Add vintage-inspired details to create a classic bathroom
Traditional bathrooms share a classic look that’s timeless and full of detail. Rather than old-fashioned, they’re stylish, luxurious and ideally suited to period properties but are also a way to bring enduring style to more modern homes for a look that lasts.
Tools & materials required
How to create a traditional bathroom
A beautiful basin is the perfect starting point for a traditional bathroom. Pedestal basins are a classic choice, with unsightly modern pipework concealed behind a simple white ceramic pedestal that supports the bowl. Look for those with a raised ceramic upstand behind the taps, like our Romsey basin, that recreate the features found on ornate washstands in the Victorian period. Alternatively, try a basin with mitred corners (an angular design that makes an attractive alternative to curved basins), like our Serina basins. These are modelled on the stylish art deco designs of the elegant 1920s and are a timeless choice for any home.
Vintage-style vanity units are also a popular choice that offer storage as well as practicality. Our Chadleigh range (pictured in white) features flat-panel shaker-style doors, in either a soft grey or white finish that complements most homes. A vanity is a great way to hide way clutter for a more relaxing bathroom, and switching the handles makes it easy to add more delicate, period-style details.
For the perfect finishing touch, opt for taps in a chrome or gold-effect finish. Chrome finishes work brilliantly in monochrome art deco bathrooms, whilst gold and brass-effect finishes are ideal for Victorian and Edwardian-inspired rooms. For basins with two tap holes, pillar taps with cross-shaped levers are a classic choice. Alternatively, mixer taps with ceramic levers look stylish – we love our Cooke & Lewis Timeless basin mixer tap with interchangeable levers.
It’s best to keep toilets simple in a traditional bathroom by opting for designs that match your chosen basin. the simple curves of our Romsey (pictured) work well. For a nod to nostalgia, consider a low-level toilet, where the cistern is suspended on the wall a little higher than on a more contemporary toilet. These offer the charming looks of a chain-pull toilet but with all the mod-cons you’d expect from a modern, water-efficient model.
Stick to a white or neutral toilet seat to complement your choices, or consider a wooden toilet seat in natural oak or pine that adds warmth and authenticity to your room.
Nothing sums up the traditional style bathroom better than an opulent freestanding bath that invites you to relax.
Roll-top baths emulate the elegant style of traditional cast iron baths with none of the fuss – our acrylic freestanding baths are both beautiful and easy to care for. Our handsome Victoria (pictured) and Duchess oval baths mirror styles popular in the early 20th century and Victorian periods, whilst the Duchess keyhole is a stunning slipper bath with refined looks that’s perfect for a long soak. Pick a bath that suits the period of your home, or simply choose one that looks enticingly comfortable.
As with basins, consider chrome or gold-effect taps to complement your claw-footed bath. Freestanding taps are an elegant choice as they won’t detract from the delicate curves of your roll-top bath, and make a great statement piece in a room. Rather than rising up from the rim of your bath like conventional taps, freestanding taps rise out of the floor next to your bath with the pipework concealed by stylish metallic standpipes. If you prefer something more traditional, pillar taps with cross-shaped lever handles or mixer taps with ceramic details will fit the bill well. Mixer taps can also be a practical choice if you’d like a shower head you can use in, or over, the bath.
You can also customise your bath by selecting feet to match, with designs ranging from ornate and detailed to sleek and stylish.
Whilst showers might be a more recent addition to our homes, there’s no reason why they can’t work well in a more traditional bathroom. Frameless shower enclosures, such as our Luxuriant and Grandeur ranges, will disappear into the background in a room. The soft curves of a quadrant-shaped shower enclosure suit a period bathroom well, and with a wide range of sizes available, they fit easily into most spaces.
Mixer shower controls are ideal for a heritage-inspired bathroom, with a simple design that’s both discrete and authentic. A large, wall-mounted shower head will not only deliver a great showering experience but also look like the hand-held shower attachments you’ll see on traditional style bath mixer taps. We love this Mira Realm mixer shower with its generous showerhead and ceramic lever handles.
Bathroom furniture & storage
Storage is crucial in any bathroom. The good news is that you don’t need to compromise on vintage styling when creating a room that’s both practical and packed with period charm.
Storage cabinets are a good way to conceal the modern products we all need in our bathrooms. Our Chadleigh and Nicolina ranges offer both freestanding and wall-mounted cabinets in a range of shapes and sizes, each with traditional styling to suit your home. The Chadleigh range (pictured) features elegant cornice and pelmet details that look charming mounted above a basin. For country cottage style, try the clean lines and wood-panelled effect doors of the Nicolina range.
If you need to make more room for storage, don’t forget to add wall-mounted shelves in key spaces. A slim shelf above a basin adds space for toothbrushes, handwashes and other everyday essentials. Try using natural wood, finished with a clear varnish or wax, with wrought iron-style brackets for a look that works well with rich-coloured walls. If you’d rather not have your toiletries on show, tuck them away in a few baskets and decorative jars for storage that are pretty as well as practical. Try our Form willow baskets that are a nod to traditional crafts and materials.
If you have the space, an elegant dressing table is the perfect finishing touch in a larger bathroom. The Lautner is an elegant choice that pairs beautifully with a scalloped edge mirror mounted on the wall above it. The drawers are helpful for tucking away make-up and beauty supplies, but it’s also a comfortable space to sit and get ready on a morning or evening.
Having chosen the perfect suite for your bathroom, it’s time to think about the walls. It’s traditional to go for a combination of painted and tiled walls, but there are other options that can make your bathroom sing – like wood panelling and bathroom wallpaper.
There are two well-loved options for painted walls in a bathroom with vintage charms. Either opt for white, or off-white, walls to complement fixtures and create a monochromatic colour scheme. Alternatively consider darker, richer colours inspired by nature. These were popular in the Edwardian, Victorian and Georgian periods - think sage greens, deep burgundies, chic navy and slate greys that’ll create great contrast with white fittings and metallic details. Don’t forget to choose a bathroom paint that’ll resist moisture so that your bathroom looks good for years to come.
Wall tiles are a practical and decorative choice, and period styles tend to reflect this. For a bathroom that pays homage to classic looks from days gone by, stick to simple white or cream ceramic tiles or go for marble-effect tiles for a touch of decadence. Our Trentie bevelled edge tiles are the perfect choice for traditional bathrooms, with timeless good looks that’ll work well with a range of styles. Lay in a staggered or offset brick pattern to echo heritage trends. In addition to being an authentic choice, brick-shaped tiles can also be a helpful solution if you’re trying to create a perfect finish on less than straight walls in period properties.
Wallpaper can be an exciting addition in place of paint – and our bathroom wallpapers mean that it can it can also be a practical substitution. Delicate floral designs can work beautifully in a heritage-inspired bathroom, as can damask effects. Stick to a matt finish for an authentic look and as with paint, consider a rich colour palette to bring your room to life.
Lastly, if you’re keen to add a little texture to your room, wood panelling (pictured) can be a beautiful alternative to a tiled splashback – and it works well with other timber finishes in a bathroom. Timber cladding can be easily installed on a flat wall, and then painted to match or contrast with the walls above. It’s a great way to create a custom, eye-catching feature in your home.
As bathrooms tend to have high moisture levels, hard materials are traditionally favoured as flooring – think solid wood, marble and ceramic tiles. But an authentic heritage look in the bathroom doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on innovation. Opt for contemporary flooring that looks like the real thing, but is better suited to a busy home.
If you crave the timeless feel of wooden floors, try Luxury Vinyl Click flooring which is easier to install, highly durable and looks almost indistinguishable from real wood. It’s available in a wide range of finishes so you can choose one that best suits the rest of your home.
Alternatively, add a touch of luxury with marble-effect ceramic tiles that are low-maintenance, and bring beautiful detailing into your bathroom. Complement with matching tiled splashbacks around the basin and bath areas. We love our Illusion white marble tiles that can be used both on the floor or wall to create a cohesive look that’ll suit any home. Vinyl tiles can also work surprisingly well in bathrooms as they’re warmer underfoot than stone and ceramic alternatives. Our Black & White tile-effect vinyl tiles look great in a classic monochrome room, and are quick and easy to lay.
When it comes to lighting a traditional style bathroom, it’s best to go bold or discrete. Recessed LED downlighters (pictured) will ensure your room is well-lit, whilst the slimline fittings will disappear seamlessly into the ceiling. Alternatively, opt for a statement semi-flush ceiling light fitting with glass shades that’ll reflect light around the room whilst remaining practical in a busy space. Our Pereti and Orara ranges feature heritage-inspired designs with cut-glass details popular in the early 20th century.
If your bathroom is where you get ready in the morning, consider adding additional wall lights near any mirrors to make shaving or putting on make-up easier. Try the Paroo in a 1920s-inspired room or add a little retro glamour with the twinkling glass shade of the Bargo bathroom wall light.
Depending on the space you have, there are two options ideal for keeping your traditional bathroom warm and cosy. For smaller bath and shower rooms, consider underfloor heating that’s discrete and feels luxurious underfoot. Easily installed under many types of flooring, it means you don’t need to occupy precious wall space with radiators or heaters.
Alternatively, make a statement with a heritage-style bathroom radiator and towel warmer. A beautiful column radiator with chromed towel rail will not only heat your room, but also provide a stylish place to warm towels ready for when you step out of the bath. There are wider sizes for larger families and narrower models to suit even the most petite shower room or cloakroom.
For a more slimline solution, a traditional ladder towel warmer not only looks in-keeping with period properties but also offers a substantial space to hold towels for all the family. With clean and simple lines, and constructed from the same chunky yet stylish pipework as a column towel rail, these are distinctly different from contemporary models and add an authentic touch to your bathroom.Shop underfloor heating Shop traditional-style towel radiators
A bathroom mirror is more than just practical, it also helps to reflect light in the room making it feel brighter and more spacious. Choosing the perfect mirror for a traditional bathroom will depend on whether you’re aiming for a more decadent, heritage-inspired room or looking to create a style that utilises and highlights natural materials that have been present in our homes for centuries.
For an elegant space with hints of retro styling, go for a frameless mirror with facetted (or bevelled) edges or a striking scalloped edge. Our Art Deco range is the ideal complement to monochrome bathrooms with a nod to vintage styling that will look good in any home. Glamorous scalloped-edge mirrors (pictured) are a great way to add an eye-catching feature in your room, and look particularly striking against deep-coloured walls.
A wooden framed mirror is a classic option for any bathroom, evoking the spirit of handcrafted homewares of the past. Look for solid wood frames with simple detailing that adds a little character to your room – we love our Felton wood-framed mirrors for their warm oak tones and smooth lines.
Adding accessories is a final flourish that will help your heritage-inspired bathroom come to life. Begin by adding in a few functional items that nod to period style. Wall-mounted towel rails and hanging hooks are a helpful essential and will look best in brass or matt black finishes (black pairs particularly well with natural wood). Look for curved and white ceramic details that mirror the bathroom fixtures and tie the look together.
On larger walls add artwork with a nostalgic feel, such as our botanic prints (pictured) that’ll look timeless in any home. Framed prints and photographs will withstand moisture far better than a canvas print, making these both a stylish and practical choice.
House plants make a great addition wherever there is space – not only were these hugely popular in the past, they’ll thrive in a bathroom where there is moisture in the air. Peace lilies and parlour palms have perpetual appeal and will shine in a simple ceramic planter. If you’re not green-fingered, try our highly-realistic artificial plants for great looks and reliably lush foliage.