How to give your new bathroom character by embracing vintage style

When it comes to bathrooms, how retro can you go? We discuss the fixtures and fittings you may want to keep when considering a reno

How to give your new bathroom character by embracing vintage style

Retro bathrooms are a special breed. They can be so wrong, but aspects of them can be so good (coloured baths and basins, we’re looking at you). If your bathroom feels too dated and you are looking to renovate, it’s worth considering whether you need to remodel the entire room, or whether you can keep some key features. The net curtains and fuzzy toilet seat cover may well have to go, but perhaps the tapware has timeless appeal or the tiles have a special vintage quality. Here we look at some of the retro details we love, to help you reconsider your reno.


Colourful mosaics conjure the glamour of the 1920s and 1970s. If your tiles are in good condition, and in a colour and style you like, why not make them a feature? Be inspired by the varying hues designer Bill Willis chose for the six unique bathrooms in fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent’s former Marrakech guesthouse, Dar Es Saada.


From pale pink to mint green and lemon, pastel hues are back in a big way. In an era of white bathroomware, it can be fun to re-embrace the coloured baths, basins and taps of last century. If you go this route, you’ll probably want to stick to simple flooring and walls to let your coloured fixtures shine. If you aren’t lucky enough to own a pastel suite, bring colour in via vintage soap dishes or towels.


Got cork or lino flooring? Embrace it! If it’s not in good condition you could get new cork or lino in a vintage style. It will be more affordable than tiles or wooden floorboards. To get the look in a new bathroom, search online for images of vintage flooring to make sure the result is authentic.


If you’re fortunate enough to have wooden floors or wood-panelled walls in your bathroom, you may want to make the effort to restore them. Wooden detailing can lend an antique, polished look, a relaxed, beachy vibe or a rustic, natural feel to the room. If wood makes the room feel too dark you could consider lightening floorboards or panels by sanding back and using a stain.


Do you have a clawfoot bath, pedestal basin or heritage tapware in your bathroom? If you like their look but they need a little TLC, it’s worth spending some time and money on refurbishing them. Stained-glass windows are also worth preserving or restoring. If you want to bring an antique touch to a modern bathroom, you could add a vintage bevelled mirror or a grouping of mirrors.

Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Helen Bankers, Audrey Fitzjohn and Wendy Fenwick.

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