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Which Basin Should I Choose for My Traditional Bathroom?

Hankering after a bathroom that oozes character and period charm rather than sleek modernism? Start with the basin…

Houzz UK deputy editor. I’m an interiors journalist and editor, previously for the… More

If you’re hoping to create a bathroom that will complement the heritage of your old house, or want to get a bit of classic styling into your featureless washspace to add character, you’re in the right place for inspiration.

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Pick up a pedestal
Scan through the photo stream on Houzz and you’ll probably spot that pedestal basins are not too common in modern bathrooms. However, when a little vintage character is required, they’re well worth considering.

A quick search online for traditional pedestal basins will throw up lots of styles to choose from, and reasonably priced ones, too. To complete the look, single taps rather than a mixer are likely to give the most authentic look, so think carefully how committed you are to the style, especially if you’re used to a mixer. Singles can take a little getting used to again, and children will need supervision around hot-only taps. But if you’re going to go back in time, you may as well go the whole hog…

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Get a leg-up
The original versions of this style of basin, with console legs, were typically French and popular in the early part of the 20th century. There are some originals around if you search online, but be prepared to pay handsomely.

If you’re happy with a reproduction or modern version, then search online for ‘basin with legs’ or ‘basin with console legs’ and options in the low hundreds rather than thousands should come up.

It’s all about context: pair one with some of the elegant details in this bathroom – Georgian-style wall panels, impressive metal bateau bath and traditional-style taps – and it’ll fit right in.

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Settle on a stand
A washstand is a similarly vintage detail that will give your basin a period look. These are much easier to come by, and typically the stand will be polished chrome (though other metals and also wood are options).

They come in different styles – some with racks two thirds of the way down for (aesthetically pleasing) storage, others just with the simple frame, as here (handy for hanging a well-chosen hand towel). If you go for standard chrome, your tapware – antique style, ideally – will probably look best if it matches, something worth considering if you’ve been dreaming of brass or bronze.

Browse bathroom sinks in the Houzz Shop

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Mount modern atop old
Sometimes it’s not the basin that’s complementary to the style of a bathroom with a bit of vintage character, but its surrounds.

Here, you have the perfect example: a gorgeously weathered and worn console-style table with two clean-lined modern basins surface-mounted on top. The modern take on the roll-top bath is perfectly in keeping with the idea, too.

You might get lucky and find a second-hand unit or table upon which to fit your basin or basins, but if not, just look out for modern pieces made from reclaimed wood – it’s all about the patina. Remember, if it’s not a purpose-made piece of furniture, check it will hold the weight of your basin.

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Go grand
The timeless elegance of marble will always work well in a setting with antique flourishes. However, this bathroom has none – which shows just how clever marble can be at creating a classic, traditional look in an instant.

A bowl design is a savvy touch, as it subtly conjures up the sort of antique washstands that lived in bedrooms and were filled up by servants using jugs.

You can exaggerate this idea by choosing taps with a hint of the trad about them – on the wall or behind the basin – rather than, say, a contemporary waterfall tap mounted modernly to one side.

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Here, a similar coup has been pulled off with a porcelain basin, undermounted beneath a slab of marble and with a matching upstand. It’s another example of having it all: a gloriously functional and quite luxurious space in which to wash, but also a nod to history with the classic details.

The mixer tap has a whiff of the old-fashioned about it, and yet is modern and practical. The panel detailing on the vanity unit drawer fronts also taps into traditional cabinetry styles. Pay attention to these small aesthetic details, then find versions of them that tick all your functional boxes, too.

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Favour a farmhouse style
These basins are quite tricky to get hold of in the UK, as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried. Known in the States as farmhouse sinks, they’re typically found in kitchens or utility rooms. They’re characterised by their high backs and are often made of enamelled cast iron.

Set up searches on eBay and you might get lucky. Look out also for the few American companies that ship to the UK if you have your heart set on one.

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Embrace enamel
A potentially appealing alternative, if you can’t get your hands on an American farmhouse sink, is one of these, which are popping up more and more both on and off Houzz.

Wall-hung, they have the high back and the farmhouse style and are also finished in enamel (but not being made of cast iron, they’re much, much lighter). They take up quite a bit of vertical wall space, so check you’ll have room for the taps – which sit above the high back – as well as the basin.

They’re also designed to work with exposed bottle traps, so consider this at the same time as your taps, as you’ll probably want them to match.

11 times a bathroom basin with an exposed bottle trap looked ace

Tell us…
What style of basin would you choose to create a traditional feel in a bathroom? Share your ideas in the Comments section.
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