More fun with atomic starburst decals — Leila keeps family tradition going with her bathroom decorating project

Baby in vintage bathroom on board! I “met” Leila on our Facebook page and was entranced by her bathroom makeover, which was driven by her desire to create a wallpaper look but with decals. All the more fascinating: This is the house she grew up with — and she even shared photos of her as a baby in this same bathroom — yes, that’s Leila, captured in Kodak circa 1961, in the classic pink-blue-black tile bathroom before her mother started switching things up! 

The bathroom today — after Leila’s mom changed the tile years ago… and after Leila did some of her own decorating recently.

Leila wrote:

Hi Pam:

Yes, I’m thrilled that you are interested in using my bathroom on your blog. This is a small bathroom in an upstairs flat in snowy Buffalo. I started out wanting to change the very dated wallpaper that I had with some starburst mid-century pattern wallpaper. When I could not find exactly what I wanted, I investigated other options. I decided to try decals, and I found exactly what I wanted on Etsy


The hardest part was trying to figure out the placement so that they looked random. I cut out some foil in the same shapes and taped those to the wall first -to play around with the placement before I actually put on the decals. I also changed the hardware from wood block pulls to huge, mid-century round knobs which I also found on Etsy.

I scored the vintage Dixie Cup dispenser at a flea market — brand new with silver starburst cups to match!

The scalloped valance was handmade by my father in the 1950s and I treasure it. These inexpensive changes completely transformed my bathroom. I admire it every day while getting ready for work. Now I just need a soap dispenser and some towels with a mid-century vibe! Thanks.

I grew up in this house and I wanted to play up the vintage features I remember from my childhood.  I have pictures of me as an infant being bathed in the sink. It’s not a pink bathroom, but it is still very special. 🙂

Here are two pictures that span 50+years.  

That’s me after my bath circa 1961…. 

…. and here I am today sitting in that same spot in front of the mirror.  The bathroom tiles used to be pink. Don’t hate me — I had nothing to do with their demise. Blame it on my progressive mother who was always changing with the times. And like you always say, you have to work with what you’ve got — so I’m trying my best to highlight the vintage features that do remain.

This bathroom is packed with built in storage, as you can see. The cabinetry was all handmade by my father back in the 50s. It’s almost primitive compared to today’s standards. There are no drawer slides and some drawers are cockeyed, but I love it because it came from his hands. There is even a door behind the shower that opens to easily to access the plumbing.  

But by far, the most genius part is the huge swing out, hinged laundry hamper shown in the picture. It is practically hidden yet conveniently placed for dirty clothes and towels. Every house should have this! 

Thanks for your interest.  I stumbled on your blog years ago and it was like finding a friend — all these like-minded people sharing my passion!.  Someday, I’ll tell you about my vintage clothing collection 🙂


Fabulous, Leila. I love love love it! What a treasure to this home, and you are a wonderful caretaker! Thank you for sharing your story and all these photos with us!

  1. Marie Gamalski says:

    Leila….WOW..terrific job w/the stickers!!! Great placement, and so perfect I thought they were stenciled….how did you get them so smooth?? Not a “wrinkle” or bubble in site!! You were an adorable baby, and a great looking “not” baby btw ????????

  2. Sally says:

    Could we see more pictures of that lovely bath? (Rest of your house, too.) Oh please, oh please!

    In houses of long ago, I remember those great ideas — plumbing access, laundry hampers, angled counter and cabinets. Worthy concepts that deserve a comeback.

    1. Leila says:

      Pam will be putting more pictures up at some point of some custom embroidered towels that I added to my bathroom after this write-up. Those came from my unbelievably talented sister, Lisa. You will love them!

    1. Leila says:

      It’s for the overhead ceiling light in the bath/shower. Doesn’t everybody have a light in their shower?

  3. Kali says:

    BLUE TOILET LIVES! I love this bathroom so much.

    I have an early 60s blue tub in about the same shade. Would eventually like to dig up a matching toilet and sink if I can. 😀

    1. Marie Gamalski says:

      Weren’t pastel fixtures awesome?!!! Even the less than desirable colors (for some people) leading into the oranges, golds, browns, and avocados of the seventies were so much better than the eighties….when “almond” and “Navaho white” entered the lexicon ????????…I know we’re not supposed to say hate..but much/all of the eighties engendered that in me…. uugghhh “almond” ….just…sorry to say it, but……BAD…????

  4. Thank you so much, Leila, for this. I also live in the house I grew up in and was able to talk my mom out of “updates,” so the original pink and green bathrooms are still there. These bathrooms also have the built-in hampers, but they don’t tilt out. The tub-and-shower in the pink bath has the access door (opens inside the hamper), but a plumber told me that it’s too small for more than just a faucet repair.
    One good resource I’ve found if you need to find or match old cabinet pulls is Nob Hill in Dallas, TX.

  5. Plumbing access doors! Now, that is brilliant! Leila, you did a beautiful job with everything and knowing that your Dad made so much of what is there is just the greatest thing ever. I also have one of those laundry hampers in my bathroom. Does yours have any kind of liner? Our is just wood and we keep saying that it would be better if it had some kind of removable liner to keep the wood dry. Maybe a plastic bin of some sort?

    1. Marie Gamalski says:

      How awesome is that wonderful scalloped cornice that Dad made?!?! Wonderful to have a bit of your Dad where you can see it and interact with. Not sure how “wonky” the drawers are but, you can run a bar of soap over the wood of the cabinet and the underside of the drawer to make them a bit more “user friendly”… I’d leave them just the way they are…nothing’s perfect, and who wants “perfect” when you can have perfectly wonderful vintage?!?!

    2. Leila says:

      Thanks for the compliments! The decals are so easy to use and are so thin that you can see the wall texture through them, so they do indeed look painted on. If you screw up the placement, they can’t be repositioned so you want to be sure before actually sticking them on the wall. As I wrote above, applying them was a breeze, but deciding where to place them…not so much. I kept standing back and evaluating the design of my my “practice” decals to see if they looked “right” from a distance. I was trying to put them in groups of three-big, medium and small-because all design advice I’ve read states that similar objects pack more punch when put in groups of threes. It was the hardest part of this job.

      1. Pam Kueber says:

        Yes, I think I’ve written about the dynamism of threes before: The theory is, our eyes are made to match thinks in pairs. So, when we see that third item, we kinda subconsciously have to stop and think about what we are seeing — it’s more interesting, odder, more surprising. In general, this is also the power of odd’s vs. evens.

        That said: There is also a time for symmetry. And almost always: Balanced asymmetry.

    3. Leila says:

      My laundry hamper does not have any type of liner- but that is a really good idea for lifting and carrying laundry. I don’t have that issue because my laundry room is directly behind the bathroom so I only have to carry the laundry about 5 feet and just dump it in the washer. It’s another great feature my father added to this apartment back in 1952. Very few people have a laundry room with laundry basin on the second floor, just steps away from bathroom and bedroom where all the dirty clothes are generated. So convenient!

  6. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Leila, I love everything you’ve done to bring the bathroom back to its glory days. My DH built a laundry hamper similar to your talented father’s, not in the bath, but in the master bedroom as part of a massive storage wall. It doesn’t tip out, but it slides out like a drawer on European-style full extension slides. And he made it in dimensions that would hold one of those pop-up mesh laundry totes you can buy everywhere. So I just lift the tote out and carry the laundry to the laundry room.

    You can rebuild the crooked drawers with modern slides and use the same drawer fronts your dad made. We have done that with the original kitchen drawers in our 1959 ranch.

  7. morag says:

    It’s amazing how bathrooms are built now without plumbing access. I’m in the northeast and I watched in amazement the ongoing repairs at one of the houses I cleaned, where the pipes froze and damaged the bathroom walls because there was no way to turn off the water to the shower. Well, walls got all torn out, then repaired, and then all sealed up and painted over again so there was still no access! So obvious and so neglected.

  8. Kathy says:

    Your father was very talented. The angled vanity is done so well that I didn’t even notice at first. Every inch counts!

    The drawers may be worn or warped. I fixed mine with some new wood runners–just sand the old ones down and glue new ones cut to size next to the old on the bottom of the drawer.

    May need to experiment a bit to get a good fit, and some sanding on top, and candle wax on the runners. Also can put a piece of laminate or iron on smooth edging on inside edges or box to smooth the path.

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