Renovation & Design

CONNIE OLIVER: Bathroom for the ages

An original claw-foot tub can be the focal point of a bathroom. New replica tubs are also available and can give you the vintage flavour with the luxury of a modern, large, freestanding soaker tub.

There's something so comforting about a room with character. This lovely vintage bathroom is the perfect example of how old and new can work together to produce a room with real charm.

If you want to create a room filled with character and are starting from scratch, you'll want to make note of the architectural elements that need to be included. If you're working in an older home that has these components, you'll want to highlight these character traits with the right wall colour.

Character homes are revered for their craftsmanship. The labour intensive millwork of features like wainscoting, ornate door and window trim, large baseboards, archways, cove ceilings and crown molding is scarce in new builds. Valuing these characteristics and the work that went into them is a given. Thankfully, we can also reproduce these elements with today's affordable replica vintage millwork, fixtures and hardware.

In our feature photograph, courtesy of Dulux Paints, the focal point is the vintage claw-foot tub. If you are lucky enough to have an original to work with, you're well on your way. If not, you can purchase new replica tubs that can give you the vintage flavour and luxury of a large, freestanding soaker tub.

The natural-wood floor adds tons of warmth and character to this room. Again, refinishing an original floor is well worth the effort, but you can purchase flooring that will replicate this vintage charm if you're starting from scratch.

The wainscoting is a huge part of the character of this space. Not only does dividing the wall bring the focus to the sumptuous tub and wood floor, it makes the room feel larger. There are many ways in which to create the look of wainscoting for every budget.

At the high end, you can have a professional custom-install high-end wainscoting.

At the mid-range budget level you can purchase wainscoting bead board panels that are usually all ready primed and do the job yourself. Cap it off with a length of chair rail molding and you've got the look you desire. Add to this by installing baseboards that are 10 to 20 centimetres in height. In a smaller space like a bathroom, MDF baseboards are quite affordable. I recently installed some in my redecorated kitchen for around $35. They make a huge difference over the previous, diminutive baseboards and are in keeping with the rest of the trim in the home.

At the low end of the wainscoting-budget level, you can achieve the look with a simple two-tone paint technique and a chair rail, or a combo of wallpaper and paint with a simple chair rail. Paintable, textured wallpaper can provide some visual depth, but patterned wallpaper can work as well. This is a great option if you're renting. Keep the paint colours light and fresh, like the soft yellow Dulux colour called Kansas Corn found in our feature photograph.

Beef up window and door trim by adding additional trim to existing. Paint the entire area the same colour for a seamless look.

A simple window treatment allows the window to take centre stage in our feature room. Inside mount, white window shutters on the bottom half of the window would also look wonderful in a space like this and would provide some privacy, while still allowing the window to take the spotlight.

The arched, antique mirror brings in that sense of old-world charm and the pedestal sink speaks to the bygone era. These vintage fixtures are available in replica form.

The tin bucket filled with towels is a nice way to display and store bathroom linens but one could also use a decorative ladder on which to hang towels. Using vertical display and storage helps free up floor space, which is helpful if you have a small bathroom. An antique coat rack might work as a decorative accent to hang bathrobes. If your room is large enough, a vintage dressing screen could be a wonderful accent piece as well.

Other pieces that reflect the bygone era are items such as ceiling medallions, cornices, art niches, replica tin ceilings and decorative columns. Depending upon your tastes, you could incorporate one or all of these features in your decor.

Appreciating the craftsmanship of the past by restoring or recreating it in your current home will give your decor true character.



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