When talking about creating a Victorian bathroom, it’s worth remembering that, back in those days, most people did in fact not have a bathroom. Wealthy Victorians would have a washstand in their bedroom which was part of the furniture and a bowl and jug were the equivalent of a sink and tap. Plumbing and running water was only introduced in the late 19th century. It was then around that time that the wealthier middle classes would have bathrooms built into their houses which would contain a bath and even (though for very few) a shower – though mixer taps were a long way off. Poorer classes would still have to rely on a tin bathtub in the kitchen that was filled by hand.
Private toilets did in most cases simply not exist – unless you were wealthy. There would have been public ones which were extremely basic (imagine those wood planks with a hole) and shared by the community. With the arrival of running water, upper class households would have had toilets built in which had high-up cisterns held up by intricately decorated iron brackets. Enter a typical Victorian terraced house and chances are that it never had a bathroom in the original plans. That means that if you really (REALLY) wanted to have an authentic Victorian bathroom (provided you’re not of blue-blooded descent), you would have to build a small outbuilding to house your loo and get very cold and wet if you ever needed to visit the facilities in the middle of a cold January night. As for washing, well, you’d have to make do with a washstand in your bedroom.
Ok, let’s not take things that far. There are a few things that can be taken from the original (wealthy) Victorian bathrooms and translated to modern times to make for a gorgeous look. Whilst bathtubs back then used to be encased in wood and made to look like part of the furniture, they were also flat-bottomed and didn’t have the decorated, claw-footed bathtubs we now associate with Victorian bathrooms. Technically and historically not quite accurate then, but they do look great and are an integral part of the ‘Victorian style’ bathroom. Closer to history than the bathtub is a toilet with a wood seat and porcelain cistern hanging high up and operated with a pull chain as still manufactured by companies like Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd Thomas Crapper, whilst not the inventor of the W.C. (this was possibly Sir John Harington in the 16th century), was one of the pioneers to develop the loo and produce it as we know it today.
Whilst Victorians also most certainly didn’t have what we now refer to as Metro tiles (or Subway tiles), they now play a big part in creating the Victorian look. The Victorian age lasted until 1901 and was followed by the much shorter Edwardian era (until 1914). In architectural terms, these two do sometimes overlap slightly and matters are made even more complicated by the arrival of Art Nouveau on the continent which dates from around 1890 until 1910. Art Nouveau bathrooms were indeed tiled in decorative ways and are very close to what we now see as the Victorian bathroom look.
Decorative floor tiles often found in hallways and entrances of Victorian houses can of course also be used in bathrooms to great effect. Combine these with the Metro ones for a look that ties in beautifully with the vintage style bathtub, toilet and sink.
Wood furniture played a big part in Victorian bathrooms (or bedrooms with washstands) and in order to recreate the Victorian look, it is a good idea to include at least some wooden elements. The toilet seat, a small cupboard, a mirror with a wooden frame, all these add to the Victorian look.
So, the main points to creating a Victorian style bathroom are:
- Metro tiles and Victorian style patterned tiles.
- Claw-foot bath.
- Old style toilet with a high cistern and a chain pull.
- Sink with separate hot and cold water taps.
- Dark wood small furniture and accessories.
I hope these tips are useful to you and might help if you’re looking to remodel the bathroom in your Victorian house.