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Vintage Bathroom Design: Inspiration past and present

Tracy Wharton 1920s bathroom calgary calgary interior decorators interior decorator interior design interior designer tile vintage

I had a chance to look beyond Calgary for bathroom design inspiration on a recent trip to Chicago. Many were beautiful rooms with roots in the 1920s that incorporate modern conveniences.

Merchandise Mart in Chicago: There is no comparable design centre in Calgary, or probably anywhere else in North America. It was once the largest commercial office building in the United States and for many years it was a dedicated space for designers to source products for their clients. The main floor is open to the public and several floors above are open to the trade only. Besides amazing furniture, wallpaper, lighting, kitchens and antiques, the real standouts were the tile and bathrooms that I saw. They were stunning reproductions that were as timeless today as they were then. 

Germ theory was new at the turn of the century, and as people came to understand what made them sick, there was increased interest in easy to clean surfaces. Tile became very popular for use in kitchens and bathrooms because it was easy to wipe down and provided a non-porous surface. To this day, the hallmark of a vintage bathroom from that era, is most often the tile. Subway tile was especially popular, although it was sometimes mixed with accents and bullnoses. 

Faucets and fixtures in the bathroom were shiny stainless steel and everything from light fixtures to tubs took on a sleek look. Not only was it aesthetically pleasing, but it made keeping surfaces clean, much easier. The model bathrooms in Waterworks and Ann Sacks added new touches like shower seats (which still held true to the 1920s aesthetic). 

Many showroom sinks were glazed top and bottom with the underside visible below the countertop. This keeps the room feeling open and airy, but storage is sacrificed and it may not be a style that functions well for everyone. Medicine cabinets are becoming increasingly roomy, while having their size discreetly tucked away into the wall, giving the impression of only a mirror. Even some tiled shower stalls had built in cabinets in them which provided hidden waterproof storage. While many vanities had marble tops, that isn't a material I am fond of for countertops. It stains easily and once it is stained, there is rarely a remedy. Luckily, several quartz companies make marble-look products that are far more practical. 

If you are looking for renovation help, whether for a vintage, contemporary or transitional look, I can help. We also offer decorating packages if your space just needs a lift. 



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