Bringing vintage style to your bathroom remodel can add character and charm. From clawfoot tubs to patterned tile floors, incorporating old-school elements into a modern bath creates a stylish look that feels fresh yet timeless. This article explores ways to blend classic details with contemporary amenities for bathroom upgrades brimming with nostalgic flair.

Select Fixtures with Retro Flair

Clawfoot Tubs

Clawfoot tubs have been around since the late 19th century, bringing elegance and sophistication to bathrooms through the decades. Modern takes on these vintage tubs integrate comfort features like deeper bathing wells and ergonomic backrests. Look for new clawfoot tubs with contemporary conveniences like whirlpool jet systems, air bubbles, and even chromatherapy lighting. Position your tub as a statement piece in the bathroom, or opt for a more subtle alcove installation. Choose from antique-inspired finishes like glossy white, matte black, or polished nickel. A clawfoot tub remains a stunning centerpiece for any bathroom aiming for old-world grandeur.

Freestanding Tubs

Freestanding tubs provide a similar aesthetic to clawfoot versions, often perched gracefully on a small pedestal base. These solo soaking tubs convey a vintage vibe, yet many modern manufacturers offer the latest innovations in materials and technology. Look for lightweight acrylic or stone resin tubs for easy installation. You’ll gain benefits like ergonomic shapes, spill-resistant rims, and scratch-resistant surfaces. Enjoy features like waterfall fillers, heated bubble massages, and even Bluetooth sound systems. Place a freestanding tub in the center of your bathroom for a bold retro look, or nestle one into a cozy alcove. A statement freestanding tub brings old-fashioned elegance to contemporary spaces.

Vintage Faucets

Don’t forget the details when planning your old-school modern bath. Faucets provide the perfect opportunity to incorporate small doses of vintage inspiration. Look for cross or quatrefoil handles, gooseneck spouts, and exposed pipes. Matte black and brushed bronze finishes work well for a neo-vintage vibe. If you’re installing wall-mount faucets, select a style with articulating swing arms for added flexibility. For freestanding tubs, a floor-mount tub filler makes a striking style statement. Vintage-style faucets bring a nostalgic twist to an otherwise modern bathroom design.

Choose Vintage Touches for Walls and Floors

Subway Tile

Subway tile offers an iconic vintage look, first gaining popularity in early 20th century New York City train stations. The rectangular tile comes in classic bright white, but modern takes now include an array of mosaics, colors, patterns, and textures. Use subway tile on the walls as shower surrounds or above bathtubs. Subway tile also works beautifully on bathroom floors. Opt for a classic brickwork layout, or get creative with patterns like herringbone. Install tile in a contrasting color on the floor for added pop. Glossy, matte, or textured tile adds visual interest. Simple, affordable subway tile remains a timeless choice for old-school style.

Hex Tiles

For a retro geometric look, hexagonal tile hits the mark. Often called penny tile, hexagons came into fashion in the Victorian era, bringing visual depth through their unique six-sided shape. Install pristine white hex tile across floors, walls, or both for a black-and-white tiled bathroom reminiscent of early 20th-century style. Or opt for colorful hex mosaics, using multiple hues for a kaleidoscopic effect. Large-scale hex tiles in stone-look materials like marble or travertine also convey an old-world feel. Hexagonal tile offers major vintage appeal for modern bathroom designs.

Black and White Checkerboard Tile

Alternating black and white tile in a classic checkerboard pattern screams vintage flair. Use simple ceramic tile or marble and porcelain combinations to create this eye-catching retro look. Checkerboard tile works well on a portion of the floor or wall as an accent. Pair with subway tile or hexagons throughout the rest of the space for a cohesive old-school style. For more modern appeal, install your checkerboard tile on the diagonal or in a herringbone pattern. Bold, graphic checkerboard tile adds a punch of nostalgic, retro style in a contemporary bathroom.


Wainscoting refers to paneled detailing on the lower portion of walls, historically used to protect plaster from scuffs and moisture. Today it adds vintage character to modern spaces. Opt for classic white beadboard panels or get creative with materials like reclaimed wood, tin, or subway tile. Wainscoting works well surrounding clawfoot tubs, behind vanities, or on the lower half of shower walls. Choose panelling made of waterproof materials when installing near wet areas. Top wainscoting with a painted chair rail molding for extra old-school flair. Wainscoting brings a traditional touch to bathrooms craving a neo-vintage look.

Source Vintage Vanities and Cabinets

Freestanding Vanities

A freestanding vanity table feels plucked straight from the early 1900s, with elegantly turned legs and rich wood detailing. Fortunately, you can find vintage-style vanities today with more functional storage like drawers and cabinets. Look for pieces with charming accents like carved feet, nickel hardware, and marble or granite countertops. Distressed paint techniques like chippy, worn, or rub-through finishes add old-world appeal. For a modern update, look for vintage-inspired vanities with handy organization features and easy-to-clean materials. Position a freestanding vanity like an artistic focal point in your retro bath revamp.

Wall Mounted Vanities

Gain space savings with wall mounted vanities styled for vintage flair. Look for cabinet door fronts with recessed panel detailing, metal grilles, or glass for a retro vibe. Open shelving above the sink continues the vintage aesthetic. Select wall mounted vanities with legs or feet for added old-school charm. Materials like powder-coated steel, repurposed wood, and concrete suit neo-vintage designs. Ensure your vanity offers ample storage space for bath necessities. Then style with vintage-look hardware and lighting fixtures for a cohesive old-world look. Wall mounted vanities conserve room yet still convey timeless sophistication.

Medicine Cabinets

Incorporate easy bathroom storage with a dash of mid-century nostalgia using retro-style medicine cabinets. Look for horizontally oriented cabinets with clean lines and understated styling. Chrome, brushed nickel, or oil rubbed bronze finishes offer a sleek vintage feel. Mirrored or lightly textured colored cabinet fronts keep the look modern. Choose beveled edges for added dimension and interest. Inside your medicine cabinet, enjoy conveniences like adjustable shelving, integrated lighting, and electrical outlets for recharging electric toothbrushes. Old-school medicine cabinets lend understated sophistication.

Light It Up Vintage-Style


For an authentic vintage look, decorative wall sconces beautifully illuminate bathroom spaces. Look for designs from the early to mid-1900s with candlestick-shaped accents, milk glass lampshades, or exposed Edison bulbs. Position matching sconces on either side of vanities or above clawfoot tubs. Opt for swing arm sconces to help direct light right where you need it, like near the sink area. New energy-efficient models still carry that old-fashioned charm. Wall sconces add a healthy dose of neo-vintage character to any bathroom redesign.

Pendant Lights

Suspended pendant lights feel both contemporary and nostalgic. To really drive home that vintage flair, look for era-specific shapes like caged Edison bulbs, tapered drum shades, or bell-shaped frosted glass. Position single pendants above vanities or freestanding tubs for a striking focal point. Or hang a light fixture made with multiple pendants over the bathtub for a retro chandelier effect. Matte black and brass finishes keep these timeless lights feeling fresh and modern. Pendants lend eye-catching retro style in an updated way.

Accent Table Lamps

For more flexible lighting options, table lamps with vintage panache can help achieve your desired old-school mood. Look for curvy figural lamps from the 1940s-1960s, ceramic lamps with mod vibes, or clean-lined mid-century shapes.opaque Dom
Choose brass, copper, or nickel accents for added shine. Position table lamps atop vanities or accessory furniture like chairs, stools or side tables. Accent lighting allows you to enhance the overall ambiance and highlight decor details. Vintage-chic table lamps add cozy, neo-retro style anywhere.

Vintage Accessories Add Charm

Vintage Posters

Decorate blank bathroom walls with reproduction vintage posters for a pop of retro flair. Look for iconic travel prints from the early 20th century, botanical imagery, or motivational designs. Black-and-white or sepia-toned posters feel especially nostalgic. Arrange matching prints in classic black frames on at least two walls for added visual impact. Above vanities or jazzing up shower surrounds, old-school posters lend unique personality.

Round Mirrors

Round mirrors instantly evoke vintage style. To play up the retro vibe even more, look for antique mercury mirror options with weathered frames. Ornate metalwork and candlestick-like detailing amp up the old-school charm. Hang a statement round mirror above bathroom sinks or vanities. Outline with round LED lighting for a contemporary twist. Large round mirrors act like glamorous focal points infused with neo-vintage flair.

Vintage Hardware

Never underestimate the power of hardware when seeking a cohesive retro aesthetic. Swap out modern metal draw pulls and knobs for vintage-style options like cut glass, ceramic, or lucite. Look for designs from the 1950s-1970s for a heavy dose of nostalgia. Other details like fretwork plates, antique hinges, and skeleton keys also help nail the old-school style. Extend your vintage hardware vibe to the bathroom with matching toilet paper holders, robe hooks, towel bars, and other decorative accessories throughout the space.

Window Treatments

Add the finishing touch of vintage flair with your window treatments. Opt for floral embroidered curtains reminiscent of the feminine 1940s. Or try cotton lace cafe curtains popular in 1950s kitchens and baths. Roll up towels or hand towels in a retro glass canister mounted on the wall. Roman or bamboo blinds also lend a casual mid-century vibe. Ensure your window treatments repel moisture in this damp space. Then watch as the right old-school accents transport your bathroom back in time.

FAQs About Designing an Old-School Modern Bath

What are some key differences when designing a vintage bathroom versus a more contemporary space?

Vintage bathrooms tend to favor ornate details, luxurious materials, striking silhouettes, and a moody, saturated color palette. Contemporary bathroom design is generally more sleek and pared-back, with a neutral color scheme and sparse, streamlined accents. Vintage bathrooms also utilize more specialized fixtures like clawfoot tubs, whereas contemporary spaces favor seamless, built-in designs.

How do I choose between Victorian, art deco, or mid-century styles for my bathroom remodel?

Study photos of bathrooms from each era to identify what aspects appeal to you. Victorian style features ornate details like carved woods, decadent textures, and dark metals. Art deco bathrooms use sleek geometrics, glass block, and chrome accents. Mid-century bathrooms feel more pared back with clean lines, wood paneling, and pops of color. Once you decide which decor elements you prefer, use those to guide your design choices for a cohesive neo-vintage look.

What should I know before installing a clawfoot tub?

Clawfoot tubs require extra consideration regarding plumbing and clearance. Speak to a professional about specialized drain kits and supplying hot and cold water through the floor instead of nearby walls. You’ll also need more open floor space so you can access plumbing beneath the tub for maintenance. Clawfoot tubs come in a range of sizes, so measure carefully before selecting. Professionals can help assess if this iconic tub style is feasible for your bath.

How do I add vintage flair on a budget?

Focus on small accents like hardware, lighting, tile, and accessories to work within your budget. Look for vintage items at flea markets, antique shops, or online auctions. Reproduction posters, tile decals, and decor accessories also add retro charm for less. Beyond products, also utilize design elements like wainscoting, black-and-white color schemes, and checkerboard patterns to nail the old-school aesthetic on a budget.

What maintenance considerations come with a vintage tile installation?

Period tile often features porous materials like natural stone, clay, or unglazed ceramic. These require sealing to avoid staining and damage over time, especially in wet bathrooms. Vintage tile patterns also take more time and skill to properly install. Consider working with specialized retailers or artisans to find tiles suited for bathrooms, and hire experienced installers to ensure your vintage tile stands the test of time.

Achieving an Old-School Modern Bathroom Design

Blending vintage charm with modern amenities results in a comfortably nostalgic yet fresh bathroom space. From stand-out clawfoot tubs to retro geometric tile, the design options for an old-school modern bath cover a range of eras and aesthetics. Keep sight of overall cohesion as you mix and match elements like lighting, hardware, and accents. Work with experienced remodeling professionals to properly incorporate specialized vintage fixtures and materials suited to the humidity and moisture a bathroom endures. An old-school flair feels right at home in bathrooms craving a bit of timeless character. With careful planning and execution, your space can evoke beloved design eras in an updated, livable way.