Cindy waits 28 years for her sunny retro bathroom remodel

bathroom remodel before afterWhen reader Cindy bought her house in 1986, she was not in love with the bathroom. But since it was perfectly functional, she decided it would be fine until she formatted a plan for renovation. 28 years later — yes, 28 YEARS later — after seeing Nanette and Jim’s vintage blue bathroom — and then, Kristen and Paul’s — Cindy finally settled on her plan. Using many of the resources here on Retro Renovation, some vintage finds, and help from her brother-in-law and a few adorable dogs, Cindy created the retro bathroom of her dreams. What a transformation! We love it!

bathroom remodelCindy writes:

When I bought my house, the bathroom was perfectly functional and not u*** [edited].


I liked the Mexican tiles, but not the vinyl shower surround. I decided to live with it until I figured out what I wanted in there. That was in 1986!

Nanette and Jim’s blue bathroom.

I had looked at various solutions to the shower surround issue, but nothing made me happy. Then I saw Nanette and Jim’s gorgeous blue bathroom on RetroRenovation! It was love at first sight, and I knew what I wanted to do! Even better, Nanette had included the information about the tile, so I didn’t even have to spend time looking for it.

I immediately started trying to line up the contractor who had done a lot of work for me and other members of my family. I wanted him because I knew he wouldn’t argue with me about what I wanted. Unfortunately, by the time he was ready to do the project (a year later), he also was ready to retire! He recommended his tile guy highly, though, so I decided to just go with him. I’m so glad I did, because he did a wonderful job and didn’t once complain about the fussiness of my design. Thanks, Marcos!

Kristen & Paul’s aqua glow bathroom.

About when we were ready to start, I saw Kristen and Paul’s aqua and black bathroom on RetroRenovation. I so, so loved the black! So, I decided to make a sort of combination of the two bathrooms, with black trim tile like Kristen and Paul’s, but with glass block and white tile above the wainscot height in the shower like Nanette and Jim’s.

I had already ordered and received the Aqua Glow tile, thanks to the warnings about the long lead time for ordering it on Retro Renovation. Daltile had discontinued the 2-inch liner tiles that Nanette and Jim used in their bathroom, but Pam suggested that I could get 2-inch bullnose trim tiles from B&W Tile. I ordered all my black tiles from them, and that experience added greatly to the authenticity of returning my bathroom to the 50’s! Not only did the woman who took my order write what I wanted down by hand and put it on a clipboard, but when the tile arrived it was all carefully and individually wrapped in newspaper! I loved it!


Once all the tile was in hand, the demolition started, and was finished within one day.

In the process of demolition, Marcos found a time capsule, which the previous owners had put into the wall when they had put the Mexican tile and shower surround in! (Note: More on the time capsule coming in a separate story.)

The whole bathroom project took five weeks, from demo to my first shower! This is my only bathroom! I didn’t have a toilet for two weeks, and didn’t have a shower for the entire five weeks. The only thing that saved me was that my wonderful neighbors were away all that time, and they allowed me to use their bathroom. Thanks, Nate and Kristy!!!! I have to say that going next door in the middle of the night in the snow and 10 degrees wasn’t my favorite part of this project, though.

All the delay and lack of the basic comforts of home were totally worth it in the end!

vintage bathroom

The sink came from my parents’ house. They were wanting to remodel and put in a sink with a vanity cabinet, and I was the lucky recipient of their old sink! It’s a Crane Neuday, and I love the bird faucet! They also have the matching tub (with gorgeous matching faucet, of course), but it drains on the wrong side, so there was no use trying to talk them out of that, too. I kept my original tub and toilet. I love how my toilet looks, even more so now that I’ve lived without it for a while!

vintage bathroompebble floor tile

The floor tile is sliced pebble tile, which I know isn’t authentic mid century. I was looking for mosaic tile for the floor and couldn’t find anything that was the right color. This showed up in a Google search, and it was such a perfect mix of colors that I couldn’t resist it. I had been looking at the Karndean tiles, and thought the stone mosaic look on those tiles was similar enough to the real stone look of the pebble tiles that I could get away with it. I love the feel of the stone floor, and it’s wonderfully not slippery. And it has an electric heat mat underneath, which makes it incredibly luxurious!

Editor’s Note: Pam says that she saw plenty of the Flintstones-style pebble floor tile in the towers of tile at World of Tile. Maybe not 40s or 50s… but yes, 60s and 70s antecedents, we’d say!

vintage bathroom

My cool vintage medicine cabinet came from the same house as the Conceal-a-Roll that was featured on RetroRenovation in August! I know it’s hard to believe, but I got the medicine cabinet off Freecycle(!) from the same man, months before he put the Conceal-a-Roll on Ebay. I told him that people really wanted this vintage stuff, so I think it’s possible that I saved the Conceal-a-Roll from the dump!

vintage bathroom

I’ve always wanted a cabinet in the bathroom to put the toilet brush in, and to store things. I designed a little cabinet to go in the very narrow space beside the toilet, which beautifully solves all the problems. The body is a narrow cabinet that I ordered from Barker cabinets to my exact specifications. The door and drawer are from a kitchen cabinet that came out of a friend’s kitchen during her recent remodel. The aqua glitter laminate(!) came from a very small piece that my dad found in the crawl space under their house, left over from when he installed aqua counters in the kitchen in the late 60s or early 70s. It was the cutout for the sink!

building cabinets

Because I know you like dogs, I’ll also send you these pictures of my my wonderful, patient and very clever brother-in-law, who spent his Christmas holiday building the cabinet for me. His Bernese Mountain Dog puppy was very helpful to the process!


There’s a reason her name is Nefarious!!!

It turned out exactly as I imagined! Thanks, James!!!

Oh, and other things I got because of RetroRenovation: one of those beautiful chrome exhaust fan grilles from House of Fans, a timer for said fan (it’s NOS off Ebay, and very cool!), the metal trim for the cabinet from Eagle Moulding, and the Redi-Niche for the shower. The fan is very hard to photograph because it’s up inside the well of a skylight. I have a picture, but it just looks like the fan and doesn’t show how it looks in the bathroom. It’s only really visible from in the shower. Which is why I have the clear shower curtain, so I can revel in the beauty of the bathroom while I’m in the shower!

vintage bathroom

The niche is so amazing!

golden retriever
Cindy and Nellie

Anyway, thanks for letting me brag a little and share some pictures! And thanks again for all the information and inspiration!

Wow, Cindy, your patience really paid off. Your bathroom turned out beautifully, and we’re sure it was well worth the 28-year wait!

Pam says her favorite part of the bathroom is that built-in bathroom cabinet next to the toilet — what in absolutely ingenious idea! We’re sure it will be widely copied all across the Retro Renovation Nation now!

We also love the light and bright new look… the Freecyle medicine cabinet (!)… the floor is very cool… all the vintage items you used… golly, Cindy, you did an amazing job!!

Thank you for sharing your story, photos and your adorable dogs with us. xoxo

  1. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Wonderful, “glowy” bathroom! It is so cool that the cabinet top comes from something your dad saved.

    Here are a few hints for those who are renovating their only bathroom. First, you can rent a porta-potty, like we did when we were having major construction on our house and needed to share our one potty with the workmen. Put it not too far from your front door so you can dash out when needed. Second, you can also rent or buy a composting toilet like the ones people put in the tiny houses and trailers. Third, you can do what my husband does in such situations. Take out the toilet tank only (when you need to get to the wall behind it) and flush with buckets of water hauled from other water sources. Take out the whole toilet the day you put in the floor, tile that area of the floor, then put the toilet back at the end of the day so you have it at night. In order to do this, you need to have a very cooperative plumber who will come at the beginning and end of the day and not charge you much, or you need do-it-yourself plumbing. That is, you have to live with the plumber or handyman or handywoman to pull this off. 🙂

    1. Heart says:

      I’d recommend the first two suggestions; it’s best not to walk on recently set floor ’tile’ for 48hrs. Although one could do this with Vinyl/laminate floors.

  2. Janet in ME says:

    Cindy, nobody mentioned the two beautiful doggies! I just LOVE Nellie’s face and Nefarious is a doggie doll! We have a half Berner and she is clingy too – they all love to lean on you and sit with you in close proximity and are such lovers. I love her name; we had a cat named Neffer but it was short for Neferkitti. Her companion was Cleocatra. Now, getting back to your beautiful bathroom – it is almost identical to ours! I adore your little cabinet but I think our toilet is closer to the wall and one wouldn’t fit in ours. How much room is there between the toilet and the wall in your bathroom? Our tile is actually formica that looks like tile but is the same color as yours and we love it. We do need to replace the eighties vinyl floor but there is nothing wrong with it so it stays for now. I think there was a window in the tub area as in yours, but at some point someone put formica up to cover it (white with gold flecks) and then a newer fiberglass tub surround over that, all of which also needs to be replaced at some point. The only thing we did so far is replace the unattractive dark walnut newer but worn vanity with a period proper sink that came out of a fifties motel we frequented for many years. When they replaced those sinks, they were happy to give us one, and it is in perfect condition. I just hope I don’t have to wait 28 years to get the floor and tub area done like you did! You did a marvelous job and it makes me love my bathroom even more!

    1. Cindy says:

      Miss Nefarious is now weighing in at 60 lbs, and getting bigger every day! Berners are great dogs! And my Nellie girl is an angel.

      The body of my little cabinet is only 7 inches wide (or deep, depending on how you look at it); the top is 8 inches. The distance from the wall to the toilet tank is 14 inches, and from the wall to the base of the toilet is a little less than 19 inches.

      1. Janet in ME says:

        Thank you so much, Cindy, for the measurements. That cabinet is indeed tiny! Our Sascha is five and is over 100 pounds now and I guess that isn’t unusual for a Berner! She has the beautiful wavy fur that you see on Miss Nefarious. Your Nellie does indeed look like a dear! I just love happy looking doggies that “smile”.

        1. Cindy says:

          To clarify more about the size of the cabinet: the drawer is 5.5 inches deep. The cabinet is 25″ X “8” and 33″ tall, including the little legs. Behind the doors under the drawer there is plenty of room to store several more rolls of toilet paper, a spare box of Kleenex, and also the doggy shampoo so Nellie can’t see it and worry!

  3. Mary Barr says:

    I am one of Cindy’s neighbors, owning a house of the same “group 14A” model. I have to tell you that Cindy did a very patient and meticulous job of planning and executing this bathroom remodel – with stunning results! I, too, have benefited from her parents’ bathroom remodel by getting a supply of the white metal wall tiles that were used in many of the houses built here in the 50’s. They will come in handy when I have to replace my original tub/shower faucets in the future…

    1. AnastasiaK says:

      How wonderful that Cindy lives in a neighborhood of like-minded mid century renovators! My neighborhood has ranch homes and tri-levels built from the 50’s through the 80’s and I cringe whenever I see a dumpster or an old piece of cabinetry in someone’s driveway!

  4. Marilyn says:

    Your bathroom is beautiful….your floor is interesting..I understand about the floor…but it works in nicely. Know you will enjoy it…

    1. pam kueber says:

      Ellen, the source of the tile is hotlinked in the story — look for the bold blue text — click on it and it will take you to the hotlinked page.

  5. Cindy H says:

    Love your bathroom! I have that same clear shower curtain over my window right now, just weeks away from a smaller bathroom remodel. Will be nice to have a shower where I’m not touching two pieces of plastic! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Brenda says:

    Cindy, this blog post definitely qualifies you for a 5 Star Cool award:
    One cool blue bathroom with all the fixings, one cool dad, one cool brother-in-law, and two cool dogs! Congratulations!!!!!

  7. Amy says:

    That little cabinet is a great addition, yet looks like it has always been there! The hardware and metal edged formica top really keep that look going – great choices!

  8. Peggy McCulloch says:

    Your dad emailed me this article on your retro bathroom, Cindy. Wow! You go, Girl! I love it. Saved the photo of you and Nellie in my Friends file. Big hug, ~Peggy

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Well done! I’m with Pam, that perfect little custome cupboard! Here’s me scrolling to find out where you got it- brilliant.

    You should be very proud !

  10. Mag says:

    I love your remodel and adore the floor tile. Who cares if it’s authentic? It captures the spirit well, and the colours work beautifully. I happen to love curves, so that pebble tile is right up this broad’s alley. Right up her alley! Thank you for sharing!

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