10 facts about vintage pink bathrooms

pink-pomona-tilePink bathrooms are very interesting. Here are 10 facts about them:

  1. 5 million pink bathrooms — I believe that pink was the single-most popular color for bathrooms in the 1950s, and estimate that some 5 million pink bathrooms went into the 20 million+ homes built in the United States from 1946-1966. I can’t imagine this is easy to prove one way or another. My estimate is based on watching time capsule homes closely for two years. I’m declaring: 1 in 4 — at minimum — mid-century homes had a pink bathroom. 
  2. “Mamie Pink” – First Lady Mamie Eisenhower was pivotal in popularizing the color, which is often referred to at “Mamie Pink” or “First Lady Pink.” Her husband President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent her pink flowers every morning. She re-decorated the private quarters in the White House in pink — so much so that reporters called it the “Pink Palace.” And, the bathroom in her Gettysburg retirement home was pink down to the cotton balls.
  3. Postwar exuberance — The popularity of pink, along with classic 50s colors like turquoise, chartreuse and candy apple red, reflects the exuberance of the postwar era.
  4. “…Industry men say pink is tops”: — In 1958 Electrical Merchandising magazine summed up the demand for pink appliances, “If forced to pick one color as leading this year, most industry men say pink is tops.”
  5. Hardwired into our DNA — Evolutionary biologists hypothesized and have followed up with studies showing that a preference for pink may be hard-wired into women’s brains. Yup, it’s scientific.
  6. Retro botox — Pink is actually a great color for bathrooms because the reflected glow makes you look younger…healthier. Photographers seem to like pink bathrooms for the same reason. Have you seen our Flickr Save the Pink Bathrooms Group? Close to 1,000 images of pink bathrooms now there.
  7. Kitchens, too — Pink kitchens also popular, influenced by the same factors. RetroRenovation.com recently featured 61 pink kitchens from the era.
  8. 60s design shift — Pink bathrooms faded from popularity beginning in the late 50s and early 60s due to changes in design taste and as exuberance faded in the face of the cold war and other sobering national events.
  9. Pink resurgent – Today, interest in midcentury design is resurgent, and for many buyers a pristine pink bathroom is a valuable selling point. Several trends are driving this back-to-the-future trend, including a new generation of young buyers who love retro style, nostalgic older buyers, and more recently renewed interest in the “original” suburbs closer to the city, which are holding their value better in the wake of record gas prices.
  10. The most at risk? Of course,  pink bathrooms are emblematic — we love vintage yellow, blue, green, beige, peach, salmon, lavendar, grey and even white bathrooms, too. But while there may be resurgent interest driven by sites like RetroRenovation.com and Save the Pink Bathrooms, pink bathrooms seem to be those most highly at risk of gutting, especially on TV home decorating shows where in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, they don’t get no respect.

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Comments

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Leah. Woah, do you ever have a job on your hand removing three layers of paint off of pink PLASTIC tiles! Note: Be cognizant of environmental and safety issues especially when you disturb old, unknown surfaces – test for lead, for example, before you start peeling away.

  1. says

    This may sound strange but I also think that pink bathrooms elevate the spirit. I always feel my mood lift when I walk into mine.

    Thanks for the crusade!

  2. says

    My parent’s main bathroom is awash in “Pink” tile and other great mid century fixtures and details. The house is from 1926 but obviously went through “updating” in the late 50’s or early 60’s. They have owned it since ’72.

  3. Justin Miller says

    My partner and I bought a house about a year ago that was built in 1949. It has 1 and 3/4 bathrooms. The main bathroom has the pink tile surround. Originally the sink countertop would have been pink as well, but the previous owners tore it out and put a new cabinet and sink in it, but the tub surround is still original. We have since found a pink toilet that we has already been installed. Eventually we are going to get the tub reglazed in pink. In the 3/4 bathroom we have found a pink toilet and pink sink that is going to be installed as well. In the Kitchen we have vintage pink appliances (1955 Hotpoint dishwasher, 1958 G.E. wall oven, 1949 Hotpoint dishwasher, and a 1949 Youngstown kitchen vent hood. We both love pink in our house.

  4. Annie B. says

    Oh, how I wish I had a pink bathroom to save.
    Justin, I am green (kind of pinkish-green) with envy at all the vintage pink the two of you have. Wow! Congrats!

  5. Dave & Shauntelle says

    I have an architect friend who recently tore a pink toilet and tub, as well as a blue toilet and sink out of a clients house. The client requested it, but my friend had the foresight to save the fixtures and now they’re being stored in my backyard. They’re all up for grabs if anyone’s interested. We’re in Toronto, Ontario, so it’d be pick up only. I’ll send pix to anyone interested. Check out our blog at http://atomicplayhouse.blogspot.com to read our own pink sink adventures and to drop me a line if you’re interested in the fixtures.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Dave and Shauntelle, nice to hear from you. No buying/selling/trading on the main blog (or it would be chaos) but I left this up here because anyone interested can contact you via your own blog. Thanks.

  6. James says

    I think the estimate of 5 million pink bathrooms may be a bit conservative. From personal experience, 3 of the 4 homes that I have owned in the past 22 years have had pink bathrooms. And we did not buy these homes seeking pink bathrooms. The pink was a “bonus” depending on your perspective. The 1926 mini-dutch colonial had a pink bathroom (I’m guessing from a 1950s remodel) as did our ’62 colonial and our ’63 colonial (in the latter, we converted it to aqua blue fo our sons). Our ’39 brick Georgian box did not have the pink bathroom (built too soon for the pink craze?) but had a great yellow-and-blue tiled bathroom. Oh, and my mother-in-law’s main bathroom in her 1960 ranch was pepto-bismo pink all over.

    The slow economy actually may be the savior of pink bathrooms. From the mid-90s until a couple of years ago, our Chicago suburb was (sadly, I think) the site of many “tear-downs”- mid-century capes and ranches were raised to clear the way for bigger houses. Pink toilets and other fixtures laying forlornly curb-side was a common sight as these houses were dismantled. With the recession, the tear-down phenomenon has (thankfully) stopped almost altogether and the remaining pink toilets are presumably staying where they belong, screwed to their tiny-tiled bathroom floors. So, the slow economy, coupled with your pink bathroom awareness campaign, may save the day for the beloved coral-colored porcelain. Keep up the good work.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi James – I think you are spot on, on all counts.

      I actually did try to be conservative in my estimate. It is very interesting to hear your experience. I am going to start watching time capsules even more closely – I’ll start a spreadsheet and count the appearance of pink bathrooms.

      There actually were pink bathrooms earlier than the postwar era – beautiful ones. But I think the trend really took off after WWII, when the economy boomed.

      And yes, I think that the economy has slowed much of the needless destruction down. As I also like to say, “A granite countertop doesn’t look so good when it comes with a home equity mortgage. If you can get a home equity mortgage.” These days it’s about learning to “love the house you’re in,” baby!

  7. says

    I build these old bathrooms! LOL! 🙂 I was taught by a guy that strated his tile trade in 1949. I install the exact same way they did back then. Paper, wire my walls, float them, soak my tile, mix up my portland cement with fire clay and set my tile.

  8. DW says

    I have a pink and grey bathroom I am desperately trying to restore – I found a pink sink but I’m in bad need of about 12 tiles. Who can help a sista out? I have links to some tiles sites that I found here so if anybody has used them please let me know. I love my pink and grey bathroom!

  9. says

    I had white fixtures & pink tile in my 1959 house which I STUPIDLY removed & replaced with ALL TAN TILE & FIXTURES … Yesterday I scored abe beautiful Salmon pink 3 piece 1956 Eljer set (tub, toilet & sink) off Craigslist for $100 … These were over 100 miles away, the man delivered to me for $25 gas money (I gave him $50) Does anyone know the official name?

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