Bathroom décor of the past fifty years has been riddled with developments both delightful and disastrous. From minimalism to shabby chic, it is fair to say that the trends that emerged divided opinion at the time, and continue to do so today. There were, however, some definitive triumphs (upcycling and increased efficiency) and definitive disasters (avocado bathroom suites). In order to chart this turbulent history, we have put together this guide to bathroom design by the decade. Who knows, you may even be inspired to borrow from a bygone era.
The 1970s might be the oldest decade featured in this list but they were far from the most traditional. Continuing the momentum created by the 60s, bathroom décor in the 70s was typically outlandish. Bold pastel colours reigned supreme in the world of bathroom fixtures and they were more often than not accompanied by even bolder and brighter botanical coloured wallpaper. While 70s style bathrooms have threatened to make a full-blown resurgence in recent months, you can rest assured that not all aspects of 70s bathroom decor will be welcomed back with open arms – avocado bathroom suites are a glaring example of the era clearly overstepping the line between outlandish and garish.
The 80s were a decade marked by extravagance, and the bathrooms were no exception. Wall-to-wall carpets and sunken bathtubs featured in many a bathroom of that era, and helped to paint the 80s as a decade of excess – especially in the US. With arguably more investment than ever into interior design, bathroom decor became wilder than ever – you were just as likely to encounter a bathroom with floral chintz shower curtains as one covered with real ferns. And whilst it gave rise to unprecedented experimentation, it also gave rise to some tasteless trends. There are practical and aesthetic reasons why bathrooms are no longer completely covered in shag carpet.
Almost as a backlash to the brazen boldness of the decades that had preceded it, the 90s adopted a minimalist approach to bathroom décor. Monochromatic colours were an ever-present. Black, white and beige ruled the roost. Corner baths established themselves as the go-to bathroom feature of the decade, but they were better in theory than in practice and failed to outlive the 90s. Another staple of the decade – track lighting – was far more successful and long-lasting. As well as being unobtrusive and versatile, track lighting allowed homeowners to focus light throughout their home.
The newly-minted environmental ethos of the 2000s was ushered in, at least partly, by the popularity of Grand Designs. The programme brought attention to the environmentally-conscious Walter Segal method of construction amongst others, and introduced Britain to a plethora of green ways to outfit our bathrooms – the efficiency of pedrollo pumps made them a household name. Upcycling was commonplace as shabby chic became not only an indication of environmental awareness but also an indicator of cool. The noughties saw a break from the past, as bold and bright-coloured feature walls defied the minimalism of the previous decade.