9 Ideas for Cottage Baths

Style notes for a room that’s comfortable when it’s traditional.

Beadboard wainscoting and simple fixtures define the cottage bath. (Photo: Carolyn Bates)

The powder room (left) in Anne and Donald Stewart’s Vermont cottage is pleasantly old-fashioned. Its wall-hung sink is original, as is the beadboard wainscot that protects lower walls. Evoking farmhouses and cottages across the country, this simple room is familiar. Despite all the hype for spa-size bathrooms filled with gizmos, such a bathroom is still the standard—especially in older houses. Besides being relatively inexpensive to create and easier to clean, smaller bathrooms can be very charming. Add a wainscot (high or low), a wooden medicine cabinet, antique or reproduction fixtures, traditional wallpaper, or a row of brass hooks. Unless you have an Art Deco cottage, plumbing fixtures should be white.

Victorian Charm

(Photo: Tim Street-Porter)

A clawfoot tub with a shower faucet sets the tone for a country bathroom in an early Connecticut house; the look is sweetened with small-pattern wallpaper. Turn-of-the-century style is a good approach, as that’s when plumbing went inside.

Painted Wainscot

(Photo: Brian Vanden Brink)

As evidenced at Maine’s Skolfield–Whittier House, the basics remain the same: beadboard, porcelain sink, and mirror. The house dates to the 1850s; the English-style bathroom with separate chambers for toilet and bathing to the late 1880s.

Stylish Remake

This Victorian Revival bathroom is well-furnished with art glass, large moldings, and wicker. Blue-painted Lincrusta is hung over the traditional wainscot.

Seaside Simplicity

(Photo: Courtesy of Connor Homes)

Pastel walls and white wainscot are a classic combination in this upstairs bathroom for a new old house, where a wainscoted skirt encloses the tub.

Rural Pragmatism

(Photo: Sandy Agrafiotis)

In an 1890s house, the pantry was converted into a bathroom in 1935. A surviving cupboard was copied to bookend the chimney, providing storage space.

Swedish Cottage

(Photo: Sandy Agrafiotis)

A tiny bathroom for a Swedish-influenced cottage in Maine features board walls, scallop-cut edges, colorful folk painting, and a carved window cornice.

Painted Decoration

(Photo: Gross & Daley)

Even the simplest cottage bathroom can be hand-decorated with a stencil pattern or freehand motif for a timeless look.

Nostalgic Notes

(Photo: Kindra Clineff)

An antique washbowl and pitcher add a historical or country air to a cottage bathroom, as would an old sink or a vintage light fixture.


Tags: bathrooms cottage OHJ February 2014 Old-House Journal Patricia Poore

By Patricia Poore

Patricia Poore is Editor-in-chief of Old-House Journal and Arts & Crafts Homes, as well as editorial director at Active Interest Media’s Home Group, overseeing New Old House, Traditional Building, and special-interest publications. 

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