4 Ways to Embrace Your Bold Bathroom Tile

Interiors & Decor

You might remember one of these from your childhood; I know I do. When we moved into our Chicago suburbs home in 1993, the bathrooms all had a color theme. There was the blue bathroom, the black bathroom, and the gold bathroom. They frightened me for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, and I know from talking to many people online today that they have a different kind of fear of colored bathrooms. 

What on EARTH do you do with them if renovation isn’t in the budget? 

If you are lucky enough to inherit a colorful bath that is in good condition and well-built, I am begging you to consider keeping it. Beyond the practical reasons (the cost of replacing it and the environmental impact of replacing it, to name a few), there are plenty of other reasons to consider saving them.

For one, many of these bathrooms are tied to the historical integrity of the home. Houses built in the ’20s often offer pastel and neutral tile in a variety of designs, and the ever-polarizing pink bathrooms became popular from the ’50s all the way through the ’70s, thanks in part to First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. She redecorated her private quarters in the White House in a carnation pink shade that became known as Mamie Pink, and sparked a trend that resulted in millions of pink bathrooms sprinkled throughout American homes. 

The bathroom in our main bedroom is this shade of pink, and while it needs work on the whole, the tile itself looks brand new. So we’re keeping it and embracing the creative challenge!

In this spirit, I’m sharing a couple of my go-to design updates that can help play up the tile in your home.

1. Add wallpaper.

If the color of your tile isn’t exciting to you, there might be a way to bring in other colors to offset your existing tile. With wallpaper, you can take the retro feeling of these bathrooms and either play into the era or take it in a completely different direction and make it a bit more eclectic. Either way, the examples below help illustrate just how far wallpaper can take the feeling of your space. And even if you are nervous about using color and pattern, keep in mind that small spaces can be the perfect place to dip your toe in. 

Photo via @renovatingthepinkhouse on Instagram
Photo via @vintagebathroomlove on Instagram, courtesy of @kelliebethinteriors
Photo via @leefromamerica on Instagram

2. Paint in a complementary color.

When in doubt, a bright, crisp neutral paint can completely freshen up a space. Or you could go monochromatic and remove the contrast between the walls and tile, making a moody statement. 

Photo by Jacqueline Marque for Apartment Therapy
Photo by Thomas J. Story for Sunset Magazine
Photo by Wing Ho for Cup of Jo

3. Accessorize.

Adding decorative elements, like a Persian rug or gallery wall, can draw attention away from the tile or make it look like a design decision you made yourself. Personal details in small spaces like bathrooms go a long way and you don’t need much to make a big impact. 

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for Emily Henderson
Photo by Roger Davies for Architectural Digest
Photo by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day

4. Switch up the fixtures.

Sometimes all a bathroom needs are updated fixtures. Traditional or modern lighting fixtures can take the midcentury retro feel of colorful bathrooms and turn them into something that feels very current!

Photo via @vintagebathroomlove on Instagram, courtesy of @compaincaptures
Photo by Megan Taylor for House Beautiful
Photo by Zeke Ruelas for Emily Henderson

BY Kate Arends - March 18, 2021

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March 18, 2021 1:11 pm

Every bathroom should have a phone next to the toilet. LOL 🙂

March 19, 2021 3:16 am

I found this post SO helpful. Trying to accept my bathroom tile as they are 😉 Thank you!

January 7, 2022 8:04 pm

Hi I painted my mint green bathroom about the same color as the one in your pics. What color paint did you use for the blue vintage tile? I’m about to repaint my bathroom?

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