Just say ‘no’ to vessel sinks, concrete countertops and bamboo floors


Lawrence Bill
sent me a link last Sunday to a New York Times story about staying neutral with your decor – especially the very basic, expensive stuff. In the very broadest sense, I tend to agree. A basic rule is, the more expensive the thing is – the more conservative your choice should be. Go crazy and trendy with accessories and stuff that’s relatively easy to switch out.That said, I do not think that all-white bathroom tiles, as one example, are your only option. In fact, that scares me. For your retro renovation, you can be confident in picking a nice colored tile – a soft blue, green, yellow, beige, aqua or yes, even BW Tile pink. Trim your 4×4 ‘field tiles’ with white 2×6’s, add a white tile floor (AO Chloe, one of the new Daltile mosaics, or maybe you can find something excellent locally.) Voila — you have a pretty, timeless backdrop that any one of many accessory color combinations would bring right over the top easily! And you know that means wallpaper, too.

And how about the 1957 Armstrong kitchen above. Wood cabinets. Black countertop. White walls. Pretty neutral, huh. But then how about that punch of chartreuse, the shapely dinnerware, the daisies – even the cutting board? Makes it a work of art. Decorating is so much fun.

If you know what is good for you, you will stay away from: prefinished floors, concrete counters, glass tiles, vessel sinks, bamboo floors, oversized furniture, humongous range top hoods, oil-rubbed bronze faucets…hmmm, what other ubertrendy items can I add to ensure that I offend every reader somehow? Read on.

Get our retrolicious free newsletter.

Newsletter-sign-up-2NMAS

Comments

  1. iluvretro says

    A friend of mine has a kitchen still in the midst of the 1970’s which is very similar in colour to the one above, the black and white picture of the housewife on the phone – the fish on the wall reminds me of my aunt who use to have one that was the same on her kitchen wall :-)

  2. Tikimama says

    Waaaah! I wish I’d found this blog before we started our remodeling!! I was looking for something light-colored and durable to replace the thick, dark brown carpeting in all our living areas, and we chose bamboo because of it’s “green” properties. I like the look okay, but it’s already bowed and looks almost scalloped when you catch it in the light right. At least I haven’t done the kitchen floor yet!

    Lisa (Tikimama)

  3. Lifterguy says

    In 40 years, someone will have a website (or whatever is the future equivalent of a website) devoted to saving the glass tile / vessel sinks / bamboo flooring (and perhaps IKEA cabinets.) I think if you love it, go for it, but just remember that no matter what choices you make, someone is going to think it looks “old fashioned” one, two or three decades from now. But if you choose wisely, perhaps someone will still appreciate your sense of style and decide it’s a look worth preserving for future generations!

    • pam kueber says

      I think you are right, Lifterguy, in that good design from all eras is and will be worth preserving. That said, this website is about building and sharing knowledge about mid-century design aesthetics. I have a pretty strongly held belief that when you go to renovate a house, you will be well served to understand its original design aesthetic and to make conscious decisions accordingly. If, after getting informed, you decide to add something contemporary because you love it — great!

    • Josephine says

      Yeah, I think you’re right. While some things could be disgusting to someone’s taste and even horrid, I have no doubt that a few decades from now there will be people trying to save these modern kitchen and baths of today and consider them treasures.

  4. says

    Question: so the glass block window above my -1958 stove was intentional? We bought a 1950 ranch, had one previous owner who kindly left us photos of lot before foundation built- drawings and a ping pong table.

  5. Nick says

    This is an interesting thread for sure. I am amused by and respectful of the die-hard purists. I do plenty of restoration work as a hobby and can be quite obsessive in that regard. However, when it comes to kitchens and baths, there is a functional aspect which cannot be completely ignored. Clearly, advances in functionality have been made in the last 75 years! Two years ago we did an upgrade in one of two 1958 baths — the long vanity had a medium blue tile top which was in great shape. However, the permanently mounted undermount white sink only got worse and worse. We made the difficult decision to cut it out, and actually sourced exact-match tiles to repair parts of area surrounding the hole — and then went with a simple rectangular surface mount vessel sink from Kohler. It looks fantastic, and quite in keeping with the design of the bath, even though such sinks did not exist (to my knowledge) in 1958. Far more important is that we retained the extensive blue and white original tiles. Where I’m going with this: as a designer, I think that often the best solution is a combination of retaining whatever original stuff still works (functionally, aesthetically) while replacing/augmenting with new stuff that works better, yet still works aesthetically with the original period materials, etc.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Nick, Your bathroom sounds lovely. I will quibble, though: In the past 70 years — and especially the past 60 years — I don’t think that “clearly functionality has advanced” much at all — in fact, I would argue that the dimunition in quality means products are functionally (if you include longevity) worse today! Our bathrooms and kitchens are designed pretty much the same now as then. Yes, there have been a handful of technological advances that created new products: Solid surface countertops… microwave ovens… some window treatment designs… fiberglass doors… but golly, now I am out of ideas of any more. Maybe: Double-pane windows argon gas low e windows today — and more energy and water efficient appliances — alas, the windows won’t last as long as the better, old growth wood of the mid-century era and the appliances made today break much faster in many folks’ experience. Of course, functionally, things can wear out. The the actual components – pretty much the same then as now. What do you think? What’s really available today for a kitchen or bathroom that was not available in mid-century America?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *