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March 16, 2011

Vintage Bathroom-Wrecker Rant

By RetroRuth

Okay, okay.  So I know that everyone has the right to their opinion. And everyone has a different idea about what looks good and what doesn’t. But when I see something like this:


Entered in a contest for the “Ugliest Bathroom”,  I don’t see reason.

I just see red.

Premier Tile & Stone in Midland is running a contest to find the “Ugly Bathroom” in my town. You can see all the entries here. Some of them really are ugly.  And worn down. And full of mold.  But some of them are just ridiculous. The  “entry” above is truly disgusting.

The person who entered the blue bathroom wrote this as their reason why people should vote their bathroom the “ugliest”:

The structure and tiles of this bathroom are in great shape, considering the age of the house … but the colors are a little hard on the eyes. Can you imagine coming into this every day? Not too relaxing! We would like to tear out the shower and replace with a soaker tub and shower fixtures. Up-to-date tile is preferred, especially if we can highlight the great block glass window! The sink space is limited; so is the toilet. But with a little engineering and sweat equity, we think this bathroom can become a highlight of the house! Thanks for voting!

So, let me get this straight.  You want to rip out good quality tile to highlight a glass block window? Really? On what planet does that make sense?

Did it occur to you that this bathroom may already be the highlight of your house?

Calm down, calm down. Deep breath. Moving on.


This is another submission.

I can hear some of you screaming. Really. Right through the internet.

The pink bathroom submitter writes:

This is our main bathroom.. That EVERYONE see’s. And we are really tired of comments we receive every time they use it. This obviously was the standard issue back in the 50’s. It may of been fine back then, but it’s really starting to wear on us and we would really like to have a makeover which we can’t afford at this time 🙁 PLEASE GET RID OF OUR UGLY PINK TILE AND TUBE!!!!

Yeah, it doesn’t sound like you need a new bathroom, lady. It sounds like you need to get some new friends. You know, some polite ones?

Also,  the last plea would have had more effect on me if I could have found a pink tube to get all upset about.

And then there is this:


Which our more eagle-eyed readers will recognize from this poor house that we were praying would be snapped up by a mid-mod buyer. 

But obviously got a gutter instead.

The gutter writes:

We have dubbed this the “Crane infested” bathroom! No shower, just a tub. We’d like to put in a ceramic tile shower with glass surround, new toilet and vanity. This is the Master bath, so a romantic retreat for two would be awesome!

Awww…no shower. What a tragedy. My heart bleeds for you. That’s a great reason to destroy a vintage showpiece.


And my heart also bleeds for this person too, who got the short end of the stick when they got stuck with starburst paneling and a boomerang countertop when they so desperately wanted country.

They write:

This is my mom’s bathroom that I secretly took pictures of. She keeps complaining about the 70’s counter top and paneling, but is not able to get it updated. Please help me get her bathroom in the at least the most recent century.

*Sniff* Isn’t it nice?  He is trying to destroy her bathroom. Secretly.


This person writes:

Circa 1964 ~ Yeah, lovely Peach Sinks, w/speckled formica. Gotta love the outlet in the middle of the mirror frame… The light, thats circa 1985! Oh, and that lil silver thing by the light switch… a bonafide Nutone fan system! Seriously ~ Help, there is not a color made to go with these sinks, trust me I have tried them all!

Yes! I totally know what you mean! Peach goes with NOTHING! Not gray, not pink, not white, not tan! Nothing! And I know what you mean about those stupid Nutone fans. Those things  just WON’T STOP WORKING! I wish mine would just quit so I could replace it with something cheap! And don’t even get me started on how much I hate gold-flecked Formica…


This person writes:

Oh yes, even the shower is pink. Please vote for me!

How HORRID! Even the shower???? No. No, that’s just too cruel. 

Yes, watch how fast I go to vote for you.  In fact, watch how fast I go to vote for all these bathrooms.  And all the people who entered this contest who really need a new bathroom, those people with water damage, perma-stained fixtures, mold or crumbling walls, those people will just get a poke in the eye.

Here is a piece of advice: Next time, BUY A DIFFERENT HOUSE.

Whew. I think I am going to make myself a martini and lie down for a while.

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31 Responses to Vintage Bathroom-Wrecker Rant

  1. Sharon Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Yeah, I don’t get it. If you buy a house that’s 50 or 60 years old and it’s full of features and fixtures from another era, why buy it if you find those things to be so offensive to the eye? (The unanswerable question floating beneath the surface is: And why hate those things in the first place???)

    I don’t get, I don’t get it, I don’t get it! Why is the world such a difficult and confusing place?

    Is there a vintage bathroom heaven? I’d like to think that all of those tiles and fixtures at least sacrifice to the greater good of going to meet each other in some gigantic pink-tiled bathroom in the sky.

    • RetroRuth Reply

      March 16, 2011 at 9:39 am

      Pam! I am on it! 🙂

      Sharon – Ahhh…vintage bathroom heaven. That sounds so lovely. Can you imagine it? Colored tile as far as the eye can see and herds of pink toliets.
      Wait. I think that might be MY heaven!

  2. pam kueber Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 9:02 am


    Ruth, I encourage you to insert yourself into the local dialog and try to help these folks understand their treasures. Good luck !

  3. Toni Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Love the boomerang countertop! Why remove these unique, well-maintained bathrooms for something meh?

  4. Brini Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I agree with Pam. If anyone can turn the tides in the discussion you can – it takes passion and you have it.

  5. Sara in AZ Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I think this is like the most depressing thing ever. I have been trying for months, make that years, to find a house with awesome original bathrooms like this and these people just want to destroy them.

    I can only imagine what bland shade of vanilla white everything will go in once the winners of this contest have decided on their “dream” bathroom.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how sad this makes me. 🙁

  6. Perri Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Dontcha just wish there was a way to give them their heart’s desire? To take the bathrooms out of their houses like a perfect ice cream scoop, then plop it right into yours or some other *deserving* person’s home? No dessert for you, you Gutter!!!
    Oooh, then leave them a jagged hole with torn out wiring, flapping insulation, and a contractor who won’t return their calls.
    The comment ‘Their taste is all in their mouth.’ applies here. If any is to be found at all.

  7. RetroRuth Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Toni – I know. The WORST PART is the prize in the competition is only a $3,000 bathroom makeover. $3,000. That’s it. That’s like a drop in the bucket of a real makeover. And people are willing to gut their bathroom for that.

    Thanks, Brini. I already wrote a nice, polite letter to the editor about it. I will let you know if I hear anything back!

    Sara – Girl, I am so sorry to make you depressed! Yes, people here just don’t realize how good they have it and how lucky they are.

    Perri – Hah! Yes! A “house-scoop”! They have no idea how lucky they really are. And that description totally applies to them. Gah.

  8. toni Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I’ve tried registering on that site to add comments and make sure more votes go to the bathrooms that REALLY need replacing, but it won’t send me the confirmation email. grrr.

    It’d be nice if the people could at least carefully remove the tile, sinks, tubs and toilets and sell them to people who would appreciate them.

    • RetroRuth Reply

      March 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      Yeah, Toni, I know what you mean about the comments on that site. They are moderated, and I have tried several times to leave a comment encouraging some of the contestants to think about it more, but all those comments aren’t being posted. That is why I had to do this post, because I needed to rant! 🙂

  9. toni Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    You know, the bathroom with the boomerang countertop and starburst paneling would look super cook with a retro redo. steel cabinets, starburst wall art. no awful wood toilet seat. those are the crimes in that bathroom, not the paneling and the counter. okay, geez, I need to let it go.

  10. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I just…just…argh! It makes me want to cry and scream all at once. What in God’s name is wrong with color in a bathroom? Or pattern? What top-secret insanity-laced special Kool-Aid has been consumed by such a huge number of our population?

    Think outside of the box, people! And for heaven’s sake…look how pristine the tile is…and the grout…and the fixtures. Someone took extremely excellent care of these bathrooms for fifty to sixty years…why? So that you can rip them out now. Yep.

    Why, of course you’d want to rip out perfectly good stuff because…well, because it isn’t beige. I’m so incensed over this stuff. And the person who was like “my guests SEE it!” makes me so cranky. Hello, there are people in this world who have horrible bathrooms…or no bathrooms…or a hole in the ground to do their business in. If your guests don’t like it, tell them to go in the yard. And while you’re at it, get new friends.

    I guarantee you that this stuff is going to come back in style – and not just for the people who truly appreciate it and understand why it’s so wonderful…but for the teeming masses who have to follow the flock. These very same people will one day be ripping out their beige spa retreat bathrooms with glass block and paying full-price retail at the home improvement stores for materials and fixtures that are made brand new….to what? to look like these photos. And they’ll spend a pretty price to do it.

    All that we can hope is that someone wins this contest who really NEEDS a new bathroom. And that these people will learn to at least ignore their bathrooms and then move away one day so that people who love them will finally have them.

  11. KirkW Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    The bathrooms in these pictures are representative of find mid-century craftsmanship. Installling all that tile took some real skill since it was not thin-set as tile is installed today. Look at all those trim pieces! That is some high-dollar stuff even by today’s standards. But with all the “designer” shows on TV, I’m afraid few people really get it. The contest should should be honest and say somehing like, “Send us a picture of your bathroom. If you win, we’ll give you $3,000 to remove all the character and make it look like a tract house bathroom. Good luck, chumps.”
    What a tragedy!

  12. RetroRuth Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Eartha – I know what you mean and I totally hear you! I wish I could just talk to those people and say to them, “Just stop and think. Do YOU really hate this bathroom?” If someone looks deep in their heart and decides they loathe it, fine. It’s their house, they can do what they want. But what gets me the most is that they aren’t looking into their heart, they are looking to other people to tell them what they like and don’t like. They aren’t doing something because they want to, they are doing it because it is the “it” thing to do right now. Makes. Me. Sick.

    Kirk – I am right there with you. These bathrooms are beyond gorgeous and are a representation not only of historical significance but also of an amazing skill level. Whatever replaces those bathrooms will not even be on the same plain as those designs.

  13. Miss RM Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    You know, about 80% of the bathrooms in that contest are either quite nice, or just need a good scrubbing. I really hope someone DESERVING wins this contest! Anybody who wants to pull out beautiful and durable vintage tile should be shunned!

  14. KirkW Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Perhaps I was unfair to the tile/stone company sponsoring the contest and should give them a little credit. I have certainly seen (and had personally) some bathrooms that could use a $3,000 makeover. For example, I had a bathroom that had been remodeled by someone as what I call a “self-inflicted project” that really needed help. The guy before me had already done the damage and it would have been a perfect contestant for an ugly bathroom contest. I am hopeful that the sponsor will award the prize to a truly ugly bathroom and be just as insulted by the entries shown here as I am.

    • RetroRuth Reply

      March 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      KirkW – I am hopeful, too that someone who really needs it will get it!

      Miss RM – Yes! Someone deserving!

  15. Sara in AZ Reply

    March 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Eartha – You are SO right on about those crappy “Spa Retreat” bathrooms. Ugggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

  16. Toni Reply

    March 17, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I keep coming back. I love the tiny tile floors. We’re starting our home shopping and I hope to find a bathroom as nice as these.

  17. Andrea Reply

    March 17, 2011 at 1:19 am

    Man, I have never seen so many people needing smacks upside the head! I would be utterly thrilled to have any of those bathrooms! makes you wonder how much other stuff they have ripped/plan to rip out of their houses 🙁

  18. sablemable Reply

    March 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Wonder what else they’ve destroyed in their homes that were original?

  19. toni Reply

    March 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I FINALLY got the confirmation of my registration on the website and it’s too late to vote now. Voting ended at midnight. Grrrr. >:(

  20. Larry Reply

    March 17, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    No doubt they want to replace the sinks with one of those new fangled ones that looks like a salad bowl on a cube! Ugh.

  21. Adriane Reply

    March 18, 2011 at 1:27 am

    Argh! This really is frustrating! Those bathrooms are perfectly fine, and PERIOD APPROPRIATE. It really is sickening that so many people consider these vintage bathrooms to be an embarrassment. That’s so insulting to those of us who strive for such fantastic looks.

    Our bathroom in our 1955 ranch is kind of disgusting, but the issues are bad updates (like the 80’s light fixture and badly done tile on the floor). I see real estate listings in our neighborhood that still have the original penny tile (or cheaper version thereof since we are in a “starter” neighborhood) floor and get sooo jealous. We also have quite a few cracked tiles in our maroon-tiled walls. Our tub is peeling from some idiot painting it a few times, but I spend a lot of time trying to research how to fix these issues without ruining the bathroom. I love websites like yours and Pam’s (retrorenovation.com) for providing such great tips on doing so. That reminds me, I found an amazing bathroom renovation in TOH that I someday want to adapt for our bathroom, just with more of a MCM than a deco feel. I’m leaving a link, but please remove if that’s not appropriate: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20453415,00.html

    Thanks for crusading! And sorry for writing a novel.

  22. Melanie {The Tiny Tudor} Reply

    March 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I can’t believe someone would want to tear out these pretty pastel tiles! My vintage purple & black bathroom was one of the reasons I bought my home. I had to save it! I agree with you 100%, if you buy an older home you should appreciate it. (if you are interested, you can views my bathroom here:

  23. Jen Reply

    March 18, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Seeing the comments some of the homeowners left for these wonderful, charming bathrooms made me ill and angry all at once. I simply ADORE our aqua-and-black 1951 bathroom. In fact, I frequently tell my husband that if we must ever move, we need to find a way to take it with us. I cannot IMAGINE waking up and stumbling into one of the modern, “chic” travertine travesties so inexplicably popular today. They are bland, boring, predictable, and in many cases, plain ugly! Yet that’s what the winner of this contest is likely to win, and there’s a decent chance a beautiful old treasure like one of the ones you show here will be forever lost.

    (By the way, I’ve been into several of my neighbors’ homes, and have seen buttercup yellow, pink, burgundy and blue bathrooms, all from 1949-51, and they are DARLING.)

    Do we really hate our history that much? Yes, it is “just” a bathroom, but do people ever stop to think about, to consider what it meant to our grandparents and parents? The optimism, joy and good cheer these colourful beauties speak of? The individuality?

    Heaven help us. I’d much rather walk into a 50s pastel beauty like one of these than most of the styles popular today. This is an extremely upsetting post—not at ALL your fault, dear Ruth, but the fault of these people who do not realize what gems they have. If we ever ended up in a home with a travertine dump, I’d knock every last greige tile out and replace them with colour and joy the way our grandparents did in the 50s. Gaaah!

    /rant over

  24. RetroRuth Reply

    March 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Toni – That website was a joke!

    Andrea – Hopefully most of the stuff will be okay enough for them to keep. I am sure most of them have gorgeous stone fireplaces, this being Michigan and all…

    Larry – Probably!

    Adriane – Thanks! Many mid-century bathrooms have fallen prey to bad updates and/or water damage/mold/decay. I have no problem redoing where it is needed, but needless destruction kills me! I agree that period-appropriate bathrooms are a MUST!!! Thanks for the link, and write as much as you like! We love it!

    Hi Melanie! Love your bathroom! Gorgeous!

    Jen – Glad you could rant with us! I think we (the mid-century community) put up with a lot in regard to the design and remodeling attitude everyone seems to be infected with. Once in a while we have to be able to vent to each other! I agree with your thoughts on color. Not sure why people want to suck all the life out of our bathrooms, but I’m NEVER drinking that Kool-Aid!

  25. sharon Reply

    June 4, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    People are such whiners… that black and white bathroom is a serious load of awesome. As are most of the ones that didn’t get some sort of half assed 80s redo. Except for the ones that are actually hazardous (which are the only ones who should win)there’s nothing here that a coat of paint and some new fixtures wouldn’t take care of. And I want to know where that amazing mirror &chandelier thing came from, if he doesn’t want it, I do.

  26. Jacquie Reply

    June 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    It’s funny, and sad at the same time, no one ever wants what they bought, only us vintage lovers. Thing is, they probably got the house for a great price cause they griped about “NO UPGRADES”! They do need to be enlightened, however,that whatever they pull out of their unwanted bath space,can be sold on a site like ebay or CL for a bit of cash, to their advantage.. and we lovers of the unique and wonderful mid century look can then make lemonade out of lemons, and grab the goodness for ourselves…cause think about it friends…if someone does’nt demo…we don’t get to DECORATE!!! Just sayin’!! Even though my house was built in 1960, the only thing left was the kitchen (fortunately) the bathrooms had long been disfigured! I had to do my best with what I could find to bring them back to their glory days…and it is all mostly salvage.

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  28. Cooper Reply

    January 15, 2014 at 12:07 am

    I personally always prefer to have light color for my bathroom tiles. Yes I do agree that the light color gets dirty earlier. But still they look very elegant.

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