Where to find vintage bathroom sinks, tubs and toilets

american-standard-blue-suite

be safeIMPORTANT UPDATE:
If you are the owner of an older porcelain enamel bathtub or sinks — or are considering buying one — please see my May 2, 2016 story Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age; this article focuses on raising awareness around three other potential sources of lead dust exposure in your home – old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any era — and steps you can take to assess and, if required, address them.

If you are looking for mid-century bathroom fixtures — tubs, toilets, sinks, shower doors — the most likely places you are going to find them are on (1) your local craigslist or (2) your local Re-Store / Habitat for Humanity or other local salvage shop. The easiest and cheapest route is going to be to BUY LOCAL. You can see the stuff first-hand, so you know what you are getting, and you won’t pay shipping — you will haul your treasure away in your own car. Be sure to practice smart safety habits when buying from craigslist — see their recommendations.

One other idea that readers have been successful with: Ask the neighbors. Their houses originally had the same fixtures as yours, and they may have old ones in their basements, from previous remodels — or they may be about to remodel. Also: Watch the curb! Yes! We have had examples of readers deciding they needed, say, an old pink toilet — and a few days later they spotted on out on a neighbor’s curb waiting for the garbage truck. SERIOUSLY!

Tip: Another important reason to buy local is that you can be sure the color you are getting matches. There were many manufacturers back in the day — and their colors were all slightly different. If you buy locally, you can check the colors in person.

 

The farther you get from home (craigslist, Re-Stores, or other local salvage places), the more expensive finding vintage bathroom fixtures is going to get. And that’s before you even have to think about shipping and crating. That’s because specialty places are likely to pick up only the best-of-the-best, and to do that, they also have overhead to cover. If you are on a serious search, though, you might also consider this list of potential sources. Two salvage places with online stock include:

  • deabath.com
  • historichouseparts.com

There are surely other salvage places that will deal with you online, but these are the two that I am most familiar with.

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Comments

  1. says

    My aunt has some 1978 bright pea green linoleum, similar to those tiles, on her floor in her dining room and kitchen, mint condition, I swear I’ve never seen linoleum in the superb condition it’s in after 31 years of daily use but she managed to pull it off (with 3 boys to top it off!)

  2. LRE King says

    Gerson’s, in Tucson, has a wide selection of vintage colored toilets, some sinks, and a few bathtubs. I bought an aqua toilet there five years ago; finally got a sink to match earlier this year.

    • Esmeralda says

      Gersons is awesome for lots of vintage midcentury fixtures. I am looking for an entire ming green bath set to include an apron bathroom sink all American standard if anyone can help!

  3. Jason says

    So, if you have a tub/shower area in really good condition, but want to change the color, what other alternative is there, other than reglazing it? I mean, the expense and demo involved just to change a tub? Could you please describe the bad things you have heard or experienced about reglazing? Thanks

    • pam kueber says

      Jason, I have not personally *heard* good things about the durability of reglazing. That said, the technology is likely always changing…and I am not an expert on this…

    • says

      Hi Jason. I am a reglazer in MA and I believe that, if done correctly, reglazing is a durable, cost-effective option to replacing a tub. You can save up to 80% by reglazing. You’re going to hear horror stories about any business, including reglazers. But we have hundreds of satisfied clients. We have refinished tubs and tile in people’s homes, as well as clawfoot tubs and vintage sinks with great results.

      The primer we use is the same product used to prime Air Force jets. So it’s very strong stuff. As Pam states, the technology is constantly improving. But reglazing is sometimes more art than science. Improper application of even the best products can lead to problems. Hopefully you’ll consider giving a reglazer in your area a chance.

  4. Jean says

    Hi Pam,
    I am looking for a lavender toilet from the 1960s to replace mine that cannot be fixed. I searched American Standard and the like to see if they may possibly offer the color in a new one, but alas, the color is a thing of the past!!!
    Any advice?
    Jean

  5. Erin says

    My husband and I bought a light blue vintage sink and tub for our upstairs bathroom, but found out the toilet had been broken. We don’t know the brand, so I have no idea where to start on finding a color match! Any ideas? I can send a pic of the sink– it’s pretty distinctive….

  6. says

    Definitely, definitely the thing to do if the normal channels don’t work is to contact your local kitchen and bath remodelers. They’re tearing out these beauties often. Tell them you’ll pay them when they find something for you.

    Whenever I need something and want to get it cheap or free, I always ask myself, “Who has it, but doesn’t want it?” I’ve scored all kinds of goodies by answering this question. It works for many, many situations, from getting free umbrellas (answer: lost and founds, especially at hotels), to free carpet (Who has pieces big enough for a home office? Answer: commercial carpeter layers, for whom a remnant would be a pretty big piece).

    I expect the same thing will work for getting vintage fixtures.

  7. Nikki says

    Hi. Hoping someone can share some advice.

    We are remodeling our kitchen retro-fab-style and have an old sink from years back that would fit perfectly. It’s cast iron with the standard porcelain finish but the porcelain is cracked in some places and there is rust all along the perimeter of the sink. I have not heard good things about reglazing as the results are temporary so I’m wondering what are my options? Just live with the as-is condition of the sink if I want to use it, or find an old porcelain sink in better condition, or???

    Any advice all your Retro Experts can share is most appreciated!

    • pam kueber says

      Nikki, I have some stories on this — see Kitchens/Sinks category. Short answer: Difficult. Get new or new/old sink.

  8. Michelle says

    I live near Orlando Florida. I’m remodeling our 1950’s home. They have their original sinks, tubs & toilets still. One pepto pink and black motif and the other that yellow color. We want to upgrade. Where can I sell these near me other than Craigslist?

  9. Mary Elizabeth says

    Latest exciting finds for people living in Southern New England: In our search for a Venetian Pink drop-in sink, Darling Hubby and I did go to visit the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Salem Connecticut (we live not far from there) and EcoBuilding Bargains Store in Springfield, Massachusetts (a day trip) during the last week of February. We did not find what we were looking for, but the Re-Store in Salem had a gorgeous set of mid-century modern bookcase/storage units in a light plywood that I would have bought if I did not already have all the bookcases I need and can fit in my mid-century modest ranch.

    On a few days later to Springfield EcoBuilding Bargains, where there were a number of retro plumbing things–including NOS and used vintage pink sinks, but not in the right color for us. They also had a beautiful, huge, brand new Anderson window designed to go in the roof peak if you have cathedral ceilings in your house and need more light and a good quality glass. When we asked about the possibilities of more sinks coming in, one of the workers there gave us a great tip–he said to come into salvage stores during late March and April when construction and renovation will begin anew in the good weather and a lot more product comes into the store. As Pam knows, you can go online and find out their number and e-mail address.

    Our own personal good news may translate to a new resource for mid-century bathroom renovators. On a whim after a dentist appointment, we went to White’s Plumbing Supply in West Haven, CT, a go-to place for Southern New England where we have bought a lot of new stuff for our renovations in our old condo and new (to us) ranch. (Go on line and find their address, etc. and the story of their still family-run business.) As we walked to the back of the showroom waiting for a sales person, TA-DA! Right on the wall was a discontinued 1990s new Gerber Venetian Pink (Bahama Pink) drop in oval sink for our soon-to-be-built custom vanity in our 1950s bathroom! We inquired, and after some checking in the stockroom, etc., we were told it was the very last oval one, but they had several in the round style. Dearest Hubby negotiated well to get them to take it off the wall and sell it to us (“Why display it when you have no stock?”) and usually meek me suggested since it was the last and we were taking it off their hands, could they knock a few bucks off? We ended up paying half what I could have bought it for on line from Gerber, if you count the shipping. We could hardly wait to get it home!

    Why this is good news for the rest of you is that there are all those round Venetian pink sinks if you want them and other treasures there we didn’t need or want but you might. They have several toilets in Venetian pink, a nice sky blue, and gold. We decided to stay with our white toilet, because it is the higher type with the elongated seat, and we just bought a new custom-colored pink Bemis seat for it. The models at White’s were standard height and round front.They have the Bemis toilet seats in every color of the rainbow. And somewhere in back is a whole Venetian pink tub, toilet, and sink from when Grandfather White moved his store from one location to another and took this set out of the window. We asked grandson Steve White if he would consider selling the set, and he said he wasn’t sure, it’s kind of an oddity and an heirloom. We didn’t press, as we are keeping our 1959 tub, but If you are a good negotiator, you might be able to get him to sell it to you. They are very nice folks, in the business all their lives, and we can say that because we aren’t related to them, just former customers.

    • pam kueber says

      WOAH. I *wish* I had my bathrooms to do all over again. Thanks for the fresh field report, Mary Elizabeth!!! Send me pics when your bathroom is complete!!!

  10. Cynthia says

    We’ve found an amazing matched suite (tub, sink, toilet) by American Standard in Manchu Yellow, pristine condition. They’re going into a 100+ year old house and our style is more 30’s & 40’s, but I just couldn’t pass up this set … $120 at Habitat for Humanity!!! So …. I’m thinking white hex tile floors, white subway tile around the tub, white beadboard wainscoting with pale dove grey walls above and porcelain art deco sconces.

    My hope is that we can get the feel of the 40’s with this set from the 60’s. My fear is that it’ll look like an odd mash up of periods and styles. I’ve found lots of folks who update the look around these fixtures, but we’re trying to backdate. Any ideas? Many thanks!!

    • Jean Gough says

      I think your color idea is great, but I am not sure about mixing the eras. My last house was 1920 vintage and we put in a beautiful fireplace mantle from a house built around 1890/1900 and it always bothered me. Good luck in your decision!

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        My husband and I have this discussion all the time while renovating. We have a 1950s ranch with a brand new addition that looks like the 1960’s architecturally, except for our furniture, which is a mixture of mid-century modern and early 20th century. When taking tours of old houses, such as in Sturbridge Village, Strawberry Banke, etc., you will see houses that have both furniture and architectural features popular before and after the house was built. Since the founding of the country, eople have always added on and built new features into their houses. Just because you like aspects of mid-century modern, it doesn’t mean you can’t have anything else mixed in with it, as long as it is your taste and you have an eye for the overall effect in terms of proportion, mood and color. Now, if we were building a set for a movie that took place in the 1950’s or 1960’s, we’d have to be careful of the detail. As it is, though, we are real people living in real houses,not actors on a set. That’s how I think of it. The people who build the 1920’s house might have put the turn of the century mantel in it anyway!

        Scoring a lavender toilet and driving through three states to pick it up–now that makes you and your hubby my RetroRen heroes!

  11. Roberta Knutson says

    I am in need of a baby blue toilet. Ours base has cracked. 🙁 We live in south central Nebraska. Hate to replace with white. Thanks.

    • Jean Gough says

      We had to replace a lavender toilet last year and search high and low. Finally found one in Philadelphia which my husband drove down to get from Massachusetts. Dedication! I would think blue would be easier to find, so keep looking. I kept googling lavender toilet and one finally surfaced!
      Good luck!

  12. Mary Elizabeth says

    Roberta,

    See all of Pam’s info on this and also my comments in this discussion about looking for and finding a pink sink in Connecticut and Southern Massachusetts. You could find the same kind of place in Nebraska. Gerber made the 1950s colors toilets and sinks in the 1980s and 1990s (when people started thinking retro was cool), and our area long-term family plumbing store still has stock. So begin by assuming that the smaller, family-run plumbing businesses in your area might have a blue toilet stuck in the back of the stock room just waiting for a good home. The large plumbing and hardware chains are unlikely to have one.

    In addition to the suggestions already made, such as looking on Craig’s List and renovation stores, you could put an ad in the paper, “Wanted, one blue toilet, such and such a brand.” Then put up flyers in the feed store. Some older farm family who don’t do the Internet might have one sitting in his barn. Tell the people at your local dump/transfer station to keep an eye out for you. (We just got a beautiful stained glass window hanging at our dump a few weeks ago.)

    If worse comes to worse, and you need to replace your toilet in a hurry, go with a white one, and then buy the custom blue seat from Bemis (search this site for the contact information) to match your other blue fixtures. (They send you color charts so you can be sure it’s the right blue.) Or get a wooden seat and paint it with blue enamel. It will look really cool. Be sure to call to make your order and tell them you read about the service on this site. I think they gave me a good deal when I ordered my pink seat, as the price quoted on line was higher than what they offered me on the phone. Of course, once you do that, the retro gods, being fickle, will send you a new or nearly new blue toilet, right, Pam? 🙂

  13. Vinny Lee says

    Today I saved a pink Briggs Beautyware toilet and sink, for $20. Yipee! The plan is to redo a tiny master bath. The sink is round and needs a new humvee (is that right?) ring. I know that I’ve read on this site where I can get one, but now I can’t find it. Could someone, please, point me in the right direction? Thanks bunches!

  14. Katie Pix says

    We just bought a pair of grey 1956 apron front sinks (they were still in their original crates) from Jane of Toledo Architectural Artifacts, in Ohio. MINT condition and perfect for our bath renovation.

    We also bought a vintage aqua crane sink and had everything packaged delicately and shipped to our door.

    Jane and her husband were great! They have a LOT of vintage, NOS, and very unique plumbing items.
    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

    Their website is http://www.coolstuffiscoolstuff.com

    After researching & hitting tons of dead ends (apparently many vintage plumbing sites don’t update when they’ve sold things…) I’m so glad I found this site.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Katie, this is Pam on Siri with my broken arm so I apologize for the typos. What a wonderful find thanks for the link to the place in Toledo. Be sure to take lots of before during and after photos of your remodel we can’t wait to see it when it’s done many thanks and good luck

  15. Julie says

    I’m not quite sure if I’m in the right thread, but since my question is about the perils of shopping for a retro sink, I figure I’m not too out of place here. I’ve found a wall-hung sink at my local Habitat for Humanity resale store. I think it would fit my bathroom perfectly (the back of a closet juts into the room just opposite the sink, so I need a little round sink or something like this one, with its angled corners). But the problem is that it was literally ripped off the wall. The support holes are gone.

    I’m wondering if it’s possible to drill new support holes higher on the back of the sink. Or would that just ruin it further?

    Here is a link to a pic of the back of the sink

    And a pic of the front of the sink

    Thanks!!

    Julie

  16. aj says

    Just wanted to give people in the los angeles area a heads up. The Bellflower ReStore location has a TON of new old stock pastel colored vanity sinks for $5 each. Undermount and overmount, pink, blue, yellow, maybe green. Not what I was shopping for but thought it might help someone out.

  17. says

    Hey,
    Just perusing your bath forums to find a cleaner for white haze on a 50’s Kohler Spruce Green tub… I work for one of those local/nonprofit salvage stores here in MD, and we have a lot of sinks/tubs/toilets. One of my jobs is to clean and list them online (ebay) and ship these by freight all over the US.

    I build a crate with all salvaged materials, clean the you-know-what out of the toilets, photograph them extensively, and list them. Our shipper is actually quite cheap and the buyer can pick up at the nearest terminal to avoid liftgate and residential add-ons. And as a nonprofit we have overhead, but no shareholders to make wealthy, so we can charge less.

    So there ARE online resources, but someday we will be all out of these little sculptural treasures!

    Side note, we started doing skim deconstruction as well and I got to pull out an all-original 1938 ming green toilet and sink. Kinda fun!
    Matt

    • pam kueber says

      Keep it up, matt, you are doing a great thing by helping to save all those wonderful old features!

      As for the haze, I am a fan of the ROG cleaners, however, they are expensive…

  18. Aaron says

    FYI: There is a salvage yard in Sarasota FL called Used Stuff that has TONS of sinks and toilets and even some reclaimed Florida Tile (in the elusive 4 3/8″ size) in many of the classic pastel colors. Very reasonable pricing. It’s worth to drive down here for all you northerners that haven’t yet experienced the amazing city of Sarasota!

    This blog is awesome, btw.

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