Why Did Anyone Think Carpet in the Bathroom Was a Good Idea?

Why Did Anyone Think Carpet in the Bathroom Was a Good Idea?

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Nancy Mitchell
Mar 28, 2018
A gloriously large, carpeted bathroom from The International Collection of Interior Design (1985). I don't know what's more delightfully absurd: the carpet, the giant soaking tub, or that open fireplace.
(Image credit: The International Collection of Interior Design)

When I was a young girl living in Lafayette, Louisiana, one of my favorite things to do was go with my mother to the Parade of Homes. Those early '90s show houses were wonderful in my eyes: soaring foyers, big Palladian windows, and giant, luxurious bathrooms—covered in carpet. Carpet in the bathroom was, in my mind, the ultimate luxury.

This 1981 bathroom from the Better Homes and Gardens New Decorating Book ups the ante with shag carpeting and a sunken tub.
(Image credit: Better Homes and Gardens New Decorating Book)

Look, you think a lot of crazy things when you're a kid, and I now know that my love for carpet in the bathroom was categorically wrong. Having never lived in a home with carpet in the bathroom, I dismissed my mother's concerns about mildew as those of a person not sufficiently committed to cutting-edge design. I now realize that carpet in the bathroom was just one of the many things about which my mother eventually turned out to be right.

This is a 1970 design from The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement, spotted on Ounu Design. The shag carpet may seem gross to us now, but at the time it was considered to be the height of luxury. (The little platforms around the two toilets, at least, are not carpeted. And there are two toilets.)
(Image credit: The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement)

These days, most people have come to their senses regarding the carpet in the bathroom situation. On a recent Reddit thread, one user asked: People of Reddit with carpet in their bathrooms, why? No one had anything good to say about this. There was one user who admitted that "It's comfy," but they still blamed their home's previous owners for the wall-to-wall. The top answer is worth quoting here:

The parasitic mold spores have taken over my brain and demand more habitat for their kin.

This ad for Sears Colormates bath coordinates, which appeared in a 1975 issue of Good Housekeeping, is very, very brown. If you look closely, you'll notice that even the bathroom scale matches.
(Image credit: Garage Sale Finds)

But the question remains: why did anyone think this was a good idea to begin with? This Retro Renovation interview about the history of carpet, although it doesn't specifically mention bathrooms, sheds a little light on the issue. Emily Morrow, the Director of Design at Shaw Floors, points out that in the 1950s, carpet was seen as a luxury item. Up until that point, wall-to-wall carpeting was an indulgence that was out of the reach of the average American family. Changes in carpet-making technology and post war prosperity led to a boom in its use, but carpet still retained those feelings of luxury and newness. What could be more luxurious than adding carpet to a humble space like the bathroom? And if you could, for a second, ignore the possibility of mold, doesn't sinking your toes into a nice plush bathmat that covers your entire bathroom sound kind of nice?

Though they may be few and far between, carpet in the bathroom does have its modern-day adherents. When an Apartment Therapy poll asked readers to vote on carpet in the bathroom, most of you were overwhelmingly opposed, but about 8% (26 people, to be exact) were in favor. Contributor Catrin Morris, who wrote the post that asked the controversial question, was herself pro-carpet. It's nice and warm, she pointed out, and you don't have to worry about young children slipping on a tile floor.

From Hometalk, here's a more prosaic example of carpet in the bathroom: the corner soaking tub, reached by a luxurious carpet-covered step.
(Image credit: Hometalk)

While it seems everything '70s is making a comeback these days, this is one trend I don't see returning anytime soon. But hey, everyone has weird things that make them happy—you might be in the minority for loving your carpeted bathroom, but you are most certainly not alone.

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