There are plenty of beautiful design styles to consider when planning a bathroom redesign. Looking back through British history reveals some of our favourites: styles defined by the reigning monarchs and encapsulating prevalent social attitudes, whose appeal remains strong centuries later.
This blog post will celebrate some of the most significant periods in British design – from the opulent Victorians to the pared-back Edwardians – to show you how you can bring each era’s features into your modern bathroom.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why choose a period style?
- What time periods and era does period style cover?
- Other styles alongside Period Style to consider
- How to find out what style your house is
Period design schemes evoke feelings of timelessness and glamour, creating a truly classic feel for your bathroom. And in the twenty-first century, you can combine these styles with the contemporary comforts afforded by centuries of development in plumbing, bathroom manufacture, home heating and so on.
Period style is usually identified as starting in the early to mid 1700s. However, as a bathroom description, this is used to broadly represent any bathroom from the 1700s, all the way up to the start of the 20th century covering the reigns of King George I up to King Edward VII.
Georgian Style (1714-1837 approximately)
Famous for its “dolls’ house” style country houses and gorgeous sash windows, the Georgian era captured easy, understated elegance.
Rooms were airy and spacious with delicate furniture, muted colour schemes and plenty of wood. Symmetry and ornamentation were favoured, although it wasn’t unusual for the latter to be contained to the interior.
This period has three main influences: the Grand Tour, where the upper classes essentially took a gap year and travelled around the most prominent cities of culture in Europe; the Orient, then a mysterious, rich continent; and Palladian style, which looked to classical architecture and evoked a sense of symmetry and harmony.
It began in 1714 when George I became king, and extended until the 1830s. Some historians include William IV in the Georgian period, closing the period with his death in 1837. Others consider it to have ended with the death of George IV in 1830.
The Regency era ran from 1811 to 1820, making it part of the overarching Georgian period.
Trends changed during the 12 decades spanned by this era, meaning that for Georgian, rich tones like burgundy and sage work just as well as paler, more muted shades like Wedgwood blue, pea green and dusky pink.
You can read more in our guide to Georgian Style bathrooms.
Victorian Style (1837-1901)
The Victorian era offers lots in the way of period bathroom ideas, being a time of opulence and decorative arts. Striking a balance between eccentric and eclectic, the style of the period drew on multiple influences – such as Middle-Eastern, the occult, Gothic and more – which is unsurprising, given the power and reach of the British Empire at this time.
The Victorian era maps directly onto the reign of Queen Victoria: 20th June 1837 until 22nd January 1901. This was a period of incredible change in British society, from moral standards to technological prowess and everything in between, giving it significant gravity in our national memory.
Rich, dark tones were popular, including purple, blue and green. As in the image above, one colour can be quite dominant in this style.
When it comes to decor, the most famous designer of the era is arguably William Morris –so think elegant tapestries. You can reference this with damask patterned tiles or wallpaper and by incorporating flocked textures – for example, on your towels.
Edwardian Style (1901-1910)
Edwardians loved natural light and space, which are two elements that combine beautifully in a bathroom. After the indulgent, opulent feel of the Victorian period, it certainly made for a stark contrast! There was also a feeling of luxury associated with the era, and thanks to the period’s inventive streak, fixtures and fittings were made into more of a feature.
This was a relatively tranquil time in history compared with what followed, echoed by calming pastel palettes, simple geometric designs and a more minimal approach to accessorising.
This period covered the brief window between Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 and the passing of her successor King Edward VII in 1910. Some historians extend the Edwardian period to cover the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
Colours include primrose yellow, eau-de-nil, or duck egg blue. Soft greys and lilacs also featured. Florals and geometrics abound in this period, but remember to go for something that isn’t too fussy to stay true to the era.
You can read more in our guide to Edwardian Style.
If you want a bathroom with a historic vintage, you’re not limited to the three styles above. There are styles that cross-over within these time periods, or that occured before and after the three we’ve spotlighted that can provide inspiration. Here are a few examples.
This style is all about highly decorative, aesthetically beautiful things - whether they be art, music, or interior design. Whatever you think you know about Baroque, adding more to it will give a better picture. Gilding, ornamentation and drama all combine to make Baroque truly special to behold.
The Roaring 20s
Set in the period after the end of the Edwardian era, inspired by the silver screen, this decade oozed glamour and decadence. The famous art deco style emerged with geometrics and angular shapes at the forefront, exotic materials – from mother-of-pearl to tortoiseshell- and lots of bling – like varnished surfaces and mirrored finishes – being highly covetable.
Modernism was the era from around 1918-1950, but it took off post-world war 1 – especially with the Bauhaus movement. With a predominantly-primary colour palette, minimalist spaces and focus on clever engineering, modernism set itself clearly apart from the fussy ornamentation of earlier periods, instead looking to create unique and functional pieces, often from quirky materials.
Figuring out which style your house is can help when deciding which style bathroom to go for. While the two don’t need to be the same, certain combinations will feel more intuitive than others. A full-on Baroque bathroom in an apartment that’s cutting-edge modern might be a bit disconcerting, for instance, but a Victorian bathroom in a Georgian home will work just fine.
There isn’t a simple rule for determining your house style, unfortunately. Some periods have very obvious hallmarks - Tudor houses with their dark wooden beams on white, for instance - but often a house will be a hodgepodge of different elements that allude to one style more than others.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Find out when your house was built. This is a good indicator - a house built before 1901 won’t be Edwardian because the style hadn’t arrived yet - but it’s not foolproof as houses built after a period can still embody them. Try to find out the exact year your house was built as a good starting point.
- Look for distinctive characteristics. Tudors liked wooden beams, as we’ve mentioned. Georgians prized symmetry, and modern homes feature lots of glass and clean lines. This article from Homebuilding and Renovating magazine gives some more pointers.
- Ask an estate agent. A professional opinion can be helpful here, and estate agents are likely to be quite familiar with stylistic cues.
Design Advice for Period Bathrooms
Period style bathrooms are a fantastic way to tap into what history has to offer. Using these heritage styles as a baseline for a modern bathroom brings you the best of both worlds: time-honoured style, underpinned by the latest plumbing and interior design developments.
To get help with a period style bathroom, why not book a 3D Bathroom Design Service appointment? Our expert team will be happy to help you put together the perfect bathroom for your home.