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. Amber Rhea says:

    I have looked into this. First of all, a low-flow kit will not pass my county’s ordinance. Secondly, retrofitting an old toilet makes for a poor flush, according to my research. However, thanks to another Retro Renovation post, I found that one company – Gerber – still makes a pink toilet! I have been jumping through a lot of hoops to order one, but as of today my order was placed… now I just have to wait to hear how long it will take to arrive, and hope it’s within time for our plumber to do the work! But maybe that will be part of a future post I write for Save the Pink Bathrooms. I’ve been calling it “ToiletGate 2013!”

  2. Amber Rhea says:

    Don’t get me started! Personally, I think it is incredibly short-sighted. I am getting my Master’s degree in historic preservation and the ordinance came up in class one night. My professor was very exasperated, and went on to talk about how unless you also replace all the pipes, it is causing the homeowner more problems down the road. Older houses have wider, metal pipes – low flow fixtures do not push “stuff” through the faucets as completely, leading to earlier corrosion, leaks, and the need to shell out to replace all your plumbing.

  3. Amber Rhea says:

    Thanks for posting this, Pam, and thanks for the comments, everyone! I have responded to some of the comments individually. We are so excited about our two pink bathrooms. Although the white pedestal sink in the master bath does not look original, I don’t mind it, and I’m not in a hurry to replace it. I do think the vanity and cabinet in the hall bath are original. You can’t see the vanity very well in the picture here, but it is Formica (or some similar material) with metal edging. The sink may be 80s but I am not positive, and again, I don’t really mind it, so while I may replace it one day, it’s not on my list of things to do right after we move in.

    If anyone has any ideas about paint color for the walls, I’ve love to hear them! The sponge paint job just isn’t doing it for me. 😉 But I am not very good at imagining what colors will work well together! Thinking light gray for master bath since it is tiny, no clue for hall bath!

  4. Amber Rhea says:

    I actually have a pink Crane sink with chrome legs and towel bars. It’s been in my storage unit for a few years – I snagged it off Craigslist with no real plan in sight. So if I do replace the sink in the hall bath, that’s an easy option!

  5. pam kueber says:

    Oh – and – I hope you do something about the mid mod for your Master’s Thesis — and I’ll publish it here!!!!

  6. Christa C says:

    I was a kitchen and Bath Designer for many years…and here is the skinny, as it were on retro fitting an old ( 5 gallon and above) toilet…have to go back a bit to the early to mid 90’s when the legislation passed to mandate less water use on toilets. For whatever reason , the plumbing companies, just thought that they could shrink the size of the tank down and everything would be fine. Well, they were very wrong…which is why “low-flow” toilets got a bad rap…they simply didn’t work. You can’t keep a design that was made to work with 3 gallons, or 5 gallons or 7 gallons of water…use 1.5 gallons and expect it to be effective. After many , many complaints and people having to double flush to get their toilets to work (not to mention, people going to canada to buy 3 gallon or above toilets there) … engineering was done, to widen and glaze the traps, redesign the rim jets, and revamp essentially the whole toilet. Now a low flow toilet does not need to be a pressure assist to actually work…and some toilets will actually work with 3/4 of a gallon of water. But the old ones…you can’t make them effective at 1.5 gallons…they just weren’t built for it.

  7. Chad D says:

    and even if you do change the sink tops later, you’ll probably be able to keep whatever you buy. I think most of the self-rimming sinks on the market are made for 4-inch centerset faucets.

  8. pam kueber says:

    Thanks for that history, Christa. I remember the days when the first generations of low flow toilets were disasters. Since you don’t hear these complaints anymore — it indeed sounds like the reengineering worked — and that “retrofitting” does not.

  9. Amber – your professor was exactly right about the change in capacity. Fixtures and the plumbing pipes are usually constructed as a system – the toilet delivers 5 gallons per flush, and the discharge pipe is sized to have that amount of water fill the pipe (roughly) halfway to float\push anything else in the flush down the line. Replacing the toilet and not replacing the discharge pipe (often impractical) leads to the large pipe being only partially filled during the flush with the new fixture….and as such it may not always have the carrying capacity to keep everything moving and lead to problems.

    I had this great site that walked through the whole house plumbing system from a master plumber but I can’t seem to find the link anymore. Ah well.

  10. Amber Rhea says:

    Doug, this is too weird – I just looked at your blog, and noticed you are in Owego. My father grew up in Owego! My grandfather also worked at IBM. My aunt and uncle still live in Johnson City. I should track down my grandparents’ old address (they both passed away several years ago) and see if it’s in your same neighborhood! What a small world.

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