Lawrence Bill asks for more ideas for his 50s bathroom floor

So many readers have sent emails over the past few weeks … and then I was sidetracked by the hacker … that my new #1 goal for the site is to make my way through them. There are questions… suggestions… photos, tons of great stuff. So look forward to the blitz!

First up — Remember Bill from Lawrence, Kansas, and his gorgeous split level? He has a few questions:

Hi Pam,

Greetings from Lawrence. An update on our modest bathroom renovation project. Last time I contacted you I was planning to tackle the bathroom flooring in our main bathroom, leaving our master bedroom bathroom for another day. After consulting with contractors, however, I’ve decided to replace the flooring in both since the way the bathrooms are laid out in the floor plan they are actually adjacent to each other. (You would never guess this walking around the house.) In fact, they both share the same subfloor. So this is the most efficient way to go.

But the problem about which tile to choose remains and is a vexing one. Thanks to your enthusiasm about Daltile, I ordered their “Design a Room” software so that I could better visualize what their various tile combinations would look like in our bathrooms. Unfortunately, after many phone calls and emails to this company, and much hand wringing, I cannot get it to work. So I’m back to making making a decision based on what I can see on a web site, mostly.

Anyway, there are worse problems to have in life, so I’m not going to worry about this state of affairs too much. But I would like to have you have a look at the bathroom that’s attached to our master bedroom, which I didn’t show you last time. It’s tiny–I mean, it’s smaller than some bathrooms I’ve seen in Japan. But it is quite efficient and is charming in a way. Right now it has a carpet floor, which is not good. I’d like to install a tile that stands out but yet is complementary with the original brown tile, which is in excellent condition.

Again, any suggestions? I’ve also attached another pic of the main bathroom to give you an idea of what I’m dealing with in total. Really, just floors. Getting back to your original suggestions, I like the American Olean pinwheel design (I even got samples), but I think I could do better. And as much as I like Daltile mosaic, I’d also like more color than they provide. So as you can see, I’m wracked with indecision.

Have you seen the modwalls stuff? Here’s a link to their custom blender page: http://www.modwallsblender.com/blender.html

I like what I see there, but it’s pricey. Have you had any experience with this tile or know anyone else who has?

I’ve also included a couple shots of the vanity in the “master” bathroom because I think you’d enjoy seeing the style. It’s pretty neat, although the chrome needs cleaning and I’ve got a few repair issues.

As always, thanks for your great help.


Wracked by indecision. I know know the feeling well. Here are some more thoughts, Bill. And I certainly encourage other readers to contribute!

#1 — Regarding the tile floor, though, I think that you may have been on your naval tour when we did this post about Alice’s house. How about flooring like this:

Palm Springs Stephan says that you can have Dal-tile make similar designs up for you in sheets. The key is getting the pieces in the colors, sizes and finishes (satin glazed or unglazed) you want. (I understand your frustration with the online planner, though.) Make sure to read all the comments in the two Alice posts:

  • And see her mint green bathoom including floor in this post

#2 — On the Modwalls…I am not crazy about the glass tile idea, personally. I think the stuff will look dated in no time flat.

#3 — My other idea — get yourself to the very biggest tile retailer you can find within 150 miles. I am not an expert, but it is my sense that there are lots and lots of regional players in this business – including some that make old-fashioned designs. S.J. Masters is such a company in my neck of the woods. You may also find someone who has a direct link into Daltile/American Olean in terms of getting custom designs made up for you. Here are some of their mosaics:

Good luck, Bill — let us know what you decide !

  1. kris says:

    hello all! great photos and dialogue! this website is such a great resource, thank you pam and everyone!

    2 questions for anyone with ideas: if you scroll up to the 3 mosaic photos pam posted from dal-tile, there is a swatch in the top right corner called “text yellow”. that is exactly the tile we have in our hall/spare bathroom. the tub and toilet look like the color of bill’s brown tile. the vanity is a honey colored wood and matches the woodwork around the rest of the house.

    question #1: i’m trying to find a wall color or treatment (textile colors too) that will complement those components and give this dark little bathroom a bright, fresh feel keeping in the style.

    question #2: we may need to install a tub/shower door due to the fabulous water pressure in the shower. is it possible to find a shower door that will complement the style and not look like an 80’s redo?


    1. pam kueber says:

      Kris, without seeing photos, I’d think: Wallpaper for the walls in the current colors but then also with some kind of bold accent – like darker brown. Something like this from Bradbury.com: http://www.bradbury.com/what_3.html … or this, yes – http://www.bradbury.com/dais_3.html… or another paper from their Atomic or Mod Generation line. For shower doors, I tend to recommend a simple, metal framed door – wavy ripple glass, I’m not sure what you call it. Like the “obscure” here: http://www.bascoshowerdoor.com/products/finish-and-glass-options.aspx … i am having a hard time finding examples online – they only want to show you expensive fancy schmancy. Go to your local shower door. Get the old-fashioned, inexpensive kind…

  2. Denise says:

    I have lived in for 30 years and now renewing my 1957 gem in California desert. I absolutely adore the old California ceramic colors. Good companies to seek some ideas are MalibuCeramicWorks.com and CatalinaClassics.com. Only some work in the Palm Springs Atomic Moderns but a very fun showroom website to bring back good memories as well as some awesome finds.

  3. Dave Wright says:

    We’re doing a bathroom job in central NJ and I couldn’t believe the -get this- lavender tub, sink and john. Oh, and the lavender matching 4×4 wall tile. Betcha that stuff would move on ebay.
    Dave Wright

  4. kt says:

    Lawrence Bill, you ended up going with those cirlcle tiles right? Do you still like them? I’m worried they may be a pain to clean on a bathroom floor. I’m doing white subway on the wall of my 50’s house but thought the very light blue cirlcles on the floor might be fun. Otherwise, I’ll go with a simple b/w basketweave or something similarly retro. Hope to hear from you soon. If you’re in (Lawrence) KS, sorry about the Hawks last night – I’m an alumn so I feel your pain. 🙂

  5. Ellen T says:


    If you want to be really true to the period, you should probably go with the streaky tile that Pam has posted; my home, built in 1950 had that type of flooring (asbestos & very expensive to remove). I used 1″ hexagonal ceramic tile when I had to redo the floor, but it would probably be hard for you to find anything other than white that would go with your wall tile.

    I have found Daltile very hard to work with; they used to be great (I’m in the same area as Palm Springs Stephen). Some of the local tile suppliers are much friendlier, so I’d try tile wholesale/retail to look through samples. Any classic ceramic tile floor is going to look better than the carpet!

    Ellen T

  6. wbondsteele says:

    Palm Springs Stephan:

    Thanks for your suggestions, especially regarding the paper forms. That sounds like the way to go. I’ll also check out the wholesaler you mentioned (150 miles–they’re probably in Witchita) and see if I can’t arrange a trip. I do wish, however, that Daltile were more responsive to my inquiries. They are a difficult company to reach. But I do like the product and will seriously consider them for our flooring.

    Chriss: The carpet, which is indeed unsavory, covers the original flooring, which is vinyl I believe. It needs replacement.

    This bathroom is interesting, as bathrooms go. It has a porcelain shower basin (not a tub), which looks to be an earlier example of this kind of stall. And yes, the vanity is really compact and quite nice to use. Just need to fix the drain plug mechanism, which has a missing part I have looked everywhere for but haven’t found yet. The sconces you mentioned provide superb lighting. I love these! They’re in both of our bathrooms. You might be able to find these on Ebay, who knows.

  7. chriss says:

    Dag, those are some sweet looking sconces! I so want one! And what a cool looking little bathroom. I love the corner vanity setup! That is so unique. I wish I had something like that in my bathroom as it is also very small and this would make it look so much roomier. At least the sink cabinet I put in is smaller that what I removed and that freed up some visual space. Wow, carpet. In a bathroom. Hmmm. That seem unsavory. Was it ever tiled or anything?

  8. Regarding Dal-Tile and custom patterns … I’ve had some experience with this, as Pam said, so I will make a few suggestions. My first is that you discard their software. It is too limiting and difficult to use, as you’ve discovered. Instead, see if you can find the nearest Dal-Tile wholesale distributor. Not a retail flooring store that carries Dal-Tile but an actual Dal-Tile warehouse, the middle man that the stores get their goods from. I did a quick search and it looks like you would have to drive more than 150 miles from Lawrence, which is probably not good news at today’s gas prices! So that may not be a viable option.
    But if it is, you can usually buy direct from the wholesaler at a much cheaper price. I got my tile direct from Dal-Tile for 35% less than what the local retail flooring store was charging, and that discount might cover your added cost of gas to get back and forth.
    And if you can get to a wholesaler, they have these nifty little “old-fashioned” paper order forms for ordering custom laid tile in patterns. They are done with grid squares, like graph paper, and you just color in the squares in any pattern that you want. You can design your own quite easily, the old fashioned way, without mucking about with computers and software. Dal-Tile will then take that colored-in grid sheet and glue the tiles to nylon webbing that can be laid quickly in sheets. It takes about 6 weeks to get the order shipped from the plant to the warehouse, then you have to either pick it up at the warehouse or pay for second shipping to your site.
    If the nearest Dal-Tile warehouse is too far away, perhaps you can go to a local big flooring store, as Pam suggested, that carries the Dal-Tile line and take with you a sheet of graph paper (buy it at the local office supply store) that you have already colored in with your tile pattern. If your local flooring store is any good, I bet they can fax that pattern to Dal-Tile and get it made for you.
    My own experience with Dal-Tile lately is that business is down, thanks to all the mortgage crisis stuff and the mini-recession. And because business is down, they are bending over backwards to help make it easier for people to buy from them (at least they are here in Southern California). They are doing just about anything they can to make a sale, so they should be willing to work with you.

    I agree with Pam that the current trend toward glass tile will be a rapidly passing one. And it is a very non-authentic look. Avoid it.

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