Today we meet Rachel, Brian, and their pug Chloe… and look at their recent project to renovate their lovely 1920s yellow bathroom. The bathroom also features an unusually configured shower that stumps even my experts. Rachel writes:

Hi Pam, I’ve been a reader for quite a while, and LOVE your site!


I have a house from about the 1920s with a yellow bathroom. The tile is yellow, with black trim, and white fixtures. There’s also small border of green waves beneath the trim. Previous owners, however, had replaced the sink with a terrible particle board vanity with a cream/beige sink. They also put in a particleboard medicine cabinet, which they installed *on* the wall, not in it. This weekend my boyfriend and I replaced these with a vintage Kohler wall-hung sink and enamel medicine cabinet. (When we removed the particleboard medicine cabinet, we found the original hole — complete with used razor blades! We managed to find a replacement cabinet that fit the existing hole perfectly.)


I also have a question: my bathroom has 2 showers — or originally, I guess it would have been a shower and a bath. There’s a full-sized tub with a smaller, “attached” stall shower separated by a half-wall. (Unfortunately, the little shower no longer works, so the tub is now the shower as well.)  I’ve never seen anything like it before — have you?Also, now that you can see the small wall between the tub and the shower. There’s a gap along the top, where we think maybe a piece of glass used to be? We’re just not sure.


A few more things — now that you can see the bathroom! =)


It’s currently painted a very pale green, and when we removed the old medicine cabinet and lowered the lights, we saw the earlier, darker green which matches the wave border. We’re currently deciding what color to paint — white or darker green. (Although I know you would probably suggest wallpaper!)


I know you’ve mentioned on the blog before that wall-hung sinks with legs makes bathrooms appear bigger, and I couldn’t agree more! The vintage sink we installed is actually a little larger than the one we replaced, but the bathroom *definitely* feels much roomier without the vanity. The same thing happened once we recessed the medicine cabinet. The built-in toothbrush holder and soap holders really stand out, since the medicine cabinet is no longer hanging over them.

Thank you!


Cool bathroom – and it will be fun to talk about… But, of course, I also asked Rachel for her “retro renovation story”. She answered:

We’re in Western New York. I bought the house when I came here 6 years ago for graduate school (PhD in English….still working on it!). I met Brian after moving here, and he moved in about a year ago (he’s a graphic designer who works from home). We were recently visiting a local architectural salvage store (Rehouse) and saw some adorable vintage sinks for under a $100…that’s really what got us started! We realized that we HATED our particleboard vanity and sink-that-never-stayed-clean. We’re novice DIYers, but after some research, we felt like this could be a first real project – something we could actually afford and do ourselves! Replacing the sink is just the tip of the iceberg now, of course! We’re trying to decide about painting the walls, and we’ve re-sealed around the tub, but the grout in other places needs some work (not to mention the *other* areas in the house now begging for our attention!). But we’re really happy with the “new” sink and medicine cabinet — it dramatically changed the space and made it feel like an entirely new bathroom (for under $100!).

That’s our retro renovation story — for now, anyway!

PS. We were at Rehouse this past weekend as well, and saw a new arrival — a set of metal cabinets (including two wall ovens) in TURQUOISE. It was gorgeous! They were GE, and although quite a few cabinets were there already, more were on the way.


What a lovely bathroom, Rachel — and the wall hung sink on chromes legs looks amazing.

Regarding that teeny tiny shower, I emailed John at deabath.com, one of my very favorite sources for salvage bathroom fixtures, to ask if he had ever seen a small shower like that. He says:
Hi Pam,

That’s got to be the smallest shower enclosure I’ve ever seen!  Judging from the tile work, it appears to be a “Well, we have an extra 24″ on this wall, what are we going to do with it?” kind of thing.  I agree, probably had glass in the groove, but I didn’t see any mountings on the side walls.  Definitely not stock, and at 6’1″, I’d have a really hard time getting into it.

Regarding your wall color:  I’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding wall colors to go with vintage pastel bathroom tile, and so I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I think that going lighter, rather than darker, is generally a good idea. The “lower” color anchors the room, so it makes sense if that’s a “heavier” color. You were right in guessing that my #1 choice would be wallpaper. Below is one that I found relatively quickly on HannahsTreasures.com. It’s not “perfect” but directionallygetting there — because it incorporates all the colors in your bathroom: The yellow, green, black — and even that touch of orange in the liner tile. These are all colors for you to work with in your accessories. One more thought — to my eye, the “buttercream” of this wallpaper (the light yellow-cream between the stripes) looks beautiful with the yellow tile. This might be another way to go…Buttercream: The color of fresh churned butter (with no yellow dye added.)

tile with hannahs m243

Also, Rachel, I see you shower curtain choice is definitely more graphical/modern, so I know that the wallpaper above is probably not to your taste! I like it, though — especially how it recognizes the strength of the black trim tile. Maybe all you really need now are coordinating towels and rugs — in green like the liner tile? — and some artwork on the walls that includes each and every color in the bathroom. If you want to go mod – maybe JennSki has a print up your alley?


Thank you so much for sharing, and good luck with everything… just looking at you and Brian reminds me of my early married days and how much fun (yes!) Mr. Retro Renovation and I had, feathering the nest, renovating this and that. Happiness.

  1. Antoinette Perez says:

    I would wallpaper it in black and white, medium size pattern like the shower curtain, and the mini shower, I would fix for the dog!

  2. Mary says:

    Can some one tell me what you think the size of the hex floor tile is? I am debating between one inch and two inch….I like this one!

  3. Aubrey says:

    Love that you mentioned DEA Bath! I love them and their site! I recently took my bathroom from 1950’s to early 1920’s/19-teens. Our home was built in 1906 and my husband and I did a total gut and rebuild. Most of our purchases were made through Craigslist, but some were from places online like deabath.com and rensup.com. signofthecrab.com is another great site for info. DEA is one of their retailers. I loved that I was able to talk to a person on the phone instead of an automated deal at DEA. They’re clear across the country from me.
    I think my fave part of this bathroom is the archway @ the mini-shower.

        1. Rick says:

          Plush Living does not allow you to purchase anything..
          I would LOVE to buy the Kaleidoscope Shower Curtain, but cannot find it anywhere…
          Please help…

          1. Rachel says:

            How strange that you can’t buy on their website! This page (http://www.plush-living.com/AboutUs/Products/ProductMain.htm) says you can click the “shop online” icon, but it seem to bring you to a totally different place. We purchased the shower curtain several years ago–we got it online, but I have no idea where. (Sorry!!)

            Perhaps try contacting Plush Living directly? So sorry I can’t be more helpful!

            1. pam kueber says:

              It appears to me they are wholesalers, not retailers….Yes, you could contact them to see who carries their stock….

  4. Trina says:

    I am so in love with that sink! Any idea where I can find one? The side towel rack are the bomb!

  5. Mark says:

    Absolutely magnificent!!!. Hard to choose but I think the BEST part is the shower part of the bathtub/shower combo…how very cool …ooh and th e little waves under the border tile…The whole place jut screams “Gramps”…Congratulations
    oh and the rzor blades stuck in the hole is funny…we found an old pint of bourbon with about three gulps left sitting on the wood framing when we took out ours

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