Classic Victorian Design In Bathrooms

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Photo: ChalonHandmade

When you look at the history of architecture and modern design, you’ll find that it doesn’t move in a straight line. It’s more like a circle, or a series of circles actually. This means that the textures and contours of the past can help to inform the design space of your future.

For those who are seeking that traditional style, or who admire the Steampunk approach too, the styles of the Victorian period are just the ticket. But, where do you start? 

Writer and home improvement expert James Harper is here to shed some gaslight (see what I did there?) on this kind of project … 


Victorian architecture and interior design is enjoying a resurgence in popularity at the moment. The Victorian period began in 1837, and ended in 1901. Within that period, there were several phases of architectural design, and the popular interior fashions underwent an evolution too.

Most people have a good idea of what a Victorian living room looked like, but creating an authentic bathroom can be a challenge. In fact, you probably wouldn’t want a truly authentic early Victorian bathroom, as sanitary standards are much higher today than they were 150 years ago!

Creating a Classic Victorian Style Bathroom

The bathroom, as we think of it today, came into existence in the 1880s. If you want an authentic bathroom from the late Victorian era, you should avoid any items that are older than that year. It’s best to stay away from the Edwardian period, and buy either late-Victorian furnishings, or modern bathroom fittings that are “Victorian Style”.

If you’re buying antique furnishings, don’t worry too much about them being in perfect condition. You could save a lot of money with shower repairs and expert bath resurfacing. If the tub has more than a few cosmetic scratches, it’s probably best to use a professional bath resurfacing company, but minor repairs can be done at home using a DIY kit. When you consider that a full suite can cost thousands, refurbishing becomes an attractive proposition.

Things to watch out for

Coupling an antique pan with a modern cistern can be a difficult task. Old WCs had a pipe visible between the cistern and the pan, but modern ones do not. This isn’t always a problem if your priority is just to make a working toilet, but if authenticity is important to you then it’s a good idea to buy the cistern and the pan together, from the same seller, so that you know for sure that they will fit properly.

Photo: William Warby

Linoleum was invented in the late 1870s, and was popular in the homes of well-off Victorians. Encaustic tiles and geometric tiles were also popular. If you’re attempting to replicate the Victorian look, think carefully about the size of the room you’re decorating. Small rooms can feel cramped if you over-use busy, ornate patterns. You may want to sacrifice authenticity for aesthetics in this instance.

Adding Authenticity

Victorian bathrooms were functional places. The Victorians eschewed decorations and ornaments, and kept their bathrooms purely for their essential functions. If you want to make your bathroom look Authentic, you should do the same thing. Keep all non-essential items out of sight, and keep the room free from clutter.

Photo: William Warby

If you are renovating a room that has existing period features, tread carefully. You may want to try to source authentic, reclaimed lino, panels, or bathroom fixtures, rather than trying to match the colour of your original fittings to a modern copy.

Even the smallest of differences will really stand out, so it’s worth investing the time in trying to source some original fittings before you go down the replica route.


Thanks, James!

James Harper writes on behalf of Homtech who provide a professional bath resurfacing and shower repairs service. James Has just finished remodelling his own home and is looking at buying a Victorian House for his next project.



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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.