Plastic tiles seem to have been very popular in the 1950s and, my mom tells me, into the 1960s. In estate sale houses, I see them in both bathrooms and kitchens. I attribute their popularity to the fact that homeowners could install them themselves — and we were a very DIY nation at the time. Also, these tiles could be easily installed over existing plaster walls — meaning that they were good for renovating the “imperfect” plaster walls in old farmhouses, Victorians and bungalows and to get that “modern” look.
In fact, the benefits of plastic were highly touted during the entire postwar period. I kind of have a feeling folks thought plastic and ceramic were equal in attractiveness? We were fascinated with the lure of the man-made and technology — this is a critical part of the American identity, even still. Also, I am pretty sure it’s a good guess that plastic tiles were significantly cheaper than ceramic tiles, and that must have been part of the allure as well. In my very recent travels I have picked up three vintage brochures — from Church, Pittsburgh and Coronet Tile Companies — and have scanned the prettiness, and info, for all to share.
Check out the complete slide show…. Click on first thumbnail to launch it, then move forward via the arrows below each image:
- I am not necessarily the world’s biggest fan of plastic tile. All three of my bathrooms were outfitted with the stuff. The bathrooms had seen some hard livin’, I think, and the stuff was…. nasty. The plastic tiles in my tub/shower surrounds had all rotted through. So much so that previous owners had then pasted marbleized vinyl panels on top of it. The seams were grucky and moldy and oh, I shudder at the memories…. I had that plastic ripped out with joy in my heart and replaced it with ceramic tile all around. Bottom line: I fear that if plastic tile has not been installed well, and if the bathrooms or kitchens have been used heavily, it may not be worth salvaging. I am all for function, folks, and in a bathroom especially, there is nothing that beats waterproof ceramic tile, in my mind.
- All that said, I did buy a bundle of vintage plastic tile for my kitchen backsplash. Two (gulp) years later, it’s still in a box waiting to be installed. (I’m nerve wracked about how it will look, and yes, simply procrastinating regarding launching yet another house project, one of a gazillion always in the works, or at least, rattling around in my head.) So, you can see, I am not “anti” plastic tile, either.
- And importantly : Precautionary Pam here: If you do decide to rip your plastic tile out, Lord knows what’s in the old adhesive… smart to have it tested.
Finally, hey, remember this post? Kurt’s kitchen with the large 8″ tiles all around. Wow!