Last week, after our “Save the Pink Bathrooms” fest, I received this sweet letter from Sebastian in Montreal:

Dear Pam,

seb-6.jpgI‘m a French Canadian living in Montréal. I bought my first house 3 years ago. The house was built in 1955 and I bought it from the very first owner. Not much renovation had been made and the bathroom is still in the 50s look, except from the sink and the ugly vanity…

seb-3.jpgBeing born in 1973, I have not known the era when yellow, blue and pink tiles were “in”… But, after 3 years in my house, I have come to like my yellow bathroom and would like to renovate it respecting the style and color… an idea that pleases you I’m sure!

Attached you will find some pictures of it.

I don’t know really where to start! It seems almost more complicated to fix it rather than changing everything. I saw seb-4.jpgon your site the Olympic Tile store probably have some replacement yellow and black tiles. I would like to redo the window frame in black tiles instead of wood. What kind of sink should I buy? How can I give back some shininess to the floor? What color should I paint the walls? Do I keep the mirror? Do any of your readers have the same kind of bathroom?

Well, any help would be appreciated! seb-7.jpgAnd I would be happy to start the “save the yellow bathrooms” movement.

Regards,
Sébastien Langevin

Didn’t I say this was a great letter?! Sebastian – I am so proud of you for doing things the hard way – and saving this yellow bathroom. It is the right and noble thing to do!!!!! And, it will make you very very happy.

Well, Sebastian and I have emailed back and forth this week, and I have a bit more information. First – as you can imagine – storage space is actually a big issue. The vanity, as inappropriate as it is decoratively, actually serves this purpose well. But, it also turns out that there is 8″ of depth in one of the walls. This is important, I think.

So here goes in terms of suggestions:

1. Get a wall-mount sink with chrome legs and towel bars. I found this one on ebay for Sebastian, but he is rightly vintage yellow wall hung sinkconcerned about the shipping cost. Even more importantly, he really needs to try to match the Case yellow – this is crucial, as your eye will pick up the difference. So he is going looking today at a salvage place that may have a match. Even if it takes a while to find the right sink — I think it’s the smart thing to do — and now that you’ve put your retro reno vibe into the universe, Sebastian, the sink will come to you! With the bathroom being so compact, having the wall-hung with legs will really make it feel more spacious.

2. The mirror: See this image from 1954. I suggest creating storage space immediately to the left of 1954 kohlerthe mirror – extending to the edge of the toilet, “centering” the entire installation on that wall — to provide more storage space along this wall. I think that open shelving like in this photo would look great; but would not be practical; put part of the cabinet (to the far left, shelves in the middle) behind a door of some sort. Everyone: If you have a lot of space behind a bathroom wall – use it. I did, and it’s great. 8″ is a wonderful depth, actually – nothing gets lost by being too far back, yet it’s deep enough for large bottles like woolite.

3. For over your mirror — I love this Rejuvenation Lighting “Rufus” sconce forretro style wall sconce from rejuvenation you. It is perfect with your black trim and overall deco look.

4. Of course: Wallpaper. I searched and searched and came up with this option from Secondhand Rose. Now, I do have to qualify: This paper is directionally where I would see this bathroom going….but it may not be exactly right (background too pink? Maybe it’s just the internet…). But, I think you need to look for a print like this – one that has a deco feel, a ‘lighter’ look, and includes your core colors of sunshine yellow (in this wallpaper: chartreuse, close enough), black and porcelain white. What I think you want to stay away from is anything that emphasizes the bumble bee look — the harsh tones that this bathroom can evoke seb-4.jpgif treated wrong. You want to soften it a little. This paper or one like it, would do that. This wallpaper also gives you the ability to work in other colors – blue or merlot towels and fluffy rugs, for example. Again – you must also have some good sources in Montreal, tres chic!
vintage deco wallpaper from secondhand rose
5. Tile around your window? Sure, but please note, it will be difficult to match the ‘mud set’ look of your original tile unless you get someone to do this who really know what you are doing. If you can’t find someone, I would be cautious. If the wood is rotted out, as an alternative, you can replace it and use marine paint for better water resistance. I’m sure a good lumber store will even tell you a wood species to use that’s best for this situation.

6. Polish your floor tiles? Nope. I think they are meant to be matte, Sebastian. They are fantastic, btw!!!

7. Accessories: Once you get the wallpaper in, these will play out. Have fun with towels and rugs. Re the shower curtain, I tend to favor something that blends in rather than stands out, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Find vintage switch plate covers for your electric outlets and light switch. You can also find new models of chrome exhaust fans for the ceiling exhaust that I see in another photo.

So, I hope this helps, monsieur. Retro Renovation readers — what are your ideas for Sebastian?

  1. jennifer says:

    I have practically the same bathroom! I was considering refinishing the tiles, but I LOVE the B&W basket weave floors.

  2. Amy says:

    Hey I have that same problem but the bathroom is very veryyyyyyy small, and the tile are like White i cant seem to match yello with anything

  3. Colleen says:

    I’m so happy Sebastien scored the yellow sink. My toilet and sink were black and it was AWFUL. You couldn’t tell when the toilet was dirty or clean and you’d brush your teeth and the sink looked dirty. I found myself cleaning them ALL the TIME. I will admit the old toilet was an American Standard classic though. The front of the stool was pointed like the bow of a ship. (alas, it only got one good flush in five even after replacing all the guts in the tank so it had to go…needs to be functional) The sink and vanity weren’t original, but when I tore them out I found the holes in the tile where the original wall mount sink was. I bet it was black too.

    My walls were originally painted gray (I think I like that better than the dark pinky-beige he mentioned he had, but the gray had to have closed in the small room 4ft X 10ft), and I chipped two pieces of the “drunken tile” the former owner put over the original tile to find out what it was. It was all yellow in a pattern, matt with the color all the way through. His floors are AWESOME. (I hate that they tiled over mine.)

    Pam, did Sebastien ever send a photo of his finished masterpiece?

    Amy, Depending on the yellow…I like it with blue and green. My bathroom yellow has an olive green tinge so I may pair it with that and a light italian Orvieto terra cotta (has a yellow-honey-orange instead of the usual terra cotta red). If you have a piece, take it to the store and put it up next to the other colors (tile and paint) and see what looks good to you. If you don’t have any you can take with you, bring home a couple sample tiles and bigger paint chips to get an idea what colors look good with it.

  4. Colleen says:

    Oh, and if Sebastien is still listening…and it is probably way too late…but my window sill IS tiled. It has a very deep ledge covered in the same original yellow Romany tile that the walls and arched shower enclosure have on them. The window is glass block surrounding a tilt in vent window that I am sure is also original.

  5. Pam Kueber says:

    Colleen, Sebastian has not sent a finished photo. He also wrote in to say that the yellow sink he found was too big – too wide – for the space. This is certainly something to watch for – take your measurements (as well as your color chips) with you when you shop!

  6. Colleen says:

    Pam, did my email/photos make it to you? I tried the address you gave “retronovation at gmail dot com” but it got kicked back for a nonexistant address so I tried “retrorenovation at gmail dot com” thinking it is like the website.

  7. Colleen says:

    Hi Pam! Well, I couldn’t seem to get the pictures to go through to you (files must have been too big), so I did make a Flickr account so that you could see them. They are under CAOscape, but like I said before I’m not trying to do a restoration…I am, however, trying to preseve and add (I hope I’m adding and not taking away…) to the character that is there. I love the chandelier (although I really need to dust that!!!), the magic eye in the front door, and my Winco window. The original bones of this house are great and I knew I wanted to live here the moment I walked in. To me it is simple and classy, home. A work in progress like me. 😉

  8. Colleen says:

    For those of us with circa 1950 bathrooms with USQTCO Romany 44-121-5 yellow tile I have bad news…neither of the yellow B&W sample tiles match. (Thank you to B&W Tile though. They were very helpful and quick to respond). I did find some pieces of yellow tile (not flat field tiles though) at my local Restore, in a box stamped Monarch Tile and the yellow was very close to matching. (Most people would probably find the Monarch yellow a close enough match.)

  9. Colleen says:

    Hi Pam!

    I can’t seem to get my pictures through to you…so I put them under a flicker account (CAOscape) and put you on as a contact (I think that is you…) so that you could look at them and, hopefully, give me some suggestions/opinions on the decorative tile area I need to install above my sink. I just put the tile sample pictures together quickly so…don’t judge my ppt skills PLEASE! Oh, and since I looked up that Winco Ventilator window I’ve been looking around at the homes around here and they are all over the place. Garages, bathrooms, various sizes and block styles, etc…

    Thanks!!! And SableMable, if you see this I would love you to weigh in on the tile too!

  10. elizabeth says:

    I am so happy sebastien wrote in, because I have the SAME thing going on in my bathroom. Except…wait for it….I have a black tub, toilet and sink on top of it! Before I saw this post I had no idea what to do with the walls, but now, I have been healed! Pale pink wallpaper, just like what is above! I also live in nyc, so this shouldn’t be too hard.

  11. Yvette Cruz says:

    I have a retro bathroom and I decided to add vinyl wall decals of different black and white vintage barbershop signs, mustaches, beards and haircuts. The other one I did different chandeliers. You can pick a theme and change them out if you get bored. You can do vintage perfumes and powder puffs, nail polish and it will look like an original wallpaper. It is endless. Also you can buy stencils and paint a wall paper effect on your wall.

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