1930s pink bathrooms — Leo Carrillo Ranch, Carlsbad, Calif.

pink bathroom at leo carillo ranchVisit-an-historic-house2.2Snaps to the king and queen of pink bathrooms — Nancy and Thommy. You may recall, Nancy’s pink poodle bathroom is world famous, not just here at Retro Renovation but also as headliner of the New York Times pink bathroom story. Now, our daring duo has served up a pair of pink potties from the Leo Carrillo Ranch, an historic site in one my original home towns, Carlsbad, California.
leo carillo ranch pink bathroompink bathroom with sunken tub leo carillo ranchI talked to Gerry Streff, the archivist from the Leo Carrillo Ranch, and she said that the bathrooms were built at the same time as the house. She checked the financial records — receipts for items purchased for the construction — and followed up with me:

I did check the date and the tile was purchased from Gladding McBean in October, 1938 (Hermosa Tile division.) Carrillo also has checks from the company doing the bathroom construction in 1938.

I consider myself the nation’s pre-eminent expert on the history of pink bathrooms (umm, I know of no challengers), and while I have anointed Mamie Eisenhower founding-mother of the pink tsunami that washed over America in the 1950s, to be sure: We had pink bathrooms before that. I don’t know exactly when the color started to seep into bathroom consciousness. I’m guessing as early as the 1920s… and that the key to this certainty will be found in tile history and to a lesser degree, in bathroom fixture history. In any case, I continue to hypothesize that pink’s dominance in the loo did not ensue until World War II was over — when home construction reignited after the long Depression malaise … and after the massively popular Mamie spread the love.

Interesting fact about the pink bathrooms at the Leo Carrillo Ranch: They are in the bedroom wings of the house — which are separated from the kitchen-living room-dining area via outdoor walkways around an interior courtyard. Yes, that means: No bathrooms — not even a half-bath — within the main living areas. You must walk through the courtyard back to the bedrooms. Gerry explained that this design placement was part of mimicking true “rancho” style: Living was oriented toward being outdoors. Numerous elements from this outdoor-orientation were carried through to “ranch-style” houses of the 1950s and beyond, and is the leading hallmarks of the style.

1938 color palette - toilet seats - pam's collectionNotice also, the bathrooms both appear to be a classic Mamie pink, trimmed in deep burgundy. I would call this a “deco” palette — we saw this kind of pastel-matched-with-a-dark-jewel-tone carried on through the 1940s. Remember this color palette: Toilet seats from 1938 (art: My collection.)

About the Leo Carrillo Ranch

leo carillo ranch

Photo: Leo Carrillo Ranch / City of Carlsbad

The Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park sounds like a really special place to visit. Leo Carrillo came from a well-to-do San Diego (his grandparents once owned the island of Coronado). Carrillo was an actor and preservationist. He had roles in about 90 films, but probably is most remembered for his role as Pancho, the sidekick to the Cisco Kid. The show was the first television series shot entirely in color and was enormously popular. Carrillo started building his rancho as a retreat, during the height of his Hollywood career. Today it is owned by the city, and is a place for visitors and special events.


Finally: Looks like you can see all episodes of The Cisco Kid on Hulu. I tried to watch one, but I found the pace, acting and Hulu ads torturous.

See all our stories about historic mid century homes you can visit here.


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  1. Harpy says

    I lived in a 1927 California-style bungalow in Canberra, Australia – it was one of the first houses to be built here. It had the original bathroom which was pink tiled with white sink/tub/toilet. (Sadly someone “renovated”, AKA “demolished everything but the facade” so it is no more.)

  2. Jordanna says

    Never a huge fan of sunken tubs, because I am a klutz, but I adore that tiled arch.

    And I’m a huge fan of Deco and the ’30s-’40s style. Would love to see more of it. I usually see deco bathrooms with black accents though, the burgandy is a neat touch. Red sink? Amazing.

    • pam kueber says

      I believe the dark red is the famous American Standard “Persian red”. John at DEABath (and others) will know for sure

    • Tina says

      Make the color scheme yellow and green and that’s pretty much the wallpaper in the yellow bathroom we had in the 1959 ranch I grew up in. I love it.

      And yes, we always referred to them as “the yellow bathroom” and “the green bathroom.”

    • STL Mom says

      That paper would look fantastic in my parents’ bathroom (pink and burgundy tile on walls and floor, white fixtures) but at $32 a roll plus international shipping it might be a bit much.

  3. Olivia says

    Those bathrooms are fabulous, and I’ve always wanted to live in a Spanish style home with the inner court yard. Would need to live somewhere warmer than Indiana, though. Neat aside, I was born in Carlsbad.

      • Olivia says

        Actually, checked with Mom last night and that’s how it was for me. Born in Oceanside and lived in Carlsbad as a toddler. We moved away when I was 4 yrs old. 🙂

  4. says

    I swear that is the EXACT same pink sink that my grandmother’s house had (I miss that pink bathroom – but I miss her a billion times more). I remember trying to wash my hair in the sink (there was only one shower in her house, and it was in my grandfather’s bathroom). Don’t know how I managed it with that teeny little faucet. Anyway, the sink in her house dated to right about 1950, although it is entirely possible that the sink was in production for many years before that (or that this sink just looks the same somehow).

    Beautiful bathrooms either way. Thanks for showing them off!

    • Jay says

      I thought as well that it was a dead ringer for the one my father installed in our house in the early 60’s to replace the original 20’s bathroom. He got the AS fixtures fom his plumber brother. I figured that the fixtures possibly dated to the late fourties/early fifties.

      • pam kueber says

        Since there is no power in my house and I’m about to leave the coffee shop to head home… I’ll look through my old brochures. Bet I can find this sink. Perhaps the single-most popular sink in U.S. history??? Maybe! I’ll do a post.

  5. Lauryn says

    Oh my, those are gorgeous photos. Our house was built in ’39 and we have four of those lovely arches … but none in the bathroom. (Probably due to the fact that our entire bathroom is about the size of that sunken tub!)

    Good luck with the power, Pam! Hope you’re staying warm in spite of it all.

  6. MegJ says

    Hi Pam,

    Thank you for your wonderful site! I have been following you since this past spring, and I’ve used so many of the ideas here in my successful retro-fication of our cottage kitchen -so thank you!

    I spotted this time capsule house with a fabulous pink bathroom, and I thought I would share it with you!!

    http://m.trulia.com/property/photos/3019895184-207-Randolph-St-Bangor-MI-49013/10 (pink bath pics are 10 and 11, and I love that blue and yellow color combo too!!).

    P.S. Any insights on that mural earlier in the photos? I recall that a friends grandfather had one in his house …was it popular back in the day?

  7. says

    Hi Pam, Really enjoy yer site. I’m from south Oceanside and spent a ton of time running around the carrillo ranch as a boy with my pals. Currently refurbishing an old barn in fallbrook and my 1924 house / tattoo parlor also in Fallbrooks oldest downtown district. Send u some pix soon!
    Lil C

  8. Joe Felice says

    Beautiful, but not exactly mamie pink–more towards the salmon or flesh side of the palette. Nonetheless authentic, and a wonderful preservation. Congratulations. I would LOVE to have an original pink or turquoise bathroom! And a yellow or turquoise kitchen!

  9. Bonnie says

    An older plumber once told me that the color in the room with the arched doorway is actually “bisque” rather than true pink, and predates the pink bathrooms. And god forbid you showed up to a bisque bathroom with a pink replacement fixture!

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