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 if you are 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.

(That also doesn’t means you have to be guilted into keeping things you hate. If my toilet, sink, tub, and shower were purple, for example, I would cry over my hideous 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 briefly lived 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

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mccalls 1959 blue bathroom vintage sinks

1959 McCalls

2. Ordered Chaos

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. I have busy flooring and wacky stripes in my bathroom and I think it’s working out. 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 gnarly, in the 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

 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.

Mint green, blush and coral are everywhere these days

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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This wallpaper!!!!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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A modern day interpretation of the black and blue.blue bathtub

Country Living

Accessorize

Finally, accessorize. In my opinion, the less cutesy/kitschy/shabby chic/themed things you have in this bathroom, the less old lady it looks. Pink flamingos, the actual animal, are super cool. But pink flamingo figurines and pink flamingo shower curtains in your pink bathroom is a no-go. If that is really your thing and you want the 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, this isn’t the way to go. Let the actual blue toilet be the only kitschy thing in there and it will be great.

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 the 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. Four words: In ground terrazzo tub. Thanks for reading!

vintage 1960's bathroom

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