Google+ House Revivals: Decorating with Colored Bathroom Fixtures

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Decorating with Colored Bathroom Fixtures

What do you do if you inherit a bathroom with colored fixtures?  I love a beautiful vintage bath as much as the next person, but sometimes vintage bathrooms are ugly. How many times have you moved into a rental or bought a new home, only to be stuck with an avocado bathtub. And toilet. And sink?

Not everybody gets to inherit a perfectly preserved period bath like this one from Kohler's 1928 catalogue.

Most of us end up with a reality more like this avocado beauty.

If we are terribly lucky, we might even inherit some shag carpet to go with our vintage fixtures... (ewwww)!

And speaking of luck, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to rip out their old ugly stuff, like Mississippi Mojo did.  If your home is a rental, or your finances or life situation won't allow you to remodel for a while, you may just be stuck with the bathroom you inherit.

Here are some ideas on how to work with what you've got:

Layla, from The Lettered Cottage, uses PhotoShop to show how a bath can be updated with textiles and accessories. By working with the existing harvest gold fixtures to choose a textile print, and then choosing accessories using colors from the same textile, Layla was able to create an attractive bath, that looked current, in spite of the dated fixtures.

Casssity, of Remodelaholic, shared her parent's bathroom update. A full remodel was out of the question, but the space was updated with wainscoting and paint, and a textile that incorporated the fixture color was used for the shower curtain. The finished bath is quite lovely.

In my own case, I inherited a mismatched suite of fixtures. The tub and toilet were mint green, but the sink was blue, and the toilet seat was white. The retro 1950's vibe had been lost during a seventies re"muddle". The original vanity was replaced with oak, and the shower surround tile was replaced with two by two mosaic tile in off-white, with a blue-green racing stripe. The racing stripe did not match the tub and toilet, nor did it match the sink. The floor tile was gray-green, with turquoise speckles.

This is how the bathroom looked when we first viewed it -- the previous owner's tenants were still living there at the time.

We would like to completely remodel the bathroom, but since it is the only bathroom we have in our city condo, that probably won't happen soon. Twice, we have remodeled bathrooms when we had no spare bathroom, and I can tell you it is not for the faint of heart. In one case, we made multiple trips to a local McDonald's (and the boys may have made a few midnight trips out behind the garage), and in another case, we set up the den with a port-a-potty. True story. Some people leave town during their remodels, but the last time I tried that, the tile setter installed the wrong tile. 

For now, we will just work with what we've got. For starters, I had this World Market print (from the Goodwill) that incorporates the range of blues, blue-greens, and turquoise colors that already exist in the bathroom.

Also at the Goodwill, I found a simple striped shower curtain that incorporates the colors from the print. Maybe I'll change that out at some point, but for now the ready-made curtain will work just fine.

A dig through my closets produced some orange accessories that will relate nicely to the oranges in the wall art and the curtain colors.

After a little digging, we found some pale green wall paint --left over from another project, which matched one of the greens in the World Market print and related to the green in the striped curtain.  The little tole tray that was previously used for a raised dog feeding station found a new home, as well.

The seventies style oak towel rods were replaced with a wainscot and hooks -- so much more functional. We plan to paint the oak mirror frame and the oak vanity, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Honestly, the most important thing we did with this bathroom, was clean it to within an inch of its life. While it doesn't look too dirty in the original photo, trust me -- it was pretty grimy.

So, in a nutshell, here is how you make your dated and colored bath fixtures work for you when your budget is small and remodeling right now is out of the question.

  • Clean, clean, and clean. It is amazing how much better everything looks after a good scrubbing.
  • Repair missing grout and caulk. Again, it's amazing how much better a space looks when it's in good repair.
  • If you inherited carpet, pull it up (your landlord will thank you) and replace with inexpensive sticky back tile, if necessary.
  • If your landlord will let you, remove sliding doors, and carefully scrape away old caulk.
  • Consider changing out the light fixtures, or updating them with spray paint. 
  • Replace towel rods with hooks, if desired.
  • Repair and paint cabinets and mirror frames (always ask first, if you are renting).
  • Find a textile or an inexpensive print that incorporates the fixture color and tile colors and use that as a jumping off point when choosing accessories. 

Good luck!