Ideas to tone down the sea of pink in Gus’ pink bathroom

mid-century-bath-vanityDesignDilemmaGus recently discovered Retro Renovation while searching for advice about the vintage pink bathroom in his newly purchased 1956 home. While he is a fan of mid century design, Gus isn’t sold on all of the pink in his master bathroom. In addition to his uncertainty about the color, Gus wishes his bathroom had a few more functional updates — such as more storage in the shower for toiletries. So, Gus has asked us for our ideas to help with his Retro Renovation Design Dilemma.


Gus writes:

I’m a 30-year-old male from Florida and I recently purchased a 1956 mid-century modern home with terrazzo floors and exposed beam ceilings. The house has a pink master bath (half of all walls tiled in pink, terrazzo floor, pink sunken shower, weird angled vanity, metal ring around pink double sinks… basically classic pink bath).

vintage-pink-bathroomSome of the tiles have flamingos and fish picture tiles (I’m guessing original owners did it since it’s Florida).

mid-century-flamingo-tilesTo be honest… I h*** [edited] them. I want to re-tile with a “friendlier” color scheme for re-sale. Am I really ruining good potential? Is there any compromise I can easily do (wall color…take down some portion of the tile, etc)? Update faucets?

retro-hairpin-leg-vanityI’m trying to be opened minded (since I want to stay true to the mid-century vibe), so please don’t take my post the wrong way. It’s just difficult to envision me as a retro lover. Anyone have advice on how to incorporate “new” features with the retro?

I want to make the spaces more masculine and fit my personal style which is mid century modern, but I feel the amount of pink makes it a little too monochromatic for me.  Since I need to remove some tiles to replace the shower fixtures, what should I replace them with?  I also want to add a niche in the wall to hold shampoo bottles, but the only place would be by the flamingo tiles.

vintage-yellow-and-brown-tile-bathroomfish-tile-mosaic-retroAs a fun bonus I added some photos of my second bathroom too!

Ok readers — now it is your turn to pipe in with ideas:
How can Gus decorate his bathroom to achieve his style goals,
as well as add some storage to the shower area?

Kate comments:

Gus, I really like your pink bathroom. The vanity and sinks are my favorite part. It isn’t often that you find a vintage vanity like that with hairpin legs and an extra thick laminate countertop. The sinks are gorgeous and the whole bathroom looks to be in very good condition.

As someone who is still working on building a retro pink bathroom of my own (having demolished a bathroom with poor layout that was not in good shape) I would recommend leaving as much of this bathroom intact as possible. It is hard work to gut one of these (likely) cement set tile bathrooms and costs lots of money to rebuild the bathroom afterwards.

“Re-tile with a friendlier color for resale?” Wait! With the rise in popularity of mid century and retro design in the last few years, more and more house hunters are looking for original character and details like this. My advice would be to renovate this bathroom as minimally as possible.  You can never know what the next owners of the house will want. They could dislike whatever you might want to do to this bathroom. We are advocates of “love the house your in” here, but we also recognize the homeowner’s need to make their house work for them. That being said, it is always best to live in your house for a while before making any expensive or extensive changes. That way you can see what you like and dislike about each room before doing anything drastic or irreversible.

Kate’s solution #1: The grey area between feathers and stone

masculine-pink-vintage-bathroomSince the original vanity is black with a neutral patterned grey laminate top, I suggest you add more of these elements to the room. Painting the walls a dark grey will help make the room feel less pastel pink immediately. This look was inspired by our recent post on Robert’s pink and black bathroom makeover. Just as Robert played up the black trim tile in his bathroom, adding more dark grey and black to your bathroom will make it feel more masculine.

Once you have the walls painted, it is just a matter of adding some accessories to the space. This black and white abstract design shower curtain mimics the design on the laminate counter top and has a modern feel. Black bath towels coordinate well with the room or, to give a nod to the vintage “His and Hers” towels that were common in the 1950s and 1960s — a “Mr.” hand towel gives a nod to the vintage while also proclaiming “this is a man’s bathroom.” Shiny black and chrome bath accessories add polish to the space. Finally, adding a framed vintage flamingo print or two framed in black — like these from Ebay seller yorkietoy — repeat the flamingo theme from the decorative shower tiles without going overboard.

Kate’s solution #2: A flock of feathered friends

masculine-pink-vintage-bathroomFLAMINGOFor this mood board, we continue to play up the black and grey in the space. Instead of paint this time — this Cole & Son flamingo wallpaper pays homage to the vintage flamingo shower tiles and the house’s tropical location in Florida. Adding a third color — the teal green from the wallpaper — gives the room more visual interest. Repeating this teal green in the towels and vinyl bubbles shower curtain helps the room’s design feel more cohesive. Finally adding a shiny stainless steel bath set helps repeat the chrome from the fixtures and hardware. When it comes to finding space to store your shampoo in the shower — instead of taking out tile to add a recessed niche — consider installing a ceramic corner bath shelf like this one, which can be applied to the existing tile without tearing anything out.

Pam comments:

flamingo tiles
Tile expert Bungalow Bill reminds: “I might rethink permanently personalizing and making a master bath masculine if you’re concerned about resale. Your next buyer may not be a man. What would make a buyer want something is knowledge. Your decorated tiles are very special and collectible. They were made by the American Olean Co. You can find a page from an original catalog in another RR post picturing these tiles. The colors on the flamingos make them especially desirable. Most likely they are also embedded in thick cement and would be impossible to remove safely. To replace just that central tile would cost between $300-600.
Why not add a grey or black marble / granite shelf above the top border? Tone the pink down with shades of grey accessories.” CLICK THIS PHOTO TO SEE MORE OF THESE VALUABLE DECORATIVE TILES.

Gus, Gus, Gus. Your pink bathroom looks to be an absolute gem. You knew we would say that, though, didn’t you?

I think that Kate’s mood boards are fabulous — so I don’t even need to do one.

I will add a few additional thoughts, which underscore some of the things she said:

  • Remodeling for resale is quite often, a fool’s paradise. Read my story “Remodel and watch your investment plunge.” You typically do NOT make your money back when you remodel.
  • There are plenty of folks who are looking for vintage houses with original features. Make that your goal if you plan to sell… Find a real estate agent who specializes in listing and selling mid century properties and as a result, connect with the kinds of people most interested in these vintage/historic houses. Read this important story, with interviews with three such experts — How to sell a midcentury house full of original features.
  • I am covering my ears at the mere thought your considering removing those vintage flamingo tiles — which our resident tile expert Bungalow Bill points out are worth hundreds of dollars today! Virtually everything in that bathroom is SUPER COOL. You just need to get your head around a style that you may not be accustomed to seeing. You can do it, we know you can!
  • A super key rule for any serious Retro Renovator just getting into their house, which may have features that at first, seem “odd” or undesirable to them: WAIT AT LEAST ONE YEAR to do anything you could later regret (unless there are safety or environmental issues, of course.) Learn about what you have… see if your mindset changes once you fully understand its history.
  • Be sure to read everything on our other little website, Save The Pink Bathrooms. You are now the lucky caretaker of one of the most famous and, increasingly, most desirable features in a mid century house. Go with the flow!
  • If you need replacement pink tiles for the shower area, see this story about World of Tile, which carries 95 colors of replacement pink tile. As many readers have mentioned — all the tiles in your bathroom are likely “mud set” — that is, set into cement. These are hallacious to take out. You will have a ginormous mess on your hands if you try to take out just a few.
  • Oh, and your other bathroom, equally fabulous.
  • For more storage in the shower, try this Simplehuman Adjustable Tension Shower Caddy (affiliate link) — preferable if it will fit your floor-to-ceiling height. If your ceiling is too high, go for Simplehuman Adjustable Corner Shower Caddy (affiliate link). A reader recently recommended these Simplehuman shower caddies — and I bought them for my bathrooms (one each.) They are very nice. They fit a lot of bottles. You have a really long shower — you definitely have the space. Don’t mess with that tile! If there are plumbing issues — can you go in via the other side of the wall?

UPDATE: After this story aired, I heard from Gus who writes:

It was definitely surreal to see so many people comment – and especially knowing someone recognized the flamingo tiles.  I will definitely take all the input into consideration and will hold off on doing anything drastic.  I appreciate what your website has done for allowing uninformed home owners (like me) to embrace restoration.

My plan forward is to hold off for a while until I have a set idea of what works/doesn’t work functional-wise instead of going full force too soon.  I had just always envisioned an updated bathroom and never a 50s bathroom, so it was difficult to overcome the desire to renovate.  I think in time I will learn to embrace the style more.  As a side note, rest assured that I have not had that same mind frame with the rest of my house.  There are many mid-century elements (like my indoor planters) that I have painstakingly worked on preserving.

Gus, we’re glad you are taking the time to live with the space before doing anything drastic. It will be interesting to see what you end up deciding to do (or not do). Keep us in the loop.


CategoriesPink Bathrooms
  1. Lauren Leigh Polinski says:

    I just moved into a house about 3 years ago and I was so excited when I saw the walls of the shower were pink, but unfortunately she painted white enamel over the pink tub. I was even more you upset when she told me that the toilet the sink and the bathtub and everything was all pink but she had the pink sink and pink toilet removed 3 months neforr I moved in.
    Anyways I bought as much flamingos stuff as I could fit in my bathroom couldn’t find much I found like the soap dispenser and the tooth brush holder. And when I saw your tiles with a flamingos on on this website I went nuts and I know I believe you said you wanted to take them down so if you do take them down please please please I’m begging you I will take them off your hands. So if you can please get back to me I’ll give you my email address I would very much appreciate it if you would tell me these fully go tiles I mean I’m obsessed. I was at an antique store last week and they had a retro table from like the 50 sixties that was pink and these chairs or just reupholstered there beautiful and I got my some money Thursday and I’m like you know I’m going to call them to tell them I’ll be down Friday to purchase this retro table and chairs well I had an emergency at work a dog I hit by a car so I couldn’t make it and then next day I find out that it was sold, I was heartbroken I cried for hours period anyways I know you don’t want to hear my sob story but if you’re getting rid of those from Ringoes please keep me in mind. I want to leave you my email address but I’m afraid everyone will see it but whatever I’m just going to give it to you.

  2. susan says:

    I also have a pink bathroom. I recently saw an article in the paper asking if pink bathrooms are hot or not.
    My dilemma is that I don’re mind the pink tiles, etc but the sink, typical rectangular sink in other photos, the glaze broke off and it looks terrible. I have a “banjo” shape vanity, which doesn’t help the cause to replace just the sink and the vanity.

    Can a vanity be removed without cracking my pink tiles? I have looked into full renovation but I do realize they do not make bathrooms like they use to. Yes, the tiles are set with the mud/concrete..and no, I have no cracks in any of the tile. Wall or floor.

  3. jacquie says:

    Just found this website while looking for tile replacement pieces for m’vintage’ yellow bathroom. I DO like mine – but – the tub and sink are in need of refinishing. is this even possible ?

  4. Gabby says:

    Wonderful bathroom.. a variety of medium to dark green live houseplants will give less of a pink appearance, especially a planted palm. 🙂 Love your website!


  5. Mary Elizabeth says:

    You’re welcome! If you are squeamish about any of this, just have a professional plumber come and look it over. And ignore anything he says about “demo” and get someone else.

    Your bath is going to look fabulous. Send any other photos you have of the rest of the house.

  6. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Gus, I forgot to mention one important thing. As long as you don’t need access to the plumbing, or you have access to the plumbing from the other side of the wall (It’s sheetrock you can cut out, or it backs into a closet, etc.), you don’t need to take off ANY tile to replace the faucets with a single handle tub/shower control valve. Just saw on “This Old House” a kind of egg-shaped escutcheon thing that goes under the round shower control and covers the whole area where the dual controls were. It’s made especially for that old tile that is so difficult to remove without breaking, and it’s really cool looking. Go to a good plumbing supply house if they don’t have it at your big box hardware store. Here is a link to the discussion thread on TOH web site:

    As for the sinks, get any sort of replacement faucets for the sink that will work for you. There are suggestions on this site forents that will go with the period. Have fun in your new house!

  7. Joe Felice says:

    I fail to see any dilemma. I love your bathrooms! The suggested options are good, too. I see this as a win-win situation.

Comments are closed.