Matt & Jeff’s timeless blue tile bathroom remodel

blue-bathroomWhen Readers Matt and Jeff bought their 1952 Cape Cod style house in Plymouth, Michigan, they knew they would have to remodel the second floor master bathroom — which had been “updated” poorly and cheaply by a previous owner — and had become an unusable mess. At first Matt and Jeff didn’t know what to do with their bathroom. They spent six months trying to decide what kind of tile to use, and finally, in frustration, they turned to the internet where they discovered Retro Renovation. They quickly realized that the answer to their bathroom design indecision was not to update — but to Retro Renovate.

brick cape codJeff writes:

We bought our 1952 Cape Cod style house in Plymouth, Michigan, in March 2006. The master bathroom is on the second floor. Originally, it had been a very small full bath with a sink, toilet, and tub (pink, I’m told by a previous owner — and later found evidence of — grrrrr), but that was long gone. Instead, somebody along the way decided to expand the bathroom across the entire end of the house. The tub had been removed, and in its place was a $295 Home Depot special corner fiberglass shower, improperly installed and unusable due to leaks. There also was a small pedestal sink… some green vinyl flooring… and unfinished wood trim that nobody ever got around to painting or staining.

The floor plan of the expanded bathroom would stay the same, but this time with a larger sink and the addition of cabinet storage, a large walk-in shower, new electrical, proper plumbing, and ventilation. The downstairs bathroom got the remodeling treatment first a few years ago, and we went with the trendier natural stone at the time. So for the master bathroom in 2011, we knew we weren’t going to do that again. Off to the tile store we went, thinking white everything.


After literally three or four hours with the tile consultant and becoming increasingly agitated with each other, the only think we could agree upon was that it wouldn’t be white. In searching for other ideas on the internet, I literally chanced upon the Retro Renovation website, and found the photo of the beautiful pink and maroon tile bathroom from B&W tile – that was it! We knew immediately that we should do something that was retro-inspired, period appropriate to the house, but with some modern touches.

Over the next couple of months, my contractor and I had several conversations with Debbie at B&W, and we ordered a number of samples. B&W was absolutely great (and competitively priced!); however, in the end, we decided to go with a light blue for the field tile on the walls, as there’s been some uncertainty about whether I would be transferred out-of-state, and resale concerns.


The bathroom was pretty much a total gut job. It was rebuilt the old fashioned way, with the tile floor and shower pan both mud-set, and full bullnose wainscoting.

Blue tile bathroom resource list:

  • The field tile is Daltile Semi Gloss, Waterfall (0169).
  • Ceramic tile liner, towel bar brackets, and soap dish are Daltile White (K-101, matches Kohler white).
  • Recessed toilet paper holder is from HCP Industries, Model HCP TT66SR, (#13 Tile White, which is a perfect match for the Daltile K-101 color) – I ordered this from Pro-Source Center online.
  • The recessed wall niche in the shower is from Noble Niche (#304).
  • We wanted a blue tile floor (or had we gone with pink field tile, would have wanted a pink floor), but we just couldn’t find anything that would work color-wise in the 10-week window that we had to put the final specs together for our contractor. I talked with Chippy at World of Tile, who sent a few samples of NOS they had, but the colors just weren’t right, so we went with American Olean Chloe, Satin White Pinwheel with Satin White Dot, (CH01).
  • The shower floor is Daltile Keystone Series, Unglazed, 1×1 Field Tile, Arctic White (D617).(Daltile also makes an unglazed 1×1 or 2×2 size tile in the Waterfall color which we considered for the bathroom floor and shower floor, but the color appears significantly darker than the glazed that was used on the walls, so it just didn’t work for any of the floor.)
  • The pedestal sink and toilet are from the Kohler Kathryn Series, and the recessed medicine cabinet is also from Kohler.
  • Faucets and shower fixtures are all from Delta, in the Brilliance Stainless finish.
  • The cabinetry is from Kraftmaid, birch wood, Antique Chocolate with Mocha Glaze stain/finish.
  • Countertop and shower threshold top are Corian, Verano White.
  • The light fixtures are by Sea Gull Lighting – ceiling mounted fixture is from the Eternity Collection, and vanity fixture is from the Winnetka collection.
  • The exhaust vent/heat/light fixture is the Panasonic FV-11VHL2 WhisperWarm.

Blue-retro-bathroom-showerIn the end, we are very pleased with the results. The only things I would do differently in the end concern the shower and the exhaust vent light. The shower has a main spray plus a couple spray jets about chest high. Originally, I was going to have an adjustable hand held shower spray as well, but Matt talked me out of that at the time. It sure would have made for easier cleaning! As for the exhaust vent, I told my contractor that I wanted the best vent/light/heater combination unit that was made, to which he said the best in his experience were made by Panasonic. It never occurred to me that it would have fluorescent bulbs, and I hate fluorescent light. Too late now, but if I could do that over again, I’d separate the toilet area light from the exhaust vent.

Blue-and-white-vintage-bathBravo Matt and Jeff! Remodeling a bathroom that has issues concerning its functionality — such as a leaky shower — is always a good move. But you’ve gone above and beyond to renovate your bathroom in a style appropriate to the period of the house — and golly, this bathroom seems nearly Perfect. It may not have been quick or easy, but I’m sure you feel it has been well worth it to end up with the beautiful blue bathroom that you have now. I absolutely adore your pedestal sink — and adding the white liner tile on the walls is a great touch to blend the blue and white together. Thanks a bunch for sharing your story and photos of your bathroom remodel with all of us!

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  1. lynda says:

    You did a great job. Love the completely tiled shower. I agree about having the hand held shower for easy cleaning of the shower. You could put a diverter on the shower head with a hand held attached to the wall. We have a couple of baths with Kohler hand held shower heads that work that way. I prefer the diverter on the wall when planning a new bath. (like Pam did in her bath) Only other comment I have, is that I like the drain pipe coming from the wall to the sink to be in chrome instead of plastic. I don’t know if it is too late now to fix. I made that mistake in my bath too and the contractor painted the pipe with a metal paint. Still not perfect, but looks a bit better. I am sure others will get some ideas from your bath.

    1. Jeff says:

      I agree, Lynda. The drainpipe would look better if it matched the other fixtures (which are actually stainless). I talked with the contractor about a stainless drainpipe, but it was much more expensive than I would have ever guessed. I thought I would just change it myself later on. I suppose I’ll get to it eventually… 🙂

      1. lynda says:

        There are metallic paints that can paint plastic. We used one to paint the plastic handle on a Pella sliding door. It looks nice and it has held up. Looks like you have a brushed stainless finish on the fixtures and that may not be hard to match. Shiny chrome would be more difficult.

  2. Elaine says:

    Love the new bathroom! We decided against a handheld shower in our new shower, too, and are sorry. We are considering adding it to the shower head, as Lynda suggests.

  3. RitzyTrailer says:

    EVERYTHING about that bathroom is stunning! You guys did a fantastic job updating for a clean, modern, functional look AND got the ‘period correct’ part spot-on! I love the blue – it’s not “too blue” – but is so completely pleasing to the eye. I hope you get to enjoy it for years to come!

  4. Lauryn says:

    Wow, what a difference between the before and after. Beautiful color blue and I think you did a great job balancing a retro-look with that (dreaded) concern of possible resale. While respecting the era of the house, I think it would still appeal to non-retro lovers (whoever they are!). And your house … absolutely adorable! Love the brick and stone exterior (she writes, while listening to painters scrape old paint off her own house).

  5. Heidi Swank says:

    Wonderful job on the bathroom! It’s too bad that the pink was long gone. Oh well. You did a great service to your house by putting in something period appropriate!

  6. Andi says:

    Beautiful job on that bathroom! I love the classic (dare we say “timeless”?) blue-and-white color scheme—perfectly in keeping with the era of the home, yet appealing to anyone at any time. Perfect balance between retro and up-to-date. The white liner tile & floor tie it all together, and I love the angled archway, and the tiled-to-the-top shower!

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