Home & Garden

Efficiency with elegant retro appeal

Vintage is a word that reigns in design. Looking backward for inspiration helps us find character and a backstory for fashion and decor.

In the home, blending old and new is also a practical equation. Consumers are looking for harmony between retro appearance and contemporary performance. Nowhere is that balance more essential than in the kitchen and bathroom. Sinks and bathtubs, faucets and shower fixtures may have a vintage look, but those items should not show signs of age when it comes to efficiency or ease of use.

“Things have gotten more efficient in terms of actual functionality,” said Charlotte-based interior designer Amy Vermillion of Amy Vermillion Interiors.

The art of working with retro styles is in coming up with a thoughtful interplay between old and new. That’s when complexity and drama find a place in your design.

While more than a few millennials go for the unpretentious look of midcentury designs, many of Vermillion’s clients, who have already lived through that time period, lean toward earlier eras.

“It’s important for people to feel like they can unplug, and feel that they’re surrounded in some sort of a comfy environment,” Vermillion said.

Regardless of which era homeowners settle into, they tend to give higher scores to reproductions that come with modern innovations. Thankfully, there are plenty to choose from today, although handsome design combined with efficiency and better performance tends to cost more.

No waiting to fill

Most homeowners choose a faucet that conserves water by releasing just a few gallons per minute. But when it comes to filling a tub, the goal is to race near the top with more water per minute. Rohl’s Verona Exposed Tub Set with Handshower and Verona Floor Pillar Legs blend the vintage look of old-fashioned risers with the power of pouring out 8 gallons of water per minute. That means a 35-gallon tub will take around 4 1/2 minutes to fill. $1,900 at www.rohlhome.com.

Stains of the past

A durable and moderately priced stainless steel sink is the standard for many homes. Yet, the appeal of the fireclay farmhouse sinks of the past remains fresh for many homeowners. The Shaws Original Fireclay Apron Front Kitchen Sink by Rohl is designed to correct the torments of older versions. This one is made with an acid- and alkali-resistant glazed surface. It’s also scratch resistant and comes with a 10-year warranty against fading and stains. $1,917 at birddecorativehardware.com.

Touchless faucet

Past generations didn’t always know to worry about spreading germs, but sanitation is a real concern today. With the MAC Faucet’s Aqua Ibrido Faucet, a sensor turns the water on for you when you hold your hands beneath the fixture. There’s no need to touch the levers. A water-mixing feature allows you to set the temperature you want for future handwashing. $869 at electronicfaucets.com.

Old-fashioned marble

After decades of marveling over synthetic materials for building, a few retailers have preserved stellar designs made with natural materials we can recognize. Pottery Barn’s Apothecary Single Sink Console boasts a marble top and shelf on an iron frame. $1,899 at potterybarn.com.

A soak for the ages

A tub can be more than a place for a splash or a soak. With planning, it can be a place to pamper yourself.

“People have returned to bathing like you’ve never seen,” said Vermillion, who says her customers see the tub as a place to vanquish stress. BainUltra’s Balneo Therapeutic Bath is designed for that kind of luxury. It combines the classic look of freestanding bathtubs first popular in the late 1800s with modern upgrades. The heated back comes standard. Optional features include an aromatherapy diffuser, a six-color LED lighting option for the bathwater, hot-air jets for massage, and built-in heating zones at the base of the tub as well as for your back and neck. $6,050 to $7,850 at birddecorativehardware.com.