How Bathroom Designs Have Evolved

30th Jun 2022
How Bathroom Designs Have Evolved

Since ancient times, bathrooms have been associated with cleansing and purity of both body and soul. It’s no surprise that today more than ever, the focus is all about creating a welcoming sanctury as well as a functional space. Here’s a look at how we arrived at the myriad of bathroom styles available today.

As with many conveniences of modern life, the origins can be traced back to Roman times. There are many well preserved examples of Roman bathing spaces, with thermally heated water and drainage systems, throughout Italy, Greece, and the Middle East, not to mention of course the world-famous thermal spa buildings of Bath in the south west of England.

Bathing was a part of Roman culture, and the large public baths not only allowed people to cleanse themselves, particularly before entering holy spaces, but also to meet, chat, and even do business and be entertained. It was still only the wealthier families that had their own private bathrooms, however.

You might assume that it would all be onwards and upwards for ablution rituals from then onwards, but despite the advances of the Renaissance (the period from the late 14th to the late 16th century when great advances were made in European scientific, economic, and political life) bathing began to take a back seat.

The various plagues that swept through Europe during this period were thought to be spread by water, so public bathing fell out of favour, and even private washing was eschewed in favour of wearing scents and heavily laundered clothing.

There is a famous quote from Queen Elizabeth I (who ruled England and Ireland from 1558 until 1603) which is widely used to demonstrate the very different standards to washing that we have today. She reportedly said: “I have a bath once a year whether I need it or not.” How accurate this quote is, no one really knows, of course!

What is known is that the Tudor palaces has luxurious bathrooms and steam rooms with hot and cold running water. For ordinary folk, having a bath would have been an expensive and time-consuming operation, involving the heating and carrying of numerous buckets of hot water. Instead, using wash cloths, and bathing in outdoor spaces was more common.

By the 18th century, plumbing and irrigation became more widely available, and Georgian homes had washstands with plumbed taps fitted into the bedrooms, accompanied by an attractive porcelain jug and basin for a daily morning wash with a clean cloth. By the 19th century, attitudes to washing and cleanliness had changed significantly.

Since the Industrial Revolution, domestic bathrooms were much easier to install, with the use of mass irrigation and gas and electric water heating systems. The wealthier homes from the era had private bathrooms with copper bathtubs installed, although less affluent households still bathed in a tub in front of the fire, and used a shared outside lavatory.

The Victorian bathroom design is now enjoying a revival. After years of cold clinical bathrooms, there is a yearning for more characterful and colourful spaces. The key element is of course the freestanding roll top bath with lion’s paw feet, which has a pleasing timeless elegance.

Vintage white pedestal basins and toilet units with large silver fittings are very much part of the Victorian aesthetic. Cast iron radiators with chrome towel rails can complete the look, and given a splash of colour and some softness with some lovely thick fluffy towels and other bright bathroom accessories.  

Victorian tiles were usually white or black and white, with chequerboard floors or mosaic tiles. Of course, it’s now possible to opt for a modern twist to update the look, such as coloured baths and modern shower cubicles.

As it became easier to mass produce coloured tiles, pastel bathrooms were all the rage for those who could afford the look in the 1930s and 40s. Mint green, baby pink, and soft blues were all popular colours, and are being revived today for that charming vintage touch.

By the 1960s and 70s, styles became bolder and brighter, and some might even say rather garish! In the carefree ‘anything goes’ era, big botanicals, strong colours such as orange, avocado, and mustard, and strange ideas such as carpeted floors were all the rage.

By the 1990s, the pendulum was beginning to swing back the other way, with a more minimalist approach and neutral colours. This came to a peak with very clinical looking bathrooms during the 00s. However, now, there is a vintage revival underway, with a mix and match approach to contemporary designs.

If you would like to buy ready made designer curtains, please visit our website today.