A vintage style bathroom is classic, traditional and elegant all at the same time. If you don't want to have a costly remodel every few years stick with a vintage style bathroom instead of trendier tile. You can take the design in different directions like country or Old Hollywood. It creates a clean feeling and allows you to work with existing items in your home.
Look for some sort of paneling for a vintage style bathroom which can also tie the design in with a vintage style kitchen. This could be wainscoting or just adding molding frames throughout the room. To keep the look from becoming country change up the proportion. Instead of dividing the room in half bring the wainscoting 3/4 of the way up. This is also an artist's trick. Most artists advise against dividing the horizon line in half. Instead they divide the paper in thirds. Wainscoting also brings in a lot of bright white that will relate to the toilet, tub and sink. This means that you have less wall space so it can handle a more daring color. Vintage colors are faded such as green or pink. For a more modern vintage bath paint the walls gray or taupe which will really pop against the white paneling and door frames.
There are a few things that every vintage bathroom should have. Look for a pedestal or free standing sink instead of a vanity. You'll miss out on storage space but it will give you a vintage look without taking up too much space in your room. Bring in honeycomb tile, either on the floors or on the shower surround. Accent with art deco artwork or architectural black and white prints. The faucets and lighting should be either chrome or brass to stick with tradition and create an enduring style. You'll also want to stick with a built in white medicine cabinet instead of more modern wall mirrors. You can put a sconce on either side for added elegance and style.
A claw foot tub is a must in a vintage bathroom. If you don't have a claw foot tub, focus on a spa bathroom. Tile around it to accent the oval shape. Bring the oval shape throughout the room by going with an oval shape and mirror. Repeating elements creates a subtle theme while still keeping even the smallest spaces livable. For vintage flooring go with a checked pattern. This is an opportunity to use tile or less expensive vinyl. For a classic look stick with a black and white tile. You can give the room an aged appearance by painting the trim ivory or taupe instead of bright white. Subway tile is a classic material in vintage design. It's rectangular instead of square and adds interests to basic, cheap ceramic tile.
Picture a starlet when designing a vintage bathroom. You can give your space an Old Hollywood style. This is even an opportunity to bring in bar lights that don't seem to get much use anymore. You can make your vanity look like a dressing table. Have a bank of drawers on either side with a pedestal sink on top. Then bring in marble countertops. Leave the middle of the vanity open to create the feeling of a vanity table. Accent with a gold or silver chair. You might be able to find a mirrored vanity for the ultimate in high style.
You can mix vintage and modern. Start out with a silver foil wallpaper. Look for faucet handles that look like x's with the hot and cold plaques in the middle. Finish off the space with a rich wood vanity to balance the masculine and the feminine. For a more dramatic flair paint the walls gray. Bring in lots of black marble and accent with a crystal chandelier for a vintage look that is glamorous.
Vintage themes were subtle. You can base the room around an orchid or lily without breaking out the country wallpaper. Paint the fireplace in the room bright white if you are lucky enough to have one in the bathroom. The rest of the walls can be a pale blush. Hang a series of intricate mirrors on the wall; just paint them cream first. Put crystal and ballerina prints on the shelves along with practical bright white bathroom towels.
A retro vintage style might not have been your first choice. You may have been forced into it because of the existing decor and you can't afford a remodel. Start off by making your vintage tile look its best. Either clean the grout or re-grout so it's bright white to give it a new appearance. If your really hate the color reglaze it. You might just want to reglaze the bottom or top rows of tiles to bring in an accent color. The accent color will tie brightly colored tile into the rest of the room. Stick with a brown, white or black. To modernize your vintage bathroom paint your vanity and trim work black. This will match the wall tile and relate to a black and white floor. With small changes you can learn to love vintage style.
If a vintage style bathroom is feeling a little blah then make it your own. You might want granite on the vanity instead of marble. Instead of a black and white floor try a white and taupe or a white and pink floor. Granted, the pink will eventually have to go. Either you or future home owners will exorcise it. However, if you are using cheaper materials "just for now" or "just until" why not have fun with it? Keep the accessories in the room oversized for a more modern look. You can even build elaborate wall panels and niches for artwork and to frame out the mirror. Add in thick crown molding for even more interest.
Vintage bathroom decor is enduring but you can still put your personal stamp on it. You'll be able to save money by going with basic materials and then putting them together in extraordinary ways. To really get your theme across you'll need to paint or redecorate most of the room so it doesn't just look like a basic bathroom.