Rebecca’s mid-century bathroom remodel using Nemo tiles — mud set!

mint green bathroom rebeccaBy now most of you are familiar with the stellar job Rebecca and Keith did on their Mad Men kitchen remodel — a kitchen renovation so admired by readers that your votes crowned them winners of our 2013 kitchen “The Hard Way Award.” After completing this kitchen remodel, you’d think it would be time for Rebecca and Keith to kick back and relax for a while. Instead, the couple immediately began their next project: repairing and transforming their mid-century bathroom from cracked tile and a dinky, stinky sink to the mid mod marvelous turquoise tiled beauty above. The bathroom is not only beautiful, but get this: Rebecca found a tile setter who installed the tiles the old fashioned way, “mud set.” Woah! Let’s take a look at the whole project — and all of Rebecca’s resources.

retro-pedestal-sinkRebecca writes:

Hi Pam,

Whoa!  It’s done.  It all started with a sewer smell!  The smell was coming from the sewer because the pedestal sink had no trap.  That led to realizing there were many cracks in the tile.

retro-bathroomAnd, I always hated the cheap vanity, really cheap squeaky faucet, and sink that were there.  The tile was original to our 1961 split-level, but the vanity and sink were not.

bathroom-beforeWe know for sure that the bathroom was original because we found a Montgomery Wards circular/paper  from 1962 in the wall!  It’s just adorable.


aqua-green-mosaic-tile-floorThe mosaic tile is from Nemo tile made by Appiani in Italy.  I found it here on Retro Renovation.  [The wall tile and trim tile also are from Nemo Tile.] I loved it right away.  I looked around at all the other big tile companies, and I couldn’t find anything else that I liked half as much.  You can make your own mosaic on Daltile’s site, but to see a sample of your mosaic takes 5-7 weeks — that is if you pick one of the colors that they don’t have made already.  A lot of their colors aren’t available immediately. Depending on which mosaic you want to see by Nemo, they may have a sample that they’ll send out to you asap.  The customer service of Nemo Tile was excellent, as well.

Note: I could not find the mosaic tile blends on the Nemo site. Rebecca inquired about the availability of the specific blend she purchased, and the Nemo representative had this to say:

Here’s where the “line” can be found. (Anthologhia mosaic tile by Nemo). If you recall, the blend you selected, Aqua 06, was discontinued, so it won’t be shown on the site, but can be special ordered. We are in the middle of re-launching our site, so we don’t show any blends at the moment. I guess, if someone wants the same blend as yours they should contact me directly for more info on it or other blends.

mid-century-modern-tile-floorRebecca continues:

I LOVE the aqua and/or turquoise of the 50’s and 60’s.  It was IMPOSSIBLE for me to find at any other tile company. And, the closest Daltile has takes 6-8 weeks to make.  Between the beautiful mosaic and excellent colors of Nemo, my mind was set.  My contractor was pushing me to use one of the companies he’s used to working with, but I wouldn’t have it! The mosaic looks even better in person.  The glaze on it is excellent, and feels great underfoot, too!

building-shower-pan-curbApparently, “mudding” (cement) is the old school way to do tile, and not many companies do it that way anymore.  I was lucky my contractor chose who he did, because they did an excellent job.

building-shower-nicheEverywhere the tile went, there’s a thick layer of cement.  It was pretty intense!

mid-century-aqua-tileThe faucet, toilet paper holder, towel ring, and robe hook are Venice by California Faucets. I wanted a classic look like the one Pam has. My contractors, plumber recommended California Faucets. I don’t think I could be happier with another faucet.

mid-century-bathroom-vanityThe sink is Kohler’s Tahoe.  I had my heart set on the one with the metal rim, but it wasn’t understood by my contractor, nor the Kohler salesperson, that the one with the rim only comes with 4 inch holes.  I prefer widespread faucets, so I had to decide between rim or gorgeous faucet.

The pulls and handles are Rejuvenation.  The cabinets are Holiday Kitchen, and they are “fine.” Maybe it’s because I have custom cabinets in my kitchen, but I wasn’t all that impressed. They seem cookie-cutter to me like Pottery Barn. If I can afford a custom-made vanity for my washroom, that I want to ‘retrovate,’ that is what I’d like to do.  The laminate is Abet Laminati, which had a much greater selection than anyone else I found.  (Thanks, Pam!)

mid-century-modern-toiletThe toilet is Toto. It’s not very easy to find a toilet that has a square tank and all the photos from the past have square toilets. I like how simple and minimal it is. The best part is that it doesn’t have that rim inside where mildew often grows and where it’s always so hard to get a toilet brush into. There’s nowhere for mildew to hide!  🙂  It’s 1.28 gallons and therefore uses less water.

mid-century-moder-bathroom-floorThe slab of stone in the doorway, and at the bottom of the shower doors was chosen by my contractor.  I love the color and think it goes very well.

mid-century-modern-shower-tileThe drain is Kohler and is actually really beautiful as far as drains go.

shower-niche-mid-century-retroAfter looking here and on Flickr at old bathrooms, I learned that I had to have the trim tile in a darker color to get the look I yearned for. My husband and I just looked at the mosaic, and picked one color for the field tile, and one darker color for the trim. [Both the minty green field tile and the darker green trim tile also came from Nemo tile.]

retro-modern-shower-doorsThe shower door instructions were to get one as basic as possible and that it had to be polished chrome. I think the reeded glass looks great! And it matches the lines in the light nicely.

vintage-bathroom-lightThe light was a great find by Pam on eBay.  It was only $30!  I searched for months only to find expensive ones. As for new ones, there’s nothing there for me, especially for bathroom.  If there’s one thing that I think should be made like they used to be made, it would be lights.

I got a Panasonic fan that doesn’t look retro but works like a silent dream. The Panasonic fans are way quieter than the other brands.  Also, a timer is integral.  You set if for up to 30 minutes and leave-no more wasting your heat or a/c.

Pam Kueber Retro Renovation I almost forgot about my shower light!  I love it.  It has a Fresnel lens which is so key.

My husband and I both think it’s nice that we chose a similar color to what the original owners had in the original bathroom.

One last thing: I found a small and inexpensive thing to do that really makes a bathroom look better is to exchange old painted-over, rusty hinges with shiny new chrome ones.  I love my new hinges.  And they cost $7 each.

Bravo, Rebecca and Keith, on another retro remodel well done. You did an excellent job sourcing new materials that all work together to make it looks like it’s always been there — the best compliment! Mega thanks for sharing your story and sources here with all of us in the Retro Renovation community. But now we need to ask: What’s up your sleeve next? 😉


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  1. Cindy Friday Beeman says

    What a beautiful job. We have an aqua 1959 bath, and it needs a new floor to replace the wack-job done by owners before it hit foreclosure. You’re right that there is nothing out there in that aqua except Nemo and Dal-Tile. I didn’t know about the time difference, so if I want to go Dal I’d better do that early. I also didn’t know that few people do “mudding” installs, so that’s something to ask about once we get quotes. We’ve thought of redoing the shower to add a light, so that Fresnel suggestions is another goodie. Thanks for sharing.

    • Rebecca Prichard says

      Thank you!
      I didn’t think Dal-Tile had any good aqua or turquoise. I love the greenish-blues of the days past. The green in it is key to me. Daltile didn’t have it. Their aqua is blue. I didn’t see any colors like that I liked.

      Yes, they have three groups of colors and if I remember correctly, the only immediately available colors were the first.

      Apple, which isn’t surprising because they have excellent design, has an iPhone case in the PERFECT retro aqua. PERFECT.

  2. Jana (Berniecat) says

    Love your choice of colors and detail! I especially like the bull nose edging between the walls of the shower where they meet. You provide a wonderful gold mine of ideas and possibilities to consider for a bath renovation! I will be waiting to see your post with the information about the shower doors- they are exactly what I have been looking for! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on such a beautiful bathroom!

  3. Joe Felice says

    Love, love, love the shades of aqua & turquoise! I agree that the vanity cabinet is “fine,” but, if you are like most of us, you won’t stop until you have just the right one! I find I am always “retrovating, to some degree, until I get just the look I want.

  4. Lisa says

    This bathroom is just beautiful! Congratulations on a job well done. I see that you answered that the field tile is Nemo’s agerato but I didn’t see the darker green tile. Can you remember the name of that accent tile? Thanks so much.

  5. Rebecca prichard says

    Thanks so much. I love it.

    “All of the trim tiles will be in the color #22- Malva” Chris Jacobs at Nemo was a great help.

  6. Juli says

    Love this bath. Was wondering if you remembered the cost of the floor tile per square foot? I have a call in to Nemo but still haven’t heard back yet.

  7. Marilyn says

    I love this bathroom and I really appreciate all the details and info provided in the post and in the comments.

    I know it’s more than two years later, but I am wondering if Rebecca or anyone else knows if Nemo Tile *was* making trim pieces like the slender cove base used here but is no longer? Because above in the comments, Rebecca said that all the trim was in “color #22- Malva.” But when I look up that color in the ANTHOLOGHIA line on the Nemo site, I don’t see any trim options listed. I called Nemo today and spoke with a salesperson and she said there are no trim pieces in that line.

    Do you think they stopped making this or maybe I am looking at the wrong line?

    Thank you.

  8. Karen says

    Can you tell me what kind of grout you chose to use? I have been reading up on “epoxy” grout, which is supposed to be less porous than old-school grout, and is stain and mildew resistant and doesn’t have to be sealed and periodically re-sealed. However, my experience over the years with items that have an epoxy sealant over them as a protective layer is that the epoxy yellows over time. I wonder if the new epoxy grouts have been around long enough to know if this will occur. I don’t want to have “yellowed” grout lines years down the line.

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