this era.
  • Think the small but untypical details to scatter throughout the room: an old shaving brush and bowl, bath oils and aftershaves, with collections of glass bottles for scent.

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