Nanette and Jim’s vintage blue bathroom — built new from scratch

vintage-blue-bathroomJim&nanettePhotoWhen Pam saw a tantalizing photo of Nanette and Jim’s bathroom remodel on Facebook — posted by rockin’ retro Portland realtor Alyssa Starelli — she knew that we had to feature their fantastic space. So we chased after, with AlyStar making the fairy godmother connection, we get to see Nanette and Jim’s vintage blue bathroom — built from scratch.  Using vintage salvaged fixtures, vintage wallpaper and and other era-appropriate choices for tile and flooring, this visionary couple transformed an empty portion of their basement into a beautiful blue bathroom that suits their 1945 transitional ranch home. Seriously, though. Why are we even bothering with this wordy introduction. When we could just say:


bathroom-layoutNanette writes:

We live in a 1945 transitional ranch in Portland, Oregon.

  • Goal was to create a second bathroom that looked like it could have been there / was original to the house (in the basement, no small chore).
  • House did not have a laundry room.
  • Discovered we could do so inexpensively without digging in new plumbing lines from the street down under the house (used a pump we affectionately call the sh*t pump).
  • Found vintage/era sink, toilet and medicine cabinet all in MINT working condition which cost way less than buying new and are way more gorgeous. (There’s a bit of a story about getting it all to be code but we managed it, this project was done to code btw).
  • Used vintage / era wallpaper from Hannahs Treasures, love it!
  • Used lots of glass block, it comes in hunks already put together!
  • Varnished knotty pine to match existing pine from the 1940s going down stairwell into the basement. (No small task).

It took a lot more time than we thought it would but it’s so good!!!

beforeHere it is before the demo. It was a storage area that we could access through an large opening at the bottom of the stairwell. We kept a curtain across this hole (which many a person fell through on their way down to the bar).

before-basementThis storage rack is where the shower ended up, the water heater was moved (and we upgraded to gas).

bathroom-drawing-retro shower-drawingIn the beginning I did a drawing of the space to use as a guide for build out/installation etc. (I’m a graphic designer but have never done anything like this before). It has turned out pretty much identical to the drawing.

blue bathroom mood boardVintage wallpaper from Hannahs Treasures and tile decisions (this was a hard decision!)?We chose 2 shades of aqua/blue tile from Dal Tile and the white is actually from Home Depot (it’s Dal white).

shower-constructionshower-aquaWe hired a tile setter to install the tile, he did an amazing job, he was painstakingly detail oriented. For the flooring we went with Congoleum VCT, it is very vintage looking and polishes up to a gorgeous sheen not to mention really inexpensive. It’s from the Congoleum “value” line, it really was a great value. Our white floor is the berry blossom and the blue is aqua spring. The Congoleum VCT is laid with the pattern going in the same direction (I can’t remember what they call that, not parquet).

glass-block-going-inglass block showerWe considered trying to use vintage glass block but after doing some research we found that new glass block was the way to go. It all matched and it came in already put together sections so we didn’t have to mortar them in. Not to mention it was not super spendy.

retro basement bathroomYou can see here there is now a wall at the bottom of the stairs. The replacement knotty pine was painstakingly varnished to match the existing knotty pink that flanks the entire basement.

vintage crane bathroom sinkWe scored this amazing pre-war Crane sink with all it’s original hardware including mounting brackets and the 1940s American Standard uni-body toilet at Hippo Hardware, it was in perfect working condition. Ended up being WAY cheaper than buying new not to mention — GORGEOUS!

beautiful blue tile bathroom The medicine cabinet seen above the sink is also a vintage score from Hippo Hardware, it was absolutely Mint. I literally stood guard over it when I found it to stake claim as there was anther couple drooling over my shoulder hoping I wouldn’t take it.

vintage flamingo mirrorThis mirror was sitting in a corner of our basement collecting dust for at least 12 years in need of rehab. I finally restored it as much as possible and found it a home!!! Also the window, there is no natural light/windows in this area of the basement, we decided to add a glass block window into the laundry room to give it a warmer feel as if it had a window.

vintage-wallpaper-and-hamperI also found this hamper in our basement collecting dust. It was waiting for a home for over 12 years as well. (Vintage wallpaper from Hannah’s Treasures!)

glass-block-showerOne other thing that was super hard to find was the square recessed light fixtures in the ceiling. We have a number of those in our house we wanted to match not  to mention the clearance is low so we needed recessed lighting. I just can’t remember where they came from. [Pam suggests – see this story about recessed square lighting.]

`Our plumber went to the trouble of finding vintage chrome handles for the hot water valves as well and other chrome parts so that the exposed pipes under the sink would also look stunning.
vintage-blue-bathroom-tiledWe also learned that cabinet makers are not hungry for work in Portland Oregon, it was a painstaking task to find one to make our cabinetry at a reasonable price. We many had bids ranging  from $8,000 to $700 for two small pieces of paint grade cabinetry.
vintage-sink-and-toiletAlso I used  your website a ton for reference whenever I needed to make a decision about how something should look or find a part I started with Retro Renovation!

Pocket door between bathroom and laundry.

laundry-room-aqua aqua-laundry-sink green laundry sinkThe laundry room sink is a Thermocast Kensington acrylic drop in laundry sink. We found this washboard style utility sink online from Home Depot. It’s an Acrylic sink available in a large variety of colors with free shipping

Again, the word of the day, Nanette and Jim, is: WOW. Being in the middle of a bathroom remodel myself, I understand just how much work goes into building a vintage bathroom from scratch. You two did a simply amazing job. Thanks so much for sharing the results of all your hard work and sources with all of us. And thanks to AlyStar for the hot tip!!!

  1. Andy says:

    Hi Enid, We have the same medicine cabinet as the one that Nanette and Jim have. I’ve restored it, and we’ll reinstall it next week. Where can we find the globes to go on the lights?

    Thanks, Andy

  2. Marla Schmidt says:

    I have the same medicine cabinet and lights but I haven’t installed them yet. Where can I buy the light bulbs? Are they special order? Thanks for your help!

    1. Enid says:

      Hi Marla, I also have the same medicine cabinet 🙂 The light bulbs are like a tube, same as for aquarium lights, and not too hard to find.

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