Vintage Bathroom Style: How to Source and Update Salvaged Décor

Decorating with salvaged items is one of the best ways to add charm and character to a bathroom. Vintage décor in particular helps add personal history and nostalgia to a space, making it more unique and inviting.

To enjoy old-school beauty in your bathroom, follow these tips on sourcing and decorating with vintage items.

How to Find and Choose Vintage Décor

The first step in decorating with vintage décor is thinking outside of the box, lifestyle blogger Sarah Joy writes. “It may take a while to see that if decorating this way is new for you, but looking at decor differently is the first step to realizing the magic of vintage. Once you do, you’ll never go back.”

Unconventional items give the most extreme and unique look in your home. Using a vintage gas can as a vase, for example, gives a meaningless old item a fresh, new life as a décor element. And, this is a way to repurpose something that other people probably wouldn’t think of.

Interior designer Michelle R. Smith offers more tips for finding and using antique décor. She stresses that it’s important to focus on useful vintage items, rather than tchotchkes or knick-knacks. Instead of buying random things that will cause clutter, choose items that have a purpose. For the bathroom, vintage ashtrays are great for holding potpourri; old-school candlesticks add an elegant and romantic design touch.

And when you find something that jumps out at you, buy it. “Sometimes you find a piece and realize it’s going to guide the design for the rest of the room, or complete a room you thought was finished,” Smith says.

So where exactly can homeowners find these unique pieces? Taking a look at family heirlooms and decorations is a great place to start, says Denise Zdziennicki, owner of the home décor blog Salvaged Inspirations. She repainted two decorative brass cranes purchased by her mother in the 90’s because of their symbolic and sentimental value. This added a personal and more meaningful touch to the bathroom makeover.

How to Decorate with Vintage Décor

One of the hardest parts of decorating with vintage décor is finding a balance between old and new. Yet, mastery of this challenge is vital to a well-designed space. “Incorporating a mix of decorative styles from different eras is one of the tricks of the trade for professional designers,” explains writer Deirdre Sullivan.

Picking a theme or color scheme for the bathroom might make it easier to blend old and new items in one. Choosing patterns, themes and colors will ensure that your designs look well-executed, Victoria Harrison at Ideal Home writes.

Perhaps you’ll opt for busy wallpaper and floral linens and accessories. Or, maybe you’ll choose a shabby-chic look with neutrals and country-chic prints. Whatever the theme, it can anchor your bathroom in a specific style, which can make it easier to choose or pass on vintage items that you find.

Using colors, patterns and imagery from days gone past can also help your vintage decor mesh with modern living. Take pink tiled bathrooms, for example, which are back in style again, Country Living lifestyle editor Taysha Murtaugh says. Designing a bathroom with a pink color scheme — plus vintage décor items from the past — is a tasteful way to incorporate the past with the present.

This approach also invites homeowners to celebrate the existing decor elements in their home. A bathroom with vintage colored tile can be brought into the 21st century with the right mix of salvaged and modern décor. Adding black and white photography to an art deco bathroom helps leverage the existing elements, including the green tile color and original bathroom mirror, as house tour editor at Apartment Therapy Adrienne Breaux shows. Incorporating neutral and timeless storage elements keeps the bathroom from feeling too outdated.

Textures and materials should also be considered when you’re choosing themes, colors and patterns. Wood, for example, can be salvaged and repurposed for the bathroom in many different ways. Quality reclaimed wood can be reused as an accent wall, Decoist lifestyle editor Sherry Nothingam says. She showcases an accent wall adorned with vintage wood of varying colors and styles. Brass tapware and fixtures help unite the wood in a fashionable, yet nostalgic vibe that works perfectly with the industrial trends of today.

Similarly, pieces of wood furniture can be painted and repurposed in the bathroom. The headboard from an old wooden bed frame can become a shelf and towel bar, Vanessa Beaty at DIY & Crafts writes. A plank of wood outfitted with vintage hooks, doorknobs and hangers can create a vintage farmhouse look, too. Keeping an eye out for old bed frames and spare wood planks can help you find unique storage for the bathroom.

Vintage Items That Work in Bathrooms

Many designers use vintage items in unique and unexpected ways. However, it can be hard to think of creative new uses for things without any examples. Knowing what to look for can make it much easier to create a bathroom that showcases vintage items in a fresh way.

Vintage ladders never get old. A simple way to repurpose a vintage ladder is to prop it against a wall and hang items on it, writes Driven by Decor’s Kris Jarrett. Towels, bath mats and small rugs can look nice and neat when hung on a ladder. Apothecary jars, bottles and fixtures also work well.

Baskets and crates always look charming in the bathroom, too. A vintage metal crate can be used to hold flowers in old wine bottles, as The Cottage Market’s Andrea Cammarata shows. Vintage baskets on shelves can also store away extra towels and linens in a more interesting way that adds an old-school touch.

Aside from holding towels, baskets can be used in a number of unique ways. A painted, upside down basket can be repurposed as a hanging lampshade, as seen in a roundup of basket decorating ideas by Briana Mowrey at HGTV. She also shows how old baskets can be used as wall art. Choose shallow baskets that feature colorful and interesting patterns. Vintage baskets make great containers for potted plants, too, especially when they’re hung from the ceiling.

If you’re in need of a hamper, an upcycled vintage basket works wonders. “Add a sturdy crossbeam support and casters to a large wire basket to create a hamper that actually looks like a piece of decor,” Cat Meschia at Apartment Therapy adds.

Homeowners can also seek out vintage side tables, desks and dressers. Amber Lyon Ferguson, owner of the Follow The Yellow Brick Home blog, shows how these furniture items can be used in the bathroom. Both dressers and desks can be outfitted with sinks to create stunning, one-of-a-kind vanities. A dresser and mirror set is a particularly exciting find. And, if you can find a dresser or cabinet with glass doors, your bathroom necessities will be displayed in a fresh, original way.

Images by: Monika Mlynek/©, Chay Bewley/©, Kaboom Pics