Tuesday, December 11, 2007

When was this bathroom's birthday?

Update: At closing, above...And at move-in, below, with the paint color we decided on with the help of this post...

When I showed my friends pictures of the house, a few of them offered their services for pink tile demolition. I was outraged! I would never tear out this gaudy pink tile bathroom, partly because I love it, partly because I think some of the neighbors would lynch me for it, partly because the kiddo loves it, and largely because each individual tile has lasted so long that it seems a shame to destroy them now. Only the built-in tile soap dish has a banged up corner. Otherwise, it's all intact. I know, I know. When we eventually sell this house down the road, with so many updates, a totally retro bathroom isn't exactly going to be a selling point. But I don't care. I love it. (Ok, so I don't love the wall treatment, or the out of place cabinet above the toilet, but those things can be fixed with minimal destruction!)

Anyway, I found a light fixture on ebay that matches my living room light, and it got me to thinking about Art Deco styles and patterns and colors. I had originally thought of pink coupled with a really dark color (black or burgundy) and the strong geometric patterning of our floor tile as Art Deco, at least in spirit. The color in this photo seems a little truer on my screen than the pic above, btw:

There's also a cresting wave trim piece that goes around the bathroom, and behind the door, there's cabinetry, including a built-in hamper, with plastic door pulls-- they're certainly not original, but I wondered if they replaced glass handles that had been there at one time. The door knob is also distinctly Art Deco.

But then the inspector came; he and many other guests have since dated it as circa 1950s. and THEN we established that the tub, toilet and console sink are likely original; a family friend grew up in a bungalow nearby and said that her house had a sink and tub like ours and that they had been original. I picked up the tank lid for the toilet, and it is stamped "NOV25"; this is actually where we get the building date for our house-- HUD claimed it was built in 1940, but the K&T wiring had already suggested otherwise. Knowing what we know about the neighborhood, as well as the architectural style, old phone book listings, and the toilet stamp, we went with 1925 as the likely date. Give or take a few years; there's a listing in the city directory as early as 1922.

Anyway, I guess I'm at a bit of a loss as to the age of our bathroom decor. It doesn't really matter to me much whether it's 1920s, 30s or 50s. I still love it. It's just, as with many other things in this house, it's a total curiosity as to how it got the way it did...Any ideas? Any idea what the hell color I'm supposed to paint the walls? It's looking like white is the only safe bet here. The PO did some kind of textured treatment that looks like she glued paper bags to the wall and ripped them off before they dried.


Ieisha said...

My best friend's parents' house has a bathroom that looks EXACTLY like that except their toilet is pink and super low to the ground and the sink is green. It has this strange pink-and green motif that someone thought was all the rage. Their house is in Detroit and I'm not sure of the age but the pink tile pattern is the same, the bathroom layout is the same and the strange cabinet above the toilet is the same.

They do know their house was owned by mobsters so the house has some unusual features and decorating techniques (I think the bathroom color combo was THE thing back in the day)

So weird to see their bathroom in someone else's house.

StuccoHouse said...

Mid-tenties. The underside of your sink may also have a date on it....or you may be able to tell by the manufacture's name (i.e American is an earlier name for American Standard). I adore vintage pink bathrooms.

You might take a look at Jane Powell's Bungalow Bathrooms for decorating ideas.

Anonymous said...

I had a tiny bathroom in an apartment with similar wall tile and white fixtures. I put an off white vinyl wallpaper with a moire pattern on the walls above the tile - it was far enough away from the white fixtures that it looked fine. I used an off white shower curtain with tiny pink embroidered rosebuds on it. Wish my floor would have been as pretty as yours is - mine was terrazzo covered with yukky brown shaggy carpet (lovely in a bathroom). If I ignored the floor it looked pretty nice!

If you don't want white you could do a somewhat pinky or blue off white instead of the usually yellowy off white. Or you could find all sorts of wallpaper if you are so inclined - I'm lucky that my husband loves flowers - I could get pretty girly in that bathroom and he'd be happier than me about it.

As long as it all still works and makes you happy don't worry about it not fitting with the rest of the house or what it does to the resale value! Enjoy it!!!

Dawn said...

I love the floor tile as well! Too bad the wall tile isn't pink and black or dark brown, then I'd be swooning over the whole room and want to go all Parisian in the theme. The burgundy tile makes it hard to figure out a good wall color to match! Dilemma!

Anonymous said...

You know what? Check out Bradbury & Bradbury website. They have some great Deco and 50's wallpaper.I'm a sucker for pink and black.

Stephanie said...

I can't tell you exactly when your bathroom was installed, but I can tell you what I know about tile. :-)

I'm an architectural color consultant and interior designer who specializes in pre-World War II buildings, so I've seen my fair share of vintage/antique tile.

Indoor plumbing began to become common during the last couple of decades of the 19th century, and by 1900, most newly constructed homes (such as bungalows) featured an indoor bathroom. Around this same time, the wooden bead board wainscoting found in many late-Victorian bathrooms fell out of favor and gave way to tile wainscoting. You can blame this on what was, at the time, the recent discovery of germs. Once people knew that germs existed and could make you sick, people went a little nuts about keeping things "sanitary." Thus, most homes in the very late 1800s and early 1900s featured lots and lots of white subway tile in their kitchens ans bathrooms. Subway tile was used because it was easy to wipe down and keep clean. As for it being white, well, of course, a white bathroom isn't any cleaner or more sanitary than a blue one, but people felt that white looked cleaner and more sanitary, so they went with it. In bungalows, unglazed mosaic tiles were popular on floors because they were fairly slip-proof - an important consideration in a room where the floor is likely to get wet from time to time.

By about 1920, 4 inch square tiles, like the ones in your bathroom (and many, many others) began to grow in popularity. Also in the 1920s, influenced by the Jazz Age and the Art Deco movement, color began appearing in bathrooms. Pink, lavender, seafoam or mint green, pale blue and peach were popular tile colors as white tile began to fall out of favor. These colored tiles were often accented with contrasting darker colored tile or with black tile, and this type of tile treatment continued to be popular in bathrooms through the 1930s and 40s. So, I would say that it is quite possible/probably that your tile is original to your house if your house was built in 1925 or later. That said, your sink looks more 1930s to me. I can't say for sure - I'm not a plumbing expert. That's just the vibe the sink gives me. About a year and a half ago, I restores a Streamline Moderne (an offshoot of Art Deco) movie theater here in Portland, Oregon and I researched tons of period bathrooms to come up with motif that would be suitable for the theater's renovated bathrooms. I poured over dozens of photos of period tile and plumbing fixtures, and thinking back to that, the sink really looks 30s to me.

Just for kicks, I just googled "1930s Deco bathoom" and came across this link (check out their sink circa 1939):


So I guess I didn't really answer your question - beyond, I would say that your bathroom is post 1920, definitely Deco-influenced (your doorknob could not be any more Deco, probably installed in the late 20s or in the 30s, and may or may not be original to the house. Not much help, huh?

As for that post on Apartment Thearapy, I tend to disagree with the people who advised painting those walls white. To me, white walls with that kind of tile look like they have been primed and are waiting for paint or wallpaper. The Deco era wasn't about restraint. So, if your bathroom was my bathroom, I would very tempted to pick a paint color that matches the dark red accent tile in your bathroom. I'd do dark red walls, and then to tie the white of the bathroom fixtures back in to the upper half of the room, I'd probably look for white ceramic Deco light fixtures. Rejuvenation makes some lovely ones:





Chrome Deco fixtures to match the chrome legs on your sink would also be lovely.

Hope this helps!

Jennifer said...

What about a nice rich chocolate brown for the walls? It might look really nice... like chocolate covered cherries.

I wouldn't touch it either! Character is character, and you can't buy it.

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the sweet comment you left on my blog. :-) I thought I would mention one more thing. If you have a piece of tile in your bathroom that has come loose for any reason (not uncommon in a bathroom of that age) you could bring it to the paint store with you and have them make a custom color-match for you. It doesn't cost any more than having a standard color mixed, and it would be the easiest way to match a paint color to your tile. If that dark red is too severe for for you, the pink would be a great choice too. It's a lovely bathroom! Good luck!

Bonnie said...

Love the bathroom! It looks just like my friends' bathroom in their 1940 four square, except theirs is green. Same floor tile, except greens and black. Same wall tile, except green and black. Same fixtures, including the sink. I would NOT change that bathroom if I were you, but a light pink wall color with a glazing to make it a bit muted might be nice.

Ryan said...

Those plastic handle pulls could be original since plastic was all the rage starting in the 20s. I agree that the sink is more 30s - the 20s sinks had were usually pedestal cast iron with the deep lip. the fixtures combined with the color leans the bathroom into the 30s/40s range.

You know, pink is supposed to make most skin tones look good so what could be better in a bathroom.

Anonymous said...

My bungalow was built in 1939. You have the same doorknob, sink, and wall tile as my house. I didn't get the floor tile or the hamper though. I think I'm jealous. but it definitely is pre-50's. Very 20's or 30's actually. The color choices and all lean towards those times.

Anonymous said...

My floor is almost exactly like your floor. I am currently looking for tile that match. Would anyone know how to get tile like this?

bathroom said...

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Anonymous said...

did you also paint the ceiling a burgundy? (i love it by the burgundy walls by the way...we have a very similar bathroom and are actually planning on doing burgundy walls also.)