A Collection of Mid-Century Bathrooms From the 1940s for Design Inspiration

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Color is the key word for bathrooms built or remodeled between the World Wars. Ivory and pastel toilets and sinks came first, joined during the 1930s by fixtures in orchid and mauve, Ming green and peach. The colors kept coming: baby blue, candy pink, butter yellow, lavender, and black. In the 1940s, red, burgundy, and navy blue were introduced.

Although plenty of black and white or grey and white baths were built in the first decades of the 20th century, originals from the period tend to be more fanciful than “revival” baths are today.
By the mid-1940s, wartime shortages and the ascendance of International Style dictated a return to the spare white bath. But most 1940s homeowners were not ready to forgo all color. They enjoyed a cheerful pop of green or blue first thing in the morning. Also, they had absorbed a decorating tip broadcast by design magazines during the early 20th century: You can give a tiny room the illusion of more space by running a horizontal band around the middle of it.

1940 Armstrong Bathroom – Few images are as iconic of the midcentury as swans and the color pink. This bathroom offers peachy pink walls and pink fixtures. Black painted wainscot with scallops and an black linoleum floor grounds the space.

1941 American Standard Bathroom – Eggplant and gray walls along with an incised pattern in the linoleum floor form the basis of this color scheme. Fixtures are a creamy yellow complement to the rich burgundy hue. This ad appeared in American Home magazine.

1942 Orange & Green Bathroom – This image was from an article in American Home magazine. The dark brown floor complements the related orange of the towels and shower curtain and contrasts with the green tile wainscot. Light wallpaper with a starburst pattern adds extra visual interest. The existing white fixtures look updated without a large cash outlay.

1942 Blue Armstrong Bathroom – This Armstrong ad was published in American Home magazine among others. The blue monochromatic scheme is relieved only by the baby pink accessories. The floor is designed with an incised floral motif that is repeated in the bathmat and shower curtain. To add extra storage, a shallow shelf system is attached to the door.

1945 Briggs Bathroom – This peachy yellow, rust, and steel blue scheme with gray fixtures is very modern. It would be very handsome in any retro renovation today. The sliding glass door on the tub, folding according track door on the toilet compartment, dual sinks, lots of mirrors, and canister lighting are a few of the features that would be fun to reproduce.

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