Paul paints 3 fiberglass bathroom sinks different colors at an auto body shop

painted fiberglass sinksReader Paul has come up with another way to get a bathroom sink in the retro color of your choice: Tapping his knowledge of vintage car remodeling, he had a friend at an auto body shop paint three new fiberglass sinks custom-colors to match the tubs and toilets in his 1961 split level house. The sinks turned out great and a year later — no chips in sight. Let’s take a look — including at the gorgeous “Belgian Glass” tile in two of Paul’s bathrooms.

midcentury housePaul writes:

In the past 18 months, I have restored/renovated a 1961 midcentury split level house. One of the biggest challenges was replacing vintage Eljer sinks in the bathrooms and how to match the existing toilets and bathtub that didn’t need to be replaced. Long story short, CorStone fiberglass sinks can be painted to match at an auto body shop! I’d love to share the story with you and your readers with before and after pictures.

1960s woman

Paul’s mom — isn’t she stylish?!

In 2013, my Mom passed away leaving us with her 1961 mid-century California split level needing to be brought back to its former glory. This ‘California’ split level is actually located in Connecticut. The term California was because the design was done in California and it has redwood siding. This was a wonderful project and was a great way to cope with grief at the same time.

“There is NO SHAME in laminate counters and wall-to-wall carpeting!”

At the very beginning, I hired an interior designer to come over and help. That proved to be a mistake, as she looked at all the mid century charm with contempt and wanted to convert the house into a modern mass-produced contemporary (‘you need hardwood floors, granite counter tops, etc. etc.’) It didn’t take me long to figure out, I had to stay true with the house’s mid-century heritage. It was built when Jack and Jackie ruled style and fashion. These were happy, optimistic times reflected in clean simple lines and design.  So, I think my Mom was whispering in my ear, ‘Get that woman out of my house’ and directed me to your website, which affirmed what I wanted to do. There is NO SHAME in laminate counters and wall-to-wall carpeting!

midcentury vintage bathroom

My theme for the house was “The Same But Different!”  This meant keeping the mid-century features and character in their same place but updating with new fixtures and brighter lighter colors. The bathrooms were going to prove a challenge. I was keeping the Eljer toilets and bathtub as they were in great condition and work fine. Unfortunately, the sinks were shot and the aluminum trim around the sinks, though vintage, is a pain to keep clean.

midcentury vintage bathroom

My dilemma was where do I find sinks (and toilet seats) that could match vintage 1961 colors. I looked at Kohler sinks — and the pale yellow and the periwinkle blue I needed don’t exist.

New sinks were expensive, so I looked at CorStone sinks, which are made of fiberglass with a painted acrylic finish.  After visiting your website and reading about someone having a toilet seat painted at a body shop, I thought, ‘fiberglass with acrylic finish sounds a lot to me like a Corvette!’  So, I called a good friend who owns a body shop and I talked him into custom painting three sinks. Body shops have a computerized paint matching scanner so I gave him the bolt covers on the toilets so he could match the colors for the sinks.

midcentury vintage bathroom midcentury vintage bathroom

Last spring the sinks were painted and are an almost exact match of the original color. I couldn’t be happier. My only complaint about CorStone sinks is they have an overflow hole that is unfinished and unpainted.

midcentury vintage bathroom

Fortunately, there is a little $1.42 trim piece you can buy on Ebay to fit into the hole that finishes it nicely. The holes need to be enlarged for the piece to fit. I’ve had no issues with the painted surface. I wax them once a month and they are easier to keep clean than the old porcelain!  And boy can they shine! (I’m still waiting for the toilet seats!)

As you can see, the house had Hallmack hideaway toothbrush holders and towel racks. The medicine cabinet for the blue bathroom is also by Hallmack (I have to have the sliding mirror replaced).

The wall tiles are “Belgian Glass”

The tiling for both bathrooms is Belgian Glass. I haven’t been able to find anything on Belgian glass so I don’t know if that was a mid-century craze or not. The vintage white Formica was replaced with Wilsonart HD laminate, ‘Luna Frost’ for the yellow bathroom and ‘Carrara Santorini’ for the blue bathroom. Cabinets are painted Benjamin Moore Advance ‘Limestone’ and ‘Paper White.’

midcentury vintage bathroom

For this bathroom, I went with a stock CorStone color, Fawn Beige, which matched the commode pretty much. Again, I used Wilsonart HD Laminate to replace the old Formica (which had the wonderful gold speckles). The wallpaper is original from 1961. I think it still looks great!  I did decide to replace the medicine cabinet with a new unit from Lowe’s.

midcentury-peach-bathroom

I did not want a backsplash for the sink. The old unit just had the metal trim and I had the counter raised two inches as the wallpaper was going to be look damaged where the old counter was. Unfortunately the person who installed the counter cut it improperly and there were gaps that just couldn’t be caulked over. He wanted to put in a four-inch backsplash.  So, thinking on my feet and under pressure, I came up with the great idea of using the matching beveled edge product as a ‘backsplash’ as a way to finish the unsightly edges!  It worked out great and using that product to finish the top is something I have never seen before!

Thank you for your inspiring website!

Keeping painted sinks clean

We asked Paul how the sinks were holding up and how he kept them clean. He replied:

I can’t believe that the sinks were installed a year ago this week! I have to tell you, they look amazing. Once a month I do the liquid car wax, and they are as shiny as a car on the showroom floor! Absolutely no issues with cracking, chips, stains or anything! And easier to clean than the original porcelain! I wouldn’t say I baby them at all. The monthly wipe down with liquid wax and a paper towel is a lot less work than using Comet on the old Eljer sinks! In between waxes, we use 7th Generation All Purpose Natural Cleaner.

Paul, even though I would worry about the longterm durability of this finishing process, it sure looks like your sinks turned out great. Sounds like: If you are careful with how you clean these sinks, they are another great option for a Retro Renovator’s bathroom product arsenal. Note, though, we really tend to think that for a kitchen sink or a bathtub — which both get really pounded with dirt and in the case of a kitchen sink, lots of sharp-edged bumping and banging — a painted surface is not likely to be happily durable.

And: No Comet on our old sinks! Too abrasive! See this epic story on the cleaning products that Kohler recommends for its porcelain-enamel coated cast iron sinks. I would think the same advice would hold for porcelain-enamel coated steel sinks, which is what I had and it looks like Paul had. Nix to any abrasives!

Are these sinks ‘acrylic’ or ‘fiberglass’?

corstone sinksI looked on CorStone’s website to read about the materials used to make these sinks. I couldn’t find anything, so asked Paul where he found this info. They are propely called “fiberglass reinforced plastic acrylic” sinks. Paul found this pdf [which will download to your computer if you click on it], which says:

CorStone manufactures fiberglass reinforced plastic acrylic kitchen and bathroom sinks. Three electric ovens are used to heat acrylic sheets which are then molded to the shape of sinks. The molded acrylic sinks are sent to one of two spray booths (X001 and X002) where they are sprayed with chopped fiberglass and polyester resin…

We heart hudees

where to buy metal sink frames in any sizeAnd… thoughts on the hudee ring issue: We won’t get too upset at your pulling out those hudee-rimmed sinks — because you said the sinks were shot. My hudee-rim steel bathroom sinks were all chipped, too. Remember, though, dear readers, that there is no shame in a hudee rim sink either. In fact, we quite love them and have many stories on them: Where to buy metal-rimmed kitchen sinks … and bathroom sinks new – my favorite is the Kohler Tahoe, also see our story on Cecos … Where to order metal sink frames in one of 18 custom sizes or in any size made-to-order … Even our original research on the history of the hudee.

***

Paul, we’re sure your mom would be proud of your determination and ingenuity — and for all the tender loving care you are giving her house! And… wow… that Belgian Tile! Fantastic! Thanks for all your help with this story — and for so generously sharing it with the Retro Renovation community!

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Comments

  1. Jennifer says

    I appreciate the detailed instructions for painting and caring for the sinks. I’ve thought about doing the same thing for the toilet. Right now, we have a beautiful aqua toilet that I will eventually want to replace with something more water-efficient. When I do, would it be possible to get the new one painted at the auto-body shop?

    • pam kueber says

      I really don’t think this would be a good idea for a toilet, tub or kitchen sink.

      See all our research on toilets, you can get low-flow models in colors… but no turquoise as far as I know.

    • Laura says

      In my last house, the owner prior to us had put in half-gallon milk jugs filled with water into the tank to displace water and make it, effectively, “low flow.” If nothing’s wrong with your pretty aqua potty, I’d say try a hack like that, and leave it be!

        • Nancy says

          The trouble with bricks is that they can flake off bits in time, and the bits can get stuck in the pipes.

          Putting them in a zipped food-storage bag would probably solve that problem, though.

        • J D Log says

          My parents and latter myself have used the brick (with a heavy cloth around it to avoid chip and cracking accidents) make sure the float mechanism is not obstructed

          • steve says

            Back in the 70s, during the first attack of eco-anxiety in our country, it was commonplace to fill milk jugs with water and put them in the toilet tank to cut back on water use. Some people used bricks, although I somehow thought that having disintegrating bricks in the toilet was not a great idea. Anyway, the first method worked like a charm.

  2. Janet in ME says

    The sinks look great and what a novel idea! Your choosing to keep the house as original as possible while updating is to be commended. And Paul, your mother is such a sweetie! That photo has to be 1969-1970!

  3. says

    Paul, your sinks look awesome, what a brilliant idea. I’m so glad you rejected the mass produced contemporary decor. I can’t watch those decorating channel shows for this reason. I just want to scream “Noooo!” especially when they “update” a gorgeous pink, aqua or jadeite bathroom or a knotty pine kitchen. Your mother was so chic. I’m sure she’s very proud of you.

  4. Cynthia says

    Wonderful innovative idea, with lovely results. The shape and size of the original sinks with metal trim and laminate counters was ideal, but things do wear out after 50 years. He stayed true to his mother’s legacy, vision and – timeless taste (the original wall coverings and tile- so well chosen).
    Too bad the rectangular style sink has the fancy rope edge – otherwise the shape would have been closest to the originals.

    • Paul in CT says

      Hi Cynthia,

      You’re absolutely right. My first choice would have been (for the two larger sinks) the rectangular sink but I just couldn’t get past that h****** {edited} rope motif! Definitely NOT clean simple 1961 lines! I wasn’t thrilled with the ‘deco edges’ either but it’s much more subtle in person. I also like how there’s less splatter mess with these sinks and the bowl is much larger than the originals.

      I do want everyone to know there is a 4th bathroom that wasn’t featured. For the ‘kitchen bath’ as we call it, I kept the original sink with hudee ring. Curiously, this sink wasn’t an Eljer but a Gerber; however, the color matched the commode exactly. How did they manage that? I did not stay true to that bathroom’s design as it had pumpkin orange Formica with the tan sink.

      P.

  5. Kathy says

    Great idea. Your readers are so creative!

    I use a water-filled bag I got from Amazon that hooks over the side of the toilet tank to retrofit our yellow potty, and have had no issues after 3 years. Some potties are big enough for two of these:

    http://www.amazon.com/Niagara-Conservation-Water-Saving-Toilet/dp/B003UQ5XAS ,8 gallons $5

    Any plastic container will probably work as long as the cap is tight and the container is heavy enough to not float, and it is small enough to not interfere with the toilet mechanism. Just try it out and if you aren’t satisfied with performance, put in a smaller container, or remove some water from the bag.

  6. Paul in CT says

    To: Debbie, Karin, Janet & Cynthia,

    Thank you for your very kind comments.

    It was a lot of fun redoing the house. I wish I could show you what I did to the kitchen, living room and master bedroom.

    P.

    • Cynthia says

      Paul, yes, please do show your other projects to Pam and maybe she will post some of them! I’m sure other readers would enjoy seeing more of this house. BTW for that “kitchen bathroom”, did your mother possibly redo it in the 70s? because orange and tan seem like colors and combo from that era….

      • Paul in CT says

        Hi Cynthia,

        The kitchen bathroom had wonderful beige, silver and orange wallpaper color scheme with a simple design. I think that’s why Mom and her decorator went with the orange Formica. In 1979 the wall paper was replaced with a very 70’s silvery foil paper with orange bamboo motif. That was all removed and I sent with semi-gloss paint in a white color called ‘calm’ and the same Wilsonart HD laminate used in the other half bath. The bathroom seems much larger without the wall paper and the 54 year old Gerber sink with hudee ring pop in the new laminate!.

        I sent Pam the kitchen before and after shots.

        The other ‘innovative’ thing I did was update the vintage 1961 recessed ceiling light fixtures. These were the square units with the very heavy thick light grey glass cover that made changing light bulbs a nightmare. I purchased these new flat LED light panels in sizes similar to the glass insert, had them professionally wired in, and they have the same mid century look as the original unit but put out 3x the light and use 80% less electricity!

        Now that everything is redone, I’m bored!!!!!!!!!!!

        P.

  7. Scott says

    I love how Retro-Renovation folks won’t take no for an answer. Heck or high water, we want what we want and find a way to make it happen!

  8. Mary Elizabeth says

    Paul, I want to reinforce the idea that Connecticut has many so-called “California” ranches. Not as many as what Pam calls “coolonial” ranches, but quite a few in suburban areas. You will see newspaper listings specifying that a house for sale is a California or California-style ranch.

    Also, we are all wise to listen to the retro-whisperer in our houses. Since the one in your house is your own mother, you are doubly blessed with wisdom.

  9. Chris P says

    For all of you looking to cut water use in original toilets, I highly recommend replacing the flushing mechanism with a dual flush model. I replaced the mechanism in my 1960 American Standard blue toilet with a dual flush one about five years ago. It’s much more robust than the previous toilet internals, still flushes well, and uses less water than the original even on the “big” flush. It saved me enough water that I put the same system on the second bath’s toilet, even though it’s a much newer model. I believe it cost me about $20 each and took under an hour to install.

  10. says

    Speaking of Belgium Glass bathrooms, the house down the street from me is for sale. It was built the same year as mine and by the same builders.

    Check out the fabulous pink Belgian Glass time capsule master bathroom! And I love those sinks, too!

    P.

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