How To Create a Vintage Bathroom Design


What Is “Vintage Design”?

When it comes to bathroom design, the term “Vintage” refers to a specific style that occurred between the 1920s through the 1950s. Especially if you have an older home, playing up its vintage charm can really set the mood in a warm and nostalgic way. The style is fairly minimalist and pragmatic, usually paired with one focal centerpiece that catches the eye of house guests. Even newer homes in need of a remodel can borrow a lot from classic vintage designs.

Elements in Vintage Design:

Vintage Colors

The 1920s gave birth to modern design, which meant no more than two or three colors were typically used. Many bathrooms of the 1920s era had white or cream walls accentuated with green, yellow, lavender, primrose or brown. Black and white checkerboard floors were also a popular choice. When it comes to combining vintage colors, chic contrast is the way to go.

vintage bathroom colors

Bathroom Fixtures

[pullquote align=”right”]Cast-iron clawfoot tubs will not hold heat as well as a newer insulated acrylic tub[/pullquote]Claw footed porcelain tubs, wall-hung sinks, pedestal sinks and art deco fixtures are all beautiful, but where do you find them? Vintage Plumbing or Baths from the Past are good places to start for original, antique plumbing fixtures. But realize that these are very heavy pieces and therefore rare. When an older home is demolished, these pieces are often crushed and cast aside due to their weight, size and age. Therefore, these restored antiques are often fairly pricey.

Antique hunting antique hunting isn’t for everyone.. To find newer, reproductions of these wonderful vintage designs, take a look at the Restoration Hardware website. There is something to be said for new bath fixtures versus “antique.” You can find pedestal sinks, claw footed tubs, toilets, high tanks, bidets, medicine cabinets, lighting, as well as tub, shower and bath faucets.

1920s vintage bathroom

Keep the look of a vintage bathroom alive by utilizing rectangular subway tiles in your shower to keep the look classic. Subway tile gained its name from its use in the New York City subway system, which opened in 1904. The rectangular, white ceramic tile was selected for its durable and stain resistant nature, and the light color and high gloss were a good choice for the subterranean spaces of the subway. White subway tile represents a vintage, early 20th century style that has seen a huge resurgence in popularity in the first decade of the 21st century. A good write up on the history of subway tile can be found here.

vintage bathroom subway tile


Vintage Bathroom Flooring

The 1920’s was famous for it’s use of geometrical tile patterns. Use smaller square, rectangular or hexagonal colored tiles in two or three color combinations or even bold black and white tiles to add a touch of visual drama. Choose ceramic or stone tile in a mosaic, basket weave or checkerboard pattern and glossy polished stone is more in keeping with vintage versus the newer matte finishes. All white is also an option that keeps future redecorating costs to a minimum.

vintage bathroom flooring


For a vintage look on your walls you can either use a tile surround or install wainscoting along the bottom half of the wall. Glossy white bead board is a great way to capture the vintage spirit on your bathroom walls and can be installed in individual planks or panels. When choosing tile for the walls, use rectangular subway tiles to recreate the era.

It was also popular to cover walls with square tiles, accenting with thinner pencil stripe tiles of black (or another contrasting color) around the tiled area. Although a simple and clean look, the contrasting stripe adds an understated elegance to the room.
1920s vintage bathroom

Vintage Built-ins and Storage

1920s modern architecture and design was very practical and utilitarian. Adding elements like a metal medicine cabinet can help create the look and give you a place out of sight to store your toiletries. Purchase a great reproduction or refurbish an antique in oak or pine. Add a tall, narrow wood cabinet or built-in shelving from floor to ceiling to store toiletries and towels. Add an antique chest of drawers or dresser for added storage options. Place a heated towel rack in your bathroom for added luxury.

vintage bathroom shelving

Vintage Mirrors and Lighting

Liven up your vintage bath with chrome and frosted glass light fixtures. Hang a unique art deco chandelier for a creative focal point. Adding round or oval shaped mirrors with beveled edges to capture the glamor of the roaring 1920’s

vintage bathroom lighting