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If you’re house hunting, chances are that at least some of the homes you’ve looked at were fixer uppers. There can be advantages to buying an older home you know you’ll need to renovate — they often come with some built-in charm, and they’ll likely cost you a little less upfront (though will require more money down the road as you take on various projects).
One project that’s likely to be among the biggest undertakings in an older home? The bathroom, where you might be dealing with not only dated design details but also less-than-functional layouts and fixtures. A mid-range bathroom remodel in the U.S. can cost almost $20,000, making this project expensive, too. But if you want to cut costs down while also keeping some of that character that attracted you to your older home in the first place, one great option is to re-use vintage elements that are already in place.
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A green toilet or pink shower tiles might not be as trendy as they once were, but that doesn’t mean they can’t look amazing and even contemporary amidst the right surroundings. Need inspiration for how to make vintage features in your own bathroom pop? Here are six bathroom renovations that held onto — and celebrated — their retro-style tubs, toilets, tile, and more.
A Bathroom Redo That Invigorated the Pink Tile and Tub
In 2017, Kristi Waite and her wife bought their home, built in 1961, from Kristi’s grandparents. The house was full of memories, charm, and original fixtures, including a bathroom with all-pink everything. “The laminate flooring, sinks, and toilet needed a refresh, and the walls desperately needed a fresh coat of paint,” Kristi says. “However, the pink tub and tile were in excellent condition and we knew we wanted to keep them as an ode to my grandparents.”
A few key changes helped the pink pop. First, Kristi chose a brighter white wall paint for contrast. She also swapped out some dated, nonfunctional elements, like the built-in soap dish and the old shower head, which made the surrounding tile feel a little fresher. (The soap dish was replaced with a built-in shelf lined with white tile; it matches the section of tile that had to be removed and re-tiled around the new champagne bronze tub filler.) “We love that we were able to modernize the pink!” Kristi says. “Don’t ditch an old bathroom just because of a bold color.”
Freshly Tiled Floors That Created a More Modern Color Palette
Kristen Wineinger owns a 1909 Craftsman that came with a funky, old-school green toilet, tub, and sink combo in the bathroom. For Kristen, it wasn’t the green fixtures that turned her off of the bathroom. “The green tub, sink, and toilet were brought down by ugly beige tiles, vinyl flooring, and a very old medicine cabinet,” she explains, but she saw the potential. In four weeks, she and her spouse gave the bathroom a makeover by painting both the drywall and the wall tile a bright white and installing new black-and-white hex tile floors with a throwback look. Now, the black and white color palette puts the minty green fixtures in the spotlight. “We love that we kept the original character, just enhanced it!” Kristen says.
The “Pastel Time Capsule” That Got a Tropical Twist
Lauren Bolschitz’s (@bolschitzdesignco) home was built 1954, and she says when she moved in, the bathroom was like “a pastel time capsule.” It had pink tile on the walls, floors, and even the countertops, and while Lauren loved it, she wanted to give the bathroom an updated feel overall. To pull it off, Lauren tapped into a modern trend and painted a green arch behind the large, frameless mirror above the vanity. She painted the vanity below the pink tile a deep shade of green to match, and added a tropical shower curtain featuring both pink and green to pull everything together. “Now, we finally have a colorful, boho, maximalist bathroom of my dreams,” Lauren says.
The $200 Redo That Saved Original Hand-Painted Tile
DIYer Cindi Yang’s (@cindiyang) home was built back in 1941, and the bathroom showed its age. More than half the wall was covered in off-white tile, and the space above was painted dark red. “I never liked being in there very much,” Cindi says. “The vibes were off and it just didn’t feel like an extension of me.” Despite being encouraged to remove the tiles, she decided to work around them. Cindi repainted the walls above the tile black to match the vanity and medicine cabinet, then hung some abstract black-and-white art. The color combo brings out the tile’s cool hand-painted finish. “I love how the ‘after’ feels a bit more cozy and current,” she says. “I am most proud of the fact that I was able to work around the vintage tile that is original to the home.”
The 60-Year-Old Tile That Just Needed Matching Wallpaper
Sarah Meyer of Sarah In Style only spent $265 to give a bathroom in Tess Wilson’s 1950s home a modern day makeover. The bathroom had pastel green tiles with white grout was that wasn’t bad, but also wasn’t doing much for the space. Instead of getting rid of it, Tess and Sarah added wallpaper to the walls above the tile that leaned into the leafy green color palette. Before, the green tile felt separate from the white walls above, but introducing an almost monochromatic look with the wallpaper helped it all mesh together. “I fell in love with the wallpaper and knew it would be a perfect blend with the vintage tiles,” Tess says.
The Bold Paint Job That Was Inspired by the Vintage Fixtures
DIYer Anne’s (@ourhouseofdisco) bathroom was all about avocado: avocado green on the toilet, avocado green on the sink, avocado green on the tub, and avocado green on the… carpet. The carpet had to go, Anne decided, but to keep costs for her bathroom redo down the rest would stay. Instead of hiding those features, Anne wanted to highlight them. A paint job on the (no longer carpeted) floor paired the same green with a fresh white to create bold stripes. For an even bigger statement, Anne took those stripes up the side of the tub, onto the back wall, and finally all the way across the ceiling. A new black toilet seat coordinates with the new black tub fixtures, but the rest of the green stayed proudly in place. “I think I have transformed an unattractive bathroom into something special and cool,” Anne says. “It took a lot of time but didn’t cost that much. I think I got the maximum out of it.”