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How to Design a Retro Bathroom

Updated on October 26, 2015

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A retro bathroom contains an aura of style and the charm of nostalgia. This decorating style provides a lovely space that enlivens your mood in the morning and helps you unwind at the end of the day. The vintage fixtures bring back warm feelings of yesteryears while fulfilling practical purposes of modern lifestyles. The decorative elements are eye-catching, yet not ostentatious. Everything about it screams simple beauty, tradition and comfort. It is not too difficult at all to design a retro bathroom, but before you embark on the project, make sure this style is really right for you.

Should You Really Go Retro with Your Bathroom?

This is a Perfect Style for You if
This isn't the Right Style for You If
You like a relaxing and nostalgically charming atmosphere
You prefer a boldly playful and high-energy ambiance
You enjoy blending tradional designs with your own decorative twists
You favor inventive designs and funky color schemes
You love well-accessorized spaces with a tiny touch of glamour
You are drawn to minimalism
You collect antiques, or have enough time and budget to shop for retro accessories
You want to complete your bathroom decor project as quickly as possible, don't own any retro items and don't plan to spend much money on accessories
You have no problems keeping your bathroom clean and uncluttered
You have small children or have little time for regular tidying of the bathroom
Retro Bathroom with Clawfoot Bathtub and Pedestal Sink
Retro Bathroom with Clawfoot Bathtub and Pedestal Sink | Source

Retro Shower Curtains

Sin in Linen Cotton Wish You Were Here Shower Curtain
Sin in Linen Cotton Wish You Were Here Shower Curtain
Retro shower curtain with black-and-white, pinup girl print. That's why it's called "Sin in Linen"!

Retro Bathroom Fixtures

  • Clawfoot and pedestal bathtubs can make a huge retro statement. Go with a traditional white tub if you want to give your bathroom a neat, clean look. A colored tub can make a fantastic focal point if the shade you choose works with the color scheme of the room. And if you wish to create a retro bathroom with a natural or eco-friendly spin, a wooden tub is an excellent option.
  • To complement your retro bathtub, choose stylish, old-fashioned faucet and shower head with a brushed chrome finish rather than a shiny brass version. The luxurious luster of brass fittings may render a Victorian look rather than a retro appearance.
  • If your space is limited, consider forgoing the tub and opting for a shower stall. A glass shower enclosure is very popular nowadays but might not fit the nostalgic theme of the room, so go with a simple rail and curtain instead. Better yet, don't forget to pick up a retro shower curtain to enhance the overall look.
  • When it comes to retro bathroom designs, pedestal and vanity sinks are smart choices. A pedestal sink is very traditional and elegant, whereas a vanity sink allows you to niftily utilize the space below the sink for storage. Plus, you can paint or distress the cupboard beneath the sink to create a "shabby chic" look as well.

Retro Bathroom with Wood Flooring and Tongue-and-Groove Walls
Retro Bathroom with Wood Flooring and Tongue-and-Groove Walls | Source

Walls and Flooring

  • The colors of the floor and walls play the most integral role on the mood of your bathroom. Pick a shade or color combination that contains an earthy or vintage feel. This doesn't mean you are stuck with only brown, cream, white or gray, though. You can choose a more vivid color if you like, but its brightness should be slightly muted. For example, if orange is your favorite shade, pick burnt or brownish orange instead of bright orange. Likewise, burgundy and pale fuchsia are better options for a retro bathroom than shocking pink. Extremely bright and bold colors convey more of a modern style.
  • If you can afford wood flooring, go for it. Nothing would look more traditional than an old-fashioned wood floor. For those of you with a limited budget, consider vinyl or linoleum tiles instead. They are cost-effective, durable, and now come in a wide range of styles. Some well-designed vinyl and linoleum tiles can even imitate the look of marble and wood, but cost only a fraction of the real materials.
  • Wall tiles and wallpaper can add a lot of visual interest and glamor, though they are pretty costly. So for low-budget homeowners, simply painting your bathroom walls can save quite a bit of money and doesn't force you to compromise on the retro theme at all. If you pick a proper color scheme as suggested above, it will work out just fine. To make your bathroom super retro, however, tongue-and-groove wood paneling is highly recommended, as long as it is waterproof and specifically made for bathroom use.


A retro bathroom will lose its charm if it appears dim and dingy, so plan your lighting design carefully. Ask yourself how much light you need and what types of lighting fixtures will complement the style of the room. With convenience and safety in mind, consider where to position the fixtures and switches. Also, try to take advantage of natural light as well. For instance, you can position a mirror where it will reflect sunlight into a dimmer part of the room. If your bathroom has no window at all, consider knocking out part of a wall and replacing it with glass blocks, which will let sunlight filter in without revealing the interior space.

A framed vintage poster can be a great decoration for a retro bathroom.
A framed vintage poster can be a great decoration for a retro bathroom. | Source
A Bathroom Storage Unit Made from a Vintage Birdcage
A Bathroom Storage Unit Made from a Vintage Birdcage | Source

Retro Bathroom Décor - Finishing Touches

  • If your bathroom has plenty of space, sneak one or two pieces of retro furniture in there. It can be a chair, ottoman, table, trolley or cabinet, depending on how much space you have and whether or not it can blend in with the overall look of the room. However, don't only consider the decorative aspects; these pieces of furniture should serve practical purposes as well. For example, if your bathroom is already equipped with several wall shelves and a large vanity, there's probably no need for another cabinet or trolley. A chair or a freestanding, full-length mirror can be a more useful addition.
  • Is there a window in your bathroom? If so, spruce it up a bit. Earth-tone Roman shades made of natural fabric, such as linen or cotton, can lend a French retro look. If you want to go with a regular curtain, choose one with vintage patterns, such as floral or polka dot. For a bathroom with a small window and minimal light, wood shutters can be a smart alternative; they allow sunlight to shine into the room and protect your privacy at the same time.
  • Black-and-white photos, vintage posters or cute pictures from old magazines can be eye-catching wall decorations, especially if you have plain walls with no tiles or wallpaper. Frame your favorite ones, hang them up on the walls and maybe put some on your bathroom shelves. Make sure you don't clutter the room with them, though.
  • Just because this is a traditional style doesn't mean you shouldn't think outside the box. The second picture on the right, for example, shows how a vintage birdcage can work brilliantly and stylishly as a bathroom storage unit. Use your imagination and don't be afraid to add your own twists to this décor theme. Retro license plates can serve as wall art, and a vintage Coca-Cola bucket wouldn't be such a bad wastebasket at all!

Bathroom Color Survey

Which one of these bathroom color schemes sounds most alluring to you?

See results


Submit a Comment
  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    8 years ago

    @leahlefler - Yeah, I remember you mentioned your bathroom remodeling project last month. I guess you guys are still working on it, huh? Sounds like a huge project. Have fun with it and thanks a lot for dropping by!

  • leahlefler profile image

    Leah Lefler 

    8 years ago from Western New York

    I love clawfoot tubs! The black and white bathroom above is beautiful. We are in the middle of a bathroom renovation project - we had harvest gold 1970s EVERYTHING - I am more than glad to get rid of it! I love the idea of doing a retro look, though - especially with a white claw foot tub and clean, fresh colors!

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    8 years ago

    @healingsword - Thanks for dropping by, Ann. I think rose pink, cream and brown sound like a very lovely combination. Also, I totally agree large bathroom windows have many plus points!

  • healingsword profile image

    Ann Wehrman 

    8 years ago from California

    Nice Hub, Om! I voted, but you didn't have the color combo I'd really like, which is rose pink, cream, and brown. Oh well :-)! I enjoy your many bathroom hubs! Love an old fashioned bathroom with lots of room, a claw foot tub, huge windows that one can open while bathing and let in the breezy sunshine and birdsong or night air (need a screen for the bugs)! The windows help air out the bathroom, too, keeping down mold/mildew.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    8 years ago

    Thanks so much, Suzie HQ! Glad to know you love this style of decoration. =D

  • Suzie HQ profile image

    Suzanne Ridgeway 

    8 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

    Great hub, I love RETRO and you have super handy tips, ideas and suggestions! Lovely style of writing here, have voted up, Interesting, Useful and will share!

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    8 years ago

    Thanks a lot for your kind words, lindacee! I'm so glad you these retro décor ideas and tips!

  • lindacee profile image

    Linda Chechar 

    8 years ago from Arizona

    Love these retro bathroom ideas! I think the chart to help readers determine if a retro bathroom is right for them was a great addition. I also appreciated your budget-friendly tips. Voted up,useful, beautiful and interesting!

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    8 years ago

    @cassylu - I want a clawfoot tub with jets. Retro look. Modern function. HA!

    @LetitiaFT - Thanks! Glad you enjoyed this hub.

    @anglnwu - Oh, I can be dawdling anywhere at any time. Dawdling is what I do best LOL

    @Simone - You're very welcome, Haruko san.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    8 years ago

    @Pamela - Hi! Thanks for the read and votes.

    @akirchner - Audrey, thanks for your kind words. Don't compliment me too often, though; I might get a big head!!! LOL

    @rfmoran - 165-year-old house? How cool! You're so lucky.

    @thumbi - Thanks. Really appreciate your kind words.

    @rebeccamealey - Thanks! So glad you like these retro décor ideas.

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    8 years ago from San Francisco

    I've always loved retro bathrooms. Thanks for the great ideas!

  • anglnwu profile image


    8 years ago

    These ideas are so cool. I really like the one with the wood floor. If I have a bathroom like that, I would be dawdling a lot. there. Rated up.

  • LetitiaFT profile image


    8 years ago from Paris via California

    Very nice. I've gone for a kind minimalist retro in my place so I really enjoyed reading this.

  • CassyLu1981 profile image


    8 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

    My mom has a claw foot tub with the shower attachment and she loves it. Me on the other hand, I'm more of a modern type of girl. :) I'll take the large tub with jets any day! Excellent hub! Voted up and shared!

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 

    8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    What a clever Hub! You managed to make these sound like your very own remodeling project. Great decorating tips included. I love retro décor!

  • thumbi7 profile image

    JR Krishna 

    8 years ago from India

    Bright ideas!

    beautiful pictures

    thanks for sharing

  • rfmoran profile image

    Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

    8 years ago from Long Island, New York

    Voted up and useful. I live in a 165 year old house, so almost everything is retro. We have tubs on feet in two of our bathrooms. Excellent ideas.

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    8 years ago from Washington

    Great ideas, Om - you are such a visual/color person - that is why you are so good at photography~ Awesome and beautifully laid out so anyone could glean some great ways to do their bathroom even if retro wasn't their first choice!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I think you covered creating a retro bathroom very thoroughly. I like your ideas. Up and useful.


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