When you think ‘traditional bathroom,’ what comes to mind? If it’s traditional pillar taps, freestanding baths, and high-level cistern toilets, you’re probably thinking of the Victorian style.
This is an enduring and rewarding design choice for your bathroom. In the Victorian era, the British Empire was at its most far-reaching, meaning designers had an unprecedented amount of inspiration to draw upon. Middle-Eastern flavour mingled with Gothic; opulence mingled with eclecticism, all giving rise to a style that has persevered to this day.
Ornate, opulent, and elegant. These three words capture the essence of a Victorian bathroom.
If you’re wondering what a Victorian bathroom entails, let us show you. The images in this section give a flavour of what a Victorian design can bring to your bathroom.
Later on, we’ll dig deeper into the toilets, baths, sinks, showers, accessories, and decor that best define this style. But first, some visual inspiration.
This picture demonstrates Victorian design to a tee. There are ornate patterns with exotic influences on the floor, set against bold colours on the wall. Traditional taps and a riser shower showcase the exposed metal that is such a popular feature of the style. The sink is mounted on a metal frame which builds on and strengthens this metallic undertone. Also, note the slipper feet on the freestanding bath.
Another perfect demonstration of the Victorian style. You’ve got the freestanding bath with slippered feet, the all-in-one mixer tap and shower, and the elegant and exciting floor tiles that complement and contrast the wall tiles. This bathroom has it all. Also, note the chandelier. This era is renowned for its opulence, so although we’d usually not recommend lighting this outlandish in a bathroom, you can definitely consider it when using this style.
This bathroom can be regarded as a showcase for bringing the Victorian influence into a more modern design palette. You have the rich, dark colour navy that brings depth and gravitas to the room, and you have the exposed metalwork and traditional fitting style that scream Victorian. But with these things, you have chrome lighting that seems to suggest the 1960s more than the 1890s. You also have roller blinds with a distinctly un-Victorian pattern. Yet somehow, everything comes together to create a captivating and intriguing bathroom.
Here we see a high-level cistern toilet, which is an integral part of Victorian bathroom design. We’ll introduce these in more detail later, but for now let’s look at the colours in play in this bathroom. The bluey-grey in the top half of the room contrasts with the browns in the bottom half, and both are brought together in the lively tile design. This marrying-up of two colours through an element that uses both is a subtle yet incredibly effective design choice. Note the ornaments, too: a figurine by the window, some decorative bottles, a few cactuses. Designers in the Victorian era were very keen on showcasing their interests and passions through the careful deployment of such curios.
Sometimes, the old styles are the best. There’s a reason why Victorian design still plays a large part in modern bathrooms: it’s elegant, it’s timeless, and it’s been refined over more than a century.
This style works especially well in older houses, as it complements their character, rather than trying to rip it out and start fresh with a bland, contemporary bathroom. While modern design has its place, choosing something that strengthens the architectural style of your home allows for more consistency throughout.
A Victorian bathroom also works well in a home where traditional styles are used throughout. Consistent decor within rooms is a pivotal component of effective home design, but consistency between rooms is just as important and often overlooked.
In this section, we’ll look at the toilets, taps, baths, sinks, showers, accessories, and decor that best define the Victorian style.
Combined with the visual inspiration in the previous section, this should give you everything you need to finalise your Victorian bathroom decorating ideas.
The most quintessential toilet design in a Victorian bathroom is one with a high-level cistern. Back in the day, this elevation was borne of necessity: gravity gave the water enough force to let the flush mechanism function properly. Nowadays this isn’t a concern, but the striking aesthetic of a raised cistern has persevered.
It’s not just the height that will catch the eye. You also have the option of choosing ornate mounting brackets and different metallic finishes for the piping – two more areas where you can show off your design prowess.
Traditional taps from this era are big and bold. Expect to see striking mixer taps with mounted shower heads: busy, but the perfect mix of eye-catching and functional. Usually, you’ll see old-fashioned turn mechanisms, but some designs (like the one below) do incorporate the more modern lever styles.
One of our favourite pieces of bathroom furniture was a mainstay in Victorian design: the freestanding bath.
If you’re not familiar with this style, now is the time to get acquainted. Rather than being lined up against a wall and tiled into its own unit, a freestanding bath has the confidence and panache to stand on its own, usually on ornately slippered feet.
There really is no more reliable way to make a statement in your bathroom – regardless of the design period you choose.
When choosing a freestanding bath, there is one distinction to be aware of. A single-ended bath will have the taps at one end, whereas a double-ended bath will have them mounted in the middle (as above). With symmetry being such a cornerstone of effective bathroom design, make sure you choose the configuration that will work best with your plans.
We’ve mentioned shower heads mounted on top of mixer taps, but you can also expect to see riser showers in Victorian bathroom designs. These borrow from the same aesthetic vein as an elevated cistern: exposed valves, and visible plumbing.
Expect to see porcelain pedestal sinks with square shapes and non-uniform lines. Whereas a modern sink might have one unbroken line, traditional Victorian styles are likely to have ridges or similar. This may require slightly more time to clean, but brings a level of visual interest.
Radiators and towel rails borrow from the same design cues as Victorian toilets and showers, i.e., more exposed pipes than you would see in other styles.
Using variations on conventional radiator designs is another way to catch the eye of people using your bathroom. Note the ornate taps and the bulbous joins between sections: all little additional features that lend something to the overall design of the room.
Rich, dark colours. Tiles on the floor, the wall, or sometimes even both. Exotic patterns drawing inspiration from all corners of the former British Empire.
Ornaments, too, are actively encouraged in a Victorian bathroom. If you are staying true to the style, you should try to communicate your interests and passions through the decorations you include in your bathroom. This could be anything from plants and shells, to figurines and antiques.
Combined, these features give you so much to play with when designing your Victorian bathroom. If you still have any lingering associations with the Victorians and old, fusty design, get rid of them now.
By now you should have a solid understanding of just how much a Victorian design could bring to your bathroom. You’ve seen the elegance and the opulence, as well as the versatility. This really is a design style to get excited about.
After exploring visual inspiration and drilling deep into what fixtures and fittings work best with this era of design, you should now have all the information you need to start work on your Victorian bathroom.
If you’re interested in finding out about other period designs you could incorporate into your bathroom, check out our period design guide.
Alternatively, if you’re ready to start shopping, you can browse our range of bathroom fittings and accessories.
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