While it's natural to assume a vintage bathroom may be one in need of a serious overhaul, dated sanitaryware has nothing to do with it. Instead, when it comes to bathroom design, vintage bathroom ideas are about a curated aesthetic. It's a look that embraces the past but has a level of quality set in the present.
But in an environment focused on cleanliness, how can you combine old and new without it looking messy - or dare we say it dirty? Very easily is the answer and we're here to show you how.
1. Display vintage artwork
Queen of upcycling, Annie Sloan, shows us just how vintage bathroom ideas can be done well in this beautiful scheme that's bursting with ideas. From the flounced shower curtain to the chalk painted walls, bath and flooring we particularly love the finishing touch of a gilt framed painting of a woman. Adding a touch of Hollywood style glamour completes the space perfectly, proving that bathroom walls don't have to be just about mirrors and storage solutions.
2. Combine stripes with florals
Instead of creating a bathroom zone that's pure and white, add some colour to your hygiene routine with a combination of stripes and florals. Choosing a colour scheme that's more faded pastels than brights will also add a sense of faded finesse to the end result.
Grazzie Wilson, head of creative at Ca'Pietra explains how the scheme works.
“The gentle pastel tones of Petite in Sky and White in a matte finish draw upon the colours in the botanical wallpaper to help them all tie together. Tiling halfway up the wall in a wainscotting-inspired approach creates further balance with a single row of the Petite tiles clearly sectioning off the two patterns. Both busy, both beautiful, yet balanced and 100% happy in a room together."
3. Opt for an industrial finish
If you're worried a vintage bathroom idea needs to include florals and fabrics - don't be. It's easy to incorporate a more industrial aesthetic with the right materials and finishes.
Pair bulkhead bathroom wall lights in metal and glass with a concrete trough style basin, wooden floorboards and a darker wall colour and you've got a vintage feel without the fussiness. Darker paint colours will help add to the back to basics mood.
4. Decoupage your panelling
With bathroom wall panelling still proving to be a popular interiors trend, add it to your vintage bathroom but with a twist. Instead of colour drenching your room in the same hue of blue, paint your top panelled sections in white, add some decoupage paper and finish with tiny shaded wall lights for a look that's far from basic.
5. Embrace vintage luxury
What's not to love about this luxurious vintage bathroom idea? From the floor to ceiling shutters, copper coated freestanding bath, the light reflecting porcelain tiles and delicate sofa, it's far from shabby but has a sense of vintage glanour that's hard to deny.
6. Feature a fireplace
Once a staple in bathrooms, fireplaces were a necessity for warmth. If you're renovating a property that has one - don't remove it, restore it. When combined with the right sanitaryware it's guaranteed to create a wow factor.
"Vintage bathrooms exude timeless elegance and remain popular for their stylish, luxurious effect," says Leigh Price, co-director of Real Stone, Tile & Bathroom.
"A roll-top, free-standing bath is the perfect way to add a vintage feel to your bathroom - and to create a statement. A free-standing claw foot bath forms an impressive centrepiece and effortlessly evokes traditional appeal.
"To ensure a vintage look throughout, choose a toilet in a similar style," says Leigh. "A high-level cistern WC would be a great choice; you often find these in period properties, and they now have modern mechanisms inside, but with chain pull flushes for a vintage aesthetic."
7. Tap into timeless monochrome
In most rooms, a black and white monochrome scheme is one that stands the test of time. Even if the black paint fades a little over time, the key to making this vintage bathroom idea work is to use floor tiles with a geometric pattern, reminiscent of encaustic Victorian designs.
And of course, as features in so many vintage bathroom ideas, you will never go wrong with a freestanding bath.
"If you want to create a vintage-style bathroom but feel like adding a modern edge, switch up your brassware," says Leigh. We love how the chrome taps and feet in this scheme add some light to the dark black tones of the bath.
8. Soften with fabrics
For an alternative take on shower screens and shutters, soften your bathroom scheme with a shower curtains and cafe style curtains for extra privacy.
It's also an update you can tackle yourself if you've got a sewing machine to hand.
"Don't be limited by shop-bought shower curtains," says Annie Sloan. "Whipping up your own - with a matching cafe-style window curtain - will give you such a tremendous sense of achievement. Just don't forget to add a waterproof curtain liner."
For a more detailed finish, add a scalloped edge to your shower curtain. It's a nod to Art Deco to complete the vintage feel.
9. Use a pretty pastel toned wallpaper
Wallpaper is a trend that's seen a massive resurgence in recent years. With advances in technology meaning you can choose from a myriad of designs and finishes, from murals to metallics, there's also been production developments that mean it's a decorative option no longer limited to living rooms or bedrooms.
Wallpaper is now awash in bathroom design and the perfect component of a vintage bathroom idea. Once again pastels hold sway in this pretty pink scheme which marries a delicate love-bird print with pink tongue and groove panelling, traditional white sink and gold taps and detailing.
Find a range of wallpapers suitable for bathrooms here.
10. Use upcycled accessories
If you're simply after some ideas that will add a more vintage feel to your bathroom decor, don't feel you have to replace it all. Instead look for items you can upcycle such as shelving and mirrors with a more ornate finish.
Curate your shelves with glass bottles and traditional shaving brushes, replace your handtowels with ones featuring patterns or embroidery and if your sink splashback is simply plain tiles, add a tile transfer or unleash your creative talents and paint on a simple floral design.
11. Use a traditional radiator
Like column radiators, traditional style towel radiators are a timeless classic that have never gone out of style. A traditional style bathroom radiator design comprses a steel frame with a column radiator at its centre. Offering you heat, as well as a handy place to dry your towel, they're the perfect addition to a vintage bathroom idea.
While gold or brass will create an even more authentic feel, chrome will keep one foot firmly in the present and still work well if you decide to redecorate in the future.
12. Seek out metallic finishes
Combining copper and brass is a simple but easy way to get a vintage look say the experts.
Nicholas Cunild, managing director for both Matki showers and Swadling Brassware says, "Combine aged-look brassware and other vintage accents to transform your bathroom into a charming retreat. Start by selecting brass fixtures with an antiqued finish, such as living or aged brass.
"These add character and warmth while lending an air of elegance to the space. Also, opt for vintage-inspired taps, showerheads, and towel rails to create a cohesive look."
13. Add a rug with a faded design
Prefer to keep your bathroom light, bright and white? If so, this doesn't limit you from creating a vintage bathroom feel. If colour's just not your thing, simply soften the space with a faded patterned rug. Giving the sense of heirloom rather than hand-me-down, it will add a sense of considered design to an otherwise simple space.
Dress your windowsill with simple white vases and jugs and pop a vintage wooden stool next to the bath. It'll make a handy resting spot for your relaxing bathtime reads.
For a similar look, we love this vintage design rug from Ruggable with it's traditional design and faded tones.
14. Test out your painting skills
Prefer the look of aged plaster to paint but creating a bathroom on a budget and not able to hire an expert decorator to create the look? Follow these expert tips from chalk paint creator, Annie Sloan and you'll be able to create a faux plaster wall for yourself.
- Start by painting your entire wall with a warm rich colour
- Once dry, apply a neutral shade in random areas
- While the paint is wet, use crumpled newspaper to create rough patches
- Taking a lighter colour, mix it with a little water
- Use a cloth to wash the lighter shade over the wall
- Make sure you leave areas for the base colours to show through
- Once dry, take the lighter shade across the surface again
- Buff it using circular motions for a cloudy look
- Mix paint with a little water and drip it along the top until drips cascade down
- Finish with matt chalk paint lacquer to make the wall water resistant
15. Install a washstand
With the trend for vintage and pre-loved interiors on the rise, brands such as deVOL have taken note with the launch of a new victorian style washstand to their bathroom collection. It's the perfect vintage alternative to a more modern washbasin cabinet.
With tall slender legs and a useful low slatted shelf the washstand is topped with carerra marble and aged brass taps. Available in three different widths and choice of three colours, the item is handmade to order. Add brass towel rails for practicality and the item will be delivered fully assembled and ready to plumb in.
16. Choose a chandelier
Even though there are a variety of important safety issues to take into account when it comes to bathroom lighting ideas, this doesn't mean it has to be boring. In fact, this couldn't be further from the truth when it comes to buying new bathroom lighting with a vintage design.
And let's face it, nothing says vintage glamour more than this teardrop shaped glass chandelier from Pooky, positioned perfectly above a freestanding bath. As this scheme shows, it's also a great way of adding small vintage elements to an otherwise more contemporary style.
16. Brighten with blue
If you're feeling like your current bathroom is a little bland or dated, Lisa Cooper, head of product at Thomas Sanderson, says this actually makes it a prime candidate for a vintage style makeover.
"Vintage bathrooms rely on the fusion of old and new," says Lisa. "Wood is a versatile material and is great to add a rustic feel to any bathroom. Minimalist colour scheme like creams, whites and soft browns are best to achieve a vintage style in your bathroom but don’t be afraid to experiment with rich greens and blues, which can add character to your space."
Not convinced that vintage is the look for you? Take a look at our modern bathroom ideas and be sure to you avoid the key bathroom design mistakes you can make when it comes to renovating or building a new bathroom.
Annie Sloan, CBE, invented Chalk Paint™ in 1990 and has continued to refine and improve her formula since. She is widely considered one of the world’s leading authorities in paint, colour and style. In 2023, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to interior design.
Grazzie Wilson is head of creative at Ca'Pietra, a luxury stone and tile brand based in the UK.
Nicholas Cunild, is Managing Director of Matki Showers and sister brand Swadling Brassware based in Yate Bristol. All their products are made in the UK and they have recently celebrated their 50th anniversary.
Lisa is the Head of Product for Thomas Sanderson. Since joining the business in 2015, she has been instrumental in launching many new collections, including the latest range of garage doors. Lisa is passionate about motorisation and smart electric products.
Leigh Price, Co-Director of Real Stone, Tile & Bathroom has been in the construction industry for 35 years, and has worked in the tiling and bathroom industry for the past 16 years. His favourite aspect of running the business is guiding a client through the design process for their project, and consequently seeing it come to fruition.
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Sarah is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Assistant Editor and joined the team in 2024. An established homes and interiors writer, Sarah has renovated and extended a number of properties, including a listing building and renovation project that featured on Grand Designs. Although she said she would never buy a listed property again, she has recently purchased a Grade II listed apartment. As it had already been professionally renovated, she has instead set her sights on tackling some changes to improve the building’s energy efficiency, as well as adding some personal touches to the interior.