Need some ideas for my 1950's bathroom restore

DreamingoftheUPMarch 1, 2014

I've got a 1957 tract home with a green tile bathroom. It had a minor facelift in the late 80's or early 90's. There are some things I don't like about it (list below) and am contemplating a practical (not historically accurate) restore and hope other forum members can give me their thoughts and ideas.

Basic summary: I like the tile color. The 1990 face lift stripped the vanity's blond stain revealing birch doors but pine facing. Round chrome pulls were replaced with white porcelain pulls and chrome faucets replaced with the white porcelain type popular at the time. The counter was replaced with white Corian and an integral oval sink. The original was a Formica top in a yellow faux marble pattern with a stainless steel band around the edge. The original sink was a square china one mounted with the stainless steel band on top. Walls above the tiles had a yellow sea shell pattern wall paper. Will post pictures below this post.

What I'm considering:
1. The wall opposite the shower head leaks due to cracked grout and gaps in the caulk. It is only being used as a tub right now (showers are taken in the second bath). I'd like to be able to use the shower. Originally, thought to replace the tub surround with some sort of solid surface, matching the counter (see below) while keeping the old tile in the rest of the room. Now, not so sure. The Mr. Grout type companies claim to work wonders re-grouting, sealing and re-caulking to eliminate all leaks. Has anyone had success with those companies?

2. Walls - strip the wall paper and paint instead - what color? All white? Try going to light yellow for the 50's look?

3. Floor - cleaning & sealing by a Mr. Grout type company.

4. Vanity - Reface with wood veneer and replace cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Go with a flatter panel for the fronts. What finish? Rest of house is honey oak type finish. Thoughts? Do something different with the vanity?

5. Counter - I really dislike it as it is now. It reminds me of a doctor's office. Replace it with what? Corian? Quartz? Go with a white marble type look? Try going back to the original yellow marble look? Go with green? Originally thought to use the same material as a tub surround, but now not sure.

6. Sink, toilet - The Kohler Memoirs Stately models seem to make a nice match to the existing lines of the tub. For sink, was thinking of the top mount stately version but with widespread faucets.

Contemporary Toilets by Kohler Kitchen & Bath Fixtures Kohler

Contemporary Bathroom Sinks by Chico Kitchen & Bath Fixtures
7. Faucets - All chrome. Wanted something squared off, less round. The Kohler Memoirs faucets would do the trick but am open to other ideas. Replace the two handle tub filler with a thermostatic valve with tub spout, shower head & hand shower. I've got a box of spare tiles in the attic.

Contemporary Bathroom Faucets by Kohler Kitchen & Bath Fixtures Kohler
8. Window - keep the glass block window but replace the original hopper window (aluminum frame, single pane of glass) with white vinyl window. Window treatment ? take the curtains down? Only a valance on top? Shower curtain - replace with a curved rod and white curtain.

9. Lighting - add a recessed light to the tub alcove (there is access to the attic above). Ceiling fixture and bath bar above the mirror - keep what I have or go with something in chrome with straight lines?

Contemporary Bathroom Lighting And Vanity Lighting by Schaumburg Lighting Littman Bros Lighting

Contemporary Bathroom Lighting And Vanity Lighting by Schaumburg Lighting Littman Bros Lighting

Contemporary Ceiling Lighting by Chico Kitchen & Bath Fixtures

10. Medicine cabinet - keep. In excellent shape, interior has glass shelves and a razor slot which I use! Original ceiling exhaust fan is in excellent shape and very quiet.

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Time to bare all. Please be gentle. :)
I'm going to do this in separate posts; don't want to use a hosting site.

General view:

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:20PM
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    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:21PM
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I really like the lines on this tub. This model pops up a lot in American Standard ads from the 40's and 50's.

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Sat, Mar 1, 14 at 15:40

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:22PM
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Towards the shower head and tub filler.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:23PM
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I really like the low rise arch in the shower alcove. The ceiling in the alcove is lower than the ceiling in the rest of the room.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:25PM
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Vanity & medicine cabinet.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:26PM
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My American Standard Cadet toilet. It works but is a water hog. Unfortunately, the base is cracked starting at one of the bolts. Luckily it doesn't leak. It also has squared off lines and the line on the tank cover. Not many modern day toilets have square lines.

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Sat, Mar 1, 14 at 15:36

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:28PM
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Regarding the existing colors, the pictures seem to exaggerate the grass green of the floor vs. the blueish green of the tiles. They actually fit together better than the pictures would indicate. Previously, I had the walls & ceiling in the tub alcove, the ceiling of the room and the baseboard radiator painted a mint green to match the tile trim. It seemed kind of dark, so I went back to white. The window faces north.

The ground color of the wall tile is the same green as the trim tile at the top and bottom, however it has a sprinkle of black (almost like pepper) throughout.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:34PM
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My 2 cents worth - just ideas for you to ponder:
1. Create new thread for Mongoct showing close and personal shots of the grout and caulk. Ask his op - repair or replace.
2. Paint walls white - you can always change it. Add color with towels, etc.
3. Ask Mongoct.
4. Paint vanity white and get new hardware. I think the wood look doesn't fit.
5. Keep Corian counter and install drop in sink.
6. I don't care for oval sink in this bath. I like Kohler Memoirs Stately or Regular sink. Toto Promenade is an alternative - it is a tad more rounded.
7. Nice choice. Don't spend any more time looking for another faucet.
8, Go with a white shutter.
9. Please get rid of the current vanity light! Either bar light - they have different attitudes. Like the ceiling light.

This post was edited by Anna_in_TX on Sat, Mar 1, 14 at 16:31

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 4:03PM
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I LOVE the one chrome bar light (the first one!).

I'm so happy you aren't tearing out all the tile! And that tub! Love it.

I agree - paint the vanity to reduce the color clash.

Good luck & have fun!
Always ;-)

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 4:39PM
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I love your tile. I would paint the vanity or stain it dark. Maybe adding a pattern to pull the teal and dark stained vanity together with a rug or art? Not sure this is the right rug, but the colors are nice for your space.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 4:45PM
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Thanks for the responses. Lots of good ideas & suggestions!

I'll create a separate post regarding the grout in the wall tiles and floor.

Shutters for window treatment would be nice. The only problem, though, is that it's a hopper window (opening to the inside) which would interfere with shutters. I've got a thread going in the Windows forum asking about replacing it (the hopper only, not all the glass blocks) since it's a metal frame with only a single pane of glass. One suggestion was to use an awning window (opening outwards). That would eliminate the interference problem.

I hadn't thought about painting the vanity. Good suggestion. Will have to think about that. If I did that, don't think I'd keep the white Corian - in my mind the entire vanity and top would be this white monolith. Maybe something like the picture below instead - white top with some other color mixed in with a white vanity?

@hunzi - Yes, that first bath bar light with the strong horizontal lines is my favorite. I've got a few more on the candidate list however. When the time comes closer, I'll post all of them for opinions. And yes, I really like the tub. It's in excellent shape (no chips or stains), only dull from countless years of scrubbing with cleanser, but I can live with that.

@gmp3 - Paint or dark vanity - I'll have to ponder that! Glad you like the tile. The tub & tile are the room. That's true, could pull colors together with a rug or wall art. Lot's to think about.

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Sun, Mar 2, 14 at 19:49

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 6:10PM
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I can't figure out the wall tile and floor tile color, but if you don't want to paint the vanity white how about painting it a coordinating color, maybe a bluish green, grey, light green, creamy?
Or go dark, like charcoal, very dark brown, or black?

Also, check out the link below for the makeover. Looks like very similar colors.

Here is a link that might be useful: minty green bathroom makeover

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 4:10PM
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If you're staying with a shower curtain, get an arched curtain rod. It would even go well with your arched encasement above the shower!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 4:53PM
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I also have a vintage 50's bathroom. I like to keep it that way. My cabinets have those same doors.

I never thought I would say this but I think it would look better with less tile. I love ceramic tile but tile above the mirror? Reminds me of a powder room at the cinema. It is just excessive. I would remove all the tile on the wall behind the bathroom door. It is an unpleasant distraction. I think the rest of the tile should stop at three tile lengths above the counter top of the vanity.

As to the window you say it has glass blocks but I cannot see them. I think this window would be fine with no curtains, If you want privacy there is a film to put on glass that makes it opaque. I love glass blocks yet I have none.

I like the first two lights you pictured. They look 50's to me.

The sink you posted looks fine.

I think a clear vinyl shower curtain would be better than fabric. I used fabric for many years and on a whim (since I found an unopened package at the thrift store) put up a clearish vinyl shower curtain. It has a geometric design that makes it not see-through. It has improved the look very much. I wish I had done it years ago but I was biased against vinyl. I thought it was tacky.

What is with the bathroom door? Is that natural wood or just an unfortunate color choice. Even if it is natural wood it does not match the vanity.I think vanity and door should be painted the same color. Drawer pulls and knobs should be chrome. I like the floor covering as you say it combines well with the wall tile. On my screen they look incompatible.

I hope I did not offend too much.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 6:54PM
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Looking at your photos, the red flag that comes to me is that shower alcove (where the tiles aren't). It looks like drywall. Drywall and water, do not mix. You may discover that behind that tiled wall, is mold and wet drywall.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:37PM
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Wow, more to think about! Thanks nosoccermom! Those ideas and links are excellent.

Tibbrix - yes, I wanted to go with a curved rod. Found the Moen version linked to below.

emmarene - no offense taken. Preference and taste is subjective; what works for one doesn't work for another. I really like the medicine cabinets. There are two there - one on either end. The center mirror panel is fixed.

Yes, the tile around the entire room is very old fashioned - maybe even more 30's and 40's than 50's but I'd never take it down!! Contemporary bathrooms these days seem to either be minimalist (shower surround and vanity backsplash) OR do the entire room floor to ceiling.

The door is a standard hollow-core birch slab which has varnish, no doubt yellowed over the years. I'm in the process of changing all the trim and doors in the house to oak. However, when I get to the bathroom, I suppose painting the bathroom side would be a possibility. The rest of the house will just have urethane oak trim and doors. The homes in this development came standard with birch doors, pine trim throughout, except the kitchens which have birch trim and birch cabinets. Some of the homes upgraded to oak trim, doors and cabinets throughout. Unfortunately, my vanity face is neither birch nor oak but pine. Will go with chrome hardware on the vanity.

Interesting to consider vinyl for a shower curtain. Have to think about that one. Was considering fabric under the assumption it's easy to just throw it in the washer if it gets ratty.

You mentioned not seeing the glass block. I posted the picture below in the Windows forum for advice. I'm keeping the glass blocks but would like to replace the hopper window with a white vinyl hopper. The current one has an aluminum frame with a single pane of glass. Cold in winter.

The glass block in my house is another neat mid-century feature. I've got this 5x4 bathroom window, two 4x3 windows in my living room and a 3x4 window in the stairwell going down to the basement. They all use 8"x8" glass block in the "Argus" pattern with perpendicular flutes. This pattern is still made by Corning glass today. It is sufficiently obscure such that a curtain is optional.

Here is a link that might be useful: Moen Curved Shower Rod

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:50PM
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Actually, canuckplayer, it's plaster, which I suppose is worse! It definitely is not wet; don't know about mold. The reason I know it isn't wet is because the shower has not been used for over 20 years. The last time it was used, it leaked into the basement. Thereafter, showers were only taken in the second bathroom. The tub here was only used for baths.

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Tue, Mar 4, 14 at 22:59

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:52PM
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Love the window. I wouldn't cover it up. If you want to do a valance, you could have it match the shower curtain.

I love your tile all the way around the room including the mirror - I think it really adds to the period look.

If you have to end up replacing the tub/shower walls, can you salvage the tile so you can to reuse it? If not enough for the whole wall, maybe enough for an accent strip and use a new lighter green tile? And then paint your vanity that lighter green color? I like the idea of painting the vanity green.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 3:44AM
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Anna - I have a good tile guy and will have to call him in for an opinion - maybe remove a few courses from the bottom, rebuild the wall completely and reuse the tile.

If that's not possible and only a full wall rebuild can be done - I don't know. I assume most of the tile could be salvaged but there would, no doubt, be breakage just from the removal process. I have to take inventory on how many spares I actually have. However, if it went that far, that's where I'm coming full circle. My original thought had been to remove the tile in the alcove and replace it with solid surface - for example, the Corian Cilantro color below, although I haven't looked into other brands and their greenish colors. I know Corian certainly isn't 50's, but it would significantly reduce maintenance. Then I wondered if the same material should be used for the vanity top to match - but from all the suggestions, I see that would not be necessary.

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Wed, Mar 5, 14 at 7:39

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 7:37AM
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The window is stunning. I agree with Anna, it shouldn't be covered.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 7:44AM
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Also, if 4x4 tile is a must to maintain the look, Pam at retro renovation has some sources. There seem to be some very close matches - to the clear trim tile, not the pepper tile which makes up most of the wall. As a last resort, there's Quarry Tile Company in Spokane which does custom matches, but I'd hate to ask how expensive that would be. It would be cheaper to just remove all the tile in the room and start over.

Here is a link that might be useful: Retro Renovation Tile Sources

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:08AM
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I personally like the tile behind the mirror and higher up the wall, but I wonder if you could use some of these tiles to use in the shower wall in the alcove, ideally going ceiling high. Maybe add an accent stripe if necessary.
Is there a chance that the leaks in the shower did not only come from cracked grout but from the shower head pipe and/or plaster wall?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:25PM
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The leaks didn't come from the shower head/ faucet side but on the opposite end, which is an outside wall. The water was dripping directly underneath down the basement wall.

I've scoped out a couple of pro tile installation/repair companies and will have them come in to check it out and provide estimates to clean the floor and repair the shower. Finally got up to the attic to get the spare tile. Fortunately, I've got about 70 brand new wall tiles which the original owner had left behind. Gathering dust for over half a century but am glad to have them!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:08PM
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Good thing some people hold on to their stuff for decades :)

Please keep us updated about your progress.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 12:00PM
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I did some minor rehab on my old, green bathroom when selling the house. This bath was in the basement and I didn't want to break the bank to freshen it up.

Left all the green tile. Had the green tub resurfaced white. Tore out the double vanity and replaced with a floor model vanity with a piece of marble for the top. Painted the walls white, replaced the green toilet with a white one.

It worked and the house sold.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:58PM
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Thanks, jany_ny!! The exact same color scheme I have!! Even the same model American Standard tub (although I have white, not ming green).

I'm off to showrooms today to get an actual look-see at the fixtures and lights. Have only done online browsing to date.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Here's another idea:

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 2:40PM
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Thanks! Wow, the dog wallpaper is wild.

The tile work is interesting. I really like it. My uncle and aunt, who lived not very far from me, also had a 1950's tract home which had a bath with the exact same tile as mine, only the trim tile was black with a black and green accent strip tile running around the room. Now that was sharp. That picture reminded me of it.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 9:34PM
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I'm loving these green tile bathrooms! Very cool to keep the tile and work with it.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 9:38PM
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