8 nifty cubbies designed to stash your smokes in mid century bathrooms

vintage hall mack bathroom ash trayThere was a lot of cigarette smoking in the 1950s and 1960s, so much so that bathroom fixture designers were on a competitive rampage to sell you special cigarette and ashtray holders that could fit right into your sleek, new bathroom. Above: A New Old Stock Hall Mack bathroom ash tray for sale on ebay right now, new old stock, is the most basic of what we see out there. Let’s take a closer look at this, and then, at 7 other designs of vintage recessed bathroom ash trays and cigarette holders that really dial things up a notch:

Hall-Mack Coronado Ash Tray

vintage hallmack ash trayThe ebay ash tray is the Hall-Mack Coronado design. I bet the Hall-Mack Coronado fixtures were #1 in America in the 20th Century, what do you think?

hall-mack ash trayIt’s always nice to see the original packaging and in this case, the original glass ash tray. Hall-Mack was based in Los Angeles 7, California. Who knows postal dates? When did more numbers come along? Thanks to ebay seller dave-gons41 for giving me permission to show these photos.

And golly, clicking around I see even more even MORE New Old Stock Hall Mack bathroom ash trays from other sellers. Hey, if there’s a no-smoking policy in your bathroom, these would be good for rings and such.

Rare mystery revolving toilet paper holder + ash tray

Above: A real rarity that I found in the bowels of the World of Tile. It’s revolving toilet paper holder that also revolves to present an ash tray. The ash tray is kind of like… a seat on a Ferris wheel. I traded my friend Ellen this woddity. I got her rare fish tiles, also found at World of Tile, which are now biding time in the bowels of my basement.

(Ferris wheel trivia: Who else read Devil in the White City? Magnificent, chilling true story!)

Hall-Mack Relaxation Units — two designs!

hall mack relaxation unitHall-Mack Relaxation Units packed a lot of features into their recessed wall thingy holder, including a a niche for your smokes, matches and  ash tray, along with space for reading materials so you could … sit back and not rush things.

bathroom ashtray

And lookie this, I discovered this smaller horizontal Relaxation Unit, circa 1956, in an online catalog here. And now we count: Eight!

In all: 5 different brands of Relaxation Units, with rooms for your smokes

satin glide bathroom
This Satin Glide bathroom is a reader favorite — it has kinda… everything, and launched a buncha DIY vanity designs too.

I actually have photos and other materials on five different brands of Relaxation Units — it was a Relaxation Unit Moonshot!

See all the designs in this story >> Hall-Mack, Satin Glide, Family Hospitality, Perma-Bilt, and a Mystery Unit.

Why did American need all these Marlboro-Ready Bathroom Escape Pods?

In our previous stories, readers conjectured:

Kim said:

…“designed with a man in mind” is making me laugh and laugh. I grew up with my single mom, sister, and grandparents in one household, and I suspect my grandpa, the lone male among three generations of ladies, could’ve used a Relaxation Unit. He used to go sit in his car in the driveway and read the paper, to get away from us!

LA573 said:

Did people use to smoke in bathrooms? I guess it was the only room other than the kitchen likely to have an exhaust fan in it Though bizarrely, I’ve rented an apartment that had a Nutone through-the-wall exhaust fan in the bedroom, and another with a exhaust fan hidden behind built-in shelving in the living room (which my stoner roommate loved).

Joe said:

I never could understand why anyone would want to spend that-much time in a bathroom. Especially enough time to read a magazine. I do know that some went there to smoke. (Almost-everyone smoked back then.) Then, one day, my dad explained it. He said that was often the only place husbands could go to “hide” from their wives.

Allison said:

satin glide relaxation unitIn the 50s and 60s, families were getting bigger, but houses were actually getting smaller than those built in the early part of the century.

The bathroom was probably the only spot where one could reliably be alone for a while; hence the luxury of the Relaxation Unit!

^^I like this explanation a lot.

Jennie piped in

My grandpa could still go out to the outhouse we saved behind the garage at our family farm.

To which Neil responded:

Yeah, the outhouse on my grandparent’s Kentucky farm, where I grew up, was sufficiently far away, behind the henhouse, for some good, quiet privacy. But “relaxation” there was in short supply between Oct. and May; during those months you were likely to freeze your _ss off if you lingered too long.

Oh, and in the summers, the wasps, green-flies and dirt-daubers buzzing around inside it were an occasional misery, too.
The only reading material, the Sears catalog, doubled as the toilet paper; now That’s ecology. And the little wooden house had its other strong points, for sure.

Good times.

Additional New Old Stock Hall-Mack treasures on ebay right now:

Note, I earn a small commission if you make a purchase after following some links, to ebay and amazon.

  1. Kathleen D says:

    My grandma always smoked in the bathroom but she didn’t have one of those. I for one don’t understand why people want to stay in there and read, gross. Yes I did read Devil in the White City.

  2. Lauren says:

    What about storage and easy access for feminine hygiene products? I guess my modern sensibilities want them handy. In the past they were probably as hidden and inconvenient as possible. When I was a kid we kept them buried in the back of the linen closet. If I had a relaxation unit they would be in there!

      1. Dan says:

        Those of us of a certain age remember those armrest ashtrays in airplanes as well. The latest flight I recall that still allowed smoking was 1994, I think.

  3. Wendellyn Plummer says:

    My Mother and Dad both smoked in the bathroom. Even though we did not have a fancy wall unit, we did have a fancy ceramic ashtray and brass item that sat in the bathroom. Even though I have never smoked, I loved that silly ashtray/ brass stand. The bottom even had a shelf for extra rolls of TP. Unfortunately, it got sold by my brother with the rest of my parents things. Aren’t families grand?

  4. carolyn says:

    I can’t tell from the picture but does it hook on/into the Wall unit?
    Well…to be gross, and getting my info from a smoker, smoking relaxes the sphincter to more easily eliminate. BUT staying too long is/was a cause for buying Preparation H.
    Reader’s Digest would have been read by the whole family, especially the humor sections. Make a bet the Lagina boys read about Oak Island in the bathroom?
    And, if Readers Digest Condensed Books got ‘hold of “The Devil in the White City”, I might be able to get past the first 50 pgs. I DID try mightily but just couldn’t. And I’m a voracious reader. Kept the book, may try again.

  5. Paige says:

    Well, necessity is the mother of invention, hahaha! All of these products are so fun.

    Picked up Devil in the White City at a library sale about 7 years ago. Loved it and been waiting for the film version that was supposed to be made with Leonardo de Caprio about 6 years ago!

  6. Steve Wagner says:

    When the virtually-untouched 1958 MCM Home of My Dreams down the street went on the market, I of course had to go over and be a looky-loo. There were two Realtors there that stormy day; a Millennial and a Gen-X’er. They knew I was not going to buy, so perhaps felt more free to be chatty. As I viewed the relaxation center set into the terrific blue-tiled wall in the master bath, the Gen-X’er said, “doesn’t that thing just make this bath scream for a complete update?”. The Millennial gasped and exclaimed, “that may be exactly the vintage feature that sells this house!”

    My dream home sold the next week for a full $20K over list price. Granted, the white roman brick fireplace may have had something more to do with that; still…

    I felt I had witnessed, in this little exchange, all of what this site has been educating readers about- at least in terms of recognizing the value of keeping whatever vintage detail you can in your mid century home – and how the younger generation venerates MCM much like the previous generation made Victorian houses a hot commodity. So, one better think twice about ripping out a relaxation center just because nobody smokes anymore.

    I’m a Gen X’er myself, but I can say it was the Millennial who was the brightest bulb in that beautiful blue bathroom that day!

    However curious or useless we might think a built in ashtray in the loo might be now, pulling it out just might be flushing greenbacks down the toilet- along with a great conversation piece for your visitors, who shall ponder it while they…relax.

      1. DJ Sparkles says:

        Too funny! Although I was thinking looky-loo-loo! 😉

        Wish we had a link to the house listing. I’m a dedicated online looky-loo/stalker.

  7. David P. Reeves says:

    Someone might have already said it, but postal codes changed July 1, 1963. The ZIP code was introduced and two letter state abbreviations became the standard (i.e. AL versus ALA for Alabama). (I still use ALA though) Large cities (LA, NYC, Washington D.C., etc.) had numbers like “Los Angeles 7” in the article above dating to between the World Wars, I believe.

  8. DJ Shoepe says:

    As soon as I saw the accommodations for the bathroom butts (cigarette butts, that is), my mind immediately went to the smell! Yes, there is a particular smell of bathroom combined with cigarette butts, both from home and public restrooms. It’s not a good smell, by any means, but it is a part of my childhood memories.

    That said, I would love one of those “relaxation units”! My family was big on reading in the loo. Isn’t that what the Reader’s Digest was for?

  9. johanna says:

    Makes sense people would want an ashtray when you see how many burn marks there are on old vanity tops. Everyone was already smoking in the bathroom and just messing up the xisting fixtures.

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Good point.

      Fun fact: Formica actually made a “burn-proof” laminate. There was some kind of special aluminum or other sort of metal layer underneath the top layer, as I recall. I don’t really understand the whole idea… but I remember reading about it once.

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