Instant Design from the Past

Original sources are credible—and charming.

The master bathroom in the restored Oregon bungalow is an authentic re-creation of a 1920s bath. Built-in cabinets flanking the sink interpret the simple, white-painted millwork of the period, as do the medicine cabinet and framed mirrors. Why not let the past inform suitable design today? 

It’s not difficult to research design elements of houses built after 1910 or so, as many catalogs and magazines recorded every aspect of homebuilding. Dining-room sideboards, room-dividing colonnades, entry doors, and especially cabinets and built-ins for kitchens, butler’s pantries, and bathrooms may be patterned on these period examples. Antiquarian booksellers often have the primary documents for sale. Increasingly, vintage illustrations and entire books are archived on various internet sites, too. Go to archive.org for a start.

Painted cabinets 4’ high: Universal Design Book No. 25 on Builder’s Woodwork, Roach & Musser Co., 1927.

Mats Bodin

Handsome, suitable work often is inspired by illustrations in vintage millworks catalogs as well as cabinets that may have survived in the house. The newly designed master bath includes a dresser-like cabinet accessible to both pedestal sinks. In a 1912 house, in-the-wall cubby cabinets were copied from original drop-front linen drawers, which are visible in the hall beyond.


Tags: bathroom interior design OHJ May 2019

By Old House Journal

Founded in 1973, Old House Journal is the original authority when it comes to old-house restoration, traditional house styles, period kitchens, bath & kitchen restoration, DIY projects, gardens & landscaping, and more-- from Colonial and Victorian through Arts & Crafts and Mid-century Modern homes. 

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