While the history of the New World is filled with vast improvements on the Old World in terms of quality of life and industrial innovation, it’s natural to be nostalgic for the magnificent décor aesthetics of pre-war Europe. There’s no reason to give up your LED lighting, automated bathtub, or automatic spritzer toilet, but you might want to showcase some of the best aspects of the Old World in your contemporary bathroom with a vintage vanity or vessel sink. Here are seven of our top tips for achieving this attractive aesthetic as you remodel the most relaxing part of your home.
1. Only Use Natural Materials
Before World War II, synthetic materials, such as plastic and fiberglass, were practically nonexistent. Instead, interior designers and homeowners relied on natural materials to make bathrooms practical and functional.
If you want to recreate the aesthetics of the Old World in the strictest possible sense, you’ll need to avoid using synthetic materials entirely. One of the main ways that the advent of synthetic materials helped improve quality of life around the world is the drastically reduced cost of these fibers and plastics compared to natural substances, which means that you’ll have to pay more to use natural materials in your bathroom.
There are tons of different ways that you can arrange natural materials in your Old-World bathroom. You might want to start by investing in a solid wood vanity with a marble countertop, and you can complement this setup with stone floors and wood-paneled walls. While sticking to natural materials certainly curtails your possibilities as you remodel your bathroom, you still have access to endless combinations of colors and textures.
2. Plaster on Some Wallpaper
While blank walls with single colors might be all the rage in contemporary bathroom décor, wallpaper was the way to go in the pre-war Old World. These days, however, authentic Old-World wallpaper can be hard to find, so you’ll need to carefully consider your options as you select a wallpaper for your antique-style bathroom.
If you want your bathroom’s wallpaper to be truly reminiscent of the Old World, you’ll need to dig deep into your pockets to find a wallpaper option with intricate designs. In early 20th-century Europe, complex wallpaper designs were incredibly popular, and these wall coverings often featured floral or otherwise outdoorsy designs.
Arabesque wallpapers might also look great in your Old-World bathroom, and keep in mind that chinoiserie, which is a Western imitation of Chinese décor, is also appropriate in an antique-style home. If you want to go all-out, you might try a Scalamandre wallpaper; this company still produces antique-looking wallpaper designs, but you can benefit from the fact that Scalamandre wallpapers are all-new and not reclaimed or repurposed.
3. Make a Dramatic Clawfoot Tub Your Centerpiece
Showering wasn’t all that popular in pre-war Europe. Instead, commoners and nobility alike enjoyed taking long baths, and the lucky members of the upper crust of society prided themselves on their intricately-designed clawfoot tubs.
These types of tubs are freestanding, which means that they sit by themselves on the floor of your bathroom. Before the days of water heaters, people in the Old World heated water by hand and poured it into their tubs, but these days, you can install a faucet that attaches to the side of your clawfoot tub or sits on a special stand that you place next to your tub.
Antique clawfoot tubs consist of pure porcelain, and since they’re vintage, they don’t come cheap. New clawfoot tubs are something of a rarity, so you might have trouble sourcing one of these top-tier soakers. Get to know your local reclaimed furniture stores; if you live in a major city, your chances of finding an antique clawfoot tub are higher.
4. Install a Hammered Copper Vessel Sink
If you’ve ever visited the French countryside, you know that traditional French cottages and hammered brass sinks go together like wine and cheese. Artisans in France have been making hammered metal vessel sinks for generations, and while these sinks look a little rough around the edges, every hammer blow falls with great care during the construction of Old-World brass sinks.
You don’t have to go all the way to France to get one of these bathroom features; plenty of domestic companies make hammered brass vessel sinks as well. It’s even possible to derivate from tradition slightly and install a glass vessel sink that shines like brass.
5. Hang a Chandelier from Your Bathroom Ceiling
Nothing makes a bathroom look classier and more antique than a chandelier. In the olden days, a bathroom chandelier would contain actual candles, but in modern times, you’re better off installing long-lasting and energy-efficient LEDs.
Chandeliers look great hanging in front of your vanity. The soft illumination that these fixtures cast will display everyone who looks in your bathroom mirror in a good light.
6. Set up Some Wall Sconces for Candles
Just because you have a high-tech home doesn’t mean you can’t include a few throwbacks here or there. People in pre-war Europe often included features called sconces on their walls that contained candles or oil lamps. These days, most sconces contain electric lights, but you can break with convention by using real candles.
Installing a sconce on either side of your mirror can create a mesmerizing effect. Plus, you can set up sconces above your tub to bathe yourself in calming light whenever you take a soak.
7. Try a Vintage Wrought Iron Mirror
Old-World décor incorporates a lot of wrought iron. If you’re serious about setting up your bathroom in this vintage décor style, you’ll need to use this material in a variety of places. Since you’ve already invested in wrought iron towel holders and drawer handles, you might want to pick out a heavy but beautiful wrought iron mirror frame to complete the look.