What did Victorian bathrooms have in them originally?
Bathrooms were not introduced until the late Victorian era and even then, would only have existed in the larger houses and not in the typical Victorian terrace or semi detached house which you may own. Bathrooms which did exist in Victorian homes tended to be white, functional and plain. (See our article about the History of Bathrooms) A typical bathroom set up would have been a pedestal sink, toilet with high level cistern and roll top or panelled bath. There would be no overflowing cabinets full of lotions and potions. These would have been confined to the dressing table in the bedroom.
Early Victorian bathrooms tried to hide the bathroom fittings within wooden casings to make them look more like furniture rather than toilets on which unmentionable activities were undertaken. We suggest you take a similar approach to modern comforts which are at odds with your period bathroom aesthetic. A few examples are listed below.
The concept of a Jacuzzi bath is totally at odds with the period bathroom, however that’s not to say that your design parameters forbid it. Victorian baths came in two main types – the roll top or bateau bath, and the panelled bath. The construction of a panelled bath surround would allow you to hide a Jacuzzi bath. From the outside the bath could look like any other wood panelled bath surround. But inside would lurk your 21st century gadget much like a pickpocket lurks in a dark alley. The only giveaway might be the accompanying racket when you turn it on.
We all need bright lighting in our bathroom to undertake those jobs that demand it like eyebrow plucking, verucca treatments, tablet dispensing and suchlike however your period bathroom does not need to fully embrace the functional but gaudy if you don’t want it to. Traditional bathroom wall cabinets can have shelves removed and house an illuminated magnifying mirror, too modern in design to be on public display in a faithful period renovation. All it takes is a bit of jiggling around by the electrician and a loss of cupboard space.
Mountains of lotions, potions and general clutter
These can easily be housed in fitted bathroom cabinets either on the wall or as sink units with an inset sink. They should either be in stained and varnished wood or painted. Ideally the doors would have period mouldings on them. The less that is on display the better and the more in keeping with the period bathroom look you will achieve. If you like having items on display, choose beautiful items such as mens traditional shaving sets with shaving brush and cream, a porcelain soap holder with a pretty handmade soap, and classic perfume bottles such as Chanel. Avoid plastic bottles, make up and multicoloured towels. White towels are really the only choice to keep that period look.
Furniture such as chairs and stools would not be typical choices for a period bathroom. The Victorians lingered in the bathroom just long enough to use the toilet and wash. However a window seat or wooden seat, made to match in with bathroom panelling or cabinets will fit in best if you feel the need to have somewhere to sit. As for somewhere to put down clothes that you remove, these are best hung on bathroom robe hooks.