If you want to create the perfect vintage-style bathroom, then look no further. This blog post will celebrate some of the most significant periods in British design – from the opulent Victorians to the pared-back Edwardians – to show you how you can bring each era’s features into your modern bathroom.
Vintage schemes evoke feelings of timelessness and glamour, creating a truly classic feel for your bathroom. But, in the twenty-first century, you can easily add a contemporary twist by bringing each scheme up-to-date with quality fixtures, gorgeous accessories and intelligent heating. Read on for a breakdown of each era and our period style bathroom ideas.
Famous for its “dolls’ house” style country houses and gorgeous sash windows, the Georgian era captured easy, understated elegance. Rooms were airy and spacious with delicate furniture, muted colour schemes and plenty of wood.
The period covered several decades and has three main influences: the Grand Tour, where the upper classes essentially took a ‘gap year’ round Europe; the Orient, then a mysterious, rich continent; and Palladian style, which looked to classical architecture and evoked a sense of symmetry and harmony.
The colours – early schemes of the period were in rich tones of burgundy and sage but gave way to more pale and muted shades, such as Wedgwood blue, pea green and dusky pink.
The furniture – stick to delicate pieces and always with a natural wood look. Again, including a chair, if space allows, is a great design nod to the era – choose a winged or hoop-back style.
The fixtures – go for something luxurious yet functional, and with ceramic touches, if you can. Lever-style handles capture the effortless elegance of the era.
The services – add warmth and a touch of opulence with a metallic bath – especially if it comes in a roll-top design. Console sinks were also popular in this era.
The accessories – look to faux marble accessories to evoke the grandeur of the period. Striped linen often featured on furniture – replicate it with striped towels or a rug.
The decor – simple, repeat patterns were common, especially trefoils, as was anything with an Oriental – ‘chinoiserie’ – feel. Later in the period, geometrics began to be introduced, with simple squares and stripes. Black and white flooring that nodded to large manor houses was trendy, and fits well in a bathroom. Finally, consider adding panelling, or using wooden furniture, in your space.
The Victorian era offers lots in the way of period bathroom ideas, being a time of opulence, and famous for its decorative arts. Striking a balance between eccentric and eclectic, the style of the period drew on multiple influences – such as Middle-Eastern – which is unsurprising, given the power and swathe of the British Empire at this time. The period also gave rise to a revival of Gothic, with its decorative aesthetic creeping into everything from design to architecture.
Victorians favoured ‘orderliness and ornamentation’: each room of the house had different and distinctive decor, with objects proudly on display reflecting the interests and aspirations of the owner.
The colours – classification of colour was beginning to come into its own in this period, particularly the use of the ‘colour wheel’, which can help identify complementary and contrasting colours. Rich, dark tones were popular, including purple, blue and green.
The furniture – the Victorians borrowed from all different eras to create a unique and eclectic look, but a good rule of thumb is this: the more detailed and ornate the furniture, the better (whether you choose in-built furniture or go for standalone pieces).
The fixtures – traditional pillar taps work best in this kind of scheme, particularly cross-shaped handles. Cast iron was a key material of the period, so don’t be afraid to choose powder-black fixtures to hark back to the era.
The services – porcelain and enamel are ideal when choosing your bath, sink and toilet. Freestanding baths, particularly in the slipper shape, are ideal, but built-in tubs can also work well. Choosing one with a decorative wooden panel is a lovely touch. When it comes to your basin, the more flare and ornamentation, the better – and a high-level cistern toilet looks striking and authentic.
The accessories – when it comes to accessorising, be prepared to let loose! Metallics are a great choice, as gilding was becoming a popular technique in the home, and marbling was also a key trend – which you can incorporate as worktop or nod to with marble-effect tumblers or dispensers. Large, fancy mirrors create an instant Victorian feel, while quirky ceramics add that finishing touch.
The decor – the most famous designer of the era, is arguably William Morris – think elegant tapestries. You can reference this with damask patterned tiles or wallpaper and by incorporating flocked textures – for example, on your towels.
A tranquil time in history, this fed into the period’s design elements, where a pastel palette, simple geometrics and almost minimalist approach to accessorising all featured.
Edwardians loved natural light and space, which are two elements that combine beautifully in a bathroom. After the indulgent, opulent feel of the Victorian period, it certainly made for a stark contrast! There was also a feeling of luxury associated with the era, and thanks to the period’s inventive streak, fixtures and fittings were made into more of a feature
The colours – primrose yellow, eau-de-nil, and duck egg were three of the most prominent shades of the era, but soft greys and lilacs also featured. All work well in modern times.
The furniture – to achieve an authentic look, it’s a good idea to shy away from in-built furniture, and let your porcelain pieces speak for themselves. However, some bathrooms used a simple chair to elevate the look, which is something you can easily replicate.
The fixtures – when choosing your shower and taps, go for designs that are as exposed as possible, celebrating functional design that also has a stylish edge.
The services – your toilet, sink and bath work beautifully in a more angular, square style, and a bevelled design harks back to the era, too. Freestanding is the way to go for your tub, and the classic clawfoot gives the perfect finish. As in the Victorian era, high cisterns are a great way to nudge to the period.
The accessories – a simple mirror works wonders in this space and can make the difference between bland or beautiful. Painted towel rails are an easy option that feel legitimate, and for anything else – from your soap dish to your toothbrush holder – go for the best you can afford.
The decor – florals and geometrics abound in this period, but remember to go for something that isn’t too fussy to stay true to the era.
It’s not just the early periods that people come back to when looking for period bathroom design ideas. Here are three different eras to inspire and excite. You can also check out our blog on more contemporary styles here.
The roaring 20s
Inspired by the silver screen, this decade oozed glamour and decadence. The famous art deco style emerged with geometrics and angular shapes at the forefront, exotic materials – from mother-of-pearl to tortoiseshell- and lots of bling – like varnished surfaces and mirrored finishes – being highly covetable.
Capture the feel of the era with checkerboard vinyl floor tiles or even parquet flooring overlaid with large-scale rugs, and look to monochrome and metallics for a luxurious look.
The modernist era
Modernism was the era from around 1918-1950, but it took off post-world war 1 – especially with the Bauhaus movement. With a predominantly-primary colour palette, minimalist spaces and focus on clever engineering, modernism set itself clearly apart from the fussy ornamentation of earlier periods, instead looking to create unique and functional pieces, often from quirky materials.
Clean white is the best choice when looking for period bathroom ideas, especially when coupled with neutral flooring. Porthole windows are a real quirk of the era and work perfectly in this kind of space, and you can dress them with plain blinds. Built-in furniture is also a vital aspect of the period.
The swinging sixties
The sixties is one of the most enduring eras when it comes to making a style statement. Flower power, pop art and op art – patterns that simulate movement – were popular, and print and colour found their way onto the furniture as well as the walls and floor. The era felt fun and energised, but still called on the past – get the look by incorporating wood panels into your space or look to ‘futuristic’ accessories, wicker storage and brightly-coloured towels.
Plastic and PVC materials featured heavily in this period, and a palette of vibrant, clashing colours struck out against monochrome.
Now that you’ve read our post, check out our fabulous bathroom ranges for more inspiration: whether it’s an iconic, freestanding bath or some gorgeous new accessories to bring your space to life.
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