3 Ways to Make or Break a Vintage Bathroom Remodel

If you see a bathroom remodel in the future of your vintage home—like this pre-1912 bungalow, originally built in Newport Beach, California, and moved to nearby Costa Mesa—you’ll have more than just stylistic considerations. You’ll have to consider basic elements like location, layout and materials that will make or break your space.


wash basin

This bathroom belongs to a pre-1912 bungalow that has been lovingly restored and expanded by homeowners Jeff and Jan Horn of Costa Mesa, California.


1. Location: There’s not much point in installing an extra bathroom or powder room if you can’t access it easily! If your home is a single-wall construction from the turn of the century, chances are it’s a tiny little gem with 1,000 square feet or less; and if you want to expand or add a bathroom, you’ll probably have to rethink your home’s layout and move the rooms around like puzzle pieces until they work. But before you get out a sledgehammer, hire an architect to help you draw your home’s floorplan, as did homeowners Jan and Jeff Horn. Examine the before and after floorplans, and you’ll see that during their renovation, they moved their home’s front entrance entirely, allowing them to scoot the kitchen into the former den and install a new bathroom into what had been the kitchen’s corner.


The Horns hired local contractor Paul Hill to renovate their historic home, transforming it from a too-small space into an open plan.



2. Layout: Here’s a problem: most people didn’t have showers in their bathrooms until after World War II! A truly historic bathroom wouldn’t have a shower or a wall covered in cabinets, so weigh the pros and cons of true historic accuracy with those of contemporary practicality. A clever layout can solve many design dilemmas: In the Horns’ bathroom, for instance, you can’t see the shower, as it’s tucked into its own corner behind its own door (If you stood facing the sink as the photographer was when shooting this photo, the shower would be directly behind you.). And for storage, the Horns opted for historic accuracy over practicality, choosing this rustic red-painted table and ceramic sink bowl which, with the vintage cross-handle faucet, exemplifies turn-of-the-century style. Tip: The Horns constructed the window seat out of wood they salvaged from the demolished dining room wall—a move that is both economical and eco-friendly. But for added storage, you may want to consider designing a bathroom window seat with deep drawers or a fold-out hamper.


3. Materials: Choosing the right materials and finishes for your floor, walls and ceiling will be key to achieving an accurate look. To create a bathroom that looks like it was built before 1912, the Horns installed ceramic black and white tile in a box weave pattern popular in the early 1910s (Tip: Subway tile, which is hot now, would be appropriate for a 1920s or 30s space.). Simple, rectangular Arts & Crafts style wainscoting lines the lower half of the walls (Tip: More traditional wood panel wainscoting was popular from the 1840s to 1900.). For a slightly nautical twist, a white wood panel ceiling adds texture while making the small space seem longer. The simple molding around the ceiling reflects the wainscoting’s clean lines.


Then it’s time for finishing touches—an oval mirror, reproduction brass wall sconces, and other accessories that emphasize the period look. But if you’ve laid your groundwork and nailed your bathroom’s location, layout and materials, you can rest assured that your vintage bathroom remodel will be stunning.


Tip: For more must-know bathroom remodel secrets, find Jan and Jeff’s bathroom in our upcoming issue of Kitchens & Baths magazine.


By Elaine K. Phillips
Photography by Mark Tanner
Styled by Hillary Black



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