Living with Mid-Century Bathroom Fixtures

Since bathrooms have been on my mind lately, I thought I’d post some of my favorite ways to live with those colorful mid century bathroom fixtures for those of you fortunate enough to have them – even if you don’t feel fortunate. Vintage fixtures in loud colors can be tricky to work with. You instantly have huge limitations on what you can do. You aren’t going to be hiding the fact that your toilet is blue, so you gotta find a way to embrace the color. That doesn’t mean you have to have an ugly or dated looking space. (For proof, check out our completed blue bathroom right here, featuring a fleet of 1961 blue fixtures!!!)

But it also doesn’t mean you should be guilted into keeping things you hate. If my toilet, sink, tub, and shower were dreaded purple, for example, I would cry over my hideous purple bathroom for a day and then sell or donate those items to a purple lover and get on with my life. But if the color of the fixtures isn’t offensive to you, there’s likely a way to incorporate them into a bathroom you will love.

Oddly, this is my second sixties blue bathroom that I’ve had the pleasure to own, and I also lived briefly with a salmon pink one too. So I’m no stranger to colorful tubs and toilets and sinks and showers and tiles and towel racks. After much thinking, it seems like there are 3 basic strategies to deal with crazy colored fixtures. And, yes, I realize that most of my photo examples about modernizing are actually from the 60’s. Turns out that when these bathrooms were built they were styled right and now we don’t know what to do with them. Just go with it…

1. Safe and Easy

Go all white and let the fixtures speak for themselves. The most quiet and serene option. And it requires basically no planning. This is a recent ad for Koehler’s colorful sinks by good ol’ Jonathan Adler. Here he is, in all his white pants glory in this white bathroom. Those sinks are like jewelry.

Jonathan Adler Koehler Sinks Navy Blue Bathroom

source

mccalls 1959 blue bathroom vintage sinks

1959 McCalls

2. Ordered Chaos

MONOCHROMATIC WITH TEXTURE! Embrace the color, go all out in that color and really have a blue bathroom (or a yellow bathroom or a pink bathroom). You’ll need some texture to break up the monotony. This was the approach I took and with my busy flooring and wacky stripes, I think it worked wonderfully. Small patterned wallpaper, especially in a cool abstract, is very, very good in this situation. It’s crazy but restrained all at the same time and it looks so gnarly, in a good way.

better homes garden 1960's vintage bathroom yellow wallpaper

1961 Better Homes and Gardens

Better Homes Gardens 1961 vintage pink bathroom wallpaper

1956 Better Homes and Gardens via Hooked on Houses

vintage mid century blue bathroom original striped ceiling sputnik tiles retro

 3. Off the Walls

Find bold accent colors to your fixtures, splash them around, and have a party in your bathroom every day. This could backfire if your colors aren’t right. Saturated and dramatic work well with the mid century pastels. Doesn’t this mint/blush/coral scheme seem so today?

colorful 1950s american standard bathroom pink green
1956 American Standard Bathroom via Mid Century Home Style

vintage 1950's bathroom blue green

1955 American Standard Bathroom via Mid Century Home Style

better homes garden 1960's vintage bathroom

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4. Black and White Plus 

Add classic black and white to your color, a no-fail solution that is simple, colorful, bold, and graphic.
vintage pink bathroom wallpaper

Apartment Therapy

I know this is a kitchen, but this color scheme could translate perfectly to a bathroom.blue black kitchen vintage

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Accessorize

In my opinion, the less cutesy/kitschy/shabby chic/themed things you have in a bathroom full of vintage fixtures, the less old lady it looks. Pink flamingos, the actual animal, are super cool. But pink flamingo figurines covering your vintage pink bathroom my be “retro” overkill. If that is really your thing and you want to theme out your life with flamingos, then by all means express yourself! But if your goal is to modernize your bathroom while embracing its original fixtures, then let the actual blue toilet be your kitsch moment.

Resources

Retro Renovation and their sister site, SavethePinkBathrooms.com, have tons of information on renovating and preserving those “retro” bathrooms, including tile sources.

PSA: If, after all this, you are thinking of dumping what you got, don’t!! Sell it on craigslist or donate those nuggets. Someone out there wants your trash, as strange as that may sound.

PSA #2: Also, resist the urge to turn your colorful old toilet into a planter and put it in your yard. No one wants to see that ever.

I’ll leave you with this swanky little 60’s number that sums up my goals for my life. Four words: IN GROUND TERRAZZO TUB. Thanks for reading!

vintage 1960's bathroom

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