Craig and Mike’s fast and affordable 1952 bathroom remodel

mid-century-mod-bathroom-greenBefore moving into their 1952 house, Craig and Mike needed to move fast to remodel the bathroom. They bought the house from flippers, who had improved some features. But, the construction job in the house’s only bathroom was lacking, and the surfaces were builder basic blah. With no time to waste, they kept their choices retro-simple, starting with 4″ tiles in colors inspired by Craig’s vintage Fiat 500 motorcar. This story underscores one of the great things about midcentury bathrooms: Usually, the most period-appropriate materials to use are unpretentious — and affordable — yet, they can be put together in delightful ways!

bathroom-before-and-afterCraig tells us the renovation story:

Here are some pictures of the bathroom, the only bathroom, in our 1952 home. Our house was a flip, and the bathroom was done with awful big box store clearance junk tiles.before-bathroom-builder-basic

generic-bathroom-floorIt was a good thing we decided to do the bathroom, as the flippers didn’t do a proper vapor barrier, and the floor underneath the tub was rotten! I have to say, I found some before pics of the home online from when the flippers purchased it, and it was truly trashed with nothing of any significance left to be saved. Luckily, the flippers were able to bring  the hardwoods back, so I give them kudos for that at least.


We used the United States Ceramic Tile product to redo the bathroom in our 1952 home and created a mosiac in 4 colors: spring green, light taupe, yellow and white. The bad part was we didn’t order enough from a tile store, but then we found boxes upon boxes of more of the same at the ReStore!

It even inspired us to throw in the white tiles into the mosaic pattern we created, which tied in the Kohler tub and toilet nicely! Oh and my partner Mike and I are both 6 ft, so we bumped the shower head up a bit, it’s much nicer that way!

retro-modern-tile-shower-surroundI’m not even sure how the idea for the bathroom came together, except I wanted a mosaic, but I didn’t like the glass tile mosaics (or the price). The spring green was an almost identical match to my previous car — a new Fiat 500. Since I’d heard that color was the original 50s Fiat Verde Chiaro, I went with that as the inspiration!

retro-modern-bathroom-remodel4.25-colorful-ceramic-tile-showerWe were in a major crunch for time and had a month to do ALL renovations before we moved in.

modern-ikea-vanityThe vanity is Ikea, and the lighting is new from a lighting gallery…but we’re always on the lookout for a fab vintage piece to switch out. As I said, we were crazy pressed for time, and I wanted as much of a midcentury modern feel as possible. After over a year it’s still not quite finished, as I’ve been VERY particular about accessories! I’m on the lookout for a match for the one yellow and white ceramic fish I found at Goodwill!


Resources for Craig and Mike’s retro bathroom remodel:

  • Tile: United States Ceramic Tile from a local tile retailer and also ReStore in colors: spring green, yellow, taupe, and snow white.
  • Lighting: ‘Retrodome’ light from a local lighting store, recessed shower lighting from Lowe’s
  • Tub/toilet: Kohler from Lowe’s
  • Shower doors: Home Depot (Sterling, I think) in clear and chrome
  • Mirror: Lowe’s ‘style selections’ (I like that it had the look of a recessed medicine cabinet)
  • Vanity and sink: Ikea GODMORGAN/ODENSVIK in black brown with RÖRSKÄR faucet (I actually love how functional these are, the storage is a welcome addition! And it floats, good for big feet)

Thank you, Craig and Mike, for sharing your story and all the photos. Great job!

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  1. Retromodgirl says

    The shower door in the before looked original, I would have kept that if it was. Also, would love to see NOS 50s sink, vanity and lighting. Otherwise, great job!

    • says

      Yes, they do look original, and I like to keep that stuff if possible, too, but if they have the double tracks, which they most likely do….they are so hard to keep clean and look terrible when they are grimy. I’ll be replacing my doors just for that fact, after 10 years, I just can’t take it anymore. :)

  2. says

    I love how it turned-out! I would have never thought of those colors but they look awesome together along with the yellow paint on the walls. Very, very nice.

  3. lynda davis says

    Wonderful job using readily available materials! I think this is a fun and great look. You have super fabulous color sense.

  4. Steve says

    I really love the light over the mirror. As for the shower door, I prefer clear glass over obscure (probably the result of watching “Psycho” too many times).

  5. Elizabeh says

    Love it! Love it! Love it! Yes, mid-century was unpretentious. We need to get back to that. You guys did a wonderful job! Enjoy it!

  6. Mary Elizabeth says

    Craig and Mike, absolutely fabulous. I’m glad you discovered the floor rot problem before you moved in. That would have been a horrible surprise some day, and after you move into a place with one bathroom you can’t exactly fix it conveniently.

    What I like best besides the color combination (feels kind of 70s, in a good way!) is the randomness of the tile pattern. Then the busyness of the pattern settles down with the one-tone floor. Nice! It’s amazing that you actually found the same tile in the ReStore–love it when that happens.

    Don’t you love the vanity drawers?

  7. Robin, NV says

    The before picture just screams “flipped” to me. Those big 1 ft. x 1 ft. taupe tiles are in practically every bathroom redo I’ve seen lately. BORING!! And, if anything, they belong on the floor not the wall.

    Love the new colors so much more!! Great job guys.

  8. Andi says

    What a great job! I love the “retro modern” vibe, and love the color combination and random tile pattern. I noticed the original shower door had been replaced….but I really like the choice you made to replace it. It is sleek and appropriate, and why obscure all that cool tile-work?—the clear doors are perfect and virtually disappear.

    I also like that long mirror over the vanity. Hard to tell whether it’s the same one as in the “before” shot (I don’t think so) but I like the way it extends down over the tiles. Also, the lighting over that mirror looks great; I wouldn’t be in a rush to replace it with vintage, unless the perfect fixture appears someday.

    Wonderful job!!

    • Craig says

      One of my favorite things in our bathroom is that TP holder! It’s such a simple, efficient detail (and it was so cheap at Home Depot).

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        Yes, we found one to replace the original one in our bath, which was all beat up. But now you need to decide which way the paper will roll. :-) Big decisions, big decisions.

  9. Angela says

    You guys did an amazing job!!! It’s wonderful to see such a bold use of color, and you did it so well! Love the mirror and the light (even though it’s new, it’s a great complement to the space).

  10. Sara says

    Wow, nice job! What a great improvement! I really love the colors too. My bathroom has that same white vanity from the “before” pics…it’s the cheapest vanity you can get from a certain big box store with the initials H.D.. It’s just atrocious! I can’t wait to replace mine! Glad to see IKEA carries something that fits in with the retro style. This post is absolutely going on my bathroom inspiration list!

  11. virginia says

    Beautiful! A real jewel box — love the colors, the proportions, the lighting, and the sink. The tile work is something to be super proud of. Great colors and pristine execution.

    Floor is gorgeous also. Always so nice to have windows in the shower area itself and it’s great how they just pop now. Interesting too that the entire space looks so much roomier. A lovely, calming bathroom.

    • Craig says

      It definitely feels more roomy now! The floating vanity really helps, and in the before bathroom you actually leaned against the wall when you were seated on the throne. It was very odd!

  12. Janice says

    Craig and Mike, I applaud your tiling choices – I love the colors and randomness. Having done my share of tiling, I couldn’t imagine having to lay tile AND be purposefully random at the same time! Someone made the comment about the TP holder so I had to go back to see where it was before because it looked so natural in its current location. Yes, much better choice! Bathroom looks marvelous – well done!

  13. Cynthia says

    Very well done, attractive color combination, captures the feeling of the era without being an exact duplicate. I also like the tile going to the ceiling and behind the toilet. Great job.

  14. oh holland says

    Wham! Fast, affordable … and totally wonderful. The vintage Fiat color palette is inspired and unique.

  15. Laurie Louise says

    I love the warmth of the colors…and the auto-inspiration. Think I’ll NOT mention that to DH! :) Great job–thanks for showing that retro + modern = LOVE! And that integrity can include a mix of decades. Well done!

  16. Chris says

    This is just wonderful! Great story, great job! It is so sleek and modern! The Tacky Grandma-Style Princess in me would have to make it all gaudy and kitschy — LOL! The minimal style will make it nice and easy to clean though! Just beautiful!

    • Craig says

      We haven’t forgotten the kitsch! We are searching for the perfect ceramic fish ‘mate’ to our thrift store find. Over the years I have taught myself how to edit- it’s super difficult at times!

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        Craig, that is so true. I have a box of ceramic knick-knacks, soap dishes, etc. that I’ve bought for bathrooms and weeded out over the years. Not to speak of the rest of the house, with DH’s turned bowl collection, my angel collection, the antique flat iron collection, the antique bean pots and crocks. And I have filled an entire basement closet with candles. You get the idea! I have a new rule, learned from our real estate agent when we were staging our old place. “Look around the room. Get rid of half of the decorative stuff in there, box it up and store it or give it away. Then do it again!” I’ve added my own corollary to that rule. “For every perfect find in Goodwill, go back to your house and find two things to bring back to them.” Another corollary: “Two items are a pair; three items are a collection; four items are the beginning of a hoard.”

  17. JKM says

    Very nice. I especially like the way you carried the random color pattern onto the sides, head, and sill of the window. Such attention to detail!

  18. Robin K. says

    Details matter. This is the proof. Your bathroom and I have been having quite the staring contest. Personally, I love the vanity. It izzzzzz
    completely mid-century modern in all it’s simplicity. Perfect choice. And I’m not just saying that because I’m using an Ikea vanity in my powder room remodel. :)

  19. Mike A. says

    I really like the tile work. Want to thank you, after reading this, I searched for Kohler shower heads and did not realize Kohler has a reasonably priced modern line. I just bought the Awaken shower head.

  20. says

    Really like the floating vanity. I’m sure you’ll have luck finding a great vintage vanity soon – but this is a great option for now. Nice color choices, too!

  21. Joe Felice says

    The toilet paper is on the roll backwards. I bet you thought ol’ eagle eyes wouldn’t find anything to complain about!

    • pam kueber says

      haha, i may need to make another rule if you want to be on the blog: toilet lids down AND toilet paper hanging OVER

      • Joe Felice says

        Good rules. With only guys in the house, and my being a guy (I think), the lid issue is not as pressing to us as it is to the ladies. LOL Are there cats in the home? If so, and if they like to attack toilet paper, that would be the only mitigating circumstance for allowing backwards toilet paper. I finally broke down and just bought a new toilet-paper holder just for the kitties! LOL Oh, the things we do!

  22. says

    I definitely love the new shower door and the open, bright feel it adds to this small bathroom. The original with obscured glass was too closed-in feeling.

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