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. Rebecca says:

    It’s a lovely bathroom. And I don’t know if this is something you want to disclose on your site, but I would love to know the cost of these remodels. I love drooling over people’s remodels but I’m also curious what to expect when I go to remodel, what the cost would be to have tiles made in Italy!
    I guess more specifically, the difference in cost to retrovate vs. just updating. Thanks.

    1. Kate says:

      There are tons of variables in cost for projects like these Rebecca. If you have a small bathroom you’ll need less tile, therefore you could get more expensive tile versus if you have a large bathroom.

      If you are thinking about doing your own bathroom, figure out how many square feet of tiles you might need, then you can decide what the most you’d be willing to pay per sq. foot. Labor costs will be different depending on where you live and who you have do the work.

      There really isn’t a one price fits all when it comes to this stuff. Check prices on the materials you’d want to use and then call several contractors to get estimates for the work. Then you’ll have a good idea about how much it might cost for your particular project.

  2. SusanD says:

    I love everything about your bathroom remodel. The colors are so refreshing and so pretty!!! I can’t decide what I like more – the floor, the shower tiles or the shower doors – all terrific.

    I just replaced the toilet in one of my bathrooms with the same model as the one in your bathroom (at least it’s the same brand and appears to be the same from your description) and I am extremely satisfied with it.

  3. tammyCA says:

    Love the colors..it looks very cool. Our shower was done a few years ago with a contractor and they did ours “mud set”..I think he said that is they way he always does it..I just knew that is what I wanted. The 60 yr old tile had held up pretty well considering with the old school mud set, no leaking damage was discovered even ‘tho there was always constant weird mildew appearing.

  4. AH says:

    Lovely. I have two Toto toilets, too, which I bought with a PG&E rebate. They take up *much* less space than the 1940’s toilet and paid for themselves in water savings pretty quickly. I am very happy the old toilet sprang a crack forcing me to swap it out. The Toto also has a double button for more / less flush I keep saving, because my daily water usage stays around baseline usage which has a cheaper rate. I can’t recommend these enough.

  5. Jenny says:

    Is the Fresnel shower light vintage? I love it!

    Also, I need something just like that for my bathroom remodel. Any idea what the brand and/or model is?

    1. pam kueber says:

      Nemo Tile. I updated the story to make this clear. I had also asked Rebecca this question, during the editing process, but I forgot to add the info! Thanks for the reminder, Dean!

  6. Darren Nemeth says:

    Can you tell me the maker of that wide bathroom light pictured above? I’d like to put it in my eBay searches.

    My bathroom had one that was 4 1/2 inches by 18 and this looks close to what it may have looked like.

    1. pam kueber says:

      The light is vintage, Darren. I found it in an ebay search and recommended it to Rebecca…. Perhaps she knows the makers…

      1. Rebecca Prichard says:

        There is no information on the light as to maker. sorry. It’s very tricky searching on ebay. But I find it helpful to have them send you emails when things come up.

        1. Jenny says:

          Rebecca, what did you put in your eBay search to get eBay to send you an email on similar bathroom lighting? I have no idea what to search for…

          1. Rebecca Prichard says:

            Pam found the light for me. But I always search “vintage”, “1950s,” “1960’s,” MCM,” “Mid-century Modern” and “light bar.” And use their categories. You have to familiarize yourself with the searches.

            1. pam kueber says:

              start Saved Searches for various combos of these words:
              mid century

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