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100 Years Of Bathroom Design

7 min read
  • Design Trends

Looking for bathroom design inspiration? Let’s take a step back in time and explore what was inspiring homeowners through the decades. 

While some design trends (like shag carpet) might be better left in the past, you might find that some of these iconic looks speak to your personal style! Could twenties-inspired pastels or seventies-esque whirlpool baths make it into your next bathroom makeover? 

In this post, we’ll browse 100 years of bathroom design, reviewing some of the best looks and biggest innovations from 1920 to 2020.

1920s: Enamel Finishes in Pastel

ad for a colorful bathroomWhen you think 1920s bathroom trends, you should be thinking pastels. Before the twenties, bathrooms predominantly featured nickel finishes, exposed plumbing, and crisp white floors and walls. The introduction of colored tile and colored enamel fixtures changed everything!

Companies like Kohler began producing perfectly matched bathroom sets made of enamel, so homeowners could get a sink, tub, and toilet all in the same color. Popular shades included light yellows, soft pinks, and pale greens. This was a huge hit and created a demand for on-trend bathroom fixtures that hadn’t existed before. 

In addition to incorporating pastel fixtures, homeowners began to really style this area of their home for the first time. Especially toward the end of the twenties, art deco trends spilled into the bathroom. You’ll notice arches, geometric shapes, artful sconces, and gold touches.

1940s: Back To Traditional Roots

Kohler ad with dad and sonThe end of World War II shaped the design trends of the 1940s. Women returned home from the workforce and men returned home from abroad, putting the emphasis on family. 

Bathrooms – and homes in general – shifted to be more traditional than the art deco looks of the twenties. If you prefer a streamlined look, the forties could be for you.

Gilded detailing was replaced with homier touches like ruffled curtains. Clean lines created a simple, more modern look than the archways before. Wood also began to find its way into the bathroom as cabinets and paneling, replacing some of the intricate tile work. 

Color remained a popular design element of bathrooms, but with a new twist! Instead of pastels, colors began to get richer and homeowners experimented with combining high contrast color schemes. You’ll notice that a patriotic red, white, and blue palette became popular with many Americans.

1960s: A Bold New Look

An old Kohler ad featuring a yellow shower

If you would describe your style as daring and eye-catching, then the sixties is the right decade for you! Year after year, the 1960s brought new materials and statement colors. The bolder the better! In line with the fashion, Kohler began using their tagline ‘The Bold Look Of Kohler.’ 

A new material hit the market: colored fiberglass-reinforced plastic. Kohler used this material for shower and bath/shower combinations, giving homeowners a strikingly modern alternative to tile. Plus, it was designed in a single, compact mold.  

The new product was introduced in five new hues. Homeowners could now add Espresso, Jade, Citron, Blueberry, and Antique Red to their space. These bold colors quickly overtook pastels.

1980s: Luxurious Whirlpools

Hot pink whirlpool tub in a tropical location

Do you love a touch of extravagance? Keep reading!

In 1977, Kohler launched the whirlpool bath, which continued to be a huge trend through the 1980s and 1990s. With built-in adjustable jets, these baths were designed for comfort and luxury. Homeowners loved that water massages could now be a part of their bathing routine, bringing a taste of vacation to everyday life. 

These whirlpool baths were offered in a range of colors to match existing Kohler fixtures, so the trend of matching toilets, sinks, and baths continued. This time, peaches and teals joined the color scheme.

In this ad, you may notice another eighties design trend: wall to wall shag carpeting. Shag carpeting even entered the bathroom and was seen as quite the luxurious feature.

2000s: A Personal Oasis

Woman lying in an overflowing bathtub

New millennium, new design trends. 

For the first time since the twenties, bathroom color palettes featured neutrals like white, black, tan, and grey. Granite and natural stone grew in popularity for countertops and shower walls. Homeowners also selected laminate and vinyl as more affordable ways to create the look of stone.

Additionally, bathrooms began to feature spa-like elements such as rainfall showerheads and glass shower doors that allowed homeowners to create a personal oasis. Bath technology continued to evolve, too. Following the Whirlpool Bath, Kohler released the iconic Sok Overflowing Bath which continually circulated the bathwater. Kohler quickly became a leader in hydrotherapy, a new benchmark for bathroom fixtures. 

Overall, bathrooms gained recognition as an area worthy of interior design attention. Even the most utilitarian space can be beautiful, relaxing, and individual. 

What Will 2020 Hold?

Urban bathroom with white brick and shower.What will inspire your bathroom designs in 2020? You’ll find you have an increasing number of choices for sustainable products and materials, connectivity with smart devices, and compact designs for smaller, urban spaces.

To get begin browsing, you can explore a variety of design trends here, including urban organic, modern farmhouse, and luxe traditional.


Ready To Start Designing?

When you’re ready to create a bathroom that will go down in history, contact your local Kohler Shower Specialist. Your beautiful new shower could be installed in as little as a day!