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ineffablespaceApril 12, 2014

I have been planning, in my head at least, the renovation of three bathrooms for a couple of years.

The bathrooms are now underway.

Since it is a midcentury house, I am interested in smallish but regular-sized fixtures, not anything Victorianesque, or Edwardian, and possibly not white.

In the bathroom that is nearing completion, the original bathtub selected and the original toilet selected were discontinued between planning and ordering the fixtures, a matter of a couple of weeks. We were able to get one of the toilets.

In upstairs bathroom #1, one bathtub under consideration was discontinued completely, one Kohler porcelain color was discontinued completely, one porcelain color is still produced but has been dropped on any of the fixtures I wanted it in, one sink has been discontinued.

In bathroom #2, a Toto color that coordinated with the other fixtures has been dropped (some time ago, but it lingered around long enough after it was gone to seem still available).

Are bathrooms going the way of the Model T? Any color as long as it is (white)? Any style as long as it is huge, and faux Victorian?

You would think that with the current increase in interest in Mid-century houses, and the fact that these houses are now "semi-antique" that there would be *more* choices available that would be compatible, Not Less.

I think it was a complete accident that some of the appropriate choices were lingering around, rather than by intent. The newest Kohler Faucet isn't even Edwardian, it's high Victorian. It's nice, but I don't know that it's appropriate to a lot of bathrooms/houses (which of course, it will be put into anyway).

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Did you check out RetroRenovation? They have a lot of resources for midcentury fixtures, especially bathrooms.

Here is a link that might be useful: RetroRenovation

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 8:20AM
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There are now a lot of places that sell this kind of stuff that has been pulled out of old homes. For instance, here in MA, we have a place called New England Demolition and Salvage. I'm sure there are more.

Here is a link that might be useful: New England Demolition and Salvage

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 8:46AM
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That site is a favorite of mine, but I don't really have the timeline or the budget to look for and wait for reconditioned fixtures. I would also rather put in something brand new than something that has a lot of mileage on it. The main bathroom in the house developed a leak (perforated pipe) that could only be accessed through the wet-bed floor, so that bathroom was taken out of commission before it was scheduled. I have had a request in for a specific, period appropriate sink with a company that tries to find new old stock, but I don't think they will find one before the project is finished, even in white ( I could get hunter green or dusty rose if I want it, though!)

Also, if you find something on Retrorenovation that is a brand new, compatible replacement or substitute for something vintage (as opposed to reconditioned or New-Old-Stock), you are likely to read later on in the year that the item has been discontinued.

Technically at the time I bought the house, only a few years ago, Kohler, American Standard, Eljer and others I think, made an option for the tiny basement bathtub--at various price points, and one by one they disappeared until I ended up with a Bootz, which is basically a bathtub for a trailer.

I can't really make the bathrooms Bigger, by much, because I am hemmed in by the common wall of the house next door on one side, and the stairwell on the other. Ironically, the upstairs bathrooms in this house are decent-sized for the size of the house, and they will at least take full-sized bathtubs. Not all the houses in the neighborhood will.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 8:47AM
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You've hit on one of the reasons it is hard not to be trendy; while it may appear we have a lot of selection, it is constantly being tweaked with the "less au courant" getting booted from production.

I could not get the formica counter I wanted or the linoleum floor, either.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 9:03AM
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That is actually a real toss up these days, the new-or-reconditioned thing.

New stuff meant to look like old stuff tends to be very expensive but not made well. If you are able to find something new with the quality of the old stuff, it's VERY expensive.

the old stuff was so much better in terms of quality and long-term wear, heavier metals, etc.

I think it's one of the factors that makes buying a home or renovating so difficult now. Maddening. Furniture is another area like that. The old stuff was made SO much better, but reupholstering is so expensive. New stuff is either downright garbage you're paying way too much for, OR you pay a fortune for "quality". So tough.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 9:11AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Ah yes, when retro is trendy....

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 9:12AM
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I grew up in a house with all cast iron fixtures, terrazzo shower bases and commercial faucets, and its all still there. I think ceramic valves are probably better than the old valves, but the plan is to pretty much do the same in this house. They will probably be much more expensive than they look. :/

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 9:23AM
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The other thing that is a bit tricky is that I am not really trying to recreate a totally period bath, just something that looks compatible with the house as if maybe it could be original.

Overall, in the neighborhood, the original baths weren't always that attractive. There is one variant in mostly Cerulean Blue that is pretty nice, but the hall bath in this house based upon bits of tile we've found, was yellow and black, along the lines of Kohler Sunrise, because the house predates Harvest Gold. It was probably very dark, and I don't find intense yellows very "hygienic" looking.

Through the 2000s, Kohler carried Skylight (a very pretty IMO powder blue), Tea Green (very pale green) and Sunlight (very pale yellow). All of these were discontinued in 2012, at a point where you might think that there might be growing interest in paler, cleaner versions of mid century fixtures.

Frank Lloyd Wright favored pink bathrooms because pale pink was very compatible with natural woods, stone and cork, which were also parts of his bathrooms. Kohler has carried Innocent Blush since the 80s, but on less and less and less.

Okay so these are all colors, and most people like white. But they are all very timid washed out versions of historical colors that, to me, would make them more palatable to today's buyer. (But apparently not if they are not selling enough units to keep the color in production)

This is probably what my bathrooms will end up being. Expensive, dull, but made to be used 24 hours a day. (They don't make these anymore either).

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:24AM
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found a great color glass tile I wanted by American Olean, when I went to look for it they discontinued that size (4x4). Another company that makes a similar color is on backorder :(

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 11:29AM
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That's always been a general problem with colored fixtures - colors being discontinued or shades being just different enough that they don't match.

It seems that fixture colors haven't come full circle yet. Deep colors were available in the 20's & 30's, but they were more expensive, so most builders went with white. In the 50's, there were vibrant colors but, in my tract home development at least, they were an upgrade; most of the homes have white. In the 80's and 90's, light, bland colors were popular and it seems to have stayed that way, outside of black and dark grays. (Some of the dark gray bathrooms on Houzz are down right depressing.)

Kohler has some very vibrant porcelain colors but they are limited to sinks - the intent being, I assume, for greater selection available to designers in commercial bathrooms, where the out-of-sight toilets in stalls are white anyway.

The white-everything (fixtures, vanity, floors, walls, ceilings, tiles) that I frequently see here and on Houzz (kitchens, too) will probably lead to a backlash eventually. Let's just hope the pendulum doesn't swing too far the other way as it did in the 70's.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 11:57AM
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Maybe try Rejuvenation Hardware?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 1:27PM
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I like your thinking about seeking fixture colors that are paler versions of some of the truly period mid century colors. As the owner of a pink bathroom, I've polled people for years, and I think some retro colors are a little hard-core for most modern homebuyers...except for a brave sliver of the population who love them dearly.

I wondered about pale gray fixtures, coupled with a pastel tile in one of the colors you described (perhaps tile accents/borders in a pale gray, to tie in the fixtures?) Are any nice fixtures available in soft grays? I read an article not too long ago about how popular gray was, as a wall paint color, in the 50's-60's.

Maybe a creative (over the top?) approach with pastel colored tile would prevent you from having bathrooms that felt boring to you. It's no fun to spend lots of money and not be excited with the results, so I sympathize. No wonder you are frustrated.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 2:43PM
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If they don't keep discontinuing stuff over the next couple of weeks, (the sink disappeared sometime over the past week or two), I might get lucky and have one bathroom with colored fixtures.

Ah, I almost forgot another one. Daltile discontinued a trim piece of a tile that they have produced since the 1950s right before I ordered that, too. The rep says most people are into the formats which come with virtually no trim pieces and then they complain because they don't know what to do to finish edges or do not like what their tile setter has done to finish edges. But apparently I was the first person who had tried to order this trim piece (regionally? nationally?) in several years.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 4:18PM
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Pink-beige bath

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 5:40PM
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Blue bath with Mayflower tub

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 5:42PM
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Pale green bath

I don't think I would want to duplicate any one of these, because there is something that is just a bit off in each when it comes to the current aesthetic, but it would be nice to reference them

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 5:45PM
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I finally located the 4" tile I wanted for my shower. I assumed the quarter-round bullnose was also still available. All kinds of hits show up in Home Depot. And it is all DISCONTINUED (always in caps). I have decided to get over it and go with Tile B. I think it's close enough to the other and I just have so much energy to expend over this stuff.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 5:47PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Just as an odd shot, you might check with some larger plumbing supply houses. We had one in our area that was cleaning out their warehouse and they had brand new sinks, like the ones above with all of those pastel 50s colors...they wanted to get rid of them and were selling them for $5 each. Who knows? They may have been original to the period...the plumbing store had been in business for 75 years....

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 8:12AM
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I feel your pain. I know it wouldn't be your first choice, but maybe the fixtures in white and the tile in an appropriate color would be satisfying? I'd think the tile would be a lot easier to source in a variety of colors.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 11:25AM
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As it stands, one bathroom is going to be white with white fixtures (dictated by the white wall-hung toilet), and a light gray floor, and the other bathroom will be Kohler Ice Grey with a darker floor.

The basement bathroom got white fixtures but I am using a blue tile and blue ceramic accessories that are close to the Cerulean Blue of the period.

I thought about doing a colored tile in the white bathroom, but there wasn't really a colored tile in the format and color I was interested in. I am using primarily Daltile because of budget. (Three bathrooms, all new plumbing from where it comes into the house and leaves, and all new HVAC) Then a kitchen, windows, deck floor, patio, then maybe some actual décor, someday)

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 12:15PM
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