Who Likes 1940's Tile, Anyway?

ntl1991May 9, 2011

I'm sure *someone* was crying when they saw the dumpster full of it... But I know I wasn't... It had it's place (in all three kitchens and baths) in my circa-1948 Colonial-Style 3-family home for more than 60 years... The time had come to update and stay current in the eyes of tenants. Yes, the tile reinforced the character of my charming house, but it has more than enough character to make up for gutting the kitchens and baths... I mainly rent to younger (mid to late 20's) professionals who like the modern flare of the new bathrooms.

The kitchens are another story. The wall cabinets were mounted so low that a normal microwave wouldn't fit under the cabinets... The charming all-wood drawers would cover your utensils with sawdust...

Diving up all of the costs of gutting 3 kitchens and baths, it came to about $3,000 for each room. And I think it was well worth the time and cost.

My only regrets are that I wish I was a bit more careful when removing the window and door casings... I had to install new casings that don't quite match the rest of the house. Especially since the new casings have corner blocks. My other regret is that I didn't sort through tons of boxes of marble tile to color match for each bathroom. As you can see in the picture of the 1st floor bath, some of the marble has a grey tint, and some has a slight brown tint. Oh well... You live and learn.

Any thoughts on the topics of style, character, and rental property, and how to find a happy medium? I'd love to hear some input on the matter, and the thoughts of others.

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Love how carefully the kitchen tile was laid out :p


    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 9:51AM
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A ha. Good point. Unsquare walls were a major culprit on all three floors.

I thought about doing a diagonal pattern so the edges of the tile wouldn't exacerbate the unsquare walls, but I felt that the with the waste tile and the time for the corner cuts that a diagonal pattern would bring about, it wasn't really worth it.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 10:48AM
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Wow...you completely ruined that bathroom. What a shame!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 6:11PM
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I disagree with the previous post. I just renovated 2 1950's bathrooms. I had sinks like that and they provided no storage for a smaller bathroom. I think you created a nice clean look. Sometimes you see a great vintage bathroom with great colored sinks,toilets and bath and interesting tile and decent cabinetry but its usually in larger and grander homes. Also when a toilet goes it has to be replaced and then the newer ones are much more comfortable. I say good job.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 5:37AM
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What an ugly mess! Shame!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 11:52PM
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Re the bathroom: I think I would have found a different canity that would have provided storage, and left the rest. But I like the character and quality of the original tile. Re the kitchen: I understand having to work with uneven floors. But even with stock cabinets, you probably could have gotten the sink centered on the window.

You know your rental market better than the rest of us do, so you tell us -- is it renting for more, or renting more quickly now? If so, then you accomplished your goal.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 10:26AM
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Harsh words from some responders. We had a bathroom very similar to the OP's (though with pinwheel dot floor tile -- I don't think I've seen one like yours). I would have loved to have kept it and I resisted gutting it for as long as I could, but there were cracks across the floor, rot in the subfloor, broken and cracked tile (containing lead) in the tub surround, worn-off enamel on the (uncomfortable) tub, and damaged finish that collected mold around the sink drain. There was also no storage space except in the medicine cabinet. When our contractor rewired for new wall lights, he discovered burned-out wiring in a probably illegal hidden junction that had been put in by a previous homeowner (we had wanted to keep the old wall sconces, but someone broke one of the glass shades during demo and no new or antique shades that fit could be found -- good thing because we might not have found the wiring otherwise). So it's all well and good to talk about how charming an old bathroom looks, but you can't always tell from pictures whether it could be kept just as it is, have its original fixtures restored/refinished, or if it's best and safest to give it a fond farewell and start over. One difference with our house is that we could redo the bathroom to suit ourselves and not worry about what other people might want, because we don't plan to move. We put in another pinwheel dot floor. [grin]

I don't know about kitchens; ours has already been reworked a couple of times (last time in the late '80's) and has no original elements left except for the lead-painted window over the sink and the vinyl flooring which is now buried under other layers.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 6:01PM
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Fori is not pleased

NC--yay on another pinwheel dot floor!

I suspect you're right--those rooms look delightfully charming from here but probably were totally shot and would have been expensive to restore.

That bathroom floor was pretty unique but might have been beyond the homeowner's means to salvage, but the tub?? I have that model tub in my "new" house and it's wonderful.

Old kitchen cabinets are pretty much the pits, but I sure would miss the little valance over the kitchen sink.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 6:38PM
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Oh, for shame. That black and white bathroom was gorgeous. The sink needed updating, certainly, but the tile was GORGEOUS. The replacement looks totally generic, like a Home Depot floor model. Argh.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 3:35PM
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PS I not only would, but DID pay premium for 1940s bathrooms with original tile. Those bathrooms are part of what sold us on the house we live in, so I'm not speaking hypothetically here. The OP used to have a bathroom with some style, one that made his house stand out--and it wasn't even a crazy deco bathroom in bright colors that some people don't like; it was classic, timeless black and white. Now he has a generic bathroom that will only stand out if bathrooms in competing units are outdated, styleless dumps.

Yes, the sink needed to be replaced, and a sink vanity for added storage was definitely a good idea, but that could have been done without touching the tile.

I just copied a picture of the murdered black and white bathroom to my inspiration file. We're putting a powder room on the ground floor and I want classic deco black and white tile. Heck, I would have bought that tile from the OP, but he felt it belonged in a dumpster! So wrong. Those tile insets are VALUABLE. I've seen a vintage tile inset soap holder for $70. The OP not only murdered a beautiful bathroom, but threw hundreds of bucks into a dumpster. Argh.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 3:43PM
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Maybe the tile had issues and although the black pieces were vintage(soap etc) I think black(solid) in a bathroom is a little scary. How does one know if its really clean? I have 2 vintage blue ones I'd be happy to sell for very little. They were never used and I had a blue bathroom so years ago when I saw them at a garage sale I bought them but we no longer have a blue bathroom and won't. They are that 1950's blue. I offered my 1950's green tile(un-used)for just shipping cost but had no takers although I don't have alot but the offer still stands if anyone needs some 1950's un-used green(mint shade) tile.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 6:55AM
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Circus Peanut

As a renter, I invariably chose the quirky older places over the Home Depot remodels. I think landlords often underestimate the value of character. Quite possibly, they also underestimate the high quality and durability of older fixtures, not to mention how they tend to inspire better tenant upkeep than cheap mass-produced fittings.

Why was it impossible to try to keep the character of the rooms? I don't understand the choices of marbled flooring, terazzo backsplash, honey oak or espresso cabinets and modern glass plate lighting.

There are many reproductions of vintage fixtures that are no more expensive than what was selected here, if "new" was your driving factor, since it's not clear that "quality" or "durability" was.

I'd fear that you've reduced the value of the house with these changes. If I were purchasing, I'd buy original 1940's quality tilework in a heartbeat, not the cheap plastic tub surround. You can have old tile regrouted with indestructible epoxy grout for less than you probably spent ripping it out and re-drywalling. With maintenance, that tile (set by the kind of professional craftsman who doesn't exist any more) would have lasted another 80 years. That new tub aurround and vanity will last 15 if you're lucky.

The matching porcelain fixtures in that bath alone are worth hundreds of dollars. I'm puzzled why you didn't at least choose to resell them to offset remodeling costs.

(Paige, black tile is no harder to keep clean than any other color: it's the gloss finish on tile that tells you when it needs wiping, not the contrast of dirt vs color.)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 11:21AM
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Fori is not pleased

Paige, stop tempting me! I just don't think I am capable of restoring my minty green floor! Is it a mottled finish by any chance?

I suspect the OP wanted an inexpensive and easy update. I wouldn't have done it, but I probably have more disposable income than him. ;D

I'm sure he expected to be given a hard time about it, looking at the title of his post.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 12:09PM
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I suspect the same fori, especially since no mention was made of any quality issues, just that they were tired and the "time had come to update."

Just sad, sad, sad. The bathroom AND the kitchen.

The really sad thing is that it was done because renters want updated kitchens and baths. Huh, when I was renting, I specifically rented flats in old houses because I loved them. And I took care of them. Too bad he didn't at least call a salvage place or Habitat first, I'm sure someone would have taken them off his hands. Now, it's in a landfill, how wasteful.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 1:32PM
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I wonder if the OP is the same person who ruined the exterior of the house with hideous modern siding up top?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 2:19PM
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Fori is not pleased

As a 40s house, it may very well have had siding originally.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 5:14PM
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I should tell my mom about all your reactions. :) She has a mint green bathroom (complete with mint toilet) and doesn't like it, but I tell you what, that tile is rock solid. After seeing what our contractor went through to get our damaged tile out, she decided to leave well enough alone with hers. lol! Actually, her bathroom looks nice -- the mint is only in the fixtures and floor tile, and the wall tile is a sort of vanilla bean speck (maybe added later? who knows) so it has kind of a cheerful ice-cream parlor vibe. That bathroom has no structural problems like ours did, so it ought to live for many more years.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 1:59PM
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Fori is not pleased

Can I have her toilet? I need a minty green one! She can have my Toto extra tall ridiculous washlet thingy.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 4:45PM
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Ha, Fori! Her mint isn't quite the same shade as yours, if my computer is showing the color accurately. I've seen all sorts of toilet and sink colors at the Restore, though, so maybe you'll luck out one of these days. Actually I have told her she ought to think about switching to a low-flow toilet someday. That would be the drawback to a vintage toilet (unless you were going to rework the guts somehow).

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 8:05PM
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Omg, that bathroom remodel actually brought tears to my eyes. The original was so lovely and full of style. The remodel is so bland and devoid of personality. How sad.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 10:58AM
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Well . . . I guess that's what makes life so interesting. If we all had the same style - life would be pretty boring! I personally loved that black and white floor pattern. I would have approached the update somewhat differently!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 10:59AM
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I liked the original too, but tore out its twin that was 54" wide wide, had a door that wouldn't open all the way and needed to go in order to make room for a kitchen. Two walls of tile and the toilet paper holder are still under there.

Seems a shame to have done it in this case. I would have bought a vanity and left it at that.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 2:50PM
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This is sad. Even if the original had problems that can't be seen from the photo, I don't understand why the new-and-improved tile couldn't have been the hex tile that is super easy to find these days. I don't understand what was wrong with the original tub. I don't understand why the kitchen cabinets couldn't have been a style that fits the space. It's not that difficult to find white cabinets these days.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 4:15PM
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I will add though that I once lived in an apartment with a bathroom and kitchen similar to the "before" photos. I loved that apartment. My friends who were primarily in artistic and design-oriented careers loved my apartment. One day, a co-worker (whose dream house would be a McMansion) came by my apartment. Afterwards, she seemed to pity me as someone who couldn't afford to live somewhere nice and new. Different people have different taste. Maybe this place rents to people who are saving up on a downpayment for a new tract home and who would expect a steep discount in rent if the kitchen and bath aren't plastic and new?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 4:47PM
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Last year, I looked at a rental property with a couple who was interested in owning a duplex or triplex. The apartments were well kept and they all had basic wall-to-wall, dropped ceilings and big box store/builder quality kitchens and baths. Except the last one. It had a beautiful deco moderne tile bath, hardwood floors and a kitchen with metal cabinets. "I'm embarrassed to show you this one" he said,"This was a long-time tenant, and I haven't gotten around to fixing this one up yet."

In the same neighborhood I found a tiled vestibule with Trenton profile tiles in the trash. I was able to pry one profile loose and sent someone back with tools to get the rest. Luckily someone had rescued the whole thing.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 6:44PM
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I was searching for 1940's tile patterns when I came across this thread. Amazing - the tile in the original bathroom is identical to what's in my half-bath. I've never seen it anywhere else.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 10:19PM
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Cool, dailyalice! Will you be able to keep it? I hope so. I hated having to tear mine out (all the contractors who came over for quotes thought I was crazy when I asked if it could be saved, which might be why most of the quotes were very high...) but ours was not in an unusual pattern like yours.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 12:56PM
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Just a really terrible idea. Looking at the original pics, I see the time, skill and care that went into creating the bathroom floor.

Looking at the new pics I see junk from Home Depot.

My theory is that the positive feeling people get from looking at this kind of '40s tile installation is, at least in part, a subconscious response to the hours of skilled craftsmanship that went into creating it.

Original Poster seems to have a subconscious response only to half-off sales on ugly tile.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 11:32PM
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That makes me sad :(

What a waste.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 12:14AM
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Hmm... I joined this site just so I could post on this topic.

Where to begin?

There's such a fine line between stupid and evil that it's hard to know which side of it the original poster falls on, though I suspect the latter. Apparently all the pleasure he (she?) derived from destroying something nice and replacing it with doo doo wasn't enough. He had to get on here and boast about it in a forum where most people are likely to be appalled by his actions. I mean, why just drown the kitten when you can also make the little neighbor girl cry by taunting her about it too!?


FWIW I have a nearly identical bathroom and while it was somewhat screwed up by a different greedy rent seeker, I'm currently in the process of restoring it to its 1940's streamline era glory. Maybe, in the grand scheme of things mine can take the place of this lost beauty.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 1:08AM
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Rudi, I too wondered what the point was of posting this one here.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 2:57AM
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Imhappy&Iknowit IOWA zone 6b

Erp! There went the neighborhood.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 1:31PM
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I found this thread via google search for 1940's bathrooms as I'm about to embark on a forced renovation of the two bathrooms in my post-war colonial. My bathrooms are done almost exactly the same as the one the OP destroyed. Same size, just an octagon and dot floor instead of the beautiful pattern in the OP. It kills me that we have to remodel. I've been living with a few tiny cracks on the floors and a crack along where a grab bar was installed for 7 years and I'd have happily continued for another 70. Unfortunately our roof leaked above them (they're right on top of each other) and we're pretty sure we've got mold, so we're gutting both. If it hadn't been for that I might have painted and called it a night. I'm planning to redo them both in the exact same style, just in different colors.

Meanwhile we have the OP crowing like the obvious troll he is about ripping his out and replacing it with a bathroom that looks exactly like the one at my gynecologist's office. Ugh.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 9:56PM
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Wow, didn't see this thread before. That, OP, was a one in a kind porcelain floor. Simply amazing.

Currently in the process of slowly restoring two full and one half similar post war black and white baths.

If anyone on GW knows a better than average vintage online website, I'd appreciate the post. I'm missing mainly the 4x4 1940 glossy white tile (and not even sure it can be changed out as that is cement back!).

Glad to hear others thoughts as I see so many modern bathrooms, many beautiful. I'm trying to keep in period and they are so original. When I redo my galley kitchen, I have been contemplating bringing in the black pencil into the BS to merge it with the house BR tile pencil.

Here's hoping the OP donated to Restore or salvage. Beautiful floor-it must have been hard to tear it up.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 7:51PM
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Imhappy&Iknowit IOWA zone 6b

paige16 and SparklingWater, head on over to www.retrorenovation.com. Buyers and sellers for that tile and she has plenty of sources for the stuff you need.

Here is a link that might be useful: retro renovation

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:19PM
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Yes. Do a search on that site for World of Tile.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 2:33PM
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Thanks lov-mkitchen and mellifera, will do!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 3:12PM
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I found this thread [yes, I know it is very old, but I can't resist commenting] because I was looking for 1940's tile patterns.

If the OP really is a troll as suggested by a previous poster, I think it is also possible that s/he is also a PhotoShop user and that the pictures are fake. Somehow they have that look to them.

Maybe we are all grieving over something that never happened. How about it PhotoShop experts - could this be the case?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 12:50PM
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The prettiest powder room I've ever seen was in a charity designer showhouse. The bathroom had pink and black art deco tile that the designer paired with a pink, cream, and black toile wallpaper and matching fabric valence. Lovely!!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 1:32PM
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Well, I have to say that I love the black and white tiles, so beautiful! I would have changed the sink, maybe the medicine cabinet and lights and called it done. But - the post did mention damage, underneath the floor tiles I think? That had to be taken care of, although I am sure that you can find contractors who will work to restore the bathroom to its original look. Still, its a personal decision when it comes to remodeling, to each his own......

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 6:42AM
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A+ troll... Three years later and it's still going strong!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:10AM
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it is sad how few people appreciate original woodwork and tile. i see so many house hunters shows where they plan to gut an awesome '40s or '50s bathroom. those tile colors are unique and so well done. to rip them out and plop in some generic junk is so sad! i live in a cookie cutter suburban town where nothing is older than mid seventies and i watch rehab addict and sigh over the gorgeous old house she lovingly restores and wish i had one!
ps the kitchen makes me want to wretch with that terrible formica and already dated backsplash. the old backsplash was so much prettier.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 3:06PM
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This thread is so sad....I love that first bathroom!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:35PM
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All I can say is, thank goodness the photo of the original bath is still up. That's exactly what I want my bath to look like when we remodel it, right down to that cool wall sink.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:58PM
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Maybe this thread isn't a troll after all... it reminds me of a foreclosure I looked at a couple of winters ago. The place had the original 1938 kitchen sink and wall/base cabinets along that wall. They were nice ones with glass windows and a big, farmhouse sink.

I say "had" because now the kitchen has a bunch of generic big box cabinets. The original solid doors were replaced too, to put in hollow core prehung doors - I saw them at Habitat so the kitchen may have also made its was there as well.

And of course... now they're having trouble selling it.

This post was edited by schicksal on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 8:33

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 8:32AM
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Yep, it happens all the time. Looked the other day at a cottage that had been restored with an odd blend of sensitivity and tone deafness.

Main parlor, original fireplace, mirror, woodwork, front door with glass inserts (kind of visible in the mirror):

and yet this is what they did to the kitchen:

and the bathroom:

Sigh. It's been on the market forever. I wonder why.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 4:38PM
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