Recreating 1920’s Style in the Bathroom

When we purchased this home we knew it was a true fixer-upper PLUS too small for our needs. Because the lot is so ginormous, we knew from the beginning that we wanted to add an addition (and there was only ONE BATHROOM). Can a marriage survive sharing a bathroom?? Ours can’t. Truly.

But while we were waiting to get our ducks in a row and get the addition party started, we needed that ONE bathroom to be usable. And not gross.

Not very inviting, am I right?

Being a rental for 30 years does an old bathroom no favors. We had a few weeks between closing on the house and moving in so that bathroom was my focus. Check out what I did…

Things to love:
1. The original clawfoot tub.
2. The high ceilings
3. The original medicine cabinet

The goal is to make this look like what it is…a 1920’s bathroom. I am restoring everything that is original, and choosing any new finishes based on what may have existed at the time.

Step One: Demolition

What had to go first? Those horrible stick on floor tiles. I started by the door and pried them up one by one. I tried keeping my utility gloves on (I’m easily grossed out by how dirty the house was), but the tile adhesive kept sticking to the gloves. Then my shoes were sticking to the floor where the tiles had been removed. Finally I came to a seam in the plywood underneath and realized I was doing it all wrong. Solution? Rip up the wood underneath WITH the tiles attached.

Sticky, icky floor tiles
Demo days are the best!

There were some touch and go moments when we couldn’t get the tub out of the bathroom door (we still had one pesky foot that wouldn’t come off), but we made it. And now that our bathroom was basically in the living room, I could really get to work.

We said goodbye to the toilet, but that clawfoot tub isn’t going anywhere.

Step Two: The Bathtub

I used a rust remover to prep it for paint. It’s just my luck that whoever painted the tub the first time only did the side that was visible and not the “back.” The rust remover worked great, and my beautiful tub dreams are one step closer.

After the rust remover did its work.

I had professionals do the interior of the tub, but figured I could DIY the outside. My inspiration is below.

Isn’t she beautiful?

I used Rustoleum Metallic spray paint in silver for the feet and Rustoleum Epoxy Appliance Paint in Gloss Black for the tub. (Did the brown scare you? Just primer, folks! Just primer.)

Step Three: Electric/Lighting

I hired an electrician to update the wiring in the bathroom. I know my DIY limitations. This house is still mostly all knob and tube wiring, which means changing anything (light fixture, light switch or outlet) is pricey. We started with only the crucial items and planned to do a complete overhaul with the addition.

The walls and ceiling aren’t in the best shape so I had to do a lot of patching and repairs. But the new vanity light is an upgrade!
I wanted a blingy chandelier over the tub, and this little guy fits in nicely. It was a TERROR to put together (and clean), but I love the way it looks.

Step Four: Doors and Hardware

The hardware was all covered in LAYERS of paint. I used an old slow cooker to remove it, and cleaned it up. Some of the hardware is brass and some of it is different metals. How do I know? Hold a magnet up the hardware. If it sticks, it’s not brass.

Why would anyone paint over this?!

The brass cleans up pretty nicely with some Brasso. Below you can see what they look like straight out of the cooker vs. polished with Brasso.

The inside of the door was already painted, so I just sanded it a bit and did a few fresh coats. There’s also a built-in storage cabinet and the doors there needed attention as well.

I used a foam roller and Valspar Signature paint to get a smooth finish. I have since bought a paint sprayer which I wish I had for this job!
I’m opposed to painting old natural wood, but the inside of the door was already painted and it looks pretty good with a fresh coat

Step Five: Plumbing

I had a plumber come in (again, I know my limits) and he removed almost all of the pipes from the floor to make tile installation easier. He also moved the copper water lines for the sink from the floor into the wall (I had a hand in removing the wall in that section myself…fun job). Because I chose a console-style sink, I didn’t want the plumbing coming out from the floor. Hopefully now all of the sink workings will be less visible.

It has to look worse before it gets better, right?

Step Six: Flooring and Wall Tile

I purchased beautiful glossy white subway tiles for the walls on a 70% off Black Friday deal, and black and white 2″ hex tiles for the floor. Again, the goal is to use materials that look like they may have actually been used in the original bathroom. I played around with patterns and came up with a design I liked for the floor and walls.

Playing around with the patterns and possibilities was fun. The actual task of switching out the white for the black was a bit tedious. It’s my favorite thing in the bathroom though, and totally worth it!
Nothing in an old house is level or plumb, so I mounted a level board to work from before starting the wall tile. I then used vertical subway tiles to create a tile baseboard on that long wall. The original trim had already been removed by the previous owner or I would have reused it.
So. Much. Tile. And not done yet!

Step Seven: Putting it all back together

I scored a sink/faucet combo for $100 from our neighborhood buy, sell, trade page on Facebook. I had been lusting over these old style sinks with chrome legs, but they were close to $1,000. (Yes, that much.) I couldn’t believe my luck to score a good quality used one for such a great price. Here’s a link to the sink we have, just be aware this is the sink only and the stand/legs are an additional $799.

Best score for the bathroom!

There was a lot more that went into this remodel, but it’s exhausting just remembering it all. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! I’ll post links for products below where I can.

The floor is my favorite part. And shout out to my mom for her work refinishing the air vent!
The brass lock is original, but there were no keys so it’s not functional. I needed knobs to open these cabinets, so I got two free ones of our local buy, sell, trade page that were chrome. I used Rub and Buff in antique brass to get them to match as close as possible to the original pull on the laundry chute.
Is it weird to have pictures of my grandparents in the bathroom? I just love the picture of my grandma hanging up laundry and it needed a partner.
The built in cabinets are on an angle so I had to get creative in the corner. I kept most of the original wood trim for the bathroom, stripped it, repainted and reinstalled it. The piece under the cabinet didn’t make it and so I had to add a corner piece to make things work.
These floor to ceiling cabinets give us tons of storage, and allow us to have such an open sink. The inside was pretty gross — old, dirty painted shelves and cracked, chipping plaster walls. A LOT of work went into making them clean and pretty enough for me to want to store towels in them!
I had a pretty silver trash can in here, but one of our dogs just LOVES to dumpster dive. I found this wicker one with a lid from Opalhouse at Target and it’s been a perfect fit.
I hate to cover up the floor, so I really only use this Ikea mat when I’m showering. It lives nicely on the side of the tub when not in use.
I’m thinking of swapping out the chrome sink for one in matte black to bring in more contrast. This matte black toilet paper stand from Target’s Hearth and Hand collection is perfect, and holds extra rolls.

Additional Links:

Paint color: Sherwin Williams Cucumber Water

Towels and Shower Curtain: Cynthia Rowley from TJ Maxx

Tub filler: Kingston Brass Clawfoot Tub Filler

Light Fixture: Veronica Silver Crystal Chandelier

7 thoughts on “Recreating 1920’s Style in the Bathroom

    1. Thank you Anita! I actually had fun playing around with the tiles and trying to come up with a pattern, but it was a little tedious actually implementing the design and getting everything spaced correctly. It’s my favorite part of the bathroom now though!


  1. We are just in the beginning stages of having old plumbing removed from our house and will need 2 bathrooms completed gutted and rebuilt. You give me inspiration to “TRY” some things on my own to save $$$. Thank you! You did a beautiful job. I love everything you did!

    Liked by 1 person

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