Should you use vintage pieces in your bathroom? Interior designers on the best way to decorate with pre-loved furniture and decor

An easy way to add character to your bathroom, experts offer their top tips on incorporating vintage pieces into your scheme

Should you use vintage pieces in your bathroom
(Image credit: JH Designs/Imparfait Design Studio)

It's no secret that blending old and new can add abundant character to any scheme, but should you use vintage pieces in your bathroom? This space is one of the most practical of the home and the more humid conditions can often make us more concerned about introducing older, more delicate pieces into them.

Bathroom ideas are no longer entirely modern spaces that feel almost clinical – nowadays, these schemes are just as considered as the rest of the home. And while there are no questions regarding decorating with vintage in other rooms, you're not alone in hesitating to introduce older pieces to the bathroom.

So, should you use vintage pieces in your bathroom? We've turned to interior designers to find out whether or not there is a place for vintage in the bathroom and all the things you need to consider before decorating your space.

Should you use vintage pieces in your bathroom?

Bathroom decorated with vintage pieces

(Image credit: JH Designs)

While there are some practical considerations when it comes to introducing vintage pieces to a bathroom, from a design point of view, vintage furniture and decor are a great way to add style and character to your scheme.

'Vintage pieces can infuse personality, humor, and history into an otherwise utilitarian space. They add texture, both visual and tactile, to spaces that are otherwise sleek and a bit sterile or cold,' says Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director and director of fine art at 1stDibs.

Adding texture is key to creating a more homey atmosphere, something vintage bathroom ideas are favored for. 'It’s the easiest way to add true character, patina, and warmth to utilitarian spaces,' adds Rebekah Zaveloff, co-founder and creative director at Imparfait Design Studio.

Although a bathroom can really benefit from the addition of vintage pieces, it depends on the interior design style of your space. Vintage is a natural fit in traditional and transitional schemes, but you may need to be more curated in modern bathrooms.

Instead of simply looking to add vintage furniture, Jane Lanyon, director at JH Designs, suggests considering tiles to add character. 'Whilst it’s certainly feasible to use vintage goods in a bathroom, it depends on the style. Some encaustic modern tiles lend themselves well to mixing with vintage. Reclaimed tiles are another option,' she says.

Things to consider when using vintage in a bathroom

Bathroom with a vintage rug and an upholstered vintage bench

(Image credit: Imparfait Design Studio)

Vintage pieces add visual appeal to a bathroom, but there are a few practical things to think about before you start decorating. 'Be aware of how excess moisture can affect antique woods or art – if there is a shower located in the bathroom, it may not be the best spot for them,' says Jessica Lev, of Jessica Lev Antiques.

It's also key to remember that vintage pieces are often one of a kind and usually more difficult to customize, especially if they are made of a heavy-duty material such as natural stone. In these cases, ensure you properly check it will fit, and that it's in good shape.

'If you're incorporating a basin or hardware, double-check the condition and dimensions to ensure optimal functionality. For bathroom lighting, art, and wall decor, dimensions are also important given bathrooms and powder rooms can tend to have less wall space,' says Anthony.

Try not to get too carried away with bringing in vintage pieces – particularly in small bathrooms. While you want to add a cozy, homey feel to your scheme, it still needs to be practical and useable. A few upholstered furniture pieces can add that desired comfort, but Rebekah suggests avoiding too many bulky additions.

'When done right, an upholstered vintage stool, small antique armchair, or banquette can work beautifully in a bathroom, but I’d caution against using too many upholstered pieces or using too many larger vintage pieces altogether. You still want your bathroom to feel fresh and clean and not too much like a living room,' she says.

Which vintage pieces work best in a bathroom?

If you want to add vintage pieces to your bathroom, you'll be pleased to hear there are lots of ways to do so. From mirrors and cabinets to smaller, decorative pieces, these are the vintage pieces to add to your bathroom, according to interior designers and vintage experts.

1. Opt for a vintage mirror

White horizontal wooden walls and tiled floor, vintage mirror and sink cabinet with modern sink and black shelves

(Image credit: Industville / NK Living / Photography by Chris Snook.)

A bathroom essential, introducing a vintage vanity mirror is both useful and a great way to make a style statement. Choose something with a frame in a design that suits your bathroom style, and colors that feel cohesive with your bathroom color palette.

'I love an antique mirror in a bathroom,' says Jessica. 'Anything from a warm wood bamboo to a more formal French or Italian giltwood mirror can bring personality and depth into a bathroom.'

If you're struggling to find a vintage mirror in good condition, you can always look out of a vintage frame and fit it with a custom mirror. 'Mirrors are transformed into works of art in vintage frames that are gilded, painted, sculptural wood, or ceramic,' adds Anthony, who notes that 'classic mid-century modern mirrors by the likes of Italian great Gio Ponti are always winners.'

2. Decorate with vintage art

bathroom with vintage art gallery wall

(Image credit: Colette Interiors, Linda Pordon Photography)

In a bathroom where it's suitable, displaying vintage art will instantly elevate your wall decor and add the perfect finishing touch to your scheme. How you add it will really depend on your style and the space you have.

'Assuming the bathroom is well-ventilated (since long-term exposure to excessive moisture can damage artworks and antiques), any number of small-scale vintage pieces and wall decorations can be deployed there. Framed collections of works on paper and photography spruce up a small space,' suggests Anthony.

A gallery wall is a great way to add a charming collection of vintage artworks. In this bathroom, a small space has been elevated with mismatched frames holding vintage art and photography displayed eclectically on the wall.

3. Make a statement with a vintage basin

white bathroom with panelling, double mirrors, vintage vanity unit, white basin, wall lights

(Image credit: BC Designs)

Marry style and function in a bathroom with a vintage basin – opt for an elegant marble piece, or add a playful touch with a sink in a retro or nostalgic shape. It will really depend on your bathroom aesthetic, but you can find something to suit almost any scheme.

'Salvaged vintage marble or porcelain basins and accent hardware are a great choice. Perhaps an antique sink in the shape of a clamshell or a blue and white transferware bowl repurposed as a sink,' says Anthony.

A vintage basin is a great way to create a beautiful focal point in your bathroom, but be sure to get it installed by a professional to make sure it is in good working order and plumbed correctly – the last thing you want is an unexpected leak!

4. Add vintage lighting for a cozy ambiance

Bathroom with vintage wall lights on either side of the vanity mirror

(Image credit: JH Designs)

Lighting is an important component of any room design, especially in a bathroom. From ceiling lights to wall lights beside a vanity mirror, it helps to make a space useable, as well as add a decorative touch.

Anthony recommends adding 'sconces flanking the mirror' or adding a dramatic statement with 'chandeliers and pendants, especially colorful Murano glass pendants or whimsical figural pieces.'

If you do choose to go down the vintage lighting route, there are some functional things to check when you are purchasing fixtures. 'You have to be careful they meet the correct IP regulations for water safety in bathrooms. Old fixtures will not, but if they're far enough from the bath & basin, it’s usually fine,' says Jane.

It's also worth bearing in mind that electrics have changed over the years, so some vintage lighting fixtures may need rewiring – you might need a professional for this, so factor that into your budget.

5. Create stylish storage with a vintage cabinet

Bathroom with a vintage dresser upcycled into a bathroom vanity

(Image credit: JH Designs)

Bathroom storage might sound like a luxury, especially if you have a small bathroom, but vintage pieces can make beautiful cabinets, whether it's mounted on the wall or used as a bathroom vanity.

'I love using little vintage cabinets for towels, toiletries, and extra toilet paper. An old client recently came across an adorable little vintage chinoiserie cabinet with glass doors and wallpaper lining on the inside – we bought it immediately and put it in the bathroom in our studio,' explains Rebekah.

In a similar vein, some vintage furniture pieces can be transformed from their original use into a key bathroom component. 'I like an old chest of drawers adapted as a vanity unit – fix the drawers for plumbing and make sure the surface is watertight either with a tough finish or, better still, a marble or quartz,' Jane advises.

6. Roll out a vintage rug to ground the space

Bathroom decorated with vintage rug runner

(Image credit: Imparfait Design Studio)

Bathrooms can naturally feel colder than other rooms in the house – numerous hard surfaces and tiled walls and floors leave few opportunities to add a cozy, homey feel.

However, a beautiful vintage rug can not only add some much-needed warmth but grounds the room, too. Opt for something that fits the size and shape of your bathroom to elevate the space, rather than make it feel smaller.

This bathroom is a wonderful example, where a tiled floor has been decorated with a vintage runner. This addition will make it much more comfortable to get ready in the morning, especially during the winter.

So, if you're wondering 'should you add vintage pieces to your bathroom', the answer is yes, you absolutely should. Vintage furniture and decor add warmth, character, and personality to any space. Make sure you check each piece is suitable to use in the bathroom, but don't be afraid to mix old and new in your scheme – interior designers say it's the perfect way to elevate your scheme.

Kitchens & Bathrooms Editor

I joined the Homes & Gardens interiors team at the start of 2024 as the kitchens & bathrooms editor. My undergraduate degree was in Magazine Journalism and Production, which I studied at the University of Gloucestershire. Before joining Homes & Gardens, I worked for two interiors titles across both print and digital channels, writing about a range of topics from room design ideas and decorating trends to timeless kitchen schemes and the best places to source pre-loved homeware.