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Vintage Bathroom Fixtures

A well-designed vintage bathroom combines the vintage with the modern.

Pastel sinks were popular in the 1950s. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Pastel sinks were popular in the 1950s.

Vintage Bathroom Fixtures

Vintage bathroom fixtures are a critical element when creating a period-style bathroom. When outfitting a bathroom with vintage bathtubs, sinks and toilets, homeowners can use authentic plumbing fixtures that have survived through the decades or new fixtures designed to look like the original. Authentic vintage bathtubs, sinks and toilets can be found in salvage yards, at flea markets, on Internet auction sites and in dealers' inventories. A fixture's authenticity can be a big draw for many homeowners, but it is important to know that the fixture may need to be retrofitted to comply with modern building codes and standards. A bathtub or sink that has been sitting for several years in a salvage yard will also likely need refinishing.

Some retailers offer new vintage-style bathroom fixtures that are exactly the same design the manufacturer sold in the early 1900s, but with updated plumbing attachments. Bathroom fixtures that have a vintage look and modern features, such as claw-foot bathtubs with whirlpool jets, are also available.

Victorian Bathrooms

Turn-of-the-century bathrooms were luxurious spaces with fixtures that resembled detailed works of art. Bathroom fixtures from this era were ornately decorated, and intricate floral patterns and textures often adorned the toilet and sink. Claw-foot bathtubs are generally synonymous with Victorian-era bathrooms. A large, freestanding cast-iron bathtub is one of the focal points in a Victorian bathroom.

To achieve a truly Victorian look, homeowners can install a high-tank toilet. These toilets are flushed with a pull chain and typically have handsome wood tanks, which are mounted near the ceiling. Conversion kits are available for those who want to use an existing top-entry toilet. Freestanding bidets were also popular among the rich during the Victorian era, according to Vintage Plumbing Bathroom Antiques.

Art Deco Bathrooms

In the 1930s, bathroom fixtures were a style known as art deco. Most art deco bathroom features can be identified by either their 45-degree angle cuts or rolled edges. Unlike the intricately adorned Victorian fixtures, art deco fixtures are simple with stepped detail lines along the front and sides. The bathtub, sink and toilet typically match in an art deco bathroom, and colored fixtures are common. Pink, green, gray, burgundy, yellow and orchid were the typical color choices. Art deco bathtubs are generally set into small alcoves. Both high-tank and low-tank toilets are available in art deco style.

The medicine cabinet made its appearance as a bathroom fixture during the art deco era. Authentic art deco medicine cabinets are unobtrusive with the door doubling as a mirror, often set above the sink.

Bathrooms Styles in the 1950s and 1960s

Like art deco bathroom fixtures, bathtubs, sinks and toilets in the 1950s were constructed in various shades. According to HGTV, pastel tubs, sinks and toilets are reminiscent of 1950's style bathrooms. Large vanities emerged as a common bathroom fixture, and were often accented with colored plastic and Lucite hardware. Many traditional 1950's vanities were supported by chrome legs and stools had a vinyl seat.

According to Kohler, the rebellious atmosphere of the 1960s translated into bright and bold home decor. When recreating a 1960's style bathroom, homeowners should incorporate tubs, sinks, toilets and countertops with avocado, orange, brown and yellow tones. Ceramic and chrome bathroom fixtures were popular during this decade.

Decorating a Vintage Bathroom

One of the challenges when decorating a vintage bathroom, particularly with 1950's and 1960's style bathrooms, is making sure the room does not simply look outdated. Combining modern and vintage bathroom fixtures may keep the room from looking like it was left behind in a renovation. Choosing appropriate decor will enhance vintage fixtures and keep the bathroom's theme from becoming lost.

Victorian bathrooms should be decorated with gilded mirrors and extravagant light fixtures, such as crystal chandeliers or stained-glass lamps. Patterned tiles in bright colors and stenciled walls add to the opulence of a Victorian bathroom. Wainscoting and cornice molding were extremely popular during the Victorian era. If space permits, an elegant rug and antique upholstered furniture will complete the look.

Art deco is a minimalist style, and the bathroom's decor should reflect that. Lacquered cabinets and wall sconces will enhance art deco bathroom fixtures without overpowering them. Frosted glass is also a popular element in art deco bathrooms.

To keep a 1950's or 1960's style bathroom from looking dated, its decor should incorporate mementos from that time, such as a vintage radio, Andy Warhol prints or framed advertisements. A 1960's style bathroom should make ample use of checks, stripes and polka dots as well as Formica, glass and chrome decorations.

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