Past & Present: Historical Bathrooms

Big Old Houses

My current obsession is a fascinating blog called Big Old Houses, which opens the doors to amazing old mansions, many in upstate New York — and many containing relics of the past, from original bathrooms and kitchens to century-old cabinets and door knobs. The blog documents the intersection of architecture, social history and interior design through the rooms of old houses.

Not only does it provide a glimpse into how people used to live, but it offers us endless inspiration for how to preserve, renovate and decorate our own homes. Because I am renovating my bathroom right now, I have focused on toilets and sinks and so on. But bathrooms are just a tiny part of the fun, so be sure to check out the site for images of everything from ovens to laundry chutes to stairways.

What is so surprising about peeking into these historical time warps is how many century-old architectural and design trends have reemerged in recent years. I had no idea the sleek console sinks one sees on display at Waterworks had such a place in the history of bathrooms!

Shown above, left to right:
1 This Hudson Valley, NY home, the Payne House, was built in 1910. Many of the bathrooms contain original sinks and bathtubs.
2 Another Hudson Valley Victorian home, this one was built by a nineteenth century German immigrant. This bathroom dates to just before World War I and was added as part of an addition. This home is owned by the author/blogger of Big Old Houses himself, John Foreman, who is an agent with the real estate company Halstead Property and a writer and historian with an avid interest in historic homes, particularly in New York.
3 Another bathroom in the Victorian. What a lovely old sink.
4 Apparently, this toilet in Foreman's home is dreadful at flushing, and the seams in the toilet seat are pretty unsanitary. But it has been left in because it is a century old! Big Old Houses points out that by the late 1870s, indoor plumbing was standard equipment in middle and upper class custom built houses like this one.
5 This is 7 East 95th Street, completed in 1916 for Ernesto Fabbri and his Vanderbilt heiress wife, Edith Shepard. Since 1949 it has been an Episcopal retreat house called the House of the Redeemer. How amazing is the floor tile in this bathroom? And that sink!

Read more: Big Old Houses

(Images: Big Old Houses)

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