Decorating a turquoise bathroom for Jamie

It was great fun last Friday to hear everyone’s suggestions for Jamie’s turquoise, pink and burgundy bathroom. Jamie confirms that she had indeed been agonizing over the final decisions, and that the suggestions were very helpful. Meanwhile, I thought I’d take a stab at it, too — and you all made it easy what with your 60+ ideas to consider.

I took another look at all your ideas, then spent about spent about three hours playing with them to narrow down to this “mood board” for Jamie’s bathroom. To make my mood boards, I start with an “anchor” image that I must work with — in this case the “before” picture of Jamie’s bathroom, because it shows all the elements of the bathroom in one shot. Then, I start searching the internet for wallpapers, fabrics, flooring … whatever… that I want to try up against the anchor image to see whether they “work.”  I used powerpoint to layer the images — I find this program quite easy to work with for this purpose. I find there is no substitute for smacking a wallpaper or fabric sample right up next to tile to see how it will look — things I thought look great may look ugh, and things I thought might look iffy sometimes pop. Even then: Doing all this on a computer screen is still no substitute for doing it in your real bathroom.

The #1 issue to be addressed in this bathroom renovation seemed to be: What to do with the vanity. I was won over by all the reader comments saying essentially, “Hey, you went to all the trouble to strip your woodwork, so why not stain it?” Also, Sputnik Housewares pointed at her bathroom with its wood vanity… I went and looked and thought, yes, that will look nice… the wood is an “earthy” anchor to all that glossy tile.  The photo above is from Sputnik Houseware’s kitchen – same finish. The next question: What color for the stain? Either of the two finishes shown here (the other photo is from a bathroom recently shown on Ruth’s blog No Pattern Required) are both classic 50s. I’ve seen photos of the rest of Jamie’s house (she has lots other renovation going on). What I’d suggest: Match the vanity stain it to what you’re planning for the rest of the house. The house is small. Having the stain the same room-to-room will provide visual continuity and be easier on the eyes. Either stain works in my mind. But, I would not go to much darker than the first one.

#2 What about the walls? You know I wanted wallpaper! But, I could not find one that I felt really worked. The wallpapers that got “close” for me were those with a field (background) color a few shades lighter than the turquoise field tile. I did not think that wallpaper with a light pink field looked all that good. In addition, when I threw papers up with a strong burgundy in them — they looked fabulous! Really fabulous!

Anyway, continuing… So I could not find “the right” wallpaper. It certainly exists! But I needed to finish this post. So then I remembered that several readers had mentioned barkcloth.  I went to just one place — Full Swing Textiles — grabbed two selections that had the right colors and voila, the one here worked gorgeously, I thought. Again demonstrating: This bathroom will look great by playing up the burgundy. Jamie: I think you could have this barkcloth (or one like it) made into a shower curtain and matching valance with stained wood shutters (find them from the Re-Store?) below. Paint your walls the field color of the barkcloth you choose — in this case, a tauped-out white (?). Wood trim of the window:  Stain to match vanity. Then, add coordinating artwork, rugs and towels, maybe upgrade your cabinet pulls (for fun, if you want) and you’re about done. I woulwhere-to-find-octagon-and-dot-floor-tiled probably buy the rugs and towels in two or all three principle colors and switch them on and off — I do this in my bathroom, and it’s a nice way to change up the look easily.

I also liked this fabric because I thought it would also coordinate well with the white-and-burgundy octagon-and-dot tile that I had in my mind’s eye for this bathroom.

I found these octagon-framed Turners on ebay. I’m not saying the matte or the images are right — but the frames and the scale, I think, are. BTW, I have no problem mixing silver (or chrome) and gold.

And, I thought you could upgrade your hardware. How about this streamline cabinet pull from Crown City Hardware. In chrome or nickel, of course. It’s wicked expensive, though, like $30 per piece. but quite nice. Note, this is the ONLY vintage-style cabinet pull that I have ever found with a 2-3/4 inch center-on-center spread.

Finally, like several readers did, I want to call out this wrapping soffit. What a cool feature. I think I would try my darndest to play it up in a way that calls out the design but which, as some readers wisely pointed out, still does not tiptoe into clown-bathroom territory. The ‘answer’ depends on other factors. If you decide to paint the walls rather than wallpaper, how about a ligher shade of paint on the soffit… continuing to the wall with the door and then to the wall with the mirror and lights. But, there is a darker shade of paint on the window wall, which then connects to the toilet wall and wreps wrapping into the shower. That is: the walls that protrude with the soft get one color, the receding walls get a slightly darker version of the same color. If you do wallpaper, just use paper on the protruding surfaces, just paint on the receding surfaces (which include the inside of the shower.)

No matter how you slice and dice it, this is all tricky stuff. Making these decisions is a bit like doing a Rubik’s Cube: You must just keep twisting and turning the different design options this way and that until you get the combo “just right.” FOR YOU. That is, there is no single right answer here… fortunately and sometimes if feels like *unfortunately*, there are many possibilities that when put together with thoughtfulness and love — will be perfect. Good luck, Jamie, and let us know how it all turns out.


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


  1. DahliaCactus says

    Ohh Pam, lovely. The bark cloth makes everything pop! I would vote for the most golden hued of the stains, to me it looks most period. Since you went to all that trouble you might as well stain, you can always change your mind and paint it, but I think the pinky brown needs the anchor of some wood.

    I love AT, but when i saw this same bathroom over there everyone was advocating “soft grey”, i think this is a much better solution.

  2. pam kueber says

    DahliaCactus, Jamie says that she has never shared this bathroom with another website. I am curious which bathroom you are thinking about on AT. Can you post the link?

    • Candice says

      Well… after looking for it. It is possible that A) I confused it with another retro bath as they are featuring baths this month, OR I should NOT send out messages to the Internets at 5am and am going crazy from lack of sleep.

      You should do a board for a retro bathroom starting from scratch.
      My basement is a modern addition to the house and the bath down there is just the saddest, whitest place in the world. There is so little character or definition to the space that i can’t even begin to start planning. It’s just a blank white box, I think i have decorators block?

  3. gavin hastings says

    Pam-Looks great!
    Jamie’s bath is gonna be awesome.

    I have 2 bathrooms in dire need.
    Please send me MY layout by Friday. Thanks in advance.

  4. gavin hastings says

    Gosh-I have got to learn to collect my thoughts prior to posting:

    The barkcloth-esque wall cover is a winner. I would paste it up asap. Once up, I think the cabinet and floor will “tell” you what it wants to be. (I am still partial to a dark flloor)

  5. Kory Carroll says

    Looking Great!
    I just bought a Home from 1959.
    I have used the suburban Modern Palette from Sherwin Williams on 3 Rooms already, and can’t wait to post all the Pictures of My Retro ‘Doo-Wop’ House. My Bedroom is painted Holiday Turquoise (my fav color) but I wish that I had a Bathroom like this!

  6. tailfin says

    I may be in the minority on this one, but I don’t think that particular barkcloth wallpaper is right for the bathroom. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m generally a fan of wallpaper at all, although I do like it in some instances. That wallpaper would be fun in another setting. And I do love 40’s floral barkcloth fabric in many instances.

    But in my opinion, the wallpaper pattern shown is too busy for this bathroom and adds more visual “noise” rather than tying in what’s already there. And it may be the color reproduction on my computer screen, but I find that the blues and greens in the wallpaper clash with the stunning turquoise on the wall.

    I’ve never seen that shade of turquoise tile paired with the burgandy, but I think it’s a beautiful combination and I would hate to see the turquoise washed out (if that’s possible) by the wall choice. I still think the wall should be painted or stenciled with a subtler (but not boring) pattern.

  7. tailfin says

    Sorry, I should really proof my posts better before submitting. I meant to say I’m NOT generally a fan of wallpaper.

    • pam kueber says

      JUST TO CLARIFY: If you read the post, you see the barkcloth is suggested for the SHOWER CURTAIN and VALANCE. I realize the mood board may be a bit confusing. But I only had one anchor image to work with and I needed to put the barkcloth in that particular spot to see how it would look against the turquoise and burgundy tile.

      • gavin hastings says

        I realise it is off-scale (and a fabric) but I still think something similar is a winner as a wallpaper. Which brings to the forefront my previous question: Should this room be 1947 bathroom OR are should it be trying to compete with a room from today? Taste (not inferring good or bad) itself has changed…which is why we see so few turquois, pink and maroon tiled bathrooms built today.
        Because it is not a room in constant use- I think it would be a perfect candidate as a “time capsule”. Some homes demand the viewer to wear their retro glasses

        • gavin hastings says

          There is no way this room will ever be retro-inspired…it is full throttle 40’s. So why not just go with it?

        • pam kueber says

          gavin, i agree something similar could work as a wallpaper. i just couldn’t find the right wallpaper in the three usual suspect vintage places. again, what i found worked: strong burgundy accent, off-white or lighter turquoise field. alternatively: go loud with the barkcloth linens, off white (brownish cast) paint. anyway, that’s the direction *I* would take, I thin. BUT and this is a big BUT: Colors are wavelengths and we all see them differently. We’ll see what Jamie’s eyeballs like!

      • tailfin says

        My apologies, Pam. In re-reading the post, I see that I misunderstood what the barkcloth pattern was to be used for. Need to get these eyes checked again.

  8. Ruth says

    Does anyone know what that metal grill/vent on the front of Sputnik’s kitchen sink is called? I have one on the front of my kitchen sink that is broken but don’t know how to search for a replacement cause I don’t know what in the world it is called!!

  9. Jamie says

    Jamie here chiming in!! So much to think about and play around with! I wanted to thank everyone again for all the wonderful ideas! It has been so helpful!
    A little more background if anyone was interested….I did strip the vanity…but my original motivation was sheer need…that poor thing had over 12 coats of paint! Everything from emerald green to various shades of bubble gum pink!! The house passed through ownership the last 20 years and had been a rental most of the time . My dream has always been to bring the house (as best I can) back to its former glory.
    I will be spending the greater part of today throwing fabric around the bathroom…thanks for the great idea Gavin!! and taking the mood board Pam put together and trying some visualization on wallpaper and bark cloth shower curtain!! Let the fun begin!!


  10. Jeanne says

    Just to add my two cents, I think that barkcloth is spot-on and really ties the colors together plus brings out the maroon. I love it! I’ve seen a lot of barkcloth with maroons and turquoises, so I wouldn’t think something similar would be too hard to find.

    And I have been LOL @ Gavin. I am a fan of his posts. 🙂

    One more thing…those large-scale floral wall papers were popular back in the art deco days. I’m thinking the “Original Martinique/Beverly Hills Wallpaper” as seen in the Beverly Hills Hotel, and what a large pattern it is.

  11. says

    Pam, I think you’re right about the stain on the cabinets. I originally said paint them, but I think that was my personal desire to paint my own bathroom vanity talking. The burgundy does pop. I love the bark cloth. Lowes has pulls just like the original ones and they are inexpensive. I’ll be replacing mine soon, as they are pitted.

    • pam kueber says

      MCMeg, in the two bathrooms where I put vanities – I specked them out painted-white. Now I, too, know that stained can be great, too!

  12. sumac sue says

    I like the idea of staining the cabinetry and window trim rather than painting them. I hadn’t caught on from the earlier post that Jamie had stripped these things down. Since all that work has been done, it would be nice to let the woodgrain shine through, and that look is appropriate for the time period. Sputnik’s vanity is a nice not-too-dark shade. I just am in awe of that tile, particularly the burgundy accent tile. Jamie, have fun!

  13. genjenn says

    Normally, I would advise staining those fabulous original cabinets. In this case, however, I think painting them is a better choice. There are already three very strong colors (Burgendy, Aqua, Maime Pink) in ths very small space, plus the amazing ceiling pan, flooring pattern, wallpaper/window covering/ shower curtain/ towels/bath mat Adding stained wood to all this is just too much for me.

  14. Stephanie says


    Could you pretty please tell me where you got your turquoise tile? We just bought a home with a very similar bathroom and we have one cracked tile that needs to be replaced.

    You can email me back at

    Thanks a million and I love your bathroom.

    • pam kueber says

      Stephanie, see my stories on World of Tile in Springfield, NJ — they are the go-to source for vintage replacement tiles. It’s absolutely required, though, that you send an actual sample of your tile to them to match, as they have many varieties of every color from back in the day. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

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