Pretty & Practical New Baths for Old Houses

Here are four examples of new bathrooms that are modest in size, fitted for plenty of storage, and focus on period woodwork and trim.

A pretty bathroom in a new old house designed and built by Connor Homes.

Beaded board, custom cabinets that take cues from old-fashioned linen drawers and closets, and wainscoted tubs harken back to the 1890s or 1910. But these elements have been revived in a clean and modern way with updated fittings. The contemporary lines of built-ins are often based on cottage, Shaker and Arts & Crafts –period interiors.

Take the bisque-yellow bathroom shown here—is it in an old house or new? Its part of a master suite in a reproduction Greek Revival house in Vermont, designed and pre-built by Connor Homes. The beadboard wainscot has been adapted to create a skirt for the drop-in tub. White-painted cabinets have traditional panel doors, and the classic medicine cabinet is finished with crown molding. Black iron accents in the hardware and lighting create a white, black, and buff color scheme that has remained popular since the Federal era.

Fitted bathrooms like this one by Connor Homes are a return to the furniture-like fixtures of the early days of indoor plumbing.

In another house by Connor Homes, this one a Colonial Revival on lake Champlain, beadboard is treated more formally in the sky-blue bathroom. The tongue and groove boards make up panels inset between mullions. Again, the wainscot becomes a tub enclosure. Playing up the virtues of marble and porcelain, the classic blue-and-white scheme echoes the view.

While the core of the bathroom hasn’t changed in a hundred years—it’s still toilet, sink and tub—today’s baths look more like sitting rooms than washrooms. They are old-fashioned, but in the way of a butler’s pantry.

A fitted and furnished Colonial Revival bathroom has cabinetwork by Crown Point.

The Colonial Revival bathroom by Crown Point Cabinetry is a good example. The capacious tub with a view out the round-top window takes the place of a window seat or sofa, and the chandelier would be at home in a bedroom. A furniture-quality look comes from the simple paneled tub enclosure and floor-to-ceiling cabinet (with two-sided shelf storage).

Befitting a new house in the Arts & Crafts spirit, this room is a fresh take on those beadboard bathrooms of summer cottages and bungalows. Designed by Richard Bubnowski for his own family, it is at once old-fashioned and new, with a pleasant coastal feel. The five-panel door is installed as a slider to save room. Vessel sinks are modern, while alluding to washstand bowls. Functional spigots have a retro presence mounted in the wall.

This cottagey bathroom by Richard Bubnowski has beadboard, built-ins, and Arts & Crafts lighting, yet the room has a contemporary presence.

The fitted bathroom, with fixtures treated like furniture and a full suite of moldings, was actually popular in the early days of indoor bathrooms. (Utilitarian, exposed fixtures were a hallmark of the “sanitary” bathrooms of the early 20th century.) Early plumbing catalogs even showed suites of “bath furniture” in styles from Elizabethan to Eastlake. It seems we’ve come back around to that sensibility.

Tags: bathrooms OHI November/December 2009 Old-House Interiors Patricia Poore

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