1950’s Bathroom: Before

It will be a while until I get to the After portion of this bathroom, but a sneak peak at our retro bathroom seemed a natural follow-up to yesterday’s post about modern bath trends.

Pink was popular back in the day and this bathroom, I’ve no doubt, was da bomb. Let me take you on a tour:


retro bathroom

View from the doorway.


retro vanity

The vanity.


1950s shower

The shower.


retro light fixture

The light fixture.


retro light switch

Turn me on.


The wallpaper. Not sure if this is from the 1950s or the 70s.

The bath also features a delightfully retro pink and black floor with little silver sparklies embedded in the tile. Asbestos tile.

Though it might be a teensy bit tempting to go retro kitsch with room, several of the plastic tiles are cracked or missing and there appears to be wall damage in the shower. So we’re prepared for a total gut job. With the exception of the tub, which I think we can get away with simply refinishing, it’s all going.

Technically, the floor tile won’t go, it will be sealed over and covered up per safety standards. It’s not uncommon to find asbestos tile in mid-20th century homes. In fact, around these parts, it’s expected. They are typically not harmful if they’re in good shape and left undisturbed (she says in the name of entertainment; go seek an expert opinion).

There’s a lot of work ahead here and throughout the house. Right now, I’m just glad the toilet works.

Have you gutted a bathroom? Any tips?

25 Responses to 1950’s Bathroom: Before
  1. Cindy Fey
    July 8, 2011 | 11:00 am

    Oh I love retro! That black and pink chain pattern is the best! They don’t make ’em like they used to. I like the wallpaper too – so kitschy cute. Don’t ask me for advice. I’d say just lose the sink and update the fixtures. Then I’d say gut it. Then I’d say I hate making those kind of decisions.

    • kim/reluctant renovator
      July 9, 2011 | 7:23 am

      So do I! If it weren’t for the damaged tiles, I’d be willing to go retro.

  2. Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen)
    July 8, 2011 | 1:21 pm

    Whooo boy…

    While we have gutted and rebuilt kitchens, we haven’t touched a bathroom yet.

    Budget is an obvious place to start. Cheapest is probably to just have painted dry wall everywhere except the bath surround. I do like tile in a bath for walls and floor but that increases price.

    Whatever you do, I’m sure you will avoid choosing something trendy that will age poorly like the plastic pink tile!

    • kim/reluctant renovator
      July 9, 2011 | 7:22 am

      Now the big thing is frosted glass, in the kitchen for a backsplash as well as in the bathroom. I’m sure it’s destined to be the modern equivalent of pink tile. To be fair, though, the house is 60 years old. Then again the style has been out of date for at least the ast 30 of those, right?

  3. Lisa
    July 8, 2011 | 3:55 pm

    Ooh-that tile is so cute and I love the fish! I would try to at least save a scrap of the wallpaper and frame it. Also…check out the website http://www.retrorenovation.com where there is a movement to Save the Pink Bathrooms! :). Even if it’s not your style, they do have some great ideas to work with what you’ve got –bathrooms and everywhere in these older houses, specifically 1940s-1970s. You may find yourself freshly inspired!

  4. Paula @ Frosted Fingers
    July 8, 2011 | 4:52 pm

    Eek! You have to wonder what people were thinking. We have to gut our master bath and our toilet DOESN’T work. Sucks with 4 people that use the toilet and only one working in the house.

    • kim/reluctant renovator
      July 9, 2011 | 7:19 am

      Pink was just the thing. Hope you get that toilet taken care of soon!

  5. Kelly
    July 8, 2011 | 11:12 pm

    Ew…I feel bad that you have to use that bath! Mine is only slightly better-an avocado and a blue bathroom are our major gut jobs.

    We had asbestos tiles in our family room and consulted with a professional who said we could remove it because it wasn’t friable. Check with a local lab before you cover it up-you may be able to remove it fairly easily without issue.

    • kim/reluctant renovator
      July 9, 2011 | 7:18 am

      That’s good to know. In our previous house we had a worker who scraped up a similar tile from our ratty enclosed porch. I will look into it; thanks!

  6. Lisa
    July 8, 2011 | 11:53 pm

    Here’s our bathroom: http://mythoughtsideasandramblings.com/2007/08/16/the-bathroom-remodel/

    I’ve painted it yellow now though. 🙂 LOL

  7. liz
    July 9, 2011 | 7:33 am

    I pity you with this job. Removing ALL the tile is going to be a REAL pain, and you will have to redo the drywall.

    • admin
      July 9, 2011 | 8:58 am

      I’m pretty sure we will be bringing in the pros. Or maybe HGTV?

  8. GenaMazzeo
    July 9, 2011 | 7:43 am

    I was in favor of keeping it until I saw the pink tile on the ceiling…odd. My mom and dad just finished a bathroom remodel…total gut job of my childhood bathroom, in prep for a total gutting of their master. Happy to share any pov you want to hear!

    • admin
      July 9, 2011 | 8:57 am

      POV in the form of a guest post? Yes, please! Or through any other format.

  9. Karen Hartzell
    July 12, 2011 | 4:08 pm

    This post is soooo making me miss my retro home in PA. Hot pink FLOCKED and METALLIC (silver) wallpaper in the basement powder room. Crazy but that house was one of a kind.

    Have fun and keep posting details! Love it!

  10. Sandra
    July 12, 2011 | 10:12 pm

    You do have your work cut out for you. It’s so retro it’s almost cool. Good luck…and have fun!

  11. […] Read about our Kohler Kidz weekend experience on my personal blog and come back to comment here. As long as you’re clicking, check out this post on bath design trends for 2011 and take a peek at my pink bathroom. […]

  12. Susan Bearman
    July 13, 2011 | 10:28 pm

    We had a 20s version of this bathroom in peach and black, but it was real ceramic tile (not plastic), so worth saving. We did full-blown Art Deco and it looked really cool. My best bathroom remodel tip was that we found an under-mounted sink with granite countertop and backsplash for CHEAP at the Expo Design center and built the bathroom around that.

    Do NOT use white tile with white grout on a bathroom floor that boys will be using. That is all.

  13. […] Read about our Kohler Kidz weekend experience on my personal blog and come back to comment here. As long as you’re clicking, check out this post on bath design trends for 2011 and take a peek at my pink bathroom. […]

  14. Kristina
    July 15, 2011 | 8:56 pm

    I’ve done some bathrooms. Too bad we couldn’t turn this into kitsch retro …. all the tiles are bad??

  15. […] on popular demand, I came back to add a link to our totally retro pink bathroom. 15 Comments – Leave a comment! -bath, Before/After « Previous Post 15 Responses to […]

  16. RL Julia
    August 15, 2011 | 4:13 pm

    Just gutted our downstairs bathroom last summer. Hmmm….advice? Tile is great but it gets expensive really quickly.

    Be sure to think through the lighting. Even in our tiny bathroom, we ended up with two fixtures- no one really wants to shower in the dark. Its nice to have a good light near a mirror so that you can tell what color your clothes are. I can’t tell you how many times I thought something was light gray but it was really more green. NYT just did a huge article on light bulbs you might want to check out.

    Be sure to install an exhaust fan if you don’t have one (we didn’t).

    I’d probably get rid of the soffit over the shower. Tubs are claustrophobic enough without dropping the ceiling. Ditto on the sliding door but that’s just a personal preference. Doesn’t cost a ton to have the tile guy install some of those metal shelf into the corner of the tub and then you have an easy to clean place to keep your soap/shampoo etc…

    I am big fan of the pedestal sink (sort of trendy I know) because it sort of opens up a small space and in a room the size of the bathroom, you could probably work in a small built in cabinet/closet/set of shelves for storage.

    You can get some really nice, inexpensive bathroom fixtures at Target.

    I also really like IKEA for their bathroom stuff.

    With two kids, I highly recommend the kind of toliet roll holder where you just slip the roll on and off a piece of metal.
    http://www.target.com/Bannockburn-Paper-Holder-Oil-Rubbed-Bronze/dp/B000EN4LLW/ref=sc_qi_detaillink – for example.

    Finally, if you have a larger bathroom where there is room for a cabinet or chest of drawers or something, don’t feel limited to what is labelled as being for the bathroom – I have a really pretty painted chest that was my first step-mother’s in a bathroom upstairs. It looks great and no one probably guesses that its where the kitty litter and cleaning supplies live. Since it faces the toilet, it probably gets looked at a lot more than it did in the guest room where it used to live…

  17. […] our Plan A reno for budget reasons. Both bathrooms need to be gutted due to leaky floors/ceilings, mold behind the shower walls and such. We hope to tackle these in 2012, but I understand how easy it is to live in denials and […]