Traditional style bathrooms are timeless and classic. In a 1920s cottage, this style pays homage to the era while providing modern convenience. The charm of a traditional bathroom lies in its attention to detail, quality craftsmanship, and carefully chosen antique accents. When designed well, it evokes a feeling of warmth, comfort and tranquility.

In this week’s featured bathroom, we will explore what defines the traditional style, the elements used to create it, and tips for achieving the look in a small vintage cottage bathroom. This stunning space combines vintage fixtures, subway tile, beadboard wainscoting, elegant moldings, and other time-honored details that work together to create a relaxing oasis with old-world grace and charm.

What Defines the Traditional Bathroom Style?

The traditional bathroom style is inspired by vintage design from the early 1900s. It emphasizes classic elegance and fine details. Some trademark features include:

Timeless Materials

  • Porcelain, cast iron or acrylic clawfoot tubs
  • Pedestal, console or decorative wall mount sinks
  • Subway tile, hexagonal tile, or black and white checked tile floors
  • Marble, granite or travertine countertops and floors
  • Chrome, nickel or bronze plumbing fixtures
  • Ceramic, porcelain or glass accessories

Classic Architectural Details

  • Beadboard wainscoting and tongue-and-groove paneled walls
  • Ornate crown molding and chair rail molding
  • Elegant cabinets with inset panels, crown molding tops and turned legs
  • Arched entryways and niches
  • Octagonal, hexagonal or black and white checkered tile floors
  • Decorative ceiling medallions

Vintage-Inspired Accents

  • Vintage-style lighting and sconces
  • Freestanding or wall-mounted clawfoot tub
  • Pedestal or wall-mounted sink
  • Curtains, accent rugs and plush towels
  • Fresh flowers, candles and perfume bottles

When combined thoughtfully, these elements create a warm, inviting bathroom with time-honored character and craftsmanship.

Creating a Traditional Bathroom in a Small 1920s Cottage

Designing a traditional style bathroom in a small vintage cottage takes careful planning. Key considerations include:

Selecting Fixtures and Materials

Focus on quality over quantity. Choose a few statement plumbing fixtures and decorative accents in finishes like nickel, brass or bronze rather than filling the space with mismatched pieces. Opt for durable porcelain or ceramic surfaces that evoke vintage styling.

Building Proper Proportions

Visually expand a small bathroom with wall-mounted fixtures, rectangular sinks, and slender pedestal tubs. Include wainscoting and moldings to draw the eye up. Rectangular subway tiles also give the illusion of length.

Allowing Adequate Clearances

Ensure enough space around fixtures and doors that open inward per code. A pedestal sink or compact console option can save space over a vanity. If needed, consider bumping out a wall into an adjacent room.

Incorporating Storage Solutions

Use the area over the toilet for narrow shelving. Add a bathroom cabinet or medicine chest. Install a clawfoot tub with storage skirting. Opt for a pedestal sink or hang a wall cabinet for extra storage.

Selecting Proper Lighting

Use accent lighting to add warmth, such as vintage-style sconces and chandeliers. Install layers of lighting, like recessed ceiling lights combined with wall sconces. Include task lighting at the vanity.

Adding Vintage Touches

Incorporate beadboard wainscoting, mosaic tile inlay, framed black-and-white photos, pedestal sinks, and decorative wallpaper to evoke a period feel. Display fresh flowers and perfumed soaps.

Design Elements for Achieving the Traditional Look

Several classic design details can help transform a modest cottage bathroom into a stunning traditional oasis. Consider incorporating elements like:

Clawfoot Tub

A clawfoot tub serves as the perfect centerpiece in a traditional bathroom. Options like a freestanding cast iron tub or an alcove-mounted acrylic version with ball and claw feet provide vintage styling. Situate the tub under a window if possible.

Subway Tile

Subway tile offers an affordable, vintage-look option for walls and floors. Use white, light grey or soft green tiles in a classic brickwork pattern. Outline with coordinating pencil molding for added detail.

Pedestal Sink

Pedestal sinks allow a vintage look in a small footprint. Look for porcelain models with graceful silhouettes and embellished bases. Situate against a back wall or window for ample open floor space.

Beadboard Wainscoting

Beadboard wainscoting lends cottage character to bathroom walls. Opt for vintage tongue-and-groove boards or inexpensive beaded paneling. Install chair rail molding at top for accent.

Period Wallpaper

Forget busy florals – select a tailored trellis, geometric or embroidered motif wallpaper in neutral tones. Use sparingly on one focal wall or limit to wainscoting height.

Vintage Lighting

Add elegance with a crystal chandelier or sconces with candle-style bulbs. Seek out antiqued bronze, brushed nickel or chrome fixtures for a vintage appeal. Include accent lighting on dimmers.

Paneled Cabinets

Choose cabinets with raised inset-panel doors and finished interiors to mimic furniture built-ins. Top with crown molding for an elegant touch. Opt for vintage brushed brass pulls.

Hexagonal Floor Tile

Hexagonal floor tiles gracefully reflect light. Opt for black and white, grey and white, or iridescent glass versions. Use encaustic cement tiles for a Victorian inspired floor.

Tips and Ideas for Achieving the Look

Follow these tips for beautifully implementing traditional style in a small vintage bathroom:

  • Optimize storage with a bathroom cabinet, built-in shelving and a skirted clawfoot tub base.
  • Include wainscoting and classic crown molding to add architectural detail.
  • Select neutral wall colors like soft grey, sea glass green or creamy white to defer to vintage accents.
  • Incorporate natural materials like marble, granite, porcelain and glass for timeless elegance.
  • Use lighting layers like recessed and accent lights for ambiance and task lighting needs.
  • Display fresh flowers, perfumed soaps, and stack folded towels for a classic finishing touch.
  • Splurge on plumbing fixtures and freestanding tubs as the room’s focal points.
  • Choose a rectangular pedestal sink to save space and reflect the era.
  • Install wall mount faucets and a hand shower setup to visually open floor space.
  • Use framed black-and-white photos of family or nature scenes to accent walls.
  • Incorporate a rectangular mirror, sconces and wall-mounted fixtures to exaggerate height.
  • Select classic patterns like trellis and geometric for any wallpaper or shower curtains.
  • Include an accent chair or stool for functionality and cottage charm.
  • Add warmth with vintage-style oil-rubbed bronze or brushed gold lighting and hardware accents.

Putting it All Together

This charming bathroom perfectly illustrates how traditional style can be integrated into a small 1920s cottage bath:

Furnishings and Features

  • Freestanding clawfoot slipper tub under a double-hung window
  • Wall-mount porcelain pedestal sink with rear faucet and angled handles
  • Corner storage cabinet with inset panels and antique brass pulls
  • Subway tile surrounding a tub niche and skirt
  • Black and white hexagonal floor tile
  • Soft grey beadboard wainscoting topped with chair rail molding
  • Elegant crown molding on walls and cabinetry
  • Chrome pedestal sink legs, tub feet, and plumbing fittings

Finishing Touches

  • A rectangular frameless mirror mounted above sink
  • Vintage oil-rubbed bronze sconces flanking sink
  • Recessed ceiling lighting on dimmer switch
  • Soothing pale green walls
  • Neutral shower curtain with geometriclattice pattern
  • Glass vessel, candles, folded towels, and fresh flowers

The timeless combination of elegant architectural details, vintage-inspired fixtures, and natural materials create a warm, inviting traditional bathroom reminiscent of the 1920s era while offering modern functionality. With careful planning, this classic, enduring style can be achieved in small vintage cottage bathrooms to serve as a personal haven and hideaway.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some key features of a traditional style bathroom?

Some trademark features of traditional bathrooms include clawfoot tubs, pedestal sinks, subway tile, wainscoting, crown molding, paneled cabinets, hexagonal floor tile, marble counters, and vintage-inspired plumbing fixtures and lighting.

What should you avoid in a small traditional bathroom?

Avoid overly ornate detailing and fabrics, dark colors, clutter, large vanity cabinets, and busy tile patterns to keep a small traditional bath feeling open and airy.

How can you create vintage appeal on a budget?

Opt for beadboard paneling rather than real wainscoting, seek out reproduction antiques and lighting, use subway tile sparingly as an accent, look for clawfoot tub options with acrylic over cast iron, and incorporate vintage photographs in inexpensive frames.

What paint color works best in traditional bathrooms?

Soothing, neutral hues like soft greens, greys, ivories and cream work best as backdrop colors in traditional baths. Deeper tones can make a small space feel dark and closed in.

What flooring options work well?

Hexagonal, black and white checkered, or subway tiles are classic traditional choices. Travertine or marble tiles also complement the style. Options like sheet vinyl can also mimic vintage patterns on a budget.

How do you add storage in a small traditional bathroom?

Creative storage solutions for small traditional baths include narrow shelving over the toilet, bathroom cabinets, pedestal sinks with towel storage inside their bases, and clawfoot tubs with space to build in closet-style storage in the base skirting.

What are some easy ways to add character?

Displaying fresh flowers, incorporating vintage-inspired hardware like crystal knobs and brass fixtures, using pedestal sinks and framed black-and-white photos, and adding wallpaper to one focal wall quickly amp up the vintage appeal.


A thoughtfully designed traditional bathroom cherishes quality craftsmanship and period charm. With careful space planning, elegant accents, and vintage-inspired plumbing fixtures and details, this enduring style can be achieved in small bathrooms to become a welcoming retreat. From clawfoot tubs and subway tile, to nickel accents and neutral backdrops, the traditional bathroom imparts refined, timeless beauty ideal for a charming 1920s cottage.