If you are the owner of an older porcelain enamel bathtub or sinks — or are considering buying one — please see my May 2, 2016 story Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age; this article focuses on raising awareness around three other potential sources of lead dust exposure in your home – old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any era — and steps you can take to assess and, if required, address them. Also be aware that there can be other hazards in old products and materials, for more info see my Renovate Safe page.
If you are looking for mid-century bathroom fixtures — tubs, toilets, sinks, shower doors — the most likely places you are going to find them are on (1) your local craigslist, (2) Facebook Marketplace, or (2) your local Re-Store / Habitat for Humanity or other local salvage shop. The easiest and cheapest route is likely going to be to BUY LOCAL. You can see the stuff first-hand, so you know what you are getting, and you won’t pay shipping — you will haul your treasure away in your own car. Be sure to practice smart safety habits when buying from craigslist — see their recommendations.
One other idea that readers have been successful with: Ask the neighbors. Their houses originally had the same fixtures as yours, and they may have old ones in their basements, from previous remodels — or they may be about to remodel. Also: Watch the curb! Yes! We have had examples of readers deciding they needed, say, an old pink toilet — and a few days later they spotted on out on a neighbor’s curb waiting for the garbage truck. SERIOUSLY!
Tip: Another important reason to buy local is that you can be sure the color you are getting matches. There were many manufacturers back in the day — and their colors were all slightly different. If you buy locally, you can check the colors in person.
Also, try ebay. As interest in midcentury design has increased, more ebay pickers are listing sinks, tubs, etc. online — sometimes new old stock even!
The farther you get from home (craigslist, Re-Stores, or other local salvage places), the more expensive finding vintage bathroom fixtures is going to get. And that’s before you even have to think about shipping and crating. That’s because specialty places are likely to pick up only the best-of-the-best, and to do that, they also have overhead to cover. A few salvage places with online stock include:
There are surely other salvage places that will deal with you online — start searching!
Pam here. Since Jan. 1, I’ve been tenaciously focused on doing a lot of technical clean up of the blog. This has included going through stories in draft form. And ack! How did I not publish this one? It wasn’t a draft — it was finished and waiting for me! Kate completed it more than two years ago as part of our series about the history of various colors used in bathroom sinks, toilets and tubs. Hence, Kate gets the byline all these many months later! So let’s see her take us through the color lavender in bathroom sinks, bath tubs and toilets in the 20th Century. – Pam >> Heck yeah there is more →
Update in January 2019 — I added another source for vintage colored bathtubs that I discovered in 2018 along with additional information and streamlining.
Cindy wrote to ask: Where to buy pink bathtubs? My answer was not an “easy” one: Salvage. Vintage. That’s where you get color bathtubs. No one makes them new, that I know of. Heck yeah there is more →
Every Retro-Renovation-card carrying reader knows that pink bathrooms were wildly popular in midcentury America — thanks in part to First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, who popularized the color in the 1950s. When did we first see pink in bathrooms, though? And what were the different shades from the different manufacturers? I dove back into one of our favorite resources, The Building Techology Heritage Library on archive.org, to start tracking the history and see how many different pinks I could find in bathroom fixtures. Heck yeah there is more →
Peerless now seems is only offering three toilets in color colors, made new, in retro colors. Heck yeah there is more →
“Ming green — what color is that?” a reader recently asked. Pam had a few examples of this jadeite color in her vintage American Standard catalogs, and she sent Kate to hunt down more. So she headed to a favorite resource, archive.org — and found many more examples of this delicious color from Kohler, Crane, Briggs, Eljer and Montgomery Ward. Get your eyeballs ready, because Ming Green by any other name — and there are quite a few! — would look as sweet!Heck yeah there is more →
Reader Paul has come up with another way to get a bathroom sink in the retro color of your choice: Tapping his knowledge of vintage car remodeling, he had a friend at an auto body shop paint three new fiberglass sinks custom-colors to match the tubs and toilets in his 1961 split level house. The sinks turned out great and a year later — no chips in sight. Let’s take a look — including at the gorgeous “Belgian Glass” tile in two of Paul’s bathrooms.Heck yeah there is more →
If you are the owner of an older porcelain enamel bathtub or sinks — or are considering buying one — please see my May 2, 2016 story Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age; this article focuses on raising awareness around three other potential sources of lead dust exposure in your home – old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any era — and steps you can take to assess and, if required, address them.
Tracy wrote recently to ask where she could find what we call a “Cinderella” bathtub.Heck yeah there is more →
Scathing Jane sends us OhmegaSalvage.com, based in Berkeley, CA. Lots of “colored sets”…very yummy. Be prepared, shipping will likely set you back another $1000.
Jane notes, “I have one of those big square tubs in the new place. WE CLOSED! I just spent the day breathing paint dust while sanding woodwork. More lead, please…”
Congrats and thank you, SJ, and keep us apprised of your progress. Send pictures! 🙂
Briggs Beautyware is a name well-known for its mid century sinks, tubs and toilets — but the company also made steel kitchen cabinets. And, it seems like they were among the early makers of steel kitchen cabinets. The photos I’m showing here are from a catalog in my personal collection — and the catalog is dated 1938. And more: Look at these colors offered. Yes, in 1938 you could get Briggs Beautyware metal kitchen cabinets in white and 11 other gorgeous colors: Sea Green Light, Sky Blue Light, Coral (!!!!!), Sea Green Deep, Sky Blue Deep, Orchid (!!!), Lime Green, Ivory, Sandstone, and Black.
Briggs Beautyware plumbing fixtures also were available in these colors, and in some cases, you could get two-tone. For examples, see the tub above — the bottom is the darker green. And, the pedestal sink looks to be sandstone on a black pedestal.
This story, which is part of my The Retro Renovation® Encyclopedia of Vintage Steel Kitchen Cabinets, also situates steel cabinets as part of the auto-making complex. Which makes sense. Cars need pressed and enameled sheet metal. And so do steel kitchen cabinets.
By 1938, Briggs Manufacturing Company had been in business for 30 years. The company was based in Detroit. It had factories in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park, Mich.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Cleveland; Evansville, Indiana, and Dagenham, England. These all were locations closely associated with the American auto industry, which was booming.
Briggs Beautyware Cab-Unettes
My catalog is 54 pages long. The kitchen cabinets take up just five pages. I guess that’s why the text on the page above also calls them “Special Kitchen Cabinets.” That is, Briggs was known for its plumbing fixtures, not steel kitchen cabinets. But now that steel kitchen cabinets were becoming more popular, they extended their Briggs Manufacturing Company auto body business into this endeavor.
The cabinets themselves do not seem to have many features that distinguish them from other designs. The doors and drawers are full overlay, the most common design.
Okay, how about: The cabinet pulls seem to be set fairly high. The shelves are all metal and appear to be fixed (not adjustable).
From my Briggs catalog:
The “Cab-unette” fixtures illustrated … round out the Briggs Beautyware line of kitchen sinks. They are fit companions for Briggs ware, of the highest quality, individual units built to last a life-time. High grade metal, with baked enamel finish, sound-deadened doors.
Cab-unette fixtures combine maximum utility with modern lines. They are available in all Briggs colors and provide a perfect match to all Briggs Beautyware sinks…
Above: You could have any color linoleum countertop as long as it was black. << Ford joke. I’m not sure this is true re the Briggs’, but I do know from previous research, that linoleum kitchen countertops during this period tended to be in dark colors. Black, red, green. Also, countertop laminate was not invented until 1938, and not popularized until after World War II ended.
20 combinations illustrated, with 42″ and 60″ Briggs drainboard sinks
Steel bathroom vanity cabinets too — including in a vitreous porcelain finish
Briggs also had steel bathroom vanities. Read the fine print and it seems there were two finishes. Above: A “Synthetic Enamel” finish. I presume that means some sort of paint. And in all the colors, too. Note, these bathroom vanity designs are deco-curvy, unlike the kitchen cab-unettes.
Briggs Manufacturing Company, circa 1938, must have really been something!
Readers, if you find more info or photos or examples of these Briggs Beautyware Cab-Unettes, be sure to contact me, I’d love to capture more info. And in colors — double extra bonus points!