Nanette and Jim won our 2013 The Hard Way Award for their blue bathroom remodel. Now, this dynamic duo is at it again — this time, with a gut-remodel that transformed their upstairs bathroom from 1980s builder-grade bleck into 1950s Mamie Pink Magnificent. Every bathroom remodel is gonna be epic — at least 84 decisions/details to consider. But aim to do it retro, and you dial up the degree of difficulty exponentially. Buckle up, in our story today, Nanette shows us how It Is Done, in blow-by-blow, do you have what it takes detail.
This bathroom was a total mess, we’ve wanted to remodel it since we first moved in many years ago. The entire bathroom was remodeled DIY style right before we bought the house and done so poorly.
The shower started leaking down to the basement almost immediately due to poor construction. Everything that was put into the remodel was the cheapest Home Depot option possible, it just didn’t hold up. The tub would creak when you showered, we honestly feared it was just going to fall through the floor one day. As paint started to peel we could see pink showing through all over, and it just killed us.
We are fairly certain that this was a pink bathroom the seller decided to update / modernize when they put the house on the market. The previous owner was a 92-year-old man, had lived here since 1950 (house was built in 1945), his daughter was selling the home for him. We cringe that they gutted many elements of our time capsule home and “updated” them poorly, but at least they left many others we adore.
We put in the basement bathroom with the intention of gutting the upstairs bath as soon as we could afford to do so. We jumped in feeling like, we had this one after doing the last — it would be easy, right? Well, as these projects go, it was a whole new set of hurdles, and I can truly say it wasn’t easy by any means and uncovered many new issues to deal with along the way.
We used the large hex (4.25 x 5 9/32) on the counter top and 4×4 everywhere else. We really liked working with B&W. Their prices are very reasonable, and their customer service was exceptional. Since we live on the West Coast, the shipping was also reasonable, not to mention they fired our entire batch to ensure the color would all match.
White Tile is Daltile from Home Depot. We actually preferred the B&W white, it was a slightly softer white, but for the price we couldn’t say no to going with Daltile at Home Depot. We were able to pick it up as we needed it and return what we didn’t use. That said, we had to order some specialty pieces like the cove base direct through Daltile (through our contractor). The black shower hex is also from Daltile.
Our gorgeous tile work was installed by the same tile guy that did the blue bathroom in our basement. He really blew us away with this job, just look at that arch, it took some time to figure out how to create an even arch with materials that do not curve and cannot be cut to curve. He even tiled the inside of the arch.
The detailing of the tile work is so old world, he’s truly an artist that cares for his craft.*
*Side note, after we started this project, well down the road and had installed the curb for the shower, a contractor pointed out that we needed 30″ clearance to meet code wall to wall inside the shower; we were several inches away. Evidently this is code for showers but does not apply to tubs. There was a tub in that space before, and it was less than 30″ and evidently that meets code so… The suggestions were to knock down the wall and move the shower back into the bedroom a few inches so we had clearance. The second was to create a curb-less shower so the entire bathroom drains into the shower (no need for a door). We didn’t like either of these options. After much deliberation with our tile guy, we managed to pop out the curb a touch (which is why our bathroom door doesn’t open as far as it used to), and move the shower door installation over off center of the curb to give us just enough clearance.
When it came to the plumbing for the pink bathroom, we had several strokes of luck! Managed to score the vintage Crane sink from Rejuvenation as they were closing out their salvage yard.
It was missing the down pipe connection, which as it turns out is hard to find and may have cost us more than the sink to replace, but we found a local plumber that had some Crane parts!
We also found a circa 1938 American Standard pink toilet in good condition, but missing its matching seat/lid and needing new seals. I discovered it’s a tad hard to find a matching toilet seat/lid combo so I decided to visit a local plumbing shop that we had gone to before — George Morlan Plumbing Supply.
I walked in and asked if they had any pink toilet seats, they laughed… then one guy said wait a minute and ran upstairs. He was gone for quite some time but returned with 2 boxes with NOS pink toilet seats in them. One of the pinks didn’t match well, but the other was a near perfect match. It had been sitting in storage for so long it was not priced and not in their computer system. They cut me a good deal and jokingly told me I couldn’t return it. It just goes to show it never hurts to ask! [Editor’s note: This is Pam’s favorite part of the story, she says. Classique!]
The plumber who installed the toilet informed us that our toilet has a special feature of the day (circa 1938). It has a cleaning feature, when you flush it, it swirls and fills all the way up to the top of the rim before flushing down. The first time you flush it, it’s pretty frightening, it appears to be backed up and about ready to overflow but nope, it’s supposed to do that. It’s such a champ though, works like a dream! [Editor’s note: No, maybe this is Pam’s favorite part of the story! She wanna.]
The faucets/handles for the shower are also NOS, I found them on some random search online. I purchased them (Sayco 2080D-2 tub and shower set) through Locke Plumbing. [Editors’s note: WOWZA, why have we not spotted this before!]
We have a friend who installs flooring and specializes in Marmoleum who got us excited about using Marmo. We really wanted to install Marmoleum downstairs, but we just couldn’t find a color combo that would work down there. It was also challenging to find a color combo that we thought would work upstairs, but after much deliberation I found a good combo only to find the black (Litho) had been discontinued. We managed to score some for our small space on closeout.
The installation process was super interesting, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch. They have to start with a very smooth flat surface, and from there it’s basically like making a pattern for a dress and gluing it together piece by piece. We even used a piece of the leftover flooring to do a counter top on our basement bar.
5303 Litho — limited to what’s on hand, discontinued, may be gone in a week or two,
The vintage wall mounted light over the sink and the fixture on the ceiling came from Hippo Hardware, a local salvage shop.
They rewired both, they even repainted the white parts of the one over the sink so it looked all shiny and new when I picked it up.
They have a large stock of lights to choose from along with other salvage items. Don’t be scared by the old wiring, it is their policy to rewire light fixtures before you to take them home, they figure why rewire them until they are sold, makes sense to me!
Cabinets, wallpaper, mirror and decor:
- Wallpaper is from Hannah’s Treasures! It’s the same print that we used in the blue bathroom but in pink. We fell in love with the idea of using the same paper in both bathrooms to pull the projects together, but along the way we almost went with something else. Many months of indecision and samples later, we finally decided to go with our original idea, and it looks great! *
*Side note: If installing wallpaper into a small space like this, I’d recommend doing so before installing a toilet or other things that will not allow you to have floor space below the paper installation. OMG it was so challenging to install this little bit of wallpaper while straddling the toilet and counter tops. It took us several days, could have been a 1/2 day project tops.
- Very large mirror: We ordered the beveled glass mirror from a local glass shop and picked it up ourselves, it was super affordable. Figuring out how to hang it was a little challenging since we didn’t have enough lip on our tile to allow it to rest on the tile as planned. Other traditional ways of hanging these mirrors tend to create moisture problems from the mirror resting in a metal tray on the bottom that fills up with water. We also discovered that our wall had a large hump so we couldn’t mount/glue it on the wall. We found some brackets that did the trick at an amazing local hardware store — W.C. Winks Hardware — that specializes in odd fasteners and the like.
- Custom built cabinetry with pulls from Rejuvenation, (we do plan to swap those out with some that match our kitchen, I just located them at Winks).
- The shower door, well that was very expensive, and it’s where we really splurged. We wanted to keep the space open yet didn’t want to go with a curtain. We were pretty excited to discover the Skyline Series shower door system from Cardinal Shower Enclosures.
The little things here and there, it’s the joy of the hunt for the bargain for me, I have yet to find all the perfect little pieces to go into the space but that’s the fun of it, when I see something I’ll know and it will be glorious!
While this was technically a remodel, it was a lot of work. While the bathroom plumbing locations remained where they were before the remodel for the most part, the p-trap, drains and heat ducts were all hanging down in the head space exposed in our basement bar below. When we remodeled the bathroom, we also opted to finish the original knotty pine basement / bar which had sat half finished since the 1940s. I won’t say anything more about this other than it’s another exciting story of wonderful salvage! More to come!!
~Nanette & Jim
Bathroom design/photos by me, Nanette Wallace, all rights reserved.
Woah. We told you. Epic. Nanette and Jim, you are rockin’ it, big time. Thanks you so much for sharing your story, your resource list, wonderful photos and of course, the love of pink bathrooms.
- If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out Nanette and Jim’s vintage blue bathroom remodel, too!