A “Country Retro” pink bathroom design for Megan

Reader Megan has a design dilemma — how to mesh her classic pink and black tile bathroom with her country style. For help with this week’s Retro Design Dilemma, I turned to Pam, since retro and country are two styles I’ve never tried to blend before. She jumped right on it, explaining that Mary Emmerling is one of her design goddesses. Emmerling was the longtime creative spirit behind Country Home magazine up until a few years ago — and a huge driver the country style that has always popular in America. Pam says: Country style is likely still #1 in America. So how to meld country — with classic Mamie pink retro? Read on to see what Pam suggests…


Megan writes:
I came across your website looking for ideas of how to tastefully remodel our lovely 1950s pink tile bathroom. We are in the process of remodeling the only bathroom in our house because the tile needs grouted very badly.  Many people have suggested that we get rid of that “hideous tile,” but it’s staying!  It will save us thousands of dollars, it’s in excellent condition, it’s original to the house, it’s rare, and it’s very valuable.  You will also be happy to know that we are keeping all of the original towel racks and toilet paper holders, lighting, and vanity.
For now, I will share with you a “before” picture and provide a list of what all we are doing to preserve, de-feminize, and update our bathroom… We are very down-to-earth, country people.  Our home has a lot of antiques.  So, I guess I would classify our style as “country.”
We plan to: re-grout tile and re-surface tub, remove wallpaper and paint (Any suggestions on a wall color?), strip and stain the cabinets, mirror, and vanity to match the oak door, replace the counter-top, sinks, and rusted drains, replace the shower curtain with shower doors, replace the flooring with vinyl tile (Any suggestions on a tile color to match your suggested wall color?), replace the sink and tub faucets and shower head, replace the cabinet hardware, new curtain rod and curtain, decorations, new towels and rugs.
Thanks, Megan

Ideas for a Country Retro Bathroom for Megan

Pam sent me a list of her ideas for Megan’s retro country pink bathroom, and I was able to put together an idea board to help visualize the transformation.

    1. Pam suggests using a shower curtain instead of glass sliders. She points out that there’s plenty of tile on the walls that will remain visible even if the shower curtain is closed. A shower curtain is a great way to add design… it will allow for more elbow room when you shower… it will hide any unsightly shampoo bottles… it will save you the trouble of having to scrub those tracks and glass doors that get scummy so fast…and, it will keep the budget under control. For a shower curtain: How about this

Retro Barber Shop shower curtain from Bed Bath and Beyond (link now gone) — it’s sort of graphic-country-kitsch.

  1. If Megan wants to go more than a little bit country, this black and white Cabin Check gingham plaid shower curtain from Country Curtains (company now closed) would surely take her there. An advantage to choosing this style is that coordinating window valances or curtains are available. Pam notes: You *can* mix a checked bathroom curtain with a tile wall — but you have to be careful of the scale. You wouldn’t want everything to be 4″ squares, for example.
  2. I found pink oil can bath accessories from Target. I know we are trying to de-feminize the bathroom, and that these are pink — but using the pink at least one more time in the bathroom will help it feel more finished. It is always good design to repeat colors throughout a room.
  3. Pam suggests using a darker pink, white or light grey towels in the bathroom. I think the light grey would be particularly nice because it is a bridge color between the black tiles and the white in the shower curtain and tub. (These towels would also work well with Pam’s paint color choice in #6)
  4. Megan’s pink and black bathroom tiles.
  5. Pam’s paint color tips : A slight off white with a touch of gray, or a light gray would work well. Idea: Once you get the shower curtain and floor that you are going to use in your hands, use them to select a color. Take them both into a good paint shop with a good designer who can help — and pull your paint from those pieces. Most all paint stores now have computers to shoot a closeup digital image of any color in any item, and then match it.
  6. Since Megan wants vinyl tile for the floor — how about sheet that would probably still be very affordable but give a nice smooth finish. Keep it neutral with a subtle pattern, how about this Mannington vinyl sheet floor. You could also use vinyl tiles in this vein (pun), they are readily available at stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Menards. Make sure the color leans toward the gray — not the beige — to complement the black bullnose tile that is so prominent in the bathroom.
  7. Megan mentioned refinishing the vanity to match the oak door.


Wall decor for a pink and black country retro bathroom

As far as the decor is concerned, Pam pointed out that there is chrome in your faucets and light fixtures, and therefore it makes sense to use a chrome shower rod to match the finishes and coordinate with the grey towels and wall color. She also thinks that the wall spaces above and across from the toilet will be super fun to decorate – especially now that your walls will be a blank canvas. Pam’s advice: Either go shopping around your house to see what you have, or, taking your cues from your bathroom colors — pink, black, gray, brown — and from your style — country — start hunting around at thrift stores and tag sales and see what the retro decorating gods send you. I would suggest adding something nice sized in oak on one of the walls — not shelving or a cabinet, but something more decorative — to repeat the oak vanity in one other spot in the room. Also, if you use the barbershop shower curtain, you can potentially play up this them in your decor — with vintage pharmacy prints on the walls, as just one thought. And Pam repeats one of her decorating phobias: Keep your toilet lid closed when you are not using it, dear. It’s very bad feng shui to leave your toilet open – it let’s the “money energy” of the house flow down the drain. We don’t want that!
Note: Because I can harness the magic of Photoshop, the toilet lid is now closed — let the positive energy return!

What do you think of these ideas, Megan?
Do you like them?
What do you think readers?

design dilemma

CategoriesPink Bathrooms
  1. Susie Q. says:

    I wouldn’t be too concerned w trying to match the oak door. The (mid century) kitchen in my parents’ house originally had pink and white tiled countertops, pink wallpaper w pictures of coffeepots, flowers, etc (you know the kind I mean), and pickled oak cabinets that had a definite pinkish cast. The hardware on the cabinets was wrought iron: http://www.tablelegs.com/Cabinet-Hardware/Handles-Pulls/Wrought-Iron-Cabinet-Pulls.aspx
    I’d try something like that before I went w a honey-colored oak.
    You could also use a black and white toile patterned wallpaper.

    1. lynda says:

      White washed or pickled oak will look pink. I wonder if she is sure the cabinets are oak? I also think the toile is a good choice for a country bath.

  2. My two cents:

    What about some black (or grey) and white toile for curtains and or shower curtain? There are some new “less girly’ versions that still read as country like http://www.bettynewmantrendspotting.com/.a/6a00df352089bf883301157027636b970b-pi or http://www.kidsroomtreasures.com/p/ShowerCurtain-BlackToile.html for example

    Getting a natural bamboo blind for the window might also be a good way to tie the vanity into the rest of the room if you do want to stick with your oak plan. You can always have a blind and curtain combo – one can be functional and one just decorative.

    1. pam kueber says:

      I think that kidsroomstreasures paper would be great! country + toile (which is french country) — good one!

    1. pam kueber says:

      Ah, yes, a famous bathroom, I featured it here several years ago. I love the idea of the vintage tea towels as drapes for Megan. But note, I was really trying to work black into the moodboard for her bathroom — because of the strength of her bullnose tile.

  3. Kate H says:

    Any possibility you could do a tile floor? If so, you could do black-and-white checkerboard, hex tile, basketweave, etc. that would be a little more flexible than the wood-look. It may be more expensive but it sure does wear better and you can probably find stuff like that at a big-box store.

  4. lynda says:

    If you sew, you can make a shower curtain. I have done this. I am sure there are tutorials on the web. (you will have a seam, but you can make it a flat felt seam) You can use a separate nylon liner with the fabric. I like the curved rod to give a little more room in the tub.
    . Would this print be enough country for you? Waverly– Tres Chic http://www.joann.com/home-decor-fabrics-waverly-tres-chic-black-pink-fabric/xprd944263/ I think it looks retro and a little country at the same time. You could find other Paris pictures or poodles to work with the design. Also look up Rue de Ribbon by Waverly. http://www.joann.com/home-decor-print-fabric-waverly-rue-de-ribbon-watermelon/zprd_11297231a/ I think it might work too. I like white towels. They are easy to keep clean. I would paint the cabinet white with just a little of a blackish type glaze. I would use Corian rain cloud color for the counter with a drop in sink for a style more in keeping with the bathroom. Flooring is hard. If you are looking for ease of installation, you might look at HD Traffic Master Allure. It is a click together floating vinyl floor. This is oak, but a muted color and might look nice. http://www.homedepot.com/Flooring/TrafficMaster-Allure/TrafficMaster-Allure/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ87zZaq7rZ87z/R-202899683/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&storeId=10051#.UBg2a46jDJw There are lots of wood and tile choices in the vinyl line. I think a wall color of white with a gray undertone would look nice.
    Oh, and I have washed the 100% cotton Waverly fabrics that claim they must be dry cleaned. They do lose a little of the crispness, but they look fine.

    1. Lynda,

      That Rue du Ribbon is too cute! It might be a bit much to do full curtains in it (not sure on the window size, but I can totally see it as fun trim added to plain white curtains for a little more “subdued” pizazz!

        1. pam kueber says:

          I agree — great for a pink and black bathroom, but it’s not country… I’d call it contemporary.

          1. pam kueber says:

            And — I also like the kidsroomtreasures design because it has some chenille in it. Add chenille rugs in the same sort of design!

  5. ginny d says:

    Using grey weathered barnwood (picture frame, mirror frame, racks, sink cabinet) would stay in the grey-pink pallet w/o looking deco.

      1. Holland says:

        Agreed! Weathered silvery grey wood tones perfectly blend the country feel with the pink tile and grey accents. I love Pam’s suggestions and that barbershop shower curtain is a real find.

  6. Julie L says:

    Country (depending what type of country, french/american etc., new/old) tends to have a lot of floral accents. I would consider some sort of floral fabric for the curtains (pink roses or peony for example).

    Also, the vanity/cabinet will really determine the feel of the room, consider an old piece of furniture with curvy legs (queen ann for example) and convert it to a cabinet. It can be done, trust me! Even think about painting it off-white, this always seems to be associated with country, that “not quite clean” look.

    Art work also gives a country feel. Be selective in your subject matter, that will really give the impression of country.

    Hope this helps, let me know if anyone has any other comments to bounce off my ideas!

  7. Brian T says:

    Hmm. To my eyes, adding gray and black to the pink takes it all toward Art Deco, not country. I don’t see gray and black as country colors. Gray paint wouldn’t be that big a step away from the current silvery wallpaper, which seems more Moderne than what Megan wants. (And while oak is very country, it seems clashy with the pink.
    I’d investigate a whitewashy finish, possibly distressed, for the vanity.)

    My suggestion is to find a calico-style wallpaper or fabric that has touches of the pink but is mostly white and green. There should be plenty of small rosebud-themed patterns to choose from. Something with a fresh green might work, but the slightly earthy pink of the tile seems to call for more of a sage. Put that pattern on some of the walls or the shower curtain, and pick up a pale green for the linens and the rest of the walls,

    The black tile might seem too strong with rosebuds and calico, but I think it will work if there aren’t a lot of wood tones in the room — the black becomes a grounding touch that keeps the room from getting too pastel. (Everybody says “Every room needs a little black” anyway.) A whitewash vanity is going to let that black recede as an accent, whereas a lot of oak would fight it and grind against it, like a bentwood rocker in a room of lacquered chinoiserie.

    Going gray and black makes pink the only color in the room. But if you weave in enough green, the pink might end up feeling like more of an accent.

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