Design Through the Decades: Bathroom Edition

Monday May 10th, 2021

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It’s always fun to look back at design trends and see how much things have changed. It’s nostalgic and interesting to see how certain trends recycle over time with a modern twist added. So join us as we take a look at bathrooms throughout the decades, going over the best and worst trends they had to offer.  

a bathroom with pink floor tiles, pink wall tiles, and pink countertops
Image via Instagram – RocknRealty

1950s: Monochrome moments

Monochromatic. That’s the only word needed to describe bathrooms in the 1950s. This era was all about making bold colour choices and sticking to them. Think pink bathtubs, toilets, sinks, floor tile, and wall tile. That’s a lot of pink! You can thank former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower for the pink power. Her husband, former President Dwight Eisenhower, would give her pink flowers every morning, and she loved the colour so much it was used throughout the Pink House—oops, White House.

 a retro bathroom from the 1960s with red and blue walls, blue porcelain fixtures, and triangle tiled flooring
Image via Click Americana

1960s: Colourful chaos 

The ‘60s brought in overdone colour pairings and patterns. Think about a wall decorated with blue tile and pink floral wallpaper. Tiled vanities were commonplace in ‘60s bathrooms, and carpets began to creep in as accessories in larger spaces. It’s not hard to understand why bathrooms started to look a bit brighter and bolder. Style in the ‘60s was all about swirling patterns and pastel colours— if Jackie Kennedy wore it, then it was in fashion. Clearly, people were looking to take the chaos of ‘60s clothing and add it to their homes!

A 1970s bathroom with yellow fixtures, green patterned wallpaper and green shag carpet
Image via Creative Pro

1970s: Bring in the carpets

We can blame the ‘70s for the most offensive design trend known to humankind: wall-to-wall carpet in bathrooms. Shag carpet lid covers weren’t off the table either. After the war, carpet was viewed as a luxury and took its time becoming mainstream in bathrooms. Colour palettes changed in the ‘70s towards earthy tones like dark mustard and brown. Pedestal sinks replaced chunky, tiled vanities (grout be gone). The idea of carpet in the bathroom probably makes your stomach turn a bit (how do you keep that clean?) but don’t forget, the ‘70s were the years of psychedelic design…and psychedelics in general.

a 1980s-style bathroom with dressing-room style lights and elegant fixtures
Image via Reece Terris

1980s: Glitz and glam

1980s-style bathrooms were all about glam. Laminate countertops entered the picture in the ‘80s, as well as full-scale vanities with his-and-hers sinks and lacquered brass faucets. The oversized corner tub with jets started trending, and tubs were sunken or lowered with access via a set of stairs. At this point, perspectives on bathrooms had shifted towards a more luxurious experience. After all, the ‘80s was all about excess. With the stock markets soaring, people were keen to spend what they could—even on their bathrooms.

a bathroom with glass blocks as a shower wall with neutral tiles and countertops
Image via Pinterest – Seattle Glass Block

1990s: Neutrals

This was a very awkward in-between phase for bathrooms. Glass blocks entered the scene while carpet began to exit. Whites and other light-coloured neutrals became increasingly popular, while pink bathtubs slowly phased out. Huge mirrors and Hollywood dressing room lights are a signature design element of ‘90s bathrooms. Considering some of the other questionable trends of the ‘90s, like inflatable furniture and beaded curtains, this really wasn’t the worst decade for bathroom design. Although, the glass blocks did make it feel like you were waiting to be seated at a restaurant.

a bathroom with all wooden features including the tub, counters, wall panelling and ceilings
Image via Aaron Huber – Unsplash

2000s: Wood and stones

Oversized wood vanities and venitian or stone style floor tiles mark the style of 2000s bathrooms. During this time, many people transitioned to using shower stalls with glass walls rather than the multi-purpose bath/shower units. After the bright colours and designs of the ‘90s, with those zig zag patterns and neon palettes, it seems we were looking to go a bit more subdued and elegant as a new millennium rolled in. Plus, Y2K made everyone freak out, making us overthink things—like bathroom designs—perhaps to a fault.

A modern bathroom with a free-stnading tub, stone tiling and granite countertops
Image via Unsplash – Fran Hogan

2010s: Spa spaces

By the 2010s, bathroom walls were tile-free and painted in light colours to neutral tones. Granite countertops became more popular, as well as free standing bathtubs. The 2010s introduced the idea of turning bathrooms into restorative spa-like experiences. Self-care was really starting to take off, and the “treat yourself” mentality gave people permission to spend a bit more money on things to pamper themselves. Colour psychology also became more mainstream, with people starting to consider what colours would lead to a more relaxing space in the bathroom (hint: it’s light colours and neutral tones!)

A trendy bathroom with a floating vanity, brass lighting, an oval mirror and minimalist decor
Image via Instagram – MyDomaine

2020s 

The 2020s has introduced some unique trends to bathrooms. Floating vanities that enable a more refined and minimal style are a popular choice.  Smaller arched and oval mirrors have replaced massive frameless mirrors from the ‘90s. Pendants and sconces in brass, gold, and black replace Hollywood-style dressing room lights. 

It takes decades for bathroom trends to phase in and out, and some trends (we’re looking at you, carpeted bathrooms) are better left in the past. But, while some things are considered “trendy” at present, you can always choose style elements that suit your personal taste and make you happy! 

Maybe you love the colourful, monochromatic feel of the ‘50s and ‘60s, or prefer the glamorous look of the ‘80s, going with what feels right in your home will feel better than making a choice based on current trends.

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