Rebecca’s mid-century bathroom remodel using Nemo tiles — mud set!

mint green bathroom rebeccaBy now most of you are familiar with the stellar job Rebecca and Keith did on their Mad Men kitchen remodel — a kitchen renovation so admired by readers that your votes crowned them winners of our 2013 kitchen “The Hard Way Award.” After completing this kitchen remodel, you’d think it would be time for Rebecca and Keith to kick back and relax for a while. Instead, the couple immediately began their next project: repairing and transforming their mid-century bathroom from cracked tile and a dinky, stinky sink to the mid mod marvelous turquoise tiled beauty above. The bathroom is not only beautiful, but get this: Rebecca found a tile setter who installed the tiles the old fashioned way, “mud set.” Woah! Let’s take a look at the whole project — and all of Rebecca’s resources.

retro-pedestal-sinkRebecca writes:

Hi Pam,

Whoa!  It’s done.  It all started with a sewer smell!  The smell was coming from the sewer because the pedestal sink had no trap.  That led to realizing there were many cracks in the tile.

retro-bathroomAnd, I always hated the cheap vanity, really cheap squeaky faucet, and sink that were there.  The tile was original to our 1961 split-level, but the vanity and sink were not.

bathroom-beforeWe know for sure that the bathroom was original because we found a Montgomery Wards circular/paper  from 1962 in the wall!  It’s just adorable.


aqua-green-mosaic-tile-floorThe mosaic tile is from Nemo tile made by Appiani in Italy.  I found it here on Retro Renovation.  [The wall tile and trim tile also are from Nemo Tile.] I loved it right away.  I looked around at all the other big tile companies, and I couldn’t find anything else that I liked half as much.  You can make your own mosaic on Daltile’s site, but to see a sample of your mosaic takes 5-7 weeks — that is if you pick one of the colors that they don’t have made already.  A lot of their colors aren’t available immediately. Depending on which mosaic you want to see by Nemo, they may have a sample that they’ll send out to you asap.  The customer service of Nemo Tile was excellent, as well.

Note: I could not find the mosaic tile blends on the Nemo site. Rebecca inquired about the availability of the specific blend she purchased, and the Nemo representative had this to say:

Here’s where the “line” can be found. (Anthologhia mosaic tile by Nemo). If you recall, the blend you selected, Aqua 06, was discontinued, so it won’t be shown on the site, but can be special ordered. We are in the middle of re-launching our site, so we don’t show any blends at the moment. I guess, if someone wants the same blend as yours they should contact me directly for more info on it or other blends.

mid-century-modern-tile-floorRebecca continues:

I LOVE the aqua and/or turquoise of the 50’s and 60’s.  It was IMPOSSIBLE for me to find at any other tile company. And, the closest Daltile has takes 6-8 weeks to make.  Between the beautiful mosaic and excellent colors of Nemo, my mind was set.  My contractor was pushing me to use one of the companies he’s used to working with, but I wouldn’t have it! The mosaic looks even better in person.  The glaze on it is excellent, and feels great underfoot, too!

building-shower-pan-curbApparently, “mudding” (cement) is the old school way to do tile, and not many companies do it that way anymore.  I was lucky my contractor chose who he did, because they did an excellent job.

building-shower-nicheEverywhere the tile went, there’s a thick layer of cement.  It was pretty intense!

mid-century-aqua-tileThe faucet, toilet paper holder, towel ring, and robe hook are Venice by California Faucets. I wanted a classic look like the one Pam has. My contractors, plumber recommended California Faucets. I don’t think I could be happier with another faucet.

mid-century-bathroom-vanityThe sink is Kohler’s Tahoe.  I had my heart set on the one with the metal rim, but it wasn’t understood by my contractor, nor the Kohler salesperson, that the one with the rim only comes with 4 inch holes.  I prefer widespread faucets, so I had to decide between rim or gorgeous faucet.

The pulls and handles are Rejuvenation.  The cabinets are Holiday Kitchen, and they are “fine.” Maybe it’s because I have custom cabinets in my kitchen, but I wasn’t all that impressed. They seem cookie-cutter to me like Pottery Barn. If I can afford a custom-made vanity for my washroom, that I want to ‘retrovate,’ that is what I’d like to do.  The laminate is Abet Laminati, which had a much greater selection than anyone else I found.  (Thanks, Pam!)

mid-century-modern-toiletThe toilet is Toto. It’s not very easy to find a toilet that has a square tank and all the photos from the past have square toilets. I like how simple and minimal it is. The best part is that it doesn’t have that rim inside where mildew often grows and where it’s always so hard to get a toilet brush into. There’s nowhere for mildew to hide!  🙂  It’s 1.28 gallons and therefore uses less water.

mid-century-moder-bathroom-floorThe slab of stone in the doorway, and at the bottom of the shower doors was chosen by my contractor.  I love the color and think it goes very well.

mid-century-modern-shower-tileThe drain is Kohler and is actually really beautiful as far as drains go.

shower-niche-mid-century-retroAfter looking here and on Flickr at old bathrooms, I learned that I had to have the trim tile in a darker color to get the look I yearned for. My husband and I just looked at the mosaic, and picked one color for the field tile, and one darker color for the trim. [Both the minty green field tile and the darker green trim tile also came from Nemo tile.]

retro-modern-shower-doorsThe shower door instructions were to get one as basic as possible and that it had to be polished chrome. I think the reeded glass looks great! And it matches the lines in the light nicely.

vintage-bathroom-lightThe light was a great find by Pam on eBay.  It was only $30!  I searched for months only to find expensive ones. As for new ones, there’s nothing there for me, especially for bathroom.  If there’s one thing that I think should be made like they used to be made, it would be lights.

I got a Panasonic fan that doesn’t look retro but works like a silent dream. The Panasonic fans are way quieter than the other brands.  Also, a timer is integral.  You set if for up to 30 minutes and leave-no more wasting your heat or a/c.

Pam Kueber Retro Renovation I almost forgot about my shower light!  I love it.  It has a Fresnel lens which is so key.

My husband and I both think it’s nice that we chose a similar color to what the original owners had in the original bathroom.

One last thing: I found a small and inexpensive thing to do that really makes a bathroom look better is to exchange old painted-over, rusty hinges with shiny new chrome ones.  I love my new hinges.  And they cost $7 each.

Bravo, Rebecca and Keith, on another retro remodel well done. You did an excellent job sourcing new materials that all work together to make it looks like it’s always been there — the best compliment! Mega thanks for sharing your story and sources here with all of us in the Retro Renovation community. But now we need to ask: What’s up your sleeve next? 😉

  1. Kelly L Swagler says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    I know I’m late to the party-your bathroom looks great! I was wondering if you happen to know the manufacturer of your shower door? I am looking for doors exactly like yours and I an having a hard time finding doors with reeded glass. Thanks!

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