Last week, after our “Save the Pink Bathrooms” fest, I received this sweet letter from Sebastian in Montreal:
I‘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…
Being 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 on 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?
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 concerned 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 the 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.
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 if 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!
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?