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Creating a Victorian Bathroom

The Old House Web

by Allison E. Beatty
Old House Web Columnist

The bathroom is the perfect place to add all the charm and fuss of the Victorian era. Who can resist a clawfoot tub, a lacey shower curtain, and a bold splash of paint? If you're remodeling your bathroom with the Victorian era in mind consider these details.

Fancy Feet

The clawfoot tub is a classic example of the charm and elegance that shaped many Victorian homes. If you're lucky, your bathroom already has one of these large, freestanding tubs with curved legs. If not, there are plenty of places to find a new or refurbished one.

If your home improvement plans include changing the layout of the room, look for a location that is close to your plumbing supply (for the sake of economics) and creates a highly visible focal point. You may want to position the tub under a window, adding frosted glass or a curtain for privacy.

There also are many faucets designed for clawfoot tubs, from simple chrome and porcelain styles with "hot" and "cold" on the handles to more ornate styles that resemble old telephones. Most can be mounted on the wall or the rim of the tub, depending on preference.

Many of today's bathtub fixtures also come with a touch of convenience -- a hand held sprayer to make bathing and cleaning the tub that much easier. Check with your contractor or architect for ideas and a list of suppliers.

New Aged Tubs

If the clawfoot tub is not your style, there are plenty of whirlpool and air baths that can be framed into a period style opening. Use an aged tile base, carved wooden panels or arching columns to soften the newness of the tub and create a unique bathing nook.

Fun with Fixtures

As you peruse tub fixtures, keep in mind that many are sold with coordinating faucets for the sink. Among the hot finishes are those with an aged look, which blend perfectly with a Victorian styled room. Fixtures with oil rubbed bronze or warm chrome finishes go well with the period look. If you're looking for a little drama in the countertop area, consider adding a high arching faucet with some scrolling or other detailing.

A Dramatic Vanity

The vanity area also can be transformed into a charming focal point. There are many vanities with carved legs and other furniture detailing that fit right in with a clawfoot tub and an ornate fabric curtains. Look for rich cherry or deep walnut furniture tones to coordinate with the Victorian look.

Some vanities are sold with coordinating marble or granite countertops. The aged stone can be used to coordinate with wall or floor tile with a similar aged appearance. Mosaic tiles in one or two-inch squares can add a classy touch to any period bathroom.

Salvaged Countertops

Another solution for the countertop area is a slab of stone that has been reclaimed from an old house or commercial building. Most can be cut to fit a modest sized vanity. (Check with your contractor on size and cutting holes for the sink and fixtures).

Working With a Small Space

Creating a truly Victorian bathroom can be tricky, as bathrooms in those days were small, if not tiny. You may be shaking your head wondering how people survived in a house with a powder room that was three feet by four feet.

While today's building codes and lifestyles dictate a little more elbowroom--particularly in the master bathroom--challenges remain. If you are not fortunate enough to have an adjacent room or closet to expand into, you'll have to be creative.

Luckily, product manufacturers have realized there is a need for decorative products made on a smaller scale. There are a few wall mounted bathroom sinks, for example, that are 14 to 16 inches wide. This frees up floor space and makes it easier to open the door without bumping the porcelain!

Many of these smaller products also are designed to complement a period style house. You may find a bathroom sink with a floral pattern or a textured bowl, for example.

Expanding Your Space

If you're lucky, there might be a hall or bedroom closet that backs up to the bathroom. By "stealing" that space and incorporating it into the bathroom remodeling, you can greatly enhance its functionality.

Regardless of the approach, the key to this home improvement project is to focus on the details. Look for a design that highlights one or two focal points such as the tub and vanity.

Make sure all the fixtures and color tones blend together. Then add in a few fussy details, such as an antique footstool with decorative fabric or some antique cabinet hardware. The result will be a welcoming retreat that exudes luxury and turn-of-the-century charm.

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