American Bathroom

Evolution of the American Bathroom

Since the middle of the 20th century, each decade has been presented with a set of unique needs. We discussed how kitchens have evolved over the years, with transformations driven by the desired function of the day. Now we dive into the evolution of bathroom design! Let’s take a journey through yesteryear and explore how your 21st century bathroom came to be.


According to The New York Times, “In 1940, only 55 percent of homes with plumbing had what the government considers a ‘complete system’ — hot and cold running water, a flush toilet and a tub or shower. Sixty years later, 99 percent of all homes had all those features.” After the war, homeowners were able to once again focus on the frivolity of design. Pastels began to make their way into perfect suburban homes.


Postwar bathrooms were light-filled, cheery, and most importantly, pastel. Pink, blue, and green sinks, toilets, and tubs took over the American bathroom. Nearly 70 years later, homeowners are still ripping apart retro bathrooms in an effort to remove any hint of the pastel period, while a few diehard purists strive to preserve them.


Colorful bathrooms still reigned in the 1960’s, with pastels and eye-catching accents. From floors and walls, to countertops, tile was a major design element. Tubs, toilets, sinks, and fixtures were porcelain and full of quintessential 1960’s flare. Pendent lights flanking both sides of the mirror were also a popular choice.


The 1970’s bathroom was often carpeted, while popular laminate countertop still graced surfaces. Pastels made their way out of the picture to be replaced by yellow, gold, brown, avocado, and teal. Textured tiles were a 70’s bathroom commonality with interesting designs and arrangements.


The powder room reflected the romantic vibe found in the 1980’s kitchen: brass fixtures, multiple patterns of heavy floral wallpaper, vinyl flooring, and tile ruled the bathroom. Wall-to-wall carpet was still considered a sign of luxury. Dusty, muted pastels made their debut with peach, mauve, and teal being some of the most common decorative colors of the 80’s bathroom.


Every luxury 1990’s bathroom had to have a large garden tub or Jacuzzi. Today, these are usually viewed as rarely used features that take up a lot of space and are a pain to clean. Overhead canned lighting, acrylic tub surrounds and more wall-to-wall carpet were commonalities of the 90’s bathroom as well.


Not so long ago, bathrooms turned to a full-on resort spa feel, featuring the full body spray shower, rainfall showerheads, sauna’s, and fluffy white towels completed the spa-like feel. Subdued oil-rubbed bronze fixtures and vessel sinks were complimented with granite and natural stone. Standard size tubs and showers and their vinyl shower curtains and sliding glass doors were replaced with floating glass shower doors and larger spaces.


Standalone and claw foot tubs reminiscent of the 19th and 20th century are coming back into popular design. Many more choices are available today, thanks to the Internet. Sustainability and space are the focus of many trendy baths. And don’t forget the most popular must have; a free standing soaking tub and spacious shower.

When it comes to bathroom trends through the decades, one thing is for sure; old is new and new is old. A bathroom is the perfect place to blend styles and features from yesteryear with the latest and greatest from today.


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