A Modest Retro Bathoom Makeover

A Modest Retro Bathoom Makeover

Leah Moss
Mar 2, 2010

The black and white vintage tiles in our 1940s home did not present the obvious challenges that many of our neighbors have experienced while trying to tie in their bubble gum pink tile work. However, with a tiny budget ($50!) and a mishmash of clashing white tiles that had been added over time, we had our work cut out for us.

We have two bathrooms, and this one is next to my daughters' room, and is primarily used by them. It's difficult to tell from the terrible quality of the before photo— my old computer crashed taking all my precious before photos with it!— but when we moved in the wall color was actually more of a light purple than a periwinkle, and it had a distinctly old lady feel to it. Also some of the white tiles had been replaced over the years with tiles of varying hues, some were more gray, some were more yellow, and the original tiles are more of a light ivory (picture 2). A few months of living with the combination of the old lady purple and the mismatched white tiles had us wanting to try something fresh and bright.

First, using left over paint from other rooms, I tried a white, then a gray, then an almost black, but each of those colors only seemed to highlight the mismatched white tiles, making the small bathroom look dingy rather than crisp. So I decided to go a different route: bold distraction!

We do not have many saturated hues in the rest of our home, and in general I tend to prefer a subtle palette, but I figured that the bold black and white tiles on the floor had already ruined any chances of creating a peaceful bathroom. So I decided to follow the inspiration of one of my favorite retro butler pantries (picture 3), designed by Jason Bell and featured in House Beautiful. For the walls, I chose the same color that Jason had selected for the inside of the cabinets: Benjamin Moore's South Beach. I will not lie and tell you that I instantly loved the result, because I didn't. At first the walls looked garish and jarring in the small room. However, I decided to see what I could do by simply incorporating some other black and white details.

First, I selected a lone canvas placement from Anthropologie's sale bin, and stuck it in an old black frame that I already owned. Then, on a whim, I painted a silhouette scene of my daughters (ages 3 and 4 1/2). Given the trendiness and overuse of silhouettes and decals, I was a little hesitant to take this step, but I figured that I had already painted the walls 4 times, what was one more coat if I decided that I didn't like it? It turned out that my girls loved it instantly, and I like anything that makes getting them into the bath easier...so it stayed! The final touch was the shower curtain that I picked up on sale at Target. I wanted something that would tie in the black and white without being too busy, and this one fit the bill perfectly.

A year later, this bright bathroom is still keeping our family quite happy.

Cost Breakdown:

1 quart Bejamin Moore's South Beach paint in eggshell mixed in aura paint line: $23
Anthropologie placemat: $7
Target shower curtain: $19.99

(Images: 1, 3-7: Leah Moss, 2: House Beautiful)

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