How to Give Your Bathroom a Modern Antique Look

Remodeling a bathroom can be rewarding, even with only minor renovations and on a budget. Combining the clean lines of modern décor with period-style or antique-look fixtures and accessories transforms a tired, outdated bathroom into a room with a distinctive look.

Evaluate what is already there and in good shape. If the basic plumbing and flooring of the bathroom are sound, a re-do can be accomplished without major construction. Painting the walls, replacing bathroom hardware like taps and sinks, changing the shower curtain and towels to reflect the new style and adding well-chosen cabinets or vanities will result in a new look with minor effort. Lighting, mirrors and wall hangings can complement the new look.


First, decide whether you want an eclectic look that combines design motifs and styles from several periods or if you prefer to go with a single decorative style. When you decide on a style, be it Art Deco or Victorian, select hardware fittings for the bathtub, shower, sink and cutoffs that complement the style. New taps give a new look to old fixtures, so you may not need to replace the sink or tub. Manufacturers feature lines of hardware that embody classic design styles but are modern. Do-it-yourself hardware stores have a large selection of styles and finishes in materials like stainless steel, brass, ceramic, bronze and copper.

To accent an Art Deco theme, look for hardware with simple, clean lines or geometric shapes. For a Victorian look, choose cross-handle faucets with ceramic buttons labeled hot and cold. Match the taps with a shepherd’s crook spout for an elegant touch. For a more authentic antique look, replace single-handle faucets with two-handled models. Make sure that the sink has the correct hole openings for the new fittings.

Match towel racks, soap holders and other accessory hardware with the plumbing fittings to enhance the style, but don’t feel that you must use all new accessories. Flea markets often have accessories that lend a charming accent to new décor. Wall-mounted ceramic soap dishes give a vintage look to any décor.

If your bath has an under sink vanity, refinish it to reflect the new style. Updating hardware and repainting may transform a tired-looking vanity into a chic addition to the new scheme. For an Art Deco look, add chrome trim to the outside. For a Victorian look, try distressed paint in off-white with an accent color for trim.

If you choose to replace the vanity, consider refurbishing an old wooden dresser or small cabinet. A wooden cabinet can be converted to a vanity by adding a marble top and wash basin, running piping through the back and refinishing the wood. Another choice is to replace the sink vanity with a legged sink console.

If your bath has a tub, it need not be replaced. An old tub can be refinished with good results. For a built-in tub, replace the shower curtain with one that that complements the period look you want. For a clean, modern touch, add frameless, clear tempered glass panels or a glass swinging door across the tub opening.

Lighting plays an integral role in an interior design scheme. Make sure that the light fixtures complement the new style. Glass and mirrored fixtures blend well with almost any period décor and lend a modern, clean look as well. Wall sconces, ceiling lights and accent lights can be placed appropriately to enhance the mood of the room.

Are the floors of tile, hardwood or some other material? If the bath is carpeted, will the dominant color go with your new decorative scheme? Can carpets be replaced or updated? If the carpet covers another type of flooring like tile or hardwood, you may want to remove the carpet and use the original material. If the original flooring is in bad shape and should be covered, replacing the carpet may be preferred.

Of particular importance when remodeling is attention to scale. For a modern look, a small bathroom should not be overwhelmed with heavy or large furniture or too many knick-knacks. A large mirror mounted over the sink reflects light and gives the illusion of space. Light-colored walls also make a room look bigger. For larger bathrooms, furniture should be on a scale with the size of the room. Too many items may look crowded, but well-chosen pieces like an antique vanity and a stand-alone tub will give an authentic touch while keeping modern lines of simplicity and uncluttered space.