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Fun with plastic bathroom tile — Lori’s genius powder room design!

pretty plastic tile bathroom design“Fun with plastic bathroom tile” is the theme of today’s reader bathroom spotlight: Readers Lori and Ed — whose gobsmacking fun kitchen was featured a while back — at the same time designed this adjacent powder room to keep the happy, eclectic, colorful vibe going. Lori loves color — a gift from her grandmother, who designed rooms combining lilac and mint green, as one example, she told me when we talked via the phone recently. I am particularly excited to show this bathroom because Lori shows us how we can combine different colors of tiles in a bold way that I don’t think I’ve ever featured before.

Creating a fun design with plastic tile

In this case, the bathroom is designed using plastic tiles that Lori bought on ebay. I think you can still get vintage plastic tiles like this *relatively affordably* today on ebay — IF you take your time and can wait for the right deal(s).

To create her design, Lori laid the different tiles out on the floor to experiment and come up with her pleasing design. She also is a collector of vintage decorating catalogs, so she was able to ogle ideas there.

Part of what made this small-bathroom project possible, I think, is that plastic tiles may mostly come up for sale in small batches — they were leftovers. So here, Lori could combine a number of lots into one cohesive, colorful design. Another thing about plastic tiles: They came in various sizes — notice how Lori was able to make really good use of narrow liner tiles to “section” the different colors. She also has courses of 2×4-ers in green and pink. Overall: A very very pleasing, graphic design — it just “makes sense” — and as already demonstrated in your kitchen, you have a terrific gift in putting shapes and colors together beautifully, Lori!

vintage bathroom vanityLori’s bathroom also includes a 1957 bathroom vanity found on ebay. It’s faced with light pink laminate with glitter and marbling — what a beauty!

When I first saw this bathroom, I was confused about whether the tiles were plastic or ceramic because as seen in the photo above, there are grout lines. Lori explained that the plastic tile in her kitchen was installed the ‘traditional’ way — just butting one plastic tile up against the other (the edges of the tiles curved downward to enable this type of install.) For the bathroom, she wanted to do something different, so decided to make the tiles look like they were grouted. To get this effect, her husband (I think she told me that Ed installed the plastic tiles), left a wee bit of space between each tile, then smoothed the mastic that burped up in between each tile to create the ‘grout’ line.

Among the subcontractors Lori and Ed worked with, one had worked with plastic tiles in decades past and was able to recommend an appropriate adhesive available today. Readers, on questions like this, I recommend you consult with pros — perhaps the professionals in longtime local tile stores can advise. Another idea — how about trying a company like Mapei, which seems to make a variety of mastics, to see if they can make a recommendation.

vintage sparkle laminate vanityLori loved how the cabinet pulls on the vanity drawers were angled on the vanity. Agreed!

sparkle laminateHere’s a closer look at the sparkle laminate. Remember, if you want sparkle laminate today, you can now get it at Make It Midcentury.

The floors are a Congoleum VCT in a (now-discontinued) color Bubble Gum pink. Note, there ARE colorful VCT floor tile options still out there, see my roundup story for where to search. And the additional details in this bathroom: That’s a vintage pink toilet peeking out, and who doesn’t love some vintage chalkware fish and a little vintage hamper — just a few, carefully edited decorative accessories to complement the busy, designed-to-steal-the-show tile.

Lori says she uses this bathroom to put her makeup on — yes, the pink bathroom “retro botox” effect — all that pink takes 10 years off, at least — at it again!

pretty plastic tile bathroom design

Lori said:

I designed the pattern that we used to resemble an original fifties style bathroom wall.

And I think she accomplished this fabulously! Thank you, Lori and Ed, for sharing yet another story with us! Such a happy space — you are among my top design role models of all time! xoxo pam

blue yellow and pink kitchen with black and white checkerboard floors
Here’s Lori’s equally — or even more so — delicious kitchen — Just click this photo to get to the whole story.

  1. Laura says:

    My parents had plastic “tile” which came in paneling like pieces in our 1950s bathroom. I was too young to tell you anything about this kind of product. I had no idea they might also be produced as individual tiles.

  2. Debbie in Portland says:

    I am swooning over those chalkware fish and that cabinet! Glitter AND marbling, it just doesn’t come any more retro-perfect than THAT!

  3. carolyn says:

    In the RH corner of the vanity – is that a vintage hair dryer?
    This story feels like making lemonade out of lemons. Can’t do the whole thing in one set? Wait til you have “enough” of something else. We sometimes (often) need someone to “see” things differently to work around obstacles.
    Good job, Lori & Ed.

  4. Karin Jeffrey says:

    I think this is definitely in the running for your reno of the year. The highest compliment is that it looks original to the house. What a brilliant idea to simulate grout. I would never have guessed the tile was plastic.

  5. Kathy Cutforth says:

    Love this and it is a great way to use odds and ends of any kind of tile. Didn’t know they even made plastic liner tile.

    Any chance of sharing what kind of mastic was used? I find that sort of information maddingly difficult to find, and you surely can’t trust anyone in the big box stores to know unless you happen to get an old-timer with a bad back. Please share 🙂

  6. Wendellyn Plummer says:

    What an amazing job! When my parents built their house in 1958-1959 they chose to use the plastic , Mother of Pearl White and Mint Green combo in the one and only bathroom. We also had a Mint Green tub, sink and stool. My Dad was a tall person, 6′ 4″ and therefore they had the vanity custom built. The vanity was so tall that I had to open the bottom drawer and stand on the edge of the drawer to brush my teeth! I was six years old at the time and the top of the counter was at eye level for me! I never saw Plastic tiles in anyone else’s bathroom, so I thought my parents just couldn’t afford the “Real” ones. The tiles were extremely durable, as my parents raised four children in that house and the plastic tile was still there when they sold the house 40 years later.

  7. Pam Kueber says:

    Hi Kathy, the project was a while ago, Lori did not remember. Check the story for what I said about this….

  8. CarolK says:

    Wendellyn,

    My parents had plastic tile in the bathroom of their 1960 ranch. I don’t know if that tile had anything to do with their 1980s reno of not, but it seemed really flimsy. We’ve got real ceramic tile in our 1965 ranch and it’s still in good condition. I think ceramic tile is a better, more durable product although more expensive. I will say that Lori and Ed’s bathroom is lovely though.

  9. sherree says:

    We once owned a 1901 farmhouse that had a bathroom added sometime in the late 50’s. It had a pink tub, pedestal sink and pink and charcoal plastic tile from floor to ceiling. Sadly some of it was damaged and falling off and the adhesive had oozed out and turned yellow. It all was removed in favor of a more “period” restoration for the era of the house. I wish I had that bathroom now!

  10. Allison says:

    I have several boxes of pink and green 1950s plastic tile I found in the garage when I bought this cottage… better get around to listing them on ebay, I guess!

  11. Dana says:

    My 1920’s home that was remodeled top to bottom in the early 60’s is dripping with faux marble laminate panels (not sure if that’s the right lingo) which I think is great. Then looked underneath the sink and there is this small 2ft section behind the plumbing covered in pink plastic tiles!

    Oh, and my entire kitchen is pale gray plastic tiles with some decorative stripes. 🙂 Love it! Glad to see she was able to find some tiles on ebay. I’ve looked before just to have some on hand for the kitchen but haven’t found a matching color. Will have to check again soon.

  12. Pam Kueber says:

    brian, I see them come up on ebay occasionally. Other than that, the usual sources: etsy, craigslist, facebook marketplace, estate sales, vintage shops….

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