Retro Design Dilemma: Frank wants help decorating his brown and beige tile bathroom

beige-and-brown-vintage-bathroomDesignDilemmaReader Frank is ecstatic to be living in his mostly original 1955 ranch home. It has been only a few short months since he moved in, but already Frank has been hard at work, decking out the home in his own retro, rustic, bohemian style. All of the rooms in the house are coming together quite nicely except for one — the beige and brown main bathroom, which has Frank stumped. He loves that the original tile, vanity and other features are intact, but has wants our help with how to treat the walls and decorate this wonderful original space. Think we can give him a few ideas? 

mid-century-front-doorFrank writes:

Hi Pam and Company!

I’ve been in my mid-century modern home … for about a month and a half now.  The house was built in 1955.  It is in mint condition and still contains almost all of its original features (whether they need(ed) a good scrubbing or not!).

mid-century-living-roomIncluded in this email are some shots of the foyer and sunken living room to get an idea of my style. I’d say it’s retro, with a rustic, eclectic, bohemian flair.

mid-century-bathroom-vanityretro-hex-tileThe one room I haven’t done anything with yet, nor do I know what to do, is the main bathroom.  It still has all of the original tile, and I’m not sure what I can do to the walls or place on the counter to complement it.

brown-ceramic-tile-bathroomThere are areas of wall space that need somethingggg.  It could be some sort of shelves, accent wall, wallpaper, art — I’m just generally lost.  Above the toilet and then next to the door if you’re walking out often cry out to me.

retro-tiled-countertopAlso, next to the mirror is a really tall indent.  I was wondering if anyone knew what this would have been used for?  I’m thinking there may have been shelves at one point.  It’s odd that it goes to the ceiling.

vintage-tiled-shower-ceilingI really like the shower curtain I have, but it’s been through a lot.  I was surprised that it fit so well considering it’s what I used in my apartment a few years ago!

mid-century-tile-showerretro-beige-and-brown-bathroomWell, I hope you can help out!  I don’t have any inspiration at this point.  I just want to make sure that whatever I do preserves the integrity of what’s there!

beige-mid-century-sinkI included a few extra shots of the sink and tile.

Btw, I forgot to say how much I love your blog.  The curated ebay lists have helped me with a few things for my home!

Wow, Frank, your bathroom — along with the rest of your house — is fantastic. We love the ‘parquet’ on the wall in the living room… the fireplace!… the wood floors… that peek-a-boo ‘window’ separating the foyer from the living room… all the bathroom tile… and especially, those large scale beige wall tiles in the bathroom — we’ve never seen any quite like that before — what a treasure!

Readers — can we give Frank some ideas for how to decorate his brown and beige tile bathroom?

1970s bathroomKate’s solution: A groovy group of feathered friends

  1. Vintage 1970s tulips shower curtain — Etsy seller BirdDogVintageShop
  2. Supersoft Plush Bath Towels, Honeycomb & Ocean Tide — Kohls
  3. Apt. 9 Solid Plush Bath Rug, Linen — Kohls
  4. Retro 1974 Robert Angeli Artcraft Products 12″ ceramic owl wall plaque — Ebay seller polojules1983
  5. Harvest gold wall paint
  6. Home made terrycloth towel cafe curtains with Classic Pom Pom Fringe, cocoa — Warehouse Fabrics, Inc.
  7. Vintage mid century Syroco wall plaques — Etsy seller NotSoAntique (note, I have see these in a set of four before)
  8. Mid century Lefton blue ceramic owl wall hanging pair — Ebay seller tcantiquarian
  9. Mid century copper owl wall hanging — Etsy seller vintmo

Inspiration for my groovy feathered friends bathroom mood board came from a few key places — the photo of Frank’s living room, with its warm, golden wood wall and bright blue 70s style chenille FLOR carpet tiles and some of the elements already found in his bathroom, such as the golden yellow towels and owl bath mat. Keeping these design choices in mind, the first order of business was finding a shower curtain. While there is a lot of beige on the market today, the particular shade of dark brown in Frank’s bathroom is a little harder to come by — unless you look for vintage. The 1970s tulips shower curtain helped set the color palette for the room. Not only does it have a range of browns and beiges in it, but it also has some blue and gold tones, which will help to liven up the space.

For the walls, Retro Renovation’s 2014 color of the year, harvest gold helps make the bathroom feel warm and sunny. Frank already has some gold towels in the space and the addition of the deep aqua blue towels helps pick up the blues found in the shower curtain, plus it adds an interesting color contrast to the room’s otherwise warm hues. Frank’s whimsical owl bath mat sent me in the direction of an “owl theme” for the space. A variety of 60s and 70s owl wall hangings would easily add character to the empty wall space. If Frank isn’t that into owls, or wants to mix it up a bit, there are plenty of other options for retro wall decor — like the two vintage diamond shaped Syroco plant plaques — that would work in the space.

In the recessed niche, a few small shelves could easily be added to house frequently used toiletries, and a budding collection of small owl or woodland creature vintage ceramic animals. With all the color and pizazz going on in the upper part of the bathroom, a simple beige bath mat is both functional and helps break up the darker brown floor tiles. For the window treatment — if a curtain is needed — one or two of the gold towels could easily be fashioned into a cafe curtain and made a tad more 70s kitsch with the addition of a contrasting brown pom pom trim — just like my grandma used in her yellow bathroom.

Pam's-mood-board-fishPam’s solution #1: Faux bois and fishies

  1. Shower curtain from Signature Hardware
  2. JCP Royal Velvet Pure Perfection bath towels, in aqua
  3. JCP bath rug:
  4. Hunter Douglas 2″ aluminum window blind, in Vanilla
  5. Vintage wallpaper from Hannah’s Treasures
  6. Turner prints from etsy seller TheClassicButterfly

For Faux Bois & Fishies, I started by seeing if I could find a wallpaper to start with. And sure enough, I quickly found a vintage wallpaper from Hannah’s Treasures that helps pull the brown and beige together with a third color — aqua. Looks like there’s even a bit of pink in the wallpaper, and you know we like that! The scale of Hannah’s fishies paper seems like it would work with your tile, as well.

After I found the wallpaper, the next challenge was the shower curtain. I like my shower curtains — even when they are “solid” colored — to have some pattern in the weave, so I was super psyched to find an aqua shower curtain with a diamond jacquard that sort of picked up on the little aqua squares in the wallpaper. Kate found the rug — awesome match! For towels, you really could use all the colors shown in the rug.

2″ aluminum blinds are SO authentic — although you will want to consider whether these, which will need to be wall-mounted on your casement window, will intrude into your space too much; if so, I like simple pleated shades, inset mounted, in a bathroom for privacy and light control.

Finally, I found two Turner prints that would look good with this color scheme — they would go side-by-side abouve the toilet; the key in that space is scale of your artwork and of course, design. I’d really have to measure everything out to ensure these would fit (they may be too small) but you get my drift. Not too dinky on a wide tall wall space like that.

retro tiled bathroom aqua and brown

Pam’s solution #2: Aqua give a hoot

  1. JCP owls shower curtain
  2. JCP Royal Velvet Pure Perfection bath towels, in aqua
  3. JCP bath rug
  4. Aqua wall paint – color taken from shower curtain
  5. Gerber pleated shade in Americana brown or Mission chocolate (get all the brown samples)
  6. Vintage shelf from etsy seller vintagediana72

In Aqua Give A Hoot, I stuck with the brown-beige-aqua color combination and quickly found this owl shower curtain at JCP. Hey, Kate and I both noticed you seemed to like owls.

For the window, I found what looks to be a faux bois-patterned brown pleated shade, which amused me to no end. (There is faux bois in mood board #1, too, can you spot it?) However, for a pleated shade in brown like this, You would want to match the tile color as close as possible — this would be more important than pattern per se.

Finally, while I did not try to deck the room out with wall thingies like Kate did, I did find a vintage shelf on etsy for above the toilet. However, if you end up outfitting  the niche to the right of the mirror with shelves (I’d recommend glass; take a look at very streamlined mounting hardware from a shower door company) and displaying tchotchkes there, I would recommend that, rather than more tchotchkes above the toilet, you go for a large piece of art instead. With tchotchkes, you want not too many, not too few, just right. Not to mention, more to dust.

Frank, you have a FANTASTIC HOUSE — and it found a good owner! Thank you submitting this Dilemma — it was FUN. Send us “after” photos! xoxo

  1. Christa says:

    Such a great house and a cool bathroom. This is what I would do if I were the lucky owner of this bathroom. I like a fresh tone to the bathroom, so I would limit the palette to browns and white/natural white. I would try painting the walls a cocoa brown, something like Benjamin Moore Coriander Seed or Wet Clay. I’d get fluffy organic cotton towels in a natural unbleached color. Get a matching shower curtain – I like plain Jane colors with good texture.

    For the niche next to the mirror, I would go ahead and put up 3-4 shelves. I’d use teak, and I would put one of the shelves along the bottom of both niches to make the whole thing look more custom. I wouldn’t put up any additional shelves, instead I would put up a nice geometric print with a lot of white and a few brown colors on the wall to the left of the mirror. Maybe a same size/same artist/hung at same height print on the back wall next to the window.

    I would find some small ceramic pots with geometric shapes and put a few plants in there – the toilet tank, in the corner under the shelves.

  2. Pat in Pa says:

    I like the turquoise/aqua shower curtain and towels of #2 picture, but I would find a more atomic-looking wallpaper with hints of gold starbursts and turquoise rather than the fish… Perhaps you could find starburst knobs to replace the dish knobs, also. And I agree with the person who mentioned you should fill that niche with shelves! Great house–hope you enjoy it for many years!

  3. Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Would love to see after picks on these “design dilemma” posts. It’d be fun to see where the homeowner went with the ideas suggested.

  4. another Lisa says:

    (I usually post as “Lisa” but I see we have one in this thread already!)

    I think green for the walls. This palette looks perfect: https://retrorenovation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/1940s-green-and-red-kitchen.jpg

    it’s not too retro, but I’m drawn to this curtain for your space: http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/productdetail.jsp?_dyncharset=ISO-8859-1&navAction=jump&id=15006448&search=true&isProduct=true&parentid=SEARCH+RESULTS&color=20

  5. Carol says:

    Check out Ralph Lauren paint in linen texture. It is a 2 part process with great results. It looks almost like a solid color when entering the room and up close looks like very toned down grasscloth. If you use a natural linen and ivory color it would look spectacular. Home Depot carried it a few years ago when I did my mother’s 1967 gold and white tile bathroom and it looked great. She stipulated that the gold velvet wallpaper had to go.

  6. Carol says:

    Maybe a hawaiian print for the shower curtain. Try Barkclothhawaii.com or Diamondheadfabrics.com, or Hawaiifabricmart.com. Many of the old school hawaiian prints have the colors of your bathroom plus several greens and accent colors. You could press fern or other leaves to frame, and some complimentary hawaiian fabric to frame. It would look very, very period and sedate. I think sedate may be a bad word here, but I am a minimalist at heart. Finding other accessories would be no problem. Lots of bamboo stuff out there and old glassware and pottery in earthtones. Awesome fabrics on these sites and a great start. p.s. I am addicted to this website.

  7. Leslie says:

    Love your bathroom Frank! There are so many fab suggestions, Pam and Kate’s followers are the best. I feel that painting the walls a creamy white would make the white hex tiles pop and brighten up this space. I NEVER go with white, so I am surprised it was my first reaction. Have fun and keep us informed on your final decision.

  8. lynda says:

    I think it is a lovely bath. Love the tile colors and shapes. I think an owl theme might be nice. How about making this as a shower curtain and then adding towel colors from the print. I think the lighter tones would make the bath look the best.
    Here is a stripe in the same colors.
    I think some oiled walnut shelves with an owl collection would look nice in the bump out.
    And here is a little DIY project

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