Inspiration for a Mid Century Bathroom

Inspiration for a Mid Century Bathroom

I have to give my husband’s best friend’s grandma a big thank you when I see her.  Back in the 1940s and 1950s, after she and her husband bought their home, she created a scrapbook full of clippings of home decorating ideas she liked.  It has hundreds of either black and white or color images from a variety of old magazines and catalogs, everything from cute kitchen nooks, to furniture, to baby nurseries.

Sadly, about 5 years ago, her home was taken over by emanate domain and bulldozed to make way for a hospital expansion.   It broke her heart to leave the home she created with her, now deceased, husband and lived in for more than six decades.  In packing up the home, her Granddaughter-in-Law remembered my love of mid-century things and passion for history.  I was graciously given 3 of her vintage ceiling lights, removed from the house prior to the demolition, and the scrapbook.  The lights are very nice, but it is the scrapbook that I really treasure.  Thank you, Mrs. Crabtree.

corner tub in mid centruy bathroom green original bathtub
Here is Mint Green, Black, and beige vintage bathroom with a corner tub that I do like.  Cool flooring in this one! But the bathroom we are redoing is pretty small and I think solid black would make feel too closed in.
yellow and pink 1940s bathroom
Cream and pink bathroom with black stripes. I like the storage cabinet off to the side of the pedestal sink in this one. 
lime green and pink retro orginal 1940s bathroom
Mint Green, pink and brown vintage bathroom. I guess brown was popular in the 1950’s in home decorating. I always just think of Easter Egg colors.
pink and green bathroom
Another bathroom I don’t like the color scheme of.

I used the book to help pick out a color for my vintage couch when I had it reupholstered.  The upholsterer claimed it was not really a vintage color, but I knew better, because this exact color was on a couch, similar in style to mine, in the scrapbook.  I keep going back to the scrapbook for more ideas on decorating and whenever I need to pick a new paint color.  Now, I am using the book again for the inspiration for the bathroom we are currently working on.

Recently, I have begun to scan the images into the computer to preserve them, and eventually, I will need to scan them all because some of the paper the clipping is glued to is starting to break down.  So far, I have only done the bathroom ones, but I plan to do the rest when I have more time

3 thoughts on “Inspiration for a Mid Century Bathroom

  1. Hello!
    So sorry to be what I call, “a little late out of the gate!” But, I found your blog here through a Pinterest post by another apparent enthusiast, from the “Retro Kitchen Images From The 1940’s and 1950’s Scrapbook” post, and I enjoyed very much reading through that one, and this one as well. I will definitely be looking through more!

    I am really into vintage kitchens, #1, and the bathrooms, #2, (just a little, tiny bit less, but not by enough to make an issue of it.) They are my favorite rooms in any house, as almost all their functions are built in from the get-go, not easily removable and changeable like living rooms, dens, family rooms and bedrooms are, which begin as empty shells, waiting for completion by the furnishings that are brought into them on moving day. Does that make sense? Trying to quantify and qualify it is difficult enough to myself, but to try and explain it to others is a whole different ball of wax!

    I have been a vintage bungalow enthusiast/researcher for several years now, and I collect kit home catalogs and vintage plan books and catalogs as well, and have numerous research sites and kit/plan book sites located and saved for research purposes online. I guess I could also qualify easily for membership in the “Floor Plan Porn” club! That’s not nearly as evil as it sounds – but is a commonly used term amongst those of us who thoroughly enjoy seeking out and reading through antique, vintage and MCM floor plan publications every bit as much as those who find themselves attracted to (addicted to) that “other” kind! 😉

    There’s even a special category for New Yorkers who, being unable to actually afford to live in lofty, spacious apartments/co-ops like those built from the 1900’s – 1920’s and 1930’s, most of which have either been completely removed from the landscape, or completely renovated past all possible recognition into “squirrel cages” of insanely diminutive proportions, at equally ridiculous prices, can only satisfy their desires by collecting and perusing the original floor plan publications of the day! Or now, even better, in finding and reading through these plans which have been scanned and posted on the internet!

    While having no desire to live in the latter at all, I can admit to being thoroughly intrigued by the prospect of being able to live comfortably and without concern in a completely equipped apartment, modern by most any standards regarding facilities such as electricity, plumbing, (including piped in ice water), kitchens with complete butler’s pantries, gas or electric ranges, electric refrigeration (not ice boxes), a private bath to each bedroom, or at the very least, a large bath shared between every pair of bedrooms except the Master suite, which had its own attached to a dressing room with ample closets, and included quarters for 2 or 3 servants. All of which took up anywhere from 1/3 to a whole floor of the building in question!

    Be that as it may, my other more definite interests lie here, in vintage “detached” or single, private housing of the early 1920’s to and including the later 40’s, and very early 1950’s, the immediately post war years. I have a considerable collection of American Builders magazines from those years, and including the WWII issues, most informative, which was a monthly trade journal for home builders primarily, (although if you had asked THEM at the time, they would have claimed “THE trade journal” for home builders!) They were run in the early through mid 1920’s by Radford, a prolific architect and publisher of building plans and trades publications for home builders. By 1931, it was under new ownership, and had absorbed a half dozen smaller similar publications, likely due to the Depression, which were listed inside on the masthead. It was called “American Builder and Building Age,” until the title “Building Age” had been included in increasingly smaller type under the “American Builder” title on the cover for about a year and finally was omitted altogether.

    They include wonderful home plans in each issue, and many of the 1920’s issues (the “Radford years”) include color home illustrations, printed kind of like color cartoons in the Sunday papers used to look, with detailed floor plans, and many issues included full small scale blueprints which could actually be used to construct the home being illustrated in that particular issue. The scale of course was smaller than full size blueprints, but they were just as complete. Otherwise, they included at least the floor plans for the living areas, and could be highly detailed. I love these, as they could show all the many features that could be included in the homes of the day, as well as the fact that fully equipped homes which were highly desirable were so much less complicated, and were built on a more useful, usable, easy to care for, “human scale”, not including massive amounts of unusable, wasted, hard to heat spaces like they seem to “need” now.

    And homes with three or four bedrooms had ONE bathroom per house, not one bathroom per bedroom, plus two extra! The very extravagant homes had two, (or maybe even three!) baths on the bedroom level if it were for a two story house, one for the Master bedroom, with the rest for the balance of the “family bedrooms,” (as opposed to accommodations for the live-in maid, which varied in location and inclusion of plumbing fixtures through the years, and with the economic conditions of the day) and a “powder room” (sounds more like part of a munitions factory!) downstairs for guests, some right next to the front door, or the “Lav” back near the kitchen and back door, for the use of the cook, or the children running in from playing outside, or the “backyard gardener!”

    Back to your post!! I noticed that you said you loved the flooring (linoleum) in the first picture, which is all the tans and browns with peach, but not the rest of the room. Granted, as everyone is most certainly entitled to what pleases their artistic soul. I noticed a couple of things not mentioned, though.

    #1 – the image of the flooring looks almost like a “hard tile” pattern, given each individual shape is square or rectangular, not an uneven or swirly or even floral pattern.

    #2 – This means that with a little (?) work, it could be reproduced in ceramic tiles, especially since it is an evenly repeating pattern! You could even alter the color scheme, from all beiges/tans to greens or even blues if you liked.

    #3 – That means, of course, that you wouldn’t have to forgo the flooring pattern at all if it’s something you really loved, and wanted to have in a smaller bathroom, a laundry room or other equally small – say, 6X8 space – in a house. Not an enormous kitchen of course, unless you had help to lay it, and enjoyed trodding along each day on a very hard floor to do such work!

    You also mentioned that even in liking the flooring, you didn’t care for the way the rest of the bathroom was done, colorwise. I must admit that it’s altogether too much “brown” for me in that respect, I might lighten or brighten it up with some kind of accents, perhaps a little more peach, but I’m not too good at imagining such things. Perhaps substituting in some kind of pine green, or other rich, full color in there within the lighter tans?

    That next one, of the BRILLIANT lime/emerald green and navy blue 😲 scheme, is just too “TO” for my tastes at all! Everytime I look at it, it makes my eyes hurt! 🤤 Perhaps, I’m sure, there are others who find it appealing, but…….😣

    The mint green, black and beige has definite possibilities! I’m not too sure about how the colors actually blend well with the flooring though. You’re right about the black actually “shrinking” the visual floor area, too. But, I like the design, and that central pattern cut into the flooring is intriguing. I understand those pattern cut outs were done at the factory with their precision die cutters, and then transported 🚛 to a trained installer for permanent installation, eliminating the possibility of errors if cut by hand, of course. Some could, of course, be hand cut on site, by an experienced installer, and frequently were. But, with specialty stuff like this, the installer had to be extra careful, as those pieces were only cut once, and if they got messed up at the point of installation, had to be recut (at the installer’s expense, of course!) by the factory, and reshipped, for reinstallation! They had a catalog including “stock patterns” but of course for a fee, 💰could do about any custom design you could dream up. Anything for the right fee! 😉

    These are all great in their own right, even if a few only illustrate patterns, and color schemes which were popular back then. Or might have been available, if someone was intrigued by their own design ideas.

    An especially heartfelt “Thank you” goes to Mrs. Verna Mae Crabtree, who not only assembled this wonderful collection, but kept it through all the years that followed, even though their popularity may have faded over the intervening decades. The loss of her home, under such circumstances, surely was extremely traumatic, and I’m so sorry she was put through such an experience. It can certainly illustrate the overbearing power of heartless government policy makers, when people’s homes are felt to be less valuable than the oncoming corporate profit collectors who put them in harm’s way. No matter what their motivations for stealing them under the name of “eminent domain,” people’s homes, in which they had invested their whole lives and families should always be paramount. I’m not talking about slum clearance, where the living conditions had become unhealthy and unlivable, and which were replaced with clean, healthy, modern homes *for those same people.* That’s not it at all. Im sure you understand my meaning.

    And another Thank You goes to you as well, for sharing so much of her scrapbook on your blog! I know all that scanning, cropping, editing, etc., that goes into publishing these images isn’t easy! But, I hope you feel it’s worth it, because you’ve given a lot of enjoyment to people who have found and read through all of them! And I hope you get them all done, if you haven’t yet! The papers these pictures get glued to certainly wasn’t produced with the best techniques or materials to enable them to last for a very long time, given that they tend to deteriorate after such a long time. Getting them scanned may not be permanent either, given that we have no idea at this point where technology in the future may take us. But, at least they’re in such a place, scanned in, that they should hopefully be easy to transfer to the next level when it becomes necessary in the future. And in the meantime, we all get to enjoy the fruits of your and Mrs. Crabtree’s labors, beginning so many years ago!

    1. My goodness! I have found a kindred spirit! My husband has been trying to talk me into redoing my bathroom for several years now. And every time we enter a box store for inspiration, I am completely deflated. But then I began revisiting my collection of 1950s (‘s) home magazines and inspiration hit! I am completely fired up about a pink tile bathroom. This research led me to your site. Thank you so much! I am very envious of your beautiful scrap book.

I would love to know what you think about this.

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