Dave and Fran’s beautiful, functional black and white tile bathroom remodel — 1930s vintage style

Story includes all the resources used to create
a prewar bathroom inspired by a real time capsule house

retro-vintage-bathroom-remodelEver since readers Dave and Fran bought their 1938 home, they have wanted to fix up their second story bathroom to complement the original architecture of their 1938 home. The bathroom itself was in good condition, but had be remuddled sometime in the 1980s and didn’t feel like it blended well with the rest of the house. On top of that, the couple was hoping to find a way to remove the dressing vanity and add a small stall shower to the bathroom to increase its functionality. For inspiration, they turned to a vintage bathroom from one of our “Tour a Time Capsule” stories for design inspiration. After lots of planning and hard work, Dave and Fran’s finished bathroom remodel accomplished all of their goals — including looking like it could have been original to their home.

Time capsule bathroom that inspired Dave’s bathroom remodel — this house had FIVE PASTEL BATHROOMS! Photo courtesy of Real Estate Agent Susan Cassidy.
1938 kitchen remodle
Click here to see Dave and Frances’ 1938 kitchen refresh — linoleum floors and countertops — this was a big hit on the blog!

Dave writes:

Hi Pam,

You did a story on our kitchen renovation in our 1938 house a few years back…. [Now we have updated our] bathroom modeled after the Portland time capsule.

bathroom-beforeWhen we started, the bathroom didn’t look bad, but it wasn’t very period correct either. The vanity was added sometime between 1960 and 1990. The light in the ceiling was obviously from the from the 80’s and the floor was a faux-terrazzo linoleum. The mirror/medicine cabinet was really the only original to the bathroom.

bathroom-under-constructionThe main mission of the remodel was to add a shower. The way our house is constructed, this bathroom, along with the landing at the top of the stairs, is in a big dormer at the back of the house, and the rest of the upstairs is built into the roofline. On the furthest end of the dormer (on the right if you were looking at the back of the house), is where we pushed out the wall about two feet to get more space in the bathroom.

built in soap dish
Photo courtesy Angela Spykerman-Wahlquist, Luxe Stijl Design

Our designer, Angela Spykerman-Wahlquist of Luxe Stijl Design is the one that found the tile, which came from Subway Ceramics and has edges that are completely flat (not “pillowed”), so it matches the vintage of original tile floor in the downstairs bathroom. Similar to the time capsule bathroom, we went for white and black tile, then chose the blue (turquoise?) paint color.

We got the lights from Rejuvenation, ceiling is “Mathison”, but got the globe is from Schoolhouse Electric (OP-2280-08-4), because Rejuvenation didn’t have a low-profile shade we wanted for our low upstairs ceiling.

vintage-bathroom-lightThe over-mirror light came from Rejuvenation as well and is the “Rufus”. The shelf-back sink is from the early-50’s and was pulled from our next door neighbor’s bathroom when they were updating (it sat in our garage for two years waiting to be used). Other than cleaning and polishing the porcelain, we replaced the faucet with a new Kohler Triton set and ended up using the Kohler Triton line in the shower as well.

vintage-bathroom-subway-tileWe also included nice details like a grill from a NOS Ventrola mated to a modern Broan circular exhaust fan.

vintage-bathroom-toiletWe no longer had the original toilet, and the toilet that was in the bathroom as an average modern toilet. During my Googling one night, I came across the Porcher Lutezia toiletand it is a perfect match to the sink and the era. I ordered the toilet from Amazon.com and when it arrived, it was better than I had even hoped. We hadn’t originally planned to replace the toilet, but I am so glad we did because it looks great!


vintage-bathroom-showervintage-black-and-white-tiled-bathroomWe added a linen cabinet to the right of the shower because it ended up being a dead space since we couldn’t run the shower wall-to-wall without removing the window.

1930s-vintage-bathroom-remodelWahlquist Construction did all of the carpentry. On the outside of the dormer, they ended up stripping off all of the vinyl siding to reveal the original clapboards (I h*** vinyl siding). This made it easy for them to weave in new clapboards to the added-on part of the dormer.

Wow, Dave, Frances and Angela — congratulations on a job well done! Your decision to bump out the wall to have enough space for a stall shower was a great one — and adding the small linen closet near the window is a great way to use the space. What a classic bathroom you now have — one that will serve your house well and feels like it could have been there since day one. Mega thanks for sharing your photos and story with all of us.

  1. pam kueber says:

    Janet, see all our tile research in the Bathroom Help / Tile category. We have a big story on where to find tiles

  2. Anita says:

    Hi! Love it!!! Just one question. Where did you find the towel bars? I found one at a salvage place, but am curious if thy make new ones. Thanks!

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