“Save the Pink Bathrooms!”: TV makeovers that make us oh so blue :(

Several readers have sent me notes explaining how sad it was to catch a TV makeover show that ripped out a perfectly beautiful vintage bathroom. Surfing around, I found these examples of perfectly excellent 50s or 60s bathrooms that were disparaged and discarded.

vintage 50s pink bathroom

vintage 50s pink bathroom - “after”HGTV editors went so far as to call the bathroom, above, a “pink plague.” How ridiculous. While I agree that the wallpaper may not be just right (the whole square theme is taken too far…although you must admit: it has style!), the core of the bathroom is delightful. And the blue bathroom that replaced it (in thumbnail) is fine but an unnecessary expense. Prediction: River rock walls and floors will be out as quick as they were in. Alas.

vintage 50s pink bathroom - “before”

vintage 50s pink bathroom - “after”Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this 60s provincial bathroom. It would be so fun to decorate – and it looks quite high quality. The replacement bathroom is fine…it’s great they kept that floor and awesome mirror… sad sad sad they took out the pink tile…. and overall, again, just…unnecessary.

Update: Another example from HGTV from Brian at Atomic Addiction. Many thanks, B! Super cool blue sink, RIP:

50s pink bathroom

50s pink bathroom “after”Seems like a bunch of the rest of the world — well behind our curve — actually dislikes vintage pink bathrooms. They will regret what they have done.

Finally, with this post, I declare an all-new category: Pink bathrooms! And, I’ve gone back through all my posts to fill the category up. Have fun reveling in pink pink pink!

UPDATE: This post led to the creation of my Save The Pink Bathrooms micro-site. Be sure to see it here – it is pretty amazing, if I say so myself!

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  1. tikiblueyes says

    I just stumbled upon your site in my search for “pink bathroom sink”. Love your site and the movement to save pink baths.

    I have a little gem myself that I would love to save but I need some help. My small, pink, Crane Oxford sink is cracked and broken at the drain. I tried glueing it with superglue knowing it was a temporary measure. I would love to be able to find the same sink and replace it, but who knows how long that may take or if it will ever happen. My question is, is there a method of fixing this break? Can a professional restore the porcelain break and maybe refinish/reglaze the basin? In pink? I’ve heard about people having tubs redone (in white) but I don’t know if it can be done in colors. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Oh yeah, I’m learning things the hard way about a retro bath. I now know that if I ever see round pink toilet seats available I have to stock up on them. Beth has the right idea with her stash of burgundy toilet seats. If I can save this pink bathroom I will have to stock up on my toilet seats too.

    Thank you for a wonderful site, thanks for your effort. Every time I see the HGTV types rip out perfectly good old stuff I have to cringe. I will stay “green” by keeping my old pink bathroom!

    /Users/lboston/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Modified/2009/Dec 3, 2009/HPIM0714.JPG

    /Users/lboston/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Modified/2009/Dec 3, 2009/HPIM0721.JPG

    • shere wisniewski says

      I love, love, love my old pink bathroom! In fact, I just hosted a wedding shower in a “Retro Housewife” theme and everyone said that they thought it was cool. I will never tear out anything from it! Save the pink bathrooms is so right. Shere

  2. Melissa Durante says

    I just renovated my pink bathroom in my 1965 condo. Although I LOVE retro, this retro bathroom was not well constructed. My bathtub surround tile was glued..not thin-setted right onto the plaster walls. Several of the tiles were loose and fell off because of the damage to the underlying wall. My pink bathtub was in great shape, however…the original floor was tiled over and the pink toilet had a crack inside of it, though

    Replaced everything…went with a white cast iron tub

  3. Tanya Sue says

    I just found my new favorite website! I just rented an apartment with green tile counters in the kitchen and pink tile in the shower/bath area (it is a little cottage). I was looking for ideas on what would look cute with it and typed in “pink tile bathroom”. I love vintage bathrooms. I actually am in a place that is all beige and realized that, while I am normally creative, it has actually been stifled by being around beige all the time (and no, I am really not kidding).

  4. vintage_gal Colleen says

    My (grown) daughters and I watch a lot of HGTV and we’re constantly calling each other when we see another crazy “update” to a wonderful old kitchen or bathroom. I just watched another one yesterday and that bathroom was really, really nice before the reno. Afterward it looked like every other reno. I grew up in a house that had one plastic pink tiled Jack and Jill bathroom and one ceramic blue tiled bathroom. The guy that bought the house from my parents in 1978 ripped them both out. Such a waste.
    One the other hand, my best friend’s bathroom at the time (late 60’s) was covered in silver and blue wallpaper. Now that’s a look we can probably let go!

  5. barbie says

    this doesn’t just go for household bathrooms in my mind. i remember dinstinctly how delighted i would be to use the ladies room in one of my college buildings and step into a mamie-pink-tiled slice of the past. since i graduated 2 years ago (i’m a young’un) the building has since been renovated and the bathroom looks like every other glossy, soulless vanilla building on the rest of campus. :(

  6. marcelox says

    How do I put pictures up of my bathroom so I can get advice on color choices? Dont want to do plain white, but i have NO idea what to do.

  7. Wayne says

    Rest assured, on 50 years on whatever passes for a “blog” at that time, there will be people yearning for the river rock and the raised basins.

    • pam kueber says

      Yes, Wayne, you are surely right. We have nothing against any particular decor here. Save The Pink Bathrooms is fundamentally about: learning and understanding this color — which is emblematic of the entire decorating period, including other mid mod pastels — before just gutting the bathrooms because they are not the “current mode.” I hear from owner after owner after owner of mid mod pink (and yellow and blue and green, etc.) bathrooms who, once they read more about them, decide they are great — and keep them. Saves money, hassle, the environment, and a little piece of architectural history. That said, if contemporary offerings are your cup of tea, go for it.

    • Kaitlin says

      Hello everyone! :-)
      I think that if you love mid century/ retro design–that great.
      However, I think its a little over the top to ostracize people that don’t.

      You have to think that, back in the 1950’s-60’s, when the families redid these bathrooms, they too had to rip out what was “outdated” at the time and fit it with what was the norm (the norm being pastels and candy-colored tubs and sinks). Now, many people are just doing the same–ripping out what they don’t like and putting in whats more normal or something they DO like. It doesn’t make them stupid or “behind the curve”.

      I just wanted to put that out there :-) Don’t mean to be rude.

      • pam kueber says

        Kaitlyn, thank you for writing. In general, I think we work hard not to “ostracize” folks for their decorating decisions — it is only decorating. With regard to pink bathrooms — and anything “old and weird” in our vintage houses that we are just accustomed to seeing today — we just want to make the point that beauty is in the eye of the beholder — and it’s not necessary to ostracize these bathrooms, either. Many many people are shocked at first by pink bathroom and say they *hate* them. Then, they learn about their colorful history, and come full circle — to LOVE them. Many many many examples — read all the comments on Save The Pink Bathrooms. By the way, what is “normal”? “Today’s fashion?” But: Today’s fashion will be tomorrow’s…*hideous*. Do you see how the cycle never ends? Love The House You’re In… and save some money for… paying off the mortgage… becoming debt free… retirement?

    • pam kueber says

      Damian, I love you. Even though this is racy for this site, I must feature it. Thank you, you get an exclamation point!

  8. Renee says

    I hate to admit, on this site, that I just gutted a 1950s bathroom. I just couldn’t make it work with the expansion that was done. Yellow tile with black trim, white tile-in towel rod holders & tile-in TP holder. Also 3 old toilets with the large rectangular tanks & a 1/2 bath with gray plastic tile. I don’t want to trash this stuff. Can you recommend anyone that buys these items or should I just list them on Craigslist? Ebay is out due to shipping costs.

  9. Kathy says

    We bought an early 60’s ranch house 3 years ago. It has a pink bathroom and a lavender bathroom. I was especially thrilled with the lavender bathroom, because all of the fixtures, tub, tile, toilet and double sinks were lavender, and like new! Sometime between our last visit to the house, and the closing day, someone STOLE the lavender toilet, and replaced it with a white one. (Our money is on the slimy realtor the seller used.) Anyway, we had no proof of the lavender toilet’s existence, (who takes pictures of toilets when house shopping?), so it is long gone. I have searched high and low. Anybody got one they don’t want?

    • pam kueber says

      Kathy — that is a wild story. In some cities, you cannot get approval to exchange a house if the toilet is not low-flow….maybe someone thought they were doing you a favor? If you are looking for a lavendar toilet head on over to our Forum, where Scathing Jane regularly scours craigslist all over the nation for mid-century treasures like this. I think that she just posted on yesterday. That said – all lavendar toilets are not created equal. You might want to post a pic of the tub and sink to see if we can identify it, then, if possible, you are going to look for the same brand. Also: check your local Re-Store/Habitat for Humanity or salvage place…you sound like you are a devoted and humble servant so the retro decorating gods may have one waiting for you nearby. Good luck. Would love to see pics — send ’em to me at retrorenovation {at} gmail {dot} com.

  10. Marie says

    My husband and I faced the same dilemma when shopping for our home. I wanted a mid-century ranch with knotty pine. The more the better! In face, if I could find a home that had been owned by the same couple for decades – and who hadn’t updated anything – that would be perfect!

    Despite telling this to my realtor, she kept showing us house after house that had had the knotty pine painted over, the kitchens shoddily redone.. you know, that horrid after effect of too many people watching those shows like “Sell this house” where they slap crappy paint over everything, including the brick and stone fireplaces. Ugh!

    Please save the knotty pine, people! :)

  11. Amy says

    SO HAPPY to have found this site!!! My RE agent laughs at me, because I LOVE finding a house w/ original (especially pink) tile! My husband and I found an awesome house with original tile in all 3 baths (1 pink, 1 blue, 1 gray) and the kitchen (yellow & maroon.) The pink bathroom was dubbed “the nipple bathroom” because of the lady etched on the shower door. 😉
    Sadly, we didn’t get the house — tried and tried and tried, but it went to someone else w/ more $. I only hope they don’t rip out the wonderful old touches that house has.
    We ended up in a redone 1950’s 2 story (I’d call it a ranch, but for the 2nd story.) Unfortunately, either the grown kids of the former owner or some flippers got ahold of the house and tore out all the wonderful old tile, (elderly next door neighbors described it — I wanted to cry!) replacing it with Home Depot honey oak cabinets and granite counters. ICK!!!
    I’d much rather have been in a kitschy old place, but will have to try to kitsch up our new home (restoring the kitsch, actually.) Do people actually tear out new and put in old? I watch the house re-do shows and SCREAM with I see them ripping out wonderful old tiled bathrooms! STOP!!!
    Glad to find kindred spirits here! :)

  12. Amy says

    Also, found an awesome book at a thrift store yesterday about 50’s decorating by Armstrong (the floor company.) LOTS and LOTS of pictures! Yum!!!

  13. june snyder says

    when I found this website I beleived I was in heaven. oh my gosh!! how beautiful!!
    I have a partial pink bathroom, I am working on restoring the rest of it.
    Thank you, thank you!!!

  14. Leatha says

    OMG – I’m about to buy a 1955 Ranch Style with a PINK Bathroom and honestly just don’t know if I can take the pledge. :-) Interesting concept… take it back to retro.. Hmm…

  15. Suzanne says

    I didn’t grow up with a pink bathroom. My mother in law had one and she gutted it (black and pink!). My childhood bathroom was a delicious aqua color. However, in my first out-of-the-house digs, I rented a room with a smallish PINK refrigerator. It was a Westinghouse, I think, and a delicious pale pastel pink. I loved it. Regrettably I do not have a photo; wish I did.

  16. says

    I have just saved my pink and grey bathroom and will be sending you photos soon! Three cheers for saving pink bathrooms! Hiphip horray! Hip hip horray! Hip hip horray!

  17. Alissa says

    I quit watching home remodeling shows. Too depressing! I’m glad to find a stie where I am not alone in appreciating pink bathrooms!

  18. Angie says

    What a riot! Love this. I have a 70’s pink bathroom. Have been trying to decide what to do with it since I moved in five years ago. It’s not quite as fabulous as the one above and the fixtures need to be replaced and the toilet seat has faded to a strange color, etc. I have put off, perhaps indefinitely, replacing the pink toilet all because of my 4 year old niece. Here’s a direct quote said while sitting on said toilet. “Auntie Angie, this is my favorite bathroom because the toilet is pink.”

  19. Joe Felice says

    The make-over is OK, but totally unnecessary. The original pink bathroom could have been made glamourous with some “corrections:”
    1. The wallpaper was too much.
    2. The shade of the gray tile is wrong. It’s got just a tinge of green, which clashes with the pink fixtures.
    3. The shower curtain is the wrong shade. How about one of those plastic folding shower doors?
    4. What’s with that white trim at the base of the tub?
    Losing the sink, vanity, faucet & mirror were a crime that should be prosecuted!

  20. Dolly says

    Bravo to you for leading the charge to save the pink bathrooms. I have a 1930’s pink and black bathroom that I LOVE. I wouldn’t trade it for a boring beige and travertine bathroom ever. I also have an absolutely charming pale yellow vintage tiled kitchen (tiles are floor to ceiling with wonderful tiled archways to the breakfast nook and fridge nook), the craftsmanship is amazing. I am having to relocate for work and I am in the process of looking for another home with a pink bathroom. It makes me so sad to see all these old homes that have been remodled to the point that all their charm is lost. Hopefully I will be able to find another untouched vintage beauty. Wish me luck.

  21. says

    When I was a teenager (1978) my parents bought a 1950’s ranch with a pink and maroon bathroom. I LOVED IT! Even then, I knew I was a retro girl at heart, and wanted to wallpaper it and make it even more wonderful (outvoted by mother though).

    Now I live in a 1950’s stone cape cod, and I have an original blue tile bathroom that I am keeping as-is!

  22. Libby Wright says

    I saved my pink bathroom from my circa 1967 house. But, the floor tiles could use some sprucing up. They are dull and the grout (not white but sort of black) is not uniform in color. Some grout is lighter. If I wet the floor, looks good. What can I use to really clean the tiles and brighten them up? What can I do to make the grout more uniform in color throughout the floor. The floor is just worn but not falling apart.

  23. Cynthia Mika says

    I have a retro pink bathroom about to be renovated and want to sell the pink 1950-60s sink, toilet, and cast iron tub. Do you know of anyone interested in buying items like these?

  24. Wayne says

    Wow! I was looking for some before and after photo’s to remodel our pink bathroom. Hmmm… Interesting reads :))

  25. EJ Birch says

    After reading about the pink bathrooms (& taking the pledge to save them) here, I flinch every time I see them getting ripped out on HGTV. At least keep them in tact for those who appreciate them! But no, they get smashed to bits.

    I don’t know if you have any interest in such a thing, but would you ever consider pitching a show to Scripps (HGTV, DIY Network) about a Retro Renovation show? At the very least, a singular program on the Save the Pink Bathrooms? You could enlighten, inform and maybe even stem the tide of ignorance and destruction!

    There is a woman who has a show called Rehab Addict and she restores old homes to their appropriate period glory (mostly Victorians, I think).

    In this day and age, it seems you’ll reach the most people w/TV. People who might not otherwise discover wonderful websites like yours.

    Keep up the great work. Would love to see RRTV turn the tide on cookie cutter renos. Appreciate the old! (I always assume older things are better quality. Built to last. “Those were the days…”. (PS: I’m 46 not 96)

    • pam kueber says

      The TV show thing is a whole big story. Short answer: Yes, it has been tried. Went nowhere for a variety of reasons. I am plowing on with the blog.

      • EJ Birch says

        Wow, I’m surprised. And disappointed. I’d suggest an online petition but I can sense a weariness in your reply that I infer as “don’t bother.”
        Perhaps PBS. After all, they show This Old House…

  26. Gus says

    Hi…I’m new to this. I’m a 30 yr old male from FL and I recently purchased a mid-century modern home with a pink master bath (half of all walls tiled in pink, terrazzo floor, pink sunken shower, weird angled vanity, metal ring around pink double sinks…basically classic pink bath). Some of the tiles have flamingos and fish picture tiles (I’m guessing original owners did it since it’s FL).

    My other bathroom is similar but in a brown and beige tile. It also has fish picture tiles.

    To be honest…I hate them. I want to re-tile with a “friendlier” color scheme for re-sell. Am I really ruining good potential? Is there any compromise I can easily do (wall color…take down some portion of the tile, etc)? Update faucets?

    I’m trying to be opened minded (since I want to stay true to the mid-century vibe), so please don’t take my post the wrong way. It’s just difficult to envision me as a retro lover. Anyone have advice on how to incorporate “new” features with the retro?

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