Expert Writers: Kate Beavis on Creating a Vintage Bathroom in a Modern Home

While modern homes are great for plumbing - less chance of noisy pipes and leaks - you might feel as though they are lacking in character compared to period property bathrooms. However, you can have the best of both worlds. To help you out, we asked vintage design expert, Kate Beavis, to share some of her tips on how to create a vintage style bathroom in a modern home.

Kate Beavis has authored her own book, "Style Your Modern Vintage Home", as well as writing regularly on her expert topic for national publications. You might also have seen her share her advice across TV and radio programmes in the UK...

How to Create a Vintage Bathroom in a Modern Home

Today, most homes have white bathrooms; white bathroom suites, white tiles, white walls. But this is in fact a recent trend in bathroom design. Up until the 1990s, families chose colour for this room; from avocado and pink coloured baths to patterned tiles and even carpets. While most people don’t want a blue suite (although these are indeed coming back into fashion) injecting a bit of personality into this room in a vintage way, can make the space more personal and welcoming after a hard day’s work.

When we think of vintage bathrooms, we picture pretty spaces with candles and etched bathroom mirrors, often with a rolled top bath. This is a look that is easy to create, by mixing modern designed furniture but adding original finds, clever paint effects and vintage inspired details such as bathroom taps and lighting. Here are some simple ways to create a vintage bathroom in your modern home.

The Bath Suite

The easiest way to create a vintage bathroom is to choose a traditional free-standing roll top bath with cast iron effect legs, usually in a Victorian style. These were popular up until the 1950s but then were replaced by heavy enamel designs. To add some personality to your bath, consider painting the outside; I love the idea of having a gold leaf or copper bath. The best way to do this is to paint the bath in a Chalk Paint and finish with a matt lacquer like this one by Annie Sloan. Choose one with taps in the middle as these are often big enough to share!

Choose a basin and toilet that fits in with the era of your home to make it feel like it has been there forever. For Victorian and Edwardian houses, choose sinks that are square (like these Bayswater pedestal basins) or oval in shape with ornate backs, or even a Belfast sink sitting on top of a washstand. Add traditional cross shaped taps with a traditional H and C added to complete the look - these Park Lane Oxford Mono Basin Mixer Taps are perfect.

For 1920s-40s houses choose a square shape sink with a chrome stand and team it with a more contemporary cross shaped tap such as these Park Lane Worcester taps. 

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For a mid-century house, choose a more modern design – a counter top sink on a teak sideboard looks great and should be roomy enough to fit two on.

The Wall Tiles

This is where you can have some fun as there is so much to choose from. From coloured glass mosaics to classic Metro tiles; select a style that fits with your era, such as Metro tiles in a green with black edges which work perfectly for a 1930s look. A modern take on this is to position them vertically or even in a honeycomb pattern rather than the traditional landscape.

Vintage homes often have wallpaper hanging in the bathroom too. If this space is a family bathroom where your kids are going to get it wet, then steer clear, but if it is well ventilated, a great patterned wallpaper can really finish the look. A great trick is to coat it in decorating varnish to seal it. 

Related: Bathroom Wallpaper: A Good Or Bad Idea?

The Floor

Tiles are the most practical flooring for any bathroom, and you can find some great vintage styles in most DIY shops now. For a Victorian bathroom, choose a patterned tile in blues or greys, and for a 1930s bathroom, a black tiled floor looks great. 

The Lighting

Lighting can be tricky as it needs to comply with the correct IP bathroom regulations, yet most vintage loving people dream of a huge chandelier hanging above the bath! If you are creating a 1930s bathroom then there are mirrored lights and wall lights that work perfectly. I always choose spot lights sunk into the ceiling but add more ornate candles to get the look.

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Related: What Lights Can You Use in a Bathroom?

The Details

Now this is the best bit! The “must have” vintage bathroom details are mirrors, towel rails, cabinets, plants and candles.

There are many vintage mirrors available to buy, from Victoria ornate framed mirrors to 1920s chain mirrors, to 1930s glamorous ones to 1960s teak edged to 1970s bamboo. All work perfectly and can really finish the look; consider hanging a few on the wall to create a wall of mirrors. I love the idea of mixing them with vintage handheld mirrors to create a real WOW effect.

Towel rails often look really modern so search for ones that have nods to the past such as old-fashioned radiators, such as these vintage look towel radiators. These can also be painted in a metal paint of your choice.

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Buy original furniture that can either be restored or painted to match your look or buy modern versions. The most important thing to consider, vintage or modern, is practicality so choose the right storage that you need. 

Related: Expert Writer Bianca Hall on Clever Bathroom Storage Ideas

Image from Style Your Modern Vintage Home by Kate Beavis
By Simon Whitmore

Finally, no vintage bathroom is complete without pretty candles, lots of plants in vintage pots, fluffy towels and a few vintage props out on display. 

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