Vintage Bathroom Design & Decorating Ideas

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Conceptualize It

Some people confuse the term vintage with words like old, used, or second-hand. When you shop at a thrift store, it seems as though the word "vintage" is a seemingly attractive cover-up for items that are worn and potentially outdated. In the world of fashion, however, "vintage" has evolved to connote meanings that are the complete opposites of any less-than-positive associations.

Vintage is about adding a new and unique twist to classics from previous eras. It's about celebrating the liveliest dimensions of a time that has long passed. It's about keeping history alive so that we remember the innovation that continues to define who we are.

As with fashion, in the interior design world, vintage themes allow you to bring to life the art, style, and beauty of your favorite eras. The approach that you take is completely up to you: choose to focus on a decade such as the '20s, '40s, '50s, or '60s, or combine motifs from multiple times. Are you a fan of designs from the 18th century? Include elements from then too.

Be creative when designing a vintage theme for your bathroom. Your bathroom can convey a uniform concept or collage. Display art with a blatant message, or incorporate subtle design elements for an aesthetically complex overall effect.

Unless you have a large bathroom with multiple compartments such as a sitting area or vanity room, you probably want to avoid packing in the antiques. Remember that bathrooms are humid and moist environments that are prone to mold and water damage. Because antiques are expensive and aging, you'll want to keep them in an environment that is conducive to cleanliness and preservation.

The Effect is in the Light

Experiment with lighting to give your bathroom a vintage aesthetic. While there is no cookie cutter approach to designing your lights, you can achieve desired effects by understanding the subtle ways of how elements of your bathroom work together to create an overall look.

Vintage Lighting Vintage Lighting Vintage Lighting

You probably learned about reflection and refraction when you were in school. In a nutshell, light reflects when it shines against surfaces like water or glass. With some materials, light will bend and cause a slight distortion in color or clarity. Understand how your mirrors fit in with your lighting and window arrangements. Manipulate your mirror's placement and size so that you can avoid the problem of glare and creating a space that is too bright. Here are some general tips to help you get started:

Lighting Aesthetic

Lighting for vintage bathrooms should be dim and cozy. You want your bathroom to be bright enough so that you can see when you do your makeup, but you want it to be soft and dark enough to set an inviting and relaxing mood. Install a combination of ceiling lights, table lights, sconces, and candles so that you can set the overall mood.

In general, the options for overhead lighting include ceiling lamps, recessed lights, and track lighting. In most bathrooms, overhead lights tend to be bright and potentially harsh - producing an effect that can detract from a comfortable setting.

Several techniques can help you give your bathroom a softer look and feel. Lamp shades, ceiling lamps, and lights with adjustable brightness can help you optimize your lights to complement your vintage décor. In addition to your overhead lights, install other types of light so that you can work with different combinations to achieve desired results.

Natural Lighting

Without a doubt, electricity is expensive, and you may want to avoid wiring too many lights for fear of driving up your utility bill. Although you might not imagine skylights and large windows in a vintage bathroom, Ideal Home Garden encourages you to stretch your imagination further.

Natural Lighting Bathroom Natural Lighting

Vintage is about incorporating your favorite styles from all different times, and you can experiment with a variety of looks to help you achieve your bathroom's overall look and feel. Drape translucent or solid curtains over your skylights and large windows. If you have enough space, set up a screen printed room divider.Pull them shut when you need light, or leave them open when you don't. If you are unsure about your large window or skylight, over-accentuate the features of the other vintage décor in your bathroom.

Set up some candles to shed a different light to the vintage design elements in your bathroom. You would be surprised by how much a small flame can transform how you perceive a room. Plus, candles and rose petals are always a beautiful finishing touch.

Other Options

Sconces and table lamps can help you achieve a vintage look and feel in your bathroom in two ways: (1) You can choose a design or lampshade with a distinct decorative style, and (2) you can experiment with lighting features such light bulbs that produce a colored or smoky effect.

Vintage Vanities & Mirrors

A vintage vanity doesn't necessarily need to be antique. If you can afford the maintenance costs of an antique vanity, you should invest in one. Otherwise, choose a vanity that's vintage-inspired since older items are more prone to damage from normal wear and tear.

Vintage Vanity Vintage Vanity Vintage Vanity

For a vintage theme, choose vanities that convey the distinct style of an era such as the '20s, '40s, '50s, or '60s. To develop an eye for distinct and attractive styles, search through collages, magazines, paintings, and old photos to make a list of your favorite stylistic elements. Soon enough, you'll have a natural eye for the vanity and mirror set that you select.


If you love experimenting with unique color combinations, a vintage-themed bathroom is ideal for you. You can literally work from all kinds of colors from black to purple, red, brown, neon, pastel, and monochrome shades. Try darker shades on the bottom and lighter shades up top. If it makes sense, add a bold-colored accent wall.


Get funky with your designs. Choose a vintage-inspired faucet, bathtub, or shower head. Go all out with a bright colored bath rug with a pattern that just screams '70s. Even get vintage-inspired toothbrush holders, soap dishes, trash cans, and toilet paper holders.

Showers & Tubs

Vintage tubs should be an organic, freestanding shape. You can push it into a corner if you would like to install a showerhead, but if you can forego the shower, move the tub further away from the wall and closer towards the middle of the bathroom. Look for tubs with a rounded top and a claw foot at the base.

Vintage Tub Gold Vintage Tub

A popular material for vintage tubs is porcelain with cast iron.The majority of vintage tubs are white in color; however, if you want a more retro look and feel, you can experiment with colors such as gray, black, purple, dark green, or blue. Metallic details can help add elegant accents.

Sinks & Faucets

Vintage sinks should be organic, freestanding shapes. Keep an oval shaped vanity over the sink and allow for sculpted designs. For a genuinely vintage look and feel, avoid installing a sink that is built into a vanity.

Bathroom Sink Vintage Sink Vintage Sink

White is the most common color for vintage sinks, but other pastel colors with metallic elements are additional possibilities.Faucets should be metallic and ornate if possible. Small, medium, and elongated faucets are all options depending on the overall look and feel that you would like to achieve.

Last Updated: January 18, 2012
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About Ritika Puri Based in California, Ritika Puri has worn a number of professional hats ranging from blogger to quantitative researcher, martial arts instructor, and cartographer. No matter what she does, she loves to write and specializes in topics related to home improvement, personal finance, and business. She writes regularly for's Financial Edge section, and her work has appeared on SF Gate, Yahoo! Finance, and The Chicago Sun Times Online. She holds a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. in Demographic and Social Analysis from the University of California at Irvine.  

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