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Kristen and Paul’s 1940s style aqua and black tile bathroom, built from scratch

vintage bathroomfamily2When we last heard from Kristen and Paul, the couple had a stash of Daltile Aqua Glow wall tiles stacked in their garage and were eagerly awaiting the day when they could be installed in their charming 1899 home’s main floor bathroom. Fast forward a year — and their bathroom is now complete. Kristen loves it so much she wanted to sleep in there for the first few days after it was complete, and yowza, we don’t blame her — what a gorgeous bathroom!

vintage bathroom
Bathroom before

While Kristen and Paul loved their original bathroom’s color scheme, the vintage wallboard just wasn’t standing up to daily abuse and cleaning, so they marshaled their energy to gear up for a gut remodel. After months of careful planning and finding just the right tile, they began their bathroom remodel. The couple was able to keep and reuse their vintage tub, sink and medicine cabinet, saving them a bundle and allowing room in the budget for them to hire a contractor to do their tile work.

Daltile Aqua Glow field tile with black trim

Kristen writes:

So here’s the story on our new vintage bath remodel:

Our bathroom is the last room to be remodeled in our entire house. We are used to doing most of the labor ourselves however I knew that with the precision of the tile that I wanted to hire a professional. And though it is a small bathroom I knew it would be costly so we waited to do this room last until we were absolutely sure we knew what we wanted.

vintage bathroom
Bathroom’s original wallboard.

What we started out with was not bad by any means. The last major remodel to that part of the house was done in the 40s or 50s so we were left with very nice vintage fixtures including an Art Deco style medicine cabinet. Although I loved the original turquoise wallboard, it just did not hold up to splashing, flushing and toddler potty training over the years!  We were told that this type of wallboard paneling was a thick paperboard with painted surface. We could never be clean it properly without wiping the finish and painted surface off and eventually it just got too gross! (see close-up photo). I knew something more permanent and cleanable would have to be installed.

vintage bathroom

I basically knew that I wanted the same kind of look…just done the way it should’ve originally been done with shiny and scrubbable tile. I even selected a tile in the same blue family… The glorious aqua glow ceramic 4 x 4 wall tile from Daltile.

vintage bathroom

Just a note… My local Daltile showroom said that this tile was discontinued, but I was able to find it online although I had to wait for 3 months for it to be delivered.  It was well worth the wait because I can’t imagine a more perfect shade of vintage blue. I love it so much…I wanted to sleep in the bathroom the first couple nights after it was finished!

  • Editor’s note: We reached out to the PR department at Daltile to ask whether or not aqua glow had been discontinued and were told: NO, it has NOT been discontinued. However, it is a custom order. We’ve heard from a few other readers who were told by a tile retailer that this color was no longer available. Hey, we’ve also heard from readers who say that their local tile store doesn’t know about Daltile’s Mosaic Tile Designer. These retailers are wrong. Moral of the story: Push back, people! Vendors are so accustomed to selling what is popular today and are often not as informed as customers like us who have done the research about less frequently purchased materials. Call Daltile customer service directly if your local store tells you they can’t order this color or the mosaic flooring — special order may be more work to buy, but it is do-able.
  • And: Looking for 4 x 4 pastel tiles for a vintage bathroom? See our story 12 placed to find 4″ x 4″ ceramic bathroom tile in vintage colors.

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The floors are sheets of 1″ black-and-white hex tile by American Olean. I had considered a more square or rectangular motif tile floor, but decided I had a lot of block/rectangular angles going on and wanted something to contrast – I love the way they look like little polkadots!

6″ wide black cove base tile — a wonderful detail

I asked Kristen what inspired her to use the black 6″ cove base tiles around the bottom of the wall — a detail that both Pam and I absolutely loved. She replied:

Well, I like a lot of contrast.  So I knew I wanted black bullnose borders at the top with pencil stick trim… it just seemed to make sense to add the black cove at the bottom.  I think the tile guys actually suggested that’s how they usually finish the bottom…. and I studied vintage bathrooms. And I could not find Aqua Glow specialty pieces, so we had to fill in with the black. Yes, I believe they are 6 x 6… on that detail, I pretty much just referred to the tile guys, I had never heard of cove base before. 😉

vintage bathroomAt first my tile guys were not crazy about working on an older home with plaster and lath board walls, but as the work was finishing up they really started liking the look. They even said it was nice to work on a project with a bit more color than the taupe and beige tiles they are putting in newer homes.

vintage bathroom

The paint color is It is Gold 3 by Laura Ashley.

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midcentury ranch

I have included one preview shot of our mid century modest winter home that we just bought in southern Florida! (It has a pink tile bathroom — the floor is very similar to yours—hooray!) We are super excited about it and plan on decorating it up retro and renting it out on the off-season…. So if you’d like I can keep you updated about that as well.

retro family
Family photo by Jordan Barclay Photography.

Well, thanks again & it is always an honor to be featured!

No: Thank you, Kristen and Paul, for sharing yet another lovely project with us — you are very talented indeed. We absolutely love the tile you chose for the walls, trim, floor — your bathroom is adorable, just like your family.  We look forward to hearing about your new adventures in your little slice of retro Florida, too. Keep us posted!

See more of Kristen and Paul’s home:

Link love

  1. Joy says:

    What a beautiful job. I have a light similar to that. Its been in my house since I bought it 1981 though the house was built in 1953. Ive always liked it cause it was different who knew it would be so cool 60 yrs later. growing up in the 1950s around all this stuff I never liked any of it. Now its growing on me though I do love old bathrooms & stoves. Again what a nice job.

  2. I have a question. I noticed your tub has no shower curtain or door. Is this because you wanted to show the wall tile and fish plaques, or is it because you just take baths ? After all that work, I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to keep it looking new. My late mother used to just take baths because she didn’t want to wipe down wet tiles and get mold on the grout. Years later, her 1950s bathroom is pristine. I’m thinking one those pebbly shower doors with herons or fish or mermaids would be the icing on the cake, at least for my own bathroom.

    1. Kristen says:

      Hi Karin,
      Yes, it is just a little petite washtub in there with no shower. That’s how it was when we moved in and I’m guessing how it’s always been. Luckily, we have 3 bathrooms in the house. The upstairs baths have a shower in one and a large, roomy clawfoot tub in the other… so that is where we do all of our washing/bathing/grooming. This featured bathroom is on the main floor near the kitchen, so it really ends up being more of a guest bath or where our kids come in from outside and rinse off their muddy feet. We had considered making it a shower/tub combo, but realized it wasn’t necessary.
      Keen observation!

  3. penny beil says:

    love the wall tile, a good alternative in case we cannot salvage our metal tile in our original 1960’s bathroom. we have a bit of mold near the base of the tile between it, and the tub, any ideas are greatly appreciated! if not thanks to this website, we will use the new ceramic alternative! thanks retro for this post!

  4. mag says:

    Love the remodel. I have one question. Can anyone fill me in on the shoes Kristen is wearing in one of the bathroom floor pics? TIA! 8^)

    1. Kristen says:

      Haha– Hi Mag,
      My shoes in that photo are actually Crocs. I know people love them or hate them, but I find them comfy & love the styles where you can’t tell they’re crocs! The model is Springi ballet flats in black.

      1. mag says:

        Thank you, Kristen. 😀 I do love the remodel, but I had to pause and ask when I got to that one photo. I’ll have to try them and see if they work for my wonky feet.

  5. kathy says:

    Thanks for putting back in a bathroom that many take out. I think it turned out fabulous! I love the tile and the flooring (which we also have in one bath) but also, the colors and vintage accessories. Well done!

  6. Wendy Hamm says:

    We recently purchased a home built in 1958. We have done many remodel jobs but wanted to restore the bathroom tiles as they are in great shape. We had to replace the vanity and are in need of more of the plastic 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 tiles. I have not been able to find any place that I can get them. They are a pearlescent aqua plastic tile all original since the house was built. Any suggestions as to where I could find about 20 of these tiles?

    1. pam kueber says:

      Wendy, see our category Bathroom Help / Tile. Or use the search box. We have stories on this but to get straight to it: Vintage. You gotta find these vintage. Start with ebay, they do come up frequently, but finding the exact brand/color you need will require patience, if it even ever surfaces.

  7. lizZIE says:

    Hi There!
    Beautiful bathroom. Q: I am trying to renovate an old wall mount sink w 13″ spread and am having the darndest time finding faucet fixtures that will fit on the sink 1 1/2″ from center of hot or cold to back splash and 1″ from spigot hole to backsplash.
    Any ideas? Anyone? I am stuck to the point where I think I might just by a new pedestal sink.
    PLease help! Thank you

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