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VINTAGE PINK TILE BATHROOM
I’ve been holding out on posting a big blog reveal because I’d submitted it to Apartment Therapy for their Before & After section and was waiting to hear back on whether they’d planned to use it. Lo and behold, my design geek fantasies have finally come to fruition, as I discovered a swelling of traffic to the blog from their site and found this amazing feature (click here to view it on Apartment Therapy’s website).
I’m so honored and floored! Mostly, though, I’m excited that I can finally take you through the process of what I did, how I did it, and how much it cost, so you can make your small bathroom look and feel bigger in just a weekend!
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How To Make a Cramped Family Bathroom Feel and Look Bigger
So, really, this space was immaculate. The day I walked into it, it looked exactly as it must have on the day the original homeowner moved in. I’m shocked that so many well-preserved vintage tile bathrooms still exist. I’m also delighted!! As soon as I saw this bathroom, I felt an immediate urge to show the world how lovely a pink bathroom could be. Is it ideal to have a room full of pink tile? Well, not exactly.
Even less ideal? Sharing that room with four other family members and trying to navigate in such extremely tight quarters. The existing vanity butted up against the closet frame, leaving only 18 inches of walkway between the vanity and the wall. I just imagined trying to bathe (and then towel-dry) three young children in that space. It had to be impossible! The homeowner confessed that she would have to place her twin two-year-old sons on the toilet to dry them off. How inconvenient! Before I designed any sort of plan for making this room LOOK better, I knew it would need to FEEL and FUNCTION better.
I knew that would mean replacing the vanity with a shallow option, assuming the tile ran all the way under the existing vanity. Unlike modern building standards, which call for the installation of permanent cabinets and vanities to occur prior to the installation of flooring, most older homes were built with all of the flooring running to the walls and cabinets were installed afterwards. I was pretty sure I’d find the floor tile was in place, but I couldn’t check because I live in Nashville, TN and this bathroom is in Louisville, KY. Oh! Did I already mention that I only had THREE DAYS to completely transform this space? It was like a reality TV show, only I didn’t get to lounge and watch other people fret. I was the one fretting!
So STEP ONE involved gently prying the base layer of plywood inside the vanity to check for flooring. This wasn’t easy and may have required a few photos on my iPhone because I couldn’t really get down there to see without completely uninstalling the vanity. However, as you can see above, I was in luck! The tile did run to the wall and was in immaculate shape! In fact, most renovations uncover a mess of old leaks and disturbances but this bathroom was built to last! Not even a single tile was cracked!
That’s me – crawling around on the floor, wiping up the one little incident we had as a result of the shut-off valves not working properly. Luckily, we’d preplanned for this and located the main shut-off prior to sending the homeowners away. So we were able to quickly shut off the water supply to the entire house while we installed the new vanity.
This photo is the best representation of the tiny space between the old vanity and the closet wall. It was so incredibly cramped and the closet door and bathroom door would swing into one another. So if the homeowner needed to access their First Aid kit in a hurry, she’d need to enter the bathroom completely, close the bathroom door, and then open the closet door, grab the kit, close that door, and re-open the bathroom door – all while trying to soothe a crying child. No bueno.
The solution? Remove the closet door, freshen up the closet space to be appropriate for guests’ prying eyes, and allow the family to quickly and easily access their necessities.
By the end of Day One, we’d fully installed the new vanity and primed and painted all of the existing wood trim. Plus, with one coat of beige paint on the walls, we were able to hand the keys to the family’s only bathroom back to them for the evening.
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On Day Two, we finished painting the interior of the closet a crisp white to match the new trim color and filled it with inexpensive storage solutions that the large family could use to house their toiletries. Here are the exact storage items I chose, along with some fun decor items I added to make this space seem less utilitarian and more like a real part of the family’s home. (note: due to the age of this post, some of the items used in this bathroom makeover are now discontinued. this page is updated regularly with alternative items to complete your space)
DESIGNING A VINTAGE BATHROOM
While I only had three days to actually get my hands dirty and complete this renovation, I spent months coming up with a plan. So I tackled this project a lot like I would tackle an eDesign project for a client. I had the homeowner send me photos of each angle in her room and developed a few concept boards from which she could choose her specific tastes. I’m adding them here, with any sources that are still available, so you can take these concepts and run with them.
Sources (click the images to shop the affiliate links below)
As much as my client and I both LOVED this initial concept, by the time we were ready to actually begin work on the project, most of the bigger accent items, like the shower curtain and those amazing soap dispensers, were sold old. Womp womp. I’ve found some similar items in case you want to achieve a similar look. We used the opportunity to explore different concepts instead.
As you likely know, I’m pretty obsessed with wallpaper and saw this as a perfect chance to bring in a wallpaper that could tone down or play up the pink tile. Here are my wallpaper concepts with their sources linked.
I was convinced that adding wallpaper would be the most dramatic and fun way to pull the focus from the tile and add some maturity to this somewhat juvenile bathroom. For me, it was full-steam ahead with the gold accents and flamingo wallpaper. I was in love.
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Then the homeowner said, “How hard is it to hang wallpaper on textured walls?” and my heart actually stopped. This, my friends, is one of the challenges associated with designing a room you’ve never seen in person. TEXTURED WALLS?! How had this never come up in conversations before? Ugh. Live and learn. We were back to the drawing board. **This question has now been added to my pre-design syllabus, by the way. So I’ll never have this challenge again. Mistakes make for a great lesson, don’t they?**
One day, it occurred to me that I’d been trying to give this room some maturity instead of embracing the fun-loving qualities of the existing space and the family it serves. This is a young family. The parents are under 30, the kids are all under 10 years old. There’s no reason to force a family to grow up. Why would I? I don’t want to grow up. I’m a Toys R Us kid, after all.
So I turned my approach towards the man of the house. I started thinking about his polo shirts and the young twin boy’s perfectly preppy hair cuts. I remembered that the oldest child is a cheerleader and enjoys a crisp, preppy style.
With the recent passing of Kate Spade, her brand had been on my mind. And nothing says fun and preppy like Kate Spade New York brand. I found this really fun shower curtain and showed it to the homeowner with the question, “How do you feel about Kate Spade?” and she immediately sent me another shower curtain she’d been eyeing from a similar Kate Spade collection.
The shower curtain she found was a little busier. Too busy, really, for an already over-the-top pink bathroom, in my opinion. But I did love the color way. So I began trying to figure out how to incorporate that shower curtain, but with white accents that would allow it to blend better into the space.
The other concern I had about that store-bought shower curtain was the length. I like an extra long shower curtain that extends almost from the ceiling and barely sweeps the floor – just like curtain panels on a window. The Kate Spade shower curtain was standard length. And then genius struck.
I knew that I could find an inexpensive cotton shower curtain in white at a local store and cut a large strip from the Kate Spade curtain to sew onto the bottom as an accent. Then I could use the remaining fabric to sew a custom roman shade! Two birds, one stone!
Just like that, days before the project was to begin, a real design was born! Isn’t it funny how inspiration strikes?
Discovering this shower curtain, thanks to the homeowner, was the real jumping off point of this design. I try to find textiles or a wallpaper to use as inspiration for every design and this one is very clearly inspired by the fun colors and pattern of this curtain.
While I don’t ever recommend anyone to buy a completed set of furniture, bath accessories, or bedding, I do think it’s okay to pick and choose items from different collections belonging to the same designer or company. Often, the colors will be more accurate matches and the style will be consistent. That’s exactly how I achieved this overall fun, preppy look without getting the whole “Rooms To Go” vibe.
The homeowner loves yellow, so I was happy to be able to sprinkle in some yellow accents for her and added in a lot of white and black to subdue the pink, while not trying to pretend it isn’t there.
You’ve got pink and black tile? People are going to see that you have pink and black tile. Try to work with it, not against it. Embrace it. Have some fun!
As for storage, I’m a huge fan of toilet paper. I know. That’s weird. But it’s white and soft and crisp. It’s also large, takes up a good amount of space, and everyone expects to see it in a bathroom! (who doesn’t panic when it’s not there????) So show it off! Let it be a decor piece.
Utilitarian items like cotton swabs and Q-Tips are also beautiful when displayed. Go for it! White towels, are in my opinion, the only towels to have. They look so chic even when they’re relatively low quality. Show those off as well!
Here’s the complete list of sources used in the final design of this bathroom.
Click the images to purchase directly from the retailers.
In this post, I’d intended to show you other vintage bathroom designs I’ve admired from bloggers and designers. But man oh man! This post just got so long. So will you be patient with me and wait for next week? I promise to make it worth your while.
like what you see? follow along on instagram, facebook, and pinterest.
that’s where the real fun goes down.
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