A retro style faucet for Amber’s single hole bathroom sink


retro designCan we find a low-flow, centerset faucet with retro style for Amber’s time capsule pink bathrooms? Amber  has been longing for her own little piece of retro real estate for years and now she and her husband have finally found it — a 1960 house complete with two original pink bathrooms. Amber doesn’t want to change much (she’s taking our tips to Go Slow with any major renovations), but because she lives in an area that has water usage restrictions, she must replace both of the bathroom faucets with low-flow faucets before the city will turn on her water. The sinks in both bathrooms have single-hole centerset faucets — and Amber wants our help to find replacements for that fit the style of her vintage bathrooms.


Amber writes:

Hi Pam!

I’ve written you before, always lusting after the beautiful original bathrooms people post on Retro Renovation. Well, guess what? My husband and I are buying a new house, and it is everything we have dreamed of — a one-owner home built in 1960 with almost everything original and in great shape. And it has TWO pink bathrooms! However, where i live, we have an ordinance mandating that all houses built before 1993 be upgraded to “low flow” fixtures before the water can be turned on. The shower heads and kitchen faucet are fine (they were upgraded at some point) but I have to replace the toilets and bathroom faucets. I am not so upset about replacing the faucets because personally I don’t like the style of the existing ones (and I’m not even sure they are original – they look more 1970s/80s to me).

peachy-and-yellow-vintage-tile-bathroomI am sad about having to replace the pink toilet – but c’est la vie. Thanks to your site, I found the Kohler Wellworth and I think that’s what we’ll choose. I’m interested in advice on what to use for the faucets, though. I saw the posts about Strom Plumbing and Elements of Design, but I think I will need to have an “all in one” instead of separate faucet and handles, since that’s what is there now. Pictures are attached. Would love any advice you or your readers can offer!

Kate and Pam’s ideas for a retro style single hold bathroom faucet

Amber, for your 1960s bathrooms, we think that a simple, chrome, single-lever handle faucet would be appropriate. And Pam says that heck, she doesn’t really have a problem with the acrylic orb handle — it’s retro — although it’s more difficult to manipulate and clean. Aesthetically, any of these bathroom sink faucets would look good, we think: 

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Meanwhile, we totally agree with Amber that the sinks in both bathrooms do not appear to be original. Nor is that vanity in bathroom #2. Very 1980s, we agree. Amber, if you think that down the line you may Retro Renovate the sinks — take them back to original style — we recommend that today, you spend the least amount of money you need to on the replacement faucets. For this — we recommend that your first purchase be a subscription to Consumer Reports, which does the best job that we know of in researching and then calculating cost/value of house fixtures. Heck — Pam says that when she was doing her bathroom and kitchen renovations, she researched pretty much all her purchases using Consumer Reports. She did not make *every* decision based on their recommendations, but she did depend on their research as another great input.

Another thought: If Amber thinks she may replace her sinks in the future — with one that may take a different configuration of faucet — a quick and easy fix for now might be to get an inexpensive screw on faucet aerator — like this Neoperl Faucet Aerator from Amazon.com. She will need to check with her county regulations to see if this will be an acceptable fix and will allow Amber’s water to be turned on — but this solution could be the most inexpensive and allow her to live in the bathrooms a while before deciding if she would like to keep or change her current bathroom sinks.

Many of the low-flow faucets are marked with the EPA’s Water Sense logo to show that they meet the EPA’s guidelines for water saving faucets. All of the above faucet choices were marked with the Water Sense stamp of approval except the Grohe models above — however they do have maximum flow rate of 1.5 GPM — which meets the requirements for a low flow faucet. Bottom line — double check to make sure that any faucet you choose meets the flow requirements for the county you live. 

Readers — what are your suggestions for faucets that would be appropriate for Amber’s two vintage bathrooms?

  1. Sarah g (roundhouse) says:

    Yes! Love this solution, but I too wonder if they would be ok with that. As my mom always says “you never know until you ask!” ( that’s how we both own the houses we own today!) there may be someone willing to work with her. Maybe fib and say you plan to register the house as historic and not having original details may hinder the process?? Lol it could work… : )

  2. Sue E. says:

    I used the Eurosmart in the polished finish for my Retro Reno. I also used it in the brushed nickel finish for a more spa like reno. It”s great in both applications.

  3. Robin, NV says:

    When I was in grad school, my landlord snuck into my apartment and put a fire brick in the toilet tank to “save water.” All I knew was that it took two flushes to do the job. Then I opened the toilet lid and found this giant brick. Would’ve been nice if my landlord had mentioned what she’d done. Or asked permission to enter the apartment and do “maintenance” in the first place! Long story short – I’m not sure DIY water saving projects work that well. Best to stick with fixtures designed to save water.

  4. Mike in FL says:

    The American Standard faucet that I referenced above, despite Home Depot’s descriptor, is apparently NOT a single hole unit. I just looked at some additional info on AS’s site that indicates that it is in fact on 4″ centers. I apologize for any confusion.

  5. Jay says:

    Kate and Pam have given good advice. If reno work is in the near future, this doesn’t sound like a time to hem and haw over aesthetics. These are not the original to house sinks. As Pam says” cheap and quick” so you can move in. As much as I can appreciate water saving methods, being forced to replace the toilet for occupancy sounds extreme. Usually efficiency rated fixtures are mandated for total renovations. You are being forced to add another expense to your move in costs plus having to junk what might otherwise be a perfectly good toilet.

  6. Sherree says:

    The acrylic orb handle faucet (or one nearly identical) is still available today at home centers. I removed 2 of them from my mid century bathrooms. They had starburst designs in the middle of the acrylic but were so beyond filthy and corroded than I could bring myself to love them. They are also a little hard to manipulate.
    I went with the Delta Classics and they look just fine.
    I had that same speckled pink tile in my former home, a 1901 farmhouse that had a bath added in the late 50’s or early 60’s.
    Good luck with your bathrooms! Please keep us posted.

  7. A Arp says:

    As several people have stated, these are probably three-hole 4″ centers. Here are some simple, retro faucets that I found in my research:
    (yeah, I like the acrylic handles!)

    I don’t know what your exact flow rate requirement is, but the Olympia faucets here are all 1.5 gpm and the Banners are 2.0 gpm, which might still be too high, but is lower than some.

  8. Lynne says:

    The Moen Adler or Chateau had a lot of variations. One of those might work. My Moen faucets have always held up better than Delta .

  9. pam kueber says:

    The whole thing sounds like questionable logic to me. If it’s, say, $500 all-in to replace a toilet — how long will it take to make that up on water-savings. I know lots of towns and regions have severe drought conditions, and that water conservation is paramount, but again… I question the overall environmental efficacy. I’d love to see the data.

  10. pam kueber says:

    Okay so I am late to the party here. Got a message from Amber: Two holes, 4″ apart. I think that much of our research is moot… but we’ll leave it up for folks with a single hole.

  11. lynda says:

    Don’t know if they still have them, but Costco had a nice single hole Grohe in the store. We bought a couple for daughter and son-in-law’s bathroom redo. I felt it was very well priced. I agree, Delta’s were the thing in the 60’s and 70’s. If the top is Corian, it did not come out until 1967, so the sink and vanity would probably be an update.

  12. joan says:

    You can purchase a low flow conversion kit that will fit some toilets. It adjusts the mechanisims inside the tank. My hubby was able to convert one of ours. It really just fills the bowl with less water. Perhaps looking further into the municipal by-laws might offer another option or talking directly to a by-law officer or local councilor. I imagine there are quite a few people facing the same reno issues. Since municipalities are promoting the 3Rs they should be trying to keep older toilets and sinks out of the dumps.

  13. Amber Rhea says:

    I wish they would give a grace period! But they will not turn on the water if the fixtures are not low-flow and signed off by a plumber or home inspector. For this reason, most sellers replace the fixtures themselves before selling. But ours did not. So they are leaving the water in their name for one week after closing so we can get the work done! Thanks, Diane!

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