Bathroom tile in a patchwork quilt design, original to 1956 Portland General Electric Show Home

The inspiration for the patchwork quilt design of 18 different wallpapers in my office remodel was a similar idea I’d seen done with ceramic tile in tub/shower surround about 10 years ago. When I mentioned the patchwork tile idea recently, Teddi noted my mention of the patchwork tile — and wouldn’t you know it, she delivered photos from her 1956 bathroom showing just the kind of tile design that inspired me. Equally interesting, this idea seems to have been au courant ala 1956 — as her house was a 1956 Portland General Electric Show Home. Teddi’s home has a bunch of other great details worth of a show house, so read on, dear readers, read on …

Teddi writes:

Hi Pam, here’s our story: We were living in north bay San Francisco. Job-related issues led us to look for a new, less expensive place to live, and Salem, OR seemed to fit the bill. We’ve always lived in older, “character” homes — me in a Victorian, DH in a Tudor, the two of us in a bungalow — so that’s the type of property we looked at.

I saw this house first when I had come north for a job interview. Our realtor and I were looking at MLS listings in the desired neighborhoods. The ad for this home read, “3 BR, 2 baths, new storm windows,” but I thought I saw an A-frame-shaped front wall that was 1/2 window and 1/2 sandstone — decidedly mid-century modern — so we hit the road to take a look. The realtor and I both fell in love — he said if I didn’t buy it, he’d have to find a way to. A few weeks later, DH, DD and I came back up to Salem and looked at several properties I’d seen, plus some new listings.

the vanity in the bathroom with the amazing shower
the funky tile in the other bathroom
the whole-house intercom
the master control panel for the lighting system in our house, which is in the master BR (The button that says “All” controls all the lights in the house)

kitchen inf 1956 Portland General Electric Show HouseThis house, with it’s family-friendly lay-out, custom features, and cheery condition stood out as THE ONE. (The home also has a sweet history — the original owners met during WWII when she was his nurse after he lost both his legs. They married, moved here in 1956, and raised 3 daughters in this home.) We put in an offer, went back to CA and sold our house in two days, and started packing. Living here has been amazing — definitely a whole lifestyle change!

You mentioned that your fabulous office remodel was in part inspired by a desire to do a crazy quilt tile surround somewhere sometime. This shower is original to my 1956 mid-mod. We were told that our home was a PGE (Portland General Electric) show home, billed as the “home of the future.” We have a funky electrical system and all of our cabinetry and woodwork is amazing, so I tend to believe the realtor’s story. We are only the 2nd owners of this jewel, and the original lady-of-the-house must have been June Cleaver because everything in the house was pristine. We feel really blessed.

Thank you, Teddi! I love your shower, and your house. It is so lucky to have found you, and I LOVE the story of its original owners — and that you are keeping the story going.

Readers, if you have an interest in recreating a tub/shower or shower surround like this, it would not be *hard* to do — and could likely be done very inexpensively, if you have the time and patience to collect the tile, little by little, over time, at the Re-Store. Be sure to collect only same-sized tiles — remember, all 4″ tiles are not 4″, they are often 4-1/8 or 4-1/4 or 4-3/8 — you could mix and match as long as you keep like-sized tiles aligned by row, though; the whole thing would be so busy no one would likely see the difference. I will caution, though, that to make this look “right” you still have to bring a design sensibility to the project — you want like values, probably, with an occasional contrast.  One of these days, maybe I’ll be able to do this in a bathroom. One of the other things I’d like to do is also add art nouveau and Victorian design tiles. Really busy. It’ll be a further exploration of my Hippy House Ideal.

  1. Terri says:

    The cabinets, handles, and trim work are just like the ones that were in my sister’s mid century home that her husband built, she sold it when he died. I loved the cabinets, the wood had a shimmer to it. My friend in high school lived in a mid century with a daylight basement, they had an intercom system just like that one. You could play the radio in any room and call for anyone anywhere in the house. That was a big deal in the 1960s.

  2. Lauryn says:

    Wow, what a lovely gem of a house (with a lovely gem of story behind it!). Thank you so much for sharing it. That shower seems to be the perfect antidote for morning-fog, maybe better than coffee! And what a fabulous, fabulous kitchen! Hope you and the hubby have just as many happy years there as the original owners.

  3. Eliza says:

    Oh my gosh. The Johnson County, KS historical society has an All Electric House that I thought was one of a kind. It was moved from it’s original location of Prairie Village, KS to the museum grounds and completely restored to it’s original glory. I can’t believe that there are more of these out there!!!! This is a link to the Joco house http://www.jocomuseum.org/visit.shtml

    1. Chutti says:

      Awww, this is SWEET! Not so crazy about the ‘seasick’ descriptions, but looks like they preserved everything.
      Yes, there was quite a national trend of utility companies developing model houses. Especially the all-electric kind.

      Here’s the best one stop info I could find on the “Medallion Homes” concept:

      I have to think that this great home featured was in the same vein….
      Purty Swell!

  4. Joe Powers says:


    How come you don’t invite me to see this beautiful gem your hiding? I have to see it on the web! Maybe someday. SOON!! Especially now that your home has a fan club.

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