Choosing Vintage Tile

Choosing Vintage Tile

Last week I had to stop vacillating and finally make a decision in order to buy the retro colored tile for our mid century bathroom renovation and begin tiling.  When it comes to making any kind of big ticket purchase or long term decisions, I ponder over them for days, weeks, or even months, rather than easily choosing.  Tile fits under both of those categories.  It didn’t help that the tile manufacturer, B & W Tile, had plenty of different authentic colors from the 1930s through 1970s to choose from.  If I could, I would use every one of these colors of tile, each in different room in my house, but I also live in Earthquake country and I might be asking for trouble if I did that. To see some of the retro tiled bathroom photos and clippings I collected for inspiration, click here.

Below are the color samples I came home with almost a year ago, plus a few extra green tiles I picked up last week.  I narrowed it down to tile colors used pre-1950 that B & W Tile still made in their Gardena (Los Angeles) factory and had in stock.

A pretty vintage pink tile. Some folks might call this color Mamie Eisenhower Pink or Pepto pink. It pink # 70 at B & W tile.
A great shade of vintage blue, blue #26. It has the slightest hint of green to it.
This is blue #20. It is kind of like Wedgewood or soft baby blue.
Blue #20 next to Blue #26. There is only a slight difference in color.
Light Green retro color tile, green #40. This is the original color tile once used in our hall bathroom. Sadly, the previous home owner jutted it in the 1970s.  We found remnants of it where the bathroom floor met the hardwood.
Another nice shade of green tile, green #26. This one is slightly darker than the one above.
This green retro tile didn’t have a number, just called JADE. I thought the two greens that have shading in the glaze would look stunning in a craftsman style house.
This green retro colored tile didn’t have a color number, just called KIWI.
All four shades of vintage green tiles in 4 x 4 size
A vintage color of yellow tile, yellow #30. I would call this color Banana yellow.
The rainbow of tile colors I had to choose from. All these shades, plus grey, peachy-orange, and burgundy, were commonly found in our housing track before folks started riping out all the vintage features.

And the winner is…

Black and Blue Tile. I decided to buy Blue #20. Sorry for the poor focus, but once it is all in, I will make sure to get a good picture.

I went back in last week and purchased the tile for the counter and tub surround.  There were a few weird shaped pieces I had to special order.  At the same time, I pick out a few extra of the green colors to use in the laundry room.  Hopefully I don’t take as long to decide the tile color for that room as I did in the bathroom.

B & W Tile does make slightly different shades of these colors, but all the others have to be special ordered, and it costs more and adds lead time.  Most of these colors I took home ranged in price from $4 to $11 a sq ft for the 4 x 4 tiles.  They also had all these colors in hex tiles and matte finish.  B & W sells clearance boxes of “C” grade tile as low as $0.99 a sq ft., but since I have to live with this tile for who knows how long, and most will be at easily seen, I opted for “standard” or “A” grade tile only.


3 thoughts on “Choosing Vintage Tile

  1. I love your site, it is fun! I am 71 and I love art nouveau, in tiles — or in anything. We have owned our ranch style house since 1971. It is a skinny house with only a 17 foot depth back yard—but it in long. I grew up in a interesting house, except it was never updated properly==so I asked God for a ranch and that is what I got! Gotta be careful what you pray for. However, I have spent most of my time in creating a very different ranch!

  2. No, I didn’t have to buy the 4 x 4s. They gave them to me. The customer service at the Gardena store is friendly and helpful. I am sure it is the same at the Riverside and Lake Elsinore is similar. If you need to replace a few old tiles, it is a good place to start.

  3. Lianne:

    Thanks for all these photos and the lead on B & W tile. I have vintage
    tile in my kitchen, those tiny hexagonal ones plus an odd green that I have never seen anywhere…it’s between mint and one of your colors. Since my house was built in 1946, I suppose B & W would have a perfect match. Did you have to buy all those 4 x 4s?


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