6 colorful 1950 vintage bathrooms — The Comer House in Gallatin, Tenn.

vintage pastel bathroomsTucked into an historic farmhouse in Tennessee —  now home to the Sumner County Convention & Visitors Bureau — are a rainbow of seven vintage pastel bathrooms. The building is known today as ‘The Comer House’ after the Comer family, which demolished the original 1850 farmhouse down to the foundation and rebuilt it between 1949 and 1951. The house itself is impressive, but its most amazing feature is the variety of color and tile patterns found in the home’s seven bathrooms. I visited recently and during my visit, I was graciously allowed to photograph six of the seven vintage pastel bathrooms, each of which is sure to inspire.

crane plumbing fixturesAre these Crane fixtures? Could be. See our 24 page Crane Plumbinb catalog from 1949 here — material from Pam’s personal collection. If not Crane, they are surely American-Standard. Who’s an expert? What do you think?

burgundy-wall-sink#1 Persian Red and Gray – The first bathroom on the tour was a half bath in maroon and off white. The coordinating pinwheel style floor tiles really add that extra something to the space. I should note that all the bathrooms have newer toilets — most likely because of water use requirements.

burgundy-and-white-pinwheel-tile-floor

mint-green-retro-bathroom#2 Ming and Yellow – The next bathroom was a lovely ming green, dark green, white and yellow full bathroom with a standard tub (not pictured). It looks to me like when the house was remodeled, the Comer family must have picked one style of fixtures — same footed wall sink, tubs and faucets — and ordered them in every color. We love this matchy-matchy trick:  Even though each bathroom uses different tiles and colors — there is a continuity to the bathrooms as a whole because of the repetition in style of the fixtures, hardware and even the mirrored vanities — giving the house good design sense. It is the tile colors that really distinguish each bathroom’s personality.

decorative-vintage-liner-tileThe liner tile reminded me of the stash of NOS decorative “sizzle strips” for sale on Ebay that we featured here on the blog a few months back. It is nice to see some of these amazing decorative tiles in use out in the wild – they are gorgeous! And note in the photo above, how the decorative sizzle strip provides a terrific transition from the light blue field tile to the darker blue bullnose. Brilliant detail design work!

mint-green-retro-sinkAll of the full bathrooms had dual tiled-in ceramic soap dishes and a toothbrush holder set in right over the sink.

mint-green-and-ivory-tile-floorThis vintage green and pale yellow octagon and dot floor had me wishing these color combinations were readily available. Wait. Does Chippy have some alternatives like this at World of Tile? Maybe.  Ask! This floor would be perfect in my vintage mint green bathroom.

pink-and-grey-vintage-bathroom#3 Pink and Gray – Then there was the pink and grey full bathroom — so pretty. What a phenomenal color combination. Pam says it’s her favorite of all time, for a pink bathroom.

pink-cinderella-tub-retroIt even had a Cinderella tub. I mentioned my own pink bathroom at home to the woman who worked in the office with the pink bathroom. She was delighted to hear about my efforts and exclaimed that she absolutely loved her adorable pink office bathroom — though I’m sure she has never had the opportunity to use the Cinderella tub.

grey-and-white-vintage-tile-floorThe bluish grey and white octagon and dot floor tile was another happy detail in the beautiful 1950 pink bathroom.

vintage-blue-wall-sink#4 Beautiful Blue – The next full bathroom was a blue and white combination with a standard tub.

blue-and-white-liner-tileIt also had decorative liner tiles in a charming blue and white tulip pattern.

vintage-white-floorThe floor in the blue bathroom was very understated — a simple white — but tile pattern made it look anything but mundane. This is a great floor — multidirectional — would be great to replicate in a bathroom today.

mint-green-cinderella-tub#5 Ming and Black – Another ming green bathroom was next — this time with a green and black tile combination and another Cinderella tub.

vintage-shower-faucet-handlesAll of the bathrooms had the same style of fixtures for the faucets and other hardware. The shape of it is so interesting — and I was thrilled to see the original faucets still in use.

vintage-showerhead Do you suppose that the handle on the shower head adjusts the flow of water or turns on the shower head?

vintage-green-floorThe green floor wasn’t an exact match for the tub, sink and wall tile — but was interesting nonetheless. The pattern reminds me of the flooring for my master bathroom remodel — University Pink from Merola tile.

yellow-vintage-wall-sink#6 — Butterscotch and Butter – The last bathroom I toured was a full bath with buttery yellow and brick red tile.

yellow-and-rust-vintage-bathIt had a standard size buttery yellow tub and the same faucets as the other baths.

vintage-plaid-tile-floorThe real show stopper was the charming tile floor, which reminded me of some of the plaid tile patterns from the vintage 1929 Freidrichsen Floor & Wall Tile catalog. This was my favorite floor pattern of the bunch — it brought all the colors of the bathroom together so nicely and really gave a customized feel to the space.

Mega thanks goes out to Kelley Dickey, Administrative Assistant at the Sumner County Convention & Visitors Bureau for agreeing to give me a special access tour of all the wonderful vintage bathrooms at the Comer House — as well as the inhabitants of the offices who didn’t think it strange that I wanted to photograph their bathrooms. Thanks also to my Mom for alerting me to such an awesome collection of vintage bathrooms.

Readers — which bathroom is your favorite?

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Comments

  1. Janet in CT says

    I love them all but the blue one with the sizzle strips but the floor to me is too plain. So the pink and gray and the green and yellow one are my favorites! I was surprised to see the yellow and butterscotch bathtub area has a double switchplate right there in the tile! That is SO against code now and maybe was even then! Yikes! Touch that puppy while in the shower and get knocked off your feet! I love all the sinks and the colors and they look to be in such beautiful shape. Great article!

    • CarolK says

      I wanted to let all the pink (and green) bathroom fans know that the Bath of the Month in the May 2014 issue of House Beautiful features a Jack-and-Jilll bathroom in Beverley Hills that have gorgeous pink tiles in the girls’ side and beautiful green tile work in the boys’ side. Unfortunately, the fixtures weren’t saved, but it’s possible that they weren’t pink or green anyway. The bathrooms had to be gutted and there was only an archway to one shower that could be saved. The pink and green are set off with some black tiles. It’s just beautiful!

      The house, btw, used to belong to movie star Ann Miller. I am so glad that it wasn’t torn down. That happens too often today.

  2. Roundhouse Sarah says

    In my childhood home, the master bath had 5 shower heads, one overhead, 2 at shoulder height on each side and 2 at knee height in each side. It was a 1950s era home and bathroom, it was Ming green. The shower heads all had those little handles on the side and they were to control water flow. Gosh I loved that shower! And the house!

    Lovely bathrooms Kate! Thanks for sharing, I’m really digging the butter and tan plaid floor tiles!

    Happy estate and garage saleing this weekend everyone!

  3. Tear-down Townie says

    Our bathroom has the same wall tile and floor as Bathroom #5. Our tub and sink are white, though. I’ve also seen the exact same floor in an older school bathroom here in town. Nashville isn’t that far from Gallatin…maybe the same supplier of tile as the Comer House?

    • pam kueber says

      I bet! I tend to believe that back in the day, there were more regional suppliers, rather than national suppliers…

  4. MCM is Grand says

    I’m concerned about having the light switches so close to the shower in the yellow bathroom…were these the fans???

    • Jay says

      Electrical codes were different then. Probably the light switches but certainly not a good location, that’s for sure. I think it’s the same room but there is a wall receptical 6 inches above the floor and directly under the sink. There’s a “shocker” for sure. What are now considered “wet locations” the code mandates GFCI.

  5. Laurie Louse says

    Beautiful, Kate! What knocks me out are the floors. Each one so distinctive and fitting. That butterscotch plaid is a stunner!

  6. Sara says

    Love! I’d like one of each, please. Oh wait, my house only has one bathroom. Thank heavens these are all “safe” from HGTV-style renovation. The tile is a work of art. What a great way to start my morning!

  7. Maria Simpson says

    I absolutely love these retro baths. I had never seen a Cinderella tub before until I started visiting these retro sites. I love them and would love to be able to have one!!!

  8. Penne Eiken says

    My home was built in 1948-49 and these bathrooms are the closest I’ve seen to my own. It gives me a better idea of what kind of sink and mirror to look for as the previous owner replaced the originals with 90s fake oak. I have octagon and dot floor tile and the grout between them is gray. I had assumed this had gotten dirty through the years. I have scrubbed to no avail and was thinking the grout would need to be replaced, but noticed the grout in your photos seemed to be gray. Would this have been original grout color? My floor tiles otherwise seem to be in good shape. None are loose or cracked. Thanks for the great post.

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        Yes, gray grout is my favorite, especially in my the pink and gray bath. If you go to the hardware store and look at grout colors, you’ll see there are many “Shades of Gray” there–not 50, but plenty to choose from. :-) Also, we use gray silicone caulk around the tub, behind the vanity, etc.

  9. Jay says

    Thanks for sharing! Ah yes, true to the era, every bath a different color. With six baths to choose from you could choose a bath that reflects your color mood for the day. Can’t get enough of the minty green. I agree that the floor in the green & black bath is slightly off in color complement. I wonder if it was a later replacement floor – the pattern and color seem more 60s/70s.

    • Tear-down Townie says

      Like you say, the color is not that great of a match, but I’m pretty sure the identical flooring in our house is original to the 1956 build. I’m in the process of repairing/replacing some of our flooring and those tiles are set in 3 to 4 inches of mortar that I don’t think was part of a later renovation. I think it’s the color distribution that makes it look a little off. There is a repeated geometric pattern of tile sizes if you look closely enough, but the color “randomness” overpowers it and makes the floor lack the neat order that the other bathroom floors have.

  10. Ranger Smith says

    These are amazing! Each of them a work of art; I could study these all day. The liner tile or “sizzle strip” in the #2 Ming and Yellow is the same as I had in the kitchen of my previous home, except mine was cobalt and white. It was built in 1940. Nice to see that it had longevity pre and post war when so many things changed.

  11. lynda davis says

    Amazing how nice these tubs and sinks still look. I think an alcove Cinderella tub looks very nice. You can see how easy it would be to have a shower curtain for a tub/shower combo. I certainly think the tub looks nicer than the big whirlpool tubs in the McMansion homes. Too bad Kohler or American Standard do not still make one to fit either a 4′ or a 5′ alcove. Fun to look at these bathroom colors. I wouldn’t want one, but I love looking at them!

  12. Steve says

    I like how in bath #4 the door trim sits on what appears to be a marble plinth and threre’s a matching threshold. That’s really a classy little detail.

  13. Liz says

    Just bought a 1948 house and the one area that has not been messed with is the pink bathroom. The tub fixtures are EXACTLY like the ones pictured here – with the fluted spout. I haven’t seen anything like it online anywhere until now! When we got the house inspected the lovely man (who is genuinely awesome) said we’ll probably want to swap out the faucets and handles for more modern fixtures and I shouted out, “NO!!!! NEVER!!” The bathroom is easily my favorite room in the house. Some people think that is weird but I know nobody here will!

  14. tammyCA says

    We used the same sizzle tiles in our bathroom – they were from B&W Tile..they are so pretty & the outline reminds me of little fish. We used one color (green) but they did custom with different colors ‘tho more expensive.
    I do love those little tulip sizzles!

  15. JKM says

    My sister’s spacious 1951 North Dallas ranch house has two pink bathrooms – one huge one with the exact same sink with towel bars on each side, Cinderella tub, and a long built-in tiled vanity along one wall. The other is pink as well but has the sink built into a tiled countertop and a stand-up shower. Both bathrooms have built-in chrome toothbrush holders that pivot into the wall. She loves her pink bathrooms and they get lots of compliments. Sadly, her area is ripe with teardowns so she knows her house will be razed if she ever sells it.

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Tell her that if she keeps the house until she’s carried out in a pine box (as I plan to do), she will not care at all what people do with her house when she is gone. That’s because all the bathrooms in Heaven are pink. And they never wear out because, well, you know. :-) We will just sit and gaze at them whenever we want.

          • JKM says

            Once a neighborhood of sprawling, comfortable one-story homes on 3/4 to 1 acre lots, she’s seen her area transformed into a fantasy land of faux English castles, French chateaus, Tara knock-offs, and other swollen houses of dubious origin. The homes were custom built and expensive when new in 1951 but, as their elderly owners pass away, their heirs sell the old houses. Builders throwing $750K to $1M cash at them for teardowns is hard to pass up. They bought their home from the elderly original owner around 15 years ago and has already said she’ll be carried out one day!

  16. Cynthia says

    Great Job, Kate! I liked all of the bathrooms very much, and am glad to hear the office workers enjoy them. wonder what they did with the old toilets? Maybe they are sitting in some government basement storage area? My conclusions: 1. Cinderella tubs are very cool and I want one, 2. baths done in colors are our friends, 3. the blues and greens are my favorites because they look the freshest and cleanest.
    One question remains: what about the 7th bathroom? Why was permission given only as to 6 of them? Kate, please solve this mystery!

  17. Scott Nimmo says

    I work in Gallatin and drive by this house all of the time!! Never knew about these bathrooms. My grandfather used to tell me about seeing them tearing down the old house and building this one. He was driving back and forth to Gallatin a lot from a nearby town at the time because he was dating my grandmother who lived in Gallatin. It is a beautiful house on the outside but I would call it a sort of colonial style. It was supposedly built back very close to what the old house looked like. I heard it was rebuilt because Mr. Comer’s son had severe allergies/asthma and they thought the old house was part of the problem. Not sure if this is true.

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      What a great story with so many facets–your grandparents’ courtship, the owner’s son with asthma. Wonderful!

  18. Maureen Bajeyt says

    The pink tile is similar to the tile our bathroom had before the remodel – had to gut the entire bathroom because of mold and wood rot…and some questionable electrical work. Too bad though – I liked the starburst pattern.

  19. Susie O. says

    I’m from Gallatin, TN! So, this post makes me pretty happy! I am usually partial to pink or blue, but I’m in love with the green Cinderella tub. I want it!

  20. rachel says

    I have these exact sinks in my house, and that Cinderella tub! I love it! Ours even has the same two sets of knobs, one for the bath and one for the shower head. Because my toilet is an American standard, and it’s the exact same color as the sink (a beautiful blue), I’m pretty sure the sink is also American standard. So cool to finally see what we have out there in the “wild”. :)

    • pam kueber says

      Thanks, rachel! Yes, I think they are American-Standard. I am pretty sure I have some catalogs. I will have to dive into the hoard and scan ‘em!

  21. Mary Elizabeth says

    Well, since you asked us, Kate:

    1) My favorites are the Ming green ones. This is only because I just scored a NOS Alpine green sink (very ’70s, and not at all Ming) and am thinking about how to integrate it into my second bath.

    2) Yes, I had two homes with those shower heads with the little lever on the side, and they adjusted the flow from a kind of needle-like, invigorating spray to a more “rainforest” type spray. The men in the house used the needle-like spray, and I was always having to adjust it back to “normal” (as were they, now that I think about it).

  22. Ed says

    We are lucky enough to own a MCM home with (5) original bathrooms with American Standard fixtures in Maroon/Yellow, Blue/White, Pink/White, Turquoise, and White/Green.

    Our home came with the original contractor’s receipts, and it is interesting how much more the colored fixtures cost than the white ones.

    One of the difficulties with all of the old fixtures is finding and replacing the parts as they wear out. It is not an expensive endeavor, as it is usually a .39 washer, but it seems like we are always tinkering with one of them.

    The shower in our Servant’s Quarters still had the original shower head made by the Sloan Valve Co. in Chicago. That baby works like a fire hose, much unlike today’s more efficient models.

    • pam kueber says

      Wow! And on parts — our first go-to place for help is deabath.com.

      They are the experts on Crane — but they might also be able to help with American-Standard, it’s worth a try!

      Your house! WOWWOWOWOOW

  23. Ed says

    By the way, I am hardly an expert, but these the exact same American Standard fixtures that we have in our house.

    This home looks to be missing some of the original American Standard toilets, which by the way, cost $157.00 each for a colored model, and $78 for a white one back in 1950.

  24. lara jane says

    These gorgeous bathrooms are almost identical (down to the Cinderella tubs) to a home’s here in Carthage, Missouri, also built in 1950. The place is huge and full of that sort of “granny chic” appeal in its mantel and chandeliers and amazing built-ins. I couldn’t believe it sat on the market so long. The price was fair, the lot/street are so lovely, it was in pristine condition!

    Yes, “was.” :( Unfortunately, the home didn’t find its ideal buyer (alas, it could not be me) and the stunning, immaculate bathrooms — and matching pink kitchen with everything original — were torn out by a flipper. I felt truly ill when I saw the relist. :( The only redemption was that the house sat on the market for a long, long time, the asking price whittled down so that the seller didn’t make a massive profit off of his desecration!

  25. Ellen says

    That is the blue sink I’m looking for! We still have the crane blue toilet and Sterling blue bathtub. Our bathroom has the same type of tile. Only the 4 x 4s are white and the rounded top caps, if that’s what they’re called, are blue. Our floor has octagonal blue tiles with little square white tile. Thanks for the photos, very inspiring.

  26. diane says

    My 1950’s TN ranch has 5 bathrooms and everyone of them is a different color! Must have been the in thing back then.

  27. LeAnn Ramage says

    Love the buttery yellow one. I just recently bought a home built in 1955 that also has 6 bathrooms. 2 still are original and the others are a mix of new and old. Thinking about remodeling them also. Love your website.

  28. Danita says

    We loved the bathrooms, especially the ceramic tile mud jobs. My husband worked on a lot of these bathrooms and commented that the 4′ diagonal tubs are cast iron and very-very heavy. He installed a few of them when he first started plumbing in the early 1960s.

    We must mention: the electrical plugs and switches were never ever placed as shown in the photos. Usually the plugs were located at the bottom of the lights that were on the sides of the mirror. Also, with the double light switch in the tub/shower – that was an absolute no-no and would not pass code, even then. So I would have to ask if these switches were added later.

  29. Melissa says

    I have a white tub like the ones featured here. I had no idea it was called a “Cinderella Tub”! It’s great for bathing children, but as for adults–it’s just too small!

  30. Elaine says

    Wow, great bathrooms! I think those sinks are American Standard “Roxbury” and I too love the original faucets! It appears that instead of a diverter on the tub spout, there is a separate set of valves for the shower head.

  31. Liz says

    I have the same pattern as bathroom #6 in my 1940’s house. I had to do a remodel due to 1940’s plumbing issues and it and the tub were the only things that didn’t get thrown out. In my defense, the rest of the bathroom was a bad 70’s/80’s remodel. Apparently, someone really, really liked brass… ugh “shivers”. We started out to do a retro renovation, but it got sidetracked to something a bit more eccentric by the time I finished. But the floor did stay. Mine is a green/white/peachy-colored mix w/ either dark gray or black grout. You can imagine it was a bit difficult trying to color coordinate with that. The tub is original also, but unlike all the colored ones shown here, they used a bone/biscuit colored one.

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