Photo Tour of Our Retro Blue Bathroom

Photo Tour of Our Retro Blue Bathroom

The retro bathroom remodel we have been working on, kind of off and on for the last year, is finally finished! Our reinvented early 1940’s bathroom included walling up the doorway to the laundry room, lots of framing, breaking through the opposite wall and opening it into our bedroom, jackhammering out part of a concrete slab under the floor to make room for drains, insulating, updating all the electrical & plumbing, adding venting, adding the cast iron tub, moving the sink & toilet, and laying lots of tiles.  Along the way, we tried to make it as green as we could afford to do.  In retrospect, it was appropriate that we picked “black and blue” for the color scheme since a lot of muscle aches, bruises, sleepless nights, and frustration went into doing almost all of the work ourselves.  It is the color of pain.  However, now the bathroom is a pleasure.

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We finished the retro bathroom remodel just before school started, but we have been so busy with other things, I neglected to show it off on my blog, let alone give any tours to friends.  I was planning to show it off after I got around to giving it a few decorative touches, nevertheless, here it is “As Is”…

vintage 1940's bathroom make over face lift ideas and design
The room is so small I can not get a good angle to get much of it in one photo. The toilet and cabinet can be seen in this first picture.

The before photos are toward the end of the post.

Items in the New Mid Century Bathroom include:

  • The Sink and Cast Iron Tub are from Kohler. The design is called memoirs. The sink is a porcelain drop in one * that we built up the tile around it. The tub has an apron on it that we also tiled in around. My husband is over 6 ft tall, so we got a long tub. It has a slightly textured finish to prevent slipping. The Memoirs tub can be found here. We bought our tub at homedepot and the sink at lowes.
  • The wedgewood blue tile is from B&W Tile in Gardena California.
  • The cabinet is a prefab cabinet that I added pieces on to in order to give it a built-in look.
  • The Faucet on the sink * is solid brass cover with chrome from Hans Vigner/ Barclay Faucets. It was made in Brazil. The faucet is no longer available due to changes in California codes. I linked to an almost identical looking mid century faucet at Amazon.
  • The tub fixtures have a chrome finish and the model is called Kingsley from Moen that came from Amazon. However, what we really like about it is the Moentrol valve to control both the temperature and pressure. Most Moen showers come standard with a Posi temp shower that adjustments can not be made to the volume of water coming out. A similar one is in our hall bathroom and we absolutely love the feature. Whenever we stay somewhere else, we miss being able to each have it at our favorite setting.
mid century batrhroom design
This was about as much as I could fit in one photo of the vintage black and blue tile bathroom since it is so small. The shower handle / tub spout and black ceramic tile soap dish can be seen in this picture. Also, you can get an idea how small the bathroom is since the sink cabinet is right there on the left of the toilet.
looking into the details of the mid century bathroom makeover
Mid-century bathroom make-over. Looking in from the bedroom to the vintage black and blue-tiled sink cabinet.

The 1950s vintage wall sconces are new from Rejuvenation Hardware.

retro vintage bathroom in blue
The vintage toothbrush holder came from B & W Tile and matched the rest of the black and blue tile countertop.
mid century bath room cabinet drawer pulls
1940’s Streamline drawer pulls/ handles on the sink cabinet
mid centuiry modern bathroom
A porcelain black duplex outlet cover was chosen to blend in with the rest of the tile and black liner trim. We were able to find duplex covers, but finding the kind that fit the double GFCI outlets was the hardest thing to find for the whole project.
ceramic wall scones in mid century bathroom
Pair of 1930s Black Streamline reproduction porcelain light fixtures from Rejuvenation lighting flank the arched medicine cabinet mirror.
vintage looking toto toilet mid century bathroom makeover
The style of the Toto round front Promenade toilet seemed to fit in with the 1940s look we were going for. We were a bit limited in our choices because we wanted a toilet with a really low flow flush at 1.28 gpf, but also had a good rating from both plumbers and homeowners. This Toto was smaller in scale than the elongated toilets so it worked out good for our small bathroom. The pinwheel tile floor and border can also be seen in this picture. I found the 1950s crystal looking Lucite tissue box at local thrift store for a $1.25.
tub tiile recessed shelf
This is probably one of my favorite things in the bathroom: the tiled in the shelf at the back of the tub. It wasn’t part of our original design plan, but since the tub was 60 inches and the space for it was 65 inches, we had extra space to build a shelf at the back. I like that we don’t have to have any extra wire racks to hang the shampoo bottles, razors, and tub extras on. And this is the side we keep the shower curtain on so it is all hidden. There is also a detail of the pinwheel mosaic tile floor.
1950's bathroom decorations poodle pictures
I haven’t finished the decoration part of the project, but I figure it will give me something fun to shop or make later on. So far we only have our framed collection of vintage travel posters from the 1950s on the bathroom above the towels. Vintage travel posters. They show some of the places we would have gone had we not been home working on our bathroom.
window tiled into tub area retro bathroom
This tiled in window in the bathtub was a big dilemma for us. We went back and forth on how to address the light and ventilation issues in the bathroom. We really didn’t want to keep a window in the wet part of the shower, but other than have no window, or do a big addition instead of a remodel, we had no choice but to do it this way. We do also have a vent fan over the toilet so we don’t have to have the window open all the time.
vintage door reused cafe swing door
our original 1944 kitchen door that was salvaged and stored in the garage for 40 years. We think it was removed from the house about the same time the bathroom and laundry room addition was built, based on the paint colors it had. It matches all the other 3-panel oak doors in the house. We chemically stripped off the many layers of paint and removed the double swinging door hardware to make it into a bathroom door.

The bathroom has all the basics, and we really enjoy having our own bathroom open into the bedroom.  Eventually, I will get around to adding some cute decorative 1940’s and 1950’s accents, but for now, we love it even just as it is.

Well, that’s about it for the pictures of the new “Old Bathroom.” However, for those of you who are curious about what we started with, it was very different from what you see in the above photos.  I apologize to those of you who appreciate 1970s design and hate to see it destroyed.  Below is the old 1970s bathroom that we completely gutted.  On the bright side, not all of it was wasted.  A lot of it got a new life somewhere out there via craigslist, Habitat for Humanity’s Restore, and a local shelter’s thrift store.  However, for nostalgia, I had to keep one thing; I kept the recessed toilet paper holder.  It is now mounted on the side of the black and blue sink cabinet in the “new” bathroom.

1980's bathroom avocado sink
Before Picture – The 1973 bathroom addition in 1998. It looked almost identical when we started our project, except I had painted the faux wood paneling in the room a sage color to soften the look of avocado cultured marble sink, and I painted the cabinet white. Where the mirror and shelf to the right of the sink is where the new doorway to our room is.
before and after retro renovation of bathroom
Before picture – This is a view looking to where the tub now sits. To the right of the toilet is where our water heater was before we installed the tankless water heater two years ago.
Before Picture _ This was the view from the laundry room to the back bathroom. It was really dark in there before. This doorway is now gone and where the sink is in the picture is now where the towel rack and door to our bedroom are.

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25 thoughts on “Photo Tour of Our Retro Blue Bathroom

  1. Wow! such an amazing sense of managing bathroom. As a professional plumber I really like it and through this I also get new ideas for managing the space of bathroom.

    1. We bought a prefab cabinet at Builder Surplus in Costa Mesa. But we wanted a custom size so we made it a few inches wider and tried to match our original one in other bathroom. I added a footer to it and filler strip on the left side. I also added an extra few inches to the right side to accommodated the recessed toilet paper holder. I hope that is helpful.

  2. It looks amazing!! I had forgotten how really ugly the 70’s and 80’s even 90’s bathrooms and other rooms really were! I grew up in a house built in 1960. It had 4 bathrooms. The Pink (& white), the Blue (& white), the Yellow (& brown) all with white grout. The “cabana” bathroom near the pool was blue & white. All ceramic tile. We had built in cabinets & sinks. The sink in the Pink bathroom was white and the counters in all were formica with sparkles ( pink, blue etc). The wallpaper was ‘flocked’ velvet designs. I remember the pink had maroon fleur-de-lis. The floor had ceramic tile but my dad put this fuzzy rubber-backed ‘bathroom’ carpet on top of it. There was a fuzzy tank cover and soft plastic covered foam toilet seats. Medium oak baseboards and lightly frosted glass doors on tracks. I wish I had photos. …definitely qualify as ugly. .. but childhood memories refuse to hate. 🙂 The rental I live in has pink tile w/mint green trim, same floor as yours in green, light & dark, heavy pine wood stained doors for linen closet & entry door with crystal (plastic) knobs. Pink sink/toilet, green tub! Long ‘floating’glass shelf, the sink is on aluminum legs (wish it had a cabinet or pedestal!). I’m not sure how old this house is, I estimate mid-fifties. I had a house in the 80’s with wood toilet seats..Oak cabinet, dark baseboards, ‘marble’ tub alcove, I thought it was fabulous, ew. I like this bathroom better. I wish I had photos of all as I think you’d enjoy them. I Have photos of this rental home. My family home was bulldozed in 2000, never updated.
    Thanks for sharing your story. As a Baby Boomer born in 1960 lately all things retro and nostalgic resonate loudly. 🙂 Diana ♡

  3. Pingback: Bathroom Remodel | Yorkvillevent Interior
  4. Hi Lianne,
    I love your tile choices!
    I’m rejuvenating our 1947 bathroom & thank goodness we have the original wall tile (& I think I found a match for the damaged ones at World of Tile, amazingly) but need a new floor. Could you please let me know who made the pinwheel tile & is it glazed or unglazed?

    Thanks & by the way, I have the same pulls in my kitchen!


    1. Replying to myself. I apologize for missing the “what’s in our retro bathroom” note at the top

    2. Hi Cara, the pinwheel floor tiles were made by American Olean. They are porcelain with a matte/unglazed finish. I bought it at Lowes. My mom wanted to buy the exact same tile this past Spring. Apparently they have it only in a ceramic tile now, but we found her an identical black and white porcelain mosaic floor tile at B & W tile here in the Los Angeles area, but i don’t think they were the manufacturer. It could have also been an American Olean product.
      I hope you didn’t have to replace too many old tiles. I have heard World of Tile is super pricy for vintage replacement tile pieces. Best wishes with your 1940’s bathroom remodel.

  5. Hi! I’m late to the party here but…beautiful work on the bathroom remodel! I live in a small, modest 1941 bungalow with its original speckled butter yellow tiled bathroom (sadly, pretty spartan with no contrasting accent tile) and the whitest, white on white original kitchen I’ve ever seen! I was so surprised to see that you have the exact same super-awesome ‘streamline’ chrome cabinet hardware in your bathroom as I have in my kitchen!
    As you can see from the picture, the cabinet door handles are more of an upside down teardrop shape (not symmetrical) but the coordinating drawer pulls are exactly the same as yours. Where on earth did you find these?! I must know. I’m wanting to add a built-in corner cabinet to match my existing kitchen, and I would love to match this incredibly stylish and unique hardware.

    1. My God-mother has the same butter yellow specked tile you described in her late 1950’s kitchen. The tile store near me still carries it in a few colors, including yellow. I think it’s really pretty.

      I love your cabinet hardware from the pic. If I remember correctly, I think I bought my drawer pulls on etsy. They were from a vintage hardware reseller, but it could have been ebay. I bought vintage hardware from both places when I was working on my laundry room and bathroom. I’ll have to go back and check my records. I have seen the same streamline pulls show up at both ebay and etsy, multiple times while working on our bathroom. I would say check in once a week at both places and some will get listed for sale eventually. The lot I bought was for 12, but some of them were rusted. Enough were in good shape for my bathroom cabinet project.

      Best wishes with matching some for your new kitchen cabinet. And thanks for stopping in for a visit at my blog.

  6. I can’t not leave an essay… I’m hip deep in my 1938 colonial (1 owner!) and just finished the demo of the original bath. Sadly the plumbers gutted the joists so the whole thing was crumbling into the kitchen below and it all had to go. I’m going ultramodern with the new bath there. But, the awful ~1980 1/2 bath on the first floor is going to be my art deco centerpiece. This winter I landed a near-pristine sea foam green skirted tub and matched ming green 1941 pedestal sink and toilet. Now I have about a year to pick the other colors and tile.

    Your collection of pics is great for ideas on tile patterns. I’m leaning toward tumbled white marble hex for the floor, and kinda have to have black borders. But what accent color to warm the place up? I don’t mind the yellow but I’ll have to keep looking for inspiration. Red would be Christmasy, more green would be overwhelming, white would be boring, blue isn’t enough contrast, all black walls would be depressing.

    I work in a nonprofit building material store and am a veteran scrounger so I’ve been able to source quite a bit of this on a modest budget. Haunt your local place, chat the people up, take road trips out of state to look for stuff. Ebay can be a boon if it’s close enough to drive to.

    And on a personal note, did anyone gut their bathroom and find antique beer cans in the walls? I’m a collector and am still crushed that my walls were empty. Cheers.

    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog and I am glad you like my retro bathroom. Installing the tile was definitely a labor of love. I hope you found some inspiration for your vintage bathroom.

  7. Hi – I love your bathroom! Thanks for posting details on your remodel. I have a 1949 home and amazingly it still has the original bath (yellow & jade tile) and kitchen (baby blue & white tile) – original fixtures, cabinets, tile.. Due some damage and functional issues, I’m getting ready to do some repairs and replacing – starting with the bathroom. I’m sticking with the esthetics of the period and keeping what I can, but need to replace the bath vanity. I really like the one you added to your blue bathroom – can I ask where you got it? I’m looking for a 40 to 42″ width and no more than 19″ depth. I see Lowes has something similar from KraftMaid that I can have tile topped, but I like your much better.

    1. Thanks for the compliments! I am really happy with how the sink turned out, too. I search for the best cabinet for a long time but could not find the perfect one. I ended up getting our wooden bathroom sink cabinet at a local SoCal place called Builders Surplus. They had 19″ depth and 22″ depth. The width size choices were 24″, 30″, 36″, 42″, 48″, 54″, 60″, and 72″. Ours was actually a very plain 42″ unfinished maple cabinet that I added an extra 4 inches of wood trim on the sides and some on the bottom to give it a built in style. We needed a 46″ cabinet but could not find one. The added extra wood panels gave me the room to put in the original recessed toilet paper holder to it that had been in the 1970s bathroom. Its one of the few things we salvaged and reused. Best wishes for you bathroom updates. I love the combination of yellow and jadite green tile in 1950’s bathrooms.

  8. Hello!
    I can’t believe I found this post. I have a bathroom exactly like the one you ended up with here, except it’s original to our 1953 house. Unfortunately, someone replaced the original sink and toilet, and probably the mirror and light fixtures, which look rather 80s, but we have the original pinwheel floor tile and blue and black wall tile–just like yours. The only difference is the floor tile is ALSO blue, albeit a lighter shade, and our shower surround is a hideous resin river tile atrocity that we think was a retrofit (although one plumber swears it is original and “all the rage” in the 50s and that our sink probably matched.)

    Anyway, all that to say–thank you for the inspiration! we want to restore this bath to its former glory rather than gut it. Just having trouble visualizing the right finishes, paint colors, etc., and this helps. What color did you use on the walls, btw?

    1. Thanks for the compliments. I would love to see a picture of your bathroom, either before and/or after you finish. I love old bathrooms and kitchens in original condition. Your floor must be amazingly beautiful with blue. When I redo the floor in my hall bathroom (it is 1980’s vinyl right now) I want to do pinwheel tile again, but with white with yellow or green. I hope I can find it.

      The paint color of my bathroom looks white in the pictures, but it is actually a light blue. I had two days to paint it and couldn’t decide on anything more creative at the time. The name is Mineral Wate, Behr Premium Plus 540C-1. To pick it, I got a bunch of the blueish sample swatches with three or four colors on it. Once I found my tile color on a swatch, I picked the lightest shade on that same swatch. Behr 540C-3 looked just like my tile, so 540C-1 matched nicely. It compliments the bathroom tile perfectly without being a distraction, and it looks good with medium shade of blue towels for a monochromatic look or with red towels for a big pop of color.


  9. Love your bathroom and especially the lights on each side of the vanity mirror. I have blue tile in our bathroom in master bedroom. I am going to keep it now. Our house was built in 1969 and the hall bath has green tub and sage green and white floor , I like the retro look.
    Really enjoyed your post.

  10. hey! came across this post when searching the web for 1940’s style bathrooms. we have to remodel the bathroom in our 1941 cottage and so many contractors told us getting a retro look was going to be really hard but this post has totally given me inspiration! They had me looking at tons of ugly counter top options, but I think we’re going for a tile one like this now. i’m really glad to have found this. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. Super cute! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black and blue tiled bathroom before, but it looks great. We’re back living in So Cal again, so I’m really happy to find your blog. I looked awhile back, and couldn’t find your blog. Maybe it was during your transition from to I thought I’d lost this great resource. I treasure your knowledge about gardening and edible landscaping and hen keeping for this area!

    1. Hi Donna,

      I remember you mentioning on Fatherst Oceans back in Setpember that you were returning to the states. Welcome back, (a lot belated!) However, I am sure you miss the Philippines and your work there in many ways .

      I am glad you were able to find my blog again. And I appreciate your kind words on my gardening knowledge. The transition from was a little bumpy, so you didn’t miss too much. Even now, I still find broken a link or two that I missed and have to go back and fix.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

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