Glamorous deco-style bathrooms for the Wren & Willow 1940s cottage

retro-bathroomsYesterday we saw Wren & Willow’s kitchen renovation, and heard from owner-contractor Laureen Skrivan about her company’s plan to remodel it to rent on Airbnb. Today let’s look at the bathrooms — all-new, but designed to look like they’d always been there.

The guest bathroom:

midcentury-house-ideas-25midcentury-house-ideas-20midcentury-house-ideas-22Of course, there is a pink bathroom! And this one is the stuff that many folks’ dreams are made of: Pink field tile with black bullnose trim… a black-and-white pinwheel tile floor… a vintage sink… and playing up the glamorous 1940s, a mirrored storage cabinet. Laureen says the tile is American Olean “Antique Rose.” I’m going to go check it out, stat!

All photos by Aleks Akinshev of the Wren & Willow team.

midcentury-house-ideas-21 midcentury-house-ideas-20 midcentury-house-ideas-19 midcentury-house-ideas-18I’m seeing a recurring theme — rick rack on the cafe curtains in the kitchen — rick rack on the polka-dotted shower curtain in the pink bathroom.

The master bathroom:

1940s-bedroom-4Laureen got help with the sink from one of Retro Renovation’s longest advertisers with the sink in the master bathroom. She said:

DEA Machineries supplied us with a 1940’s American Standard wall mounted sink that was completely refurbished. Its unique size made it a perfect fit for the small master bathroom.

We also saved the wall-mounted heat vents original to the house. Our local classic car restorer sandblasted the vents and added a chrome finish. The vents, along with the original front door hardware, were given a whole new life.


More about Laureen and her company Wren & Willow:


Laureen’s grandson already has set his sites on being the next President of her company 🙂


Laureen Skrivan, owner/contractor Wren & Willow

Laureen is a super interesting person. Check out the Wren & Willow’s “Story” page, and you will see that she started just 10 years ago as an interior designer… but within just two years decided she also wanted to become a general contractor so that she could do even more to help her clients. Wren & Willow the general contracting firm opened in 2008. Success came fast:

The company continued to grow, and it became apparent that Wren & Willow had outgrown its office space. In 2011, the company purchased a commercial building on North Pearl Street that was built in 1917. Laureen saw the building’s potential and designed the building to restore it to its original 1917 look and feel, which included using reclaimed wood throughout the building, while giving it a modern touch which included commercial kitchen appliances and a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system. The building took two years to complete, and Wren & Willow moved into the restored building in March 2013. The Wren & Willow office building won the MBA award for Best Commercial Project in Pierce County, the State of Washington, and the Western Region of the United States as well as Best Design through the national Design Professional’s Award.


Wren & Willow continued to grow at a rapid pace. The company grew from two employees to 18 in just a few short years. Laureen’s reputation among her peers grew, and in 2014, she was elected to the highest position of the Master Builder’s Association of Pierce County as the first woman president in its 69-year history.

Way to go, Laureen!

Suppliers & Resource List for 1940’s Wren & Willow House Bathroom, Living Room, Master Bedroom and Guest Room:

Wow. Gorgeous. Impeccable. Inspiring.

Want to see more of the Wren & Willow House?

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  1. tracy says

    Gorgeous tile work! The mirrored art deco chest is the perfect blend of function and style in that pink bathroom. Thank you for sharing such inspiring design and craftsmanship.

  2. ineffablespace says

    The key thing that makes this project really work is the attention to the particular sorts of details that would probably get dropped due to budget or timing in a more typical project.

    And I think a key factor in maintaining those particular budget not-so-friendly, and timing not-so-expedient elements in the plan is that there is no client, or, that the builder is the client. (And it can work the other way around, to, where the client is on board 100% and the builder is not). In any case, there is one vision here and it isn’t altered by interaction between two separate parties, whose ideas on how to get things done may not be identical.

    It’s not very easy to find outside sources to do some of these things on a small scale, either, and it may be impossible for someone who is doing it DIY. Things have changed a bit since the last time I tried to get metal cabinets painted at an auto body shop, with the explosion of design television, but my experience was more like this: “What? You want us to paint what?! What the __er, excuse me. No, we will not paint cabinets this is an autobody shop. Bye–That was some ____who wanted us to CLICK”
    I did find someone who will chrome plate/metal plate things on a small scale but at first the people I found were interested if you were doing two dozen or two hundred, not two pieces.

    And I live in a major city. (Regularly voted one of the rudest). I thing people may be more polite about doing some of these things if you can find them.

    But where the separate client starts to balk is when the budget starts to add up with some of these details. If I get a heat register chrome plated, (one of the things I’ve actually looked into recently) the ballpark I got on this was $150. Very few clients will want to spend $150 on registers when a sort of fancy one can be had for $50 and a standard one is $15. Most clients will end up getting the $1.00 white nylon switchplates if they need the budget somewhere else.

    Most clients would drop the stainless counter in the butler’s pantry, the tile on the ceiling, the Bradbury Wallpaper. All of these things are the details that make the modest house look so great, but it comes at a rather immodest budget.

    Now a client could come in and buy this without reservation at the right because they don’t know how much some of those little details cost. And sometimes if you can work them into the project without the client knowing how much those little details cost, and they are happy with the overall number, it can work, too. But unfortunately these details are the kind that often get dropped for budget. And waiting for some of these details is one of the reasons contractors on the other side will want to drop them. (Some of my door hardware, switchplates and things are 8 weeks out from the order date. The chrome plated heat register is when they get around to it. Many contractors don’t want to wait because they have other jobs to do.

      • Jay says

        You have raised some salient points about renovation projects. I also got a laugh out of your auto body shop experience. Clearly this house is a labor of love and a showcase for the firm’s talents. The first thing that struck me was that cheap DIY materials were not utilized and the budget was open ended. This is more along the lines of a historical museum restoration where connections are made that ensure sources to restore or replicate that which is in need of repair or replacement.
        That’s where Retro Renovation comes in, Pam has certainly made it easier for the average homeowner to restore their mid century homes. In my case the fantasy vision crashes into the hard wall called the budget.

        • pam kueber says

          Some of it yes, some of it no. Daltile is not expensive. White 4×4 field tile is about as cheap as any building material gets; go to Home Depot, Lowes, Menards for it.

          You can do your own stainless steel countertop for as little as $300 — we’ve seen it done —

          AO pinwheel tile flooring = inexpensive, as is black bullnose.

          Vintage wallpaper can be found on a budget if you wait out ebay… or you can look for mass market proxies — although that Bradbury sure is pretty, what with their screen printing process.


          My biggest *problem* was never finding affordable materials — it was finding affordable, good/great contractors!

          • Jay says

            Point well taken. I have experienced both good and bad contractors. Unfortunately the good ones come with a premium in my area and don’t usually want to be bothered with small modest homes. During the recession I had no problem getting a guy to remove the paper in my small hall bath but post recession my calls were not returned when I wanted him to install some missing trim in some rooms as new construction and tear downs started up again.

  3. Teresa Halpert Deschanes says

    I’m loving how the paint color continues up onto the ceiling. Also the black bullnose detouring around the mirror–awesome! I really like using these very affordable tiles that are currently available in such fab colors.

    • ineffablespace says

      With regard to tile work:

      To some extent, the bathroom, particularly the black and white tile shower, to some extent (and I think to some great extent) was designed around the tile layout rather than the other way around.

      If you really want a great tile layout, this has to be considered at the design and framing stage. So the designer, the person doing the framing and the drywall/cement board, and the tile-setter all have to be on the same page and working toward the same goal. (It can be helpful if the framer, drywaller and tile-setter are the same person, in a small project).

      I belonged to a forum at one time where the person was very disappointed in the tile layout and was blaming the tile setter, when, in reality, there was no way that 4.25″ tile was going to layout on a pony wall 5.5″ thick without dividing tiles in half or doing slivers. This had to be considered way back when the wall was being framed, and it wasn’t.

      Since mid-century style tile seems to be most common in 2″ 4″ 4.25″ or 6″, these dimensions need to be taken into account, and honestly, most people don’ t think that far in advance.

      Of course this is only important if that’s the sort of thing you want and a lot of people don’t notice tile cuts at the corners and slivers where necessary–they just take it for granted and filter it out.

      But people Do notice a great tile layout when they see it, or, if they are not that detail-oriented they may sense that it is better than average for some reason.

      Whether or not it is important enough for a client to do something to this level depends upon the client. Because it is either going to cost more in money or time (or both). And as my Realtor told me when I sold my last place. “People are going to love the attention to detail in this place, even if they only pick it up subliminally. They are going to *love* it. However they are not, going to *pay* you extra for it.

      • ineffablespace says

        I agree with Pam about Daltile. It is very reasonably priced and if you go through the catalog carefully and order through a good rep who knows a lot about the product, they make all sorts of trim pieces for Daltile Natural Hues, Semi-Gloss, Matte, or Rittenhouse Square. or Keystones–which are the Retro appropriate ones.

        But generally tile work like shown in this article is not done by the typical contractor. So the DIYer either has to be very good and very patient, or as a client you are going to be paying in labor costs or labor time.

        My contractor is reasonably priced and very good. But he could spend a month tiling either of those bathrooms, in my experience. I have used a different tile setter for different reasons and types of project who says that a lot of people are unhappy if their tile is not set in one day, grouted the next and ready for use on the third or fourth day.

        The potential problem is then they want Willow and Wren quality work at either a low cost or very quickly and I don’t think you can have all of that at once.

  4. Carolyn says

    I noticed the rick-rack yesterday too – right in tune with the era.
    I can’t believe customers are so lazy – OK, your pink bath is pretty hacked up so tear everything out and put in only what’s on the big-box store floor. Oh, if only we had some sort of global source of information and a handheld device…
    Salespeople aren’t very helpful either – no vision even without the constraints of this week’s sale to push. I inquired about a bamboo-ish countertop to hint at an Oriental theme for my bath and got a blank look. I asked about butcherblock but “that’s only used in kitchens” -?!
    But we discover through RR that there are options galore in colored tile and fixtures AND made by well-known manufacturers.
    So maybe your new bath isn’t Mamie pink – at least it’s A pink.
    And sometimes … that’s good enough.

  5. TraceyC says

    Thank-you so much for the Art Deco eye candy.
    Art Deco bath and kitchens just know how to use tile with style. In 2003 we “renewed” our bath in our old house (built in 1919) and no one knew what the heck “subway tile” was except my wonderful plumber so I had the bath I wanted and then we moved! Dang…that bath was small but so beautiful. (Black and white tile, etc.) I like the idea of a small modest house and then add all the cool bling details to make a one of a kind place to call home.

  6. Lynne says

    Having just finished a bathroom remodel, I agree that its incredibly difficult. When you are standing in a totally gutted, down to the studs room with no ceiling, it’s hard to get your bearings and make snap decisions. You have a plan, yes. But these contractors want not a plan but EXACT specifics. I was unprepared and was, frankly, embarrassed.

    When you are standing with the electrician and he says “Where do you want your ceiling lights?” There is no waving of your hand, and saying “right around in this area”. He wants to know exactly which stud, how far from the nonexistant wall, etc. “Do you want 3 switches, or a seperate fan switch by the shower?” So many questions about permanent things! I am ashamed to say…I didn’t know what to tell him but ” Umm…I’m not sure”

    He said “That’s fine, take all the time you need. I charge $97.00 an hour”

    Moral of the story is you have got to be prepared. Everything pre-measured and thought out BEFORE any framing. Believe me, I won’t be caught like that again in our next remodel.

  7. susan Freedman says

    love this site. This request for help is a long shot but here goes. I wonder if anyone is familiar with a tile company which manufactured tile in the 50s-60s and which had an raised image of a crown and the words made in japan on the backside. Tried looking up everyname I could think of but no luck so far. I am trying to match the tile in 1964 florida home. I have speckled tile but am most interested in (affordably) matching my beautiful pink tile. got a sample of pink from clay squared (thank you RR) but the color is just a bit off.

    • pam kueber says

      there were so many brands, i do not know…. pomona and ceratile are names that popped into my head, but i am in no means an expert on this complex topic

      search word: sculptured tile

  8. tammyCA says

    Terrific bathrooms – love the Art Deco pink one. Nice work from wren & willow. That’s what we, non-diyers, need..a designer/contractor who gets it.. the whole retro vision & execution.

  9. carolynapplebee says

    i’m bookmarking these beautiful rooms for when i can finally get around to it. and a great story about a female entrepreneur.

    • Carol says

      Kara, that is so funny! Yesterday when I left a comment, I wanted to say I could just lick those jadite cabinets. Thought the readers would consider that a little off center. I could lick the jadite cabinets, the pink tile in the bathroom, and all buttercream stucco on mediterranean style buildings with clay tile roofs. There, I said it now I own it. I find those colors positively luscious.

  10. Max says

    Those are very pretty bathrooms. It’s also nice to see natural wood doors and windows instead of white.

    A comment on the tiles most wouldn’t notice: in most tile work from the era, the corners of the trim tiles were not mitered. There are special square trim tiles made for outside and inside corners, these are still available from Daltile and other companies.

  11. Nadine says

    The green one reminds me of our old bathroom when we were first married. It wasn’t real tile (paneling), but it was white with the black. A sink similar to that, & I had painted the walls that green. Even the wooden window casing & the door with the glass knob. I love it! My husband walked by & saw the picture & asked if I was reminiscing about our old bathroom. Didn’t have that kind of floor, though. Thank you for a blast from the past!

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