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How To Refresh a Vintage Bathroom + Keep the Charm: II of II

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

This post is sponsored by Lowe’s. See part I of this II post series right here!

As it turns out (but probably not so surprisingly?), vintage bathrooms are very polarizing! We enjoyed reading each and every one of your thoughtful responses to part I of Pete and Rachael’s bathroom refresh, and we quickly saw that there were two schools of thought.

On one hand, we heard the pain points of vintage bath owners; you love your mint, pink and yellow tiles, but you don’t know how to make them work in your day-to-day. We received messages with photos of your own baths attached, and we were honestly green – mint? – with envy over your beautiful spaces! In most cases, a quick coat of paint on the walls would do wonders, in others, a swap for modern plumbing would allow you to see your room(s) with fresh eyes.

On the other hand, many of you thought that the photos from our friends’ bathroom was the after image. And, well, we get it. It’s an adorable space! That said, there were many elements that weren’t working hard enough for their family. While dramatic, it felt closed in and heavy. The tile wasn’t the standout – maybe it was the ceiling medallion? Or the black ceiling? Or the contrast of the yellow crown? And from a functionality standpoint, the shower head leaked and the toilet had its own set of issues! Simply put, the eye didn’t know where to rest, and the homeowners were ready for a makeover. Scratch that, a makeunder. Here’s a reminder of where we started:

Before Our Makeunder

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

And After!

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

Our whole goal was to make Pete and Rachael fall head over heels in love with their vintage bathroom, and we shopped from Lowe’s to bring our vintage bath makeunder to life! We love that Lowe’s has a curated collection of Kohler products, for which we were able to match fixtures they already had (like their existing Kohler pedestal sink) to new (like their Kohler Memoirs toilet!). The best part is that since Lowe’s had everything we needed – and for less! – we had every excuse to help them refresh this bath once and for all.

Here’s a better view of the sink and vanity, before and after:

Before Our Makeunder

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

And After!

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

We started from the ceiling and worked our way down. Paint. Changed. Everything. While we’re normally big fans of dark paint (especially in a small space, see exhibit A and B), it was fighting with that beautiful tile. Dark paint can even help to make a tiny room feel larger; the walls recede, and it can trick the eye. But in this case, the yellow tile provides a visual stopping paint, and the black paint above felt like a dark blanket!

The black ceiling and yellow crown had to go. We removed the ornate medallion in favor of this more streamlined one, caulked all the seams where the crown met the wall (it had never been done!) and gave everything two coats of untinted Valspar Signature Ultra White paint in an eggshell finish. Afterwards, a funny thing happened. Scott and I said to one another, did you realize there was a black tile border? Ha! That stunning black cap along the yellow tiles had blended right into the black paint. Now, it shines.

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Homeblack and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

The sconces were a challenge, because the backplate needed to be at least 7″ in diameter to cover up the junction box. When we removed the old sconces, it became very clear why they were chosen – the bases were barely large enough to cover where the tile meets up to the j-box. You might even notice that the sconces in our refresh are not the same ones on our initial mood board; they fell into backorder at the last minute, so I chose these Quoizel Soho sconces the morning of the makeunder!

Most wall sconces have a backplate of 4-5″, so we had to get a little creative. The Soho sconces have a 5″ backplate and were only available in a nickel finish, but I remedied that with a few thin coats of matte black spray paint. To cover the exposed wall, we found an item called a ‘goof ring’! It’s essentially a ring of metal to help conceal areas where drywall or tile are cut too large for a fixture. I sprayed those black as well, and now no one’s the wiser (except you, because you’re reading this). Down the road, the homeowners may look into vintage tile reproduction to replace the tiles that were cut too small, in which case, they can remove the goof ring altogether.

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Homeblack and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

The Soho sconces could be mounted up or down, but we chose to hang them down so they would be more in line with your face when standing in front of the sink. And do you see that sweet tile detail that intersects with the mirror? Now that the lights hang downward, you see the detail in its entirety!

The other big difference with the vanity is that the mirror is different. Initially, we thought we’d replace the cabinet for a height better suited to the space, but on a whim, Scott removed the old mirror, and we discovered the original curved shape from decades ago! Rachael brought the door to a local glass repair shop, and they cut a new mirror to perfectly mimic the shape. The curved top was our lucky find, and we’re still pinching ourselves. Ugh, we love it so, so much.

Before Refresh

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

Progress

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

After Refresh

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

For extra storage, we installed a sleek Moen glass shelf above the toilet, and I couldn’t resist sprinkling in some low-light loving ferns. Every room needs some greenery! You can see below, right above the toilet, there’s a darker yellow spot where an old anchor used to be. Pete used a tile epoxy to touch that area up with a similar color, but the plants help to conceal those areas, too.

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Homeblack and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

The toilet was replaced with a Kohler Memoirs design, which matches the existing pedestal sink perfectly:

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

On the other side of the room, we tucked a polished chrome shower rod on the inside of the alcove. In doing so, the end hardware is concealed, and it somehow gives off a more custom feel when paired with a classic waffle weave shower curtain. The curtain itself just barely kisses the floor, which is a look I didn’t think I’d love, but it ended up feeling luxe and intentional.

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

The shower head was more of a challenge due to the curvature of the alcove, but this was a quick fix; we used a shower arm mount with this Kohler Fairfax shower head to raise it up!

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

Lest you think that the entire makeunder went off without a hitch, I’d like to share the one area that didn’t go as planned – the tub filler. We wanted to keep those cute hot and cold valves, so our idea was to replace only the tub filler (the one you see below leaks and has a deteriorating finish). The plumbing can be accessed from a closet behind the shower, but all of the pipes are completely buried beneath many, many layers of plaster and mortar! Being a vintage bath, we were bound to run into an issue, and this was it. We’ve saved this task for a professional.

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

To complete the refresh, we had (too much?) fun playing with the many nooks and crannies around the room. We neatly folded fluffy cotton washcloths above the sink and onto the vintage towel bars. I also tucked one of their daughter’s teeny, tiny dinosaur figurines into the unused soap cubby (you know I had to!), and we hung her baby silhouette with a piece of rope from a towel hook.

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Homeblack and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

A lot of other tasks go on behind the scenes to get a vintage bathroom up to snuff. Caulk. Tile repair. Grout scrubbing, polishing of existing fixtures and touching up the peeling black paint of the window. These aren’t physical things, but they’re the checklist items that make waves in how a space not only functions, but how it makes you feel. These are the small details that add up in a big way.

Before the final styling, we kicked Pete and Rachel out of the bath, and Scott and I hung the towels just so, twisted LED bulbs into the sconces and lit a candle. We welcomed them into their ‘new’ vintage bathroom, and they were overjoyed! Most importantly? That pretty tile is now, finally, the star of the show.

black and yellow vintage bathroom | Lowe's bathroom refresh | via Yellow Brick Home

Room Sources:

Valspar paint in Ultra White, eggshell finish | Kohler Memoirs toilet | Quoizel Soho sconces | Moen shelf | allen + roth shower curtain | Barclay chrome shower rod | chrome shower hooks | Kohler Fairfax shower head | shower arm mount | Portfolio ceiling medallion | organic cotton bath towels

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  • Caitlin Spearson3.15.19 - 6:39 AM

    It’s beautiful, but these bathrooms are so not for me. The colored tiles make me twitch haha. So glad we didn’t have one in the house we bought, so I wouldn’t have to wrestle with whether or not to rip it out.

    I definitely think the white walls were the way to go! That bathroom doesn’t need anything “extra.” :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 9:19 AM

      Hahah, we understand! The heart wants what it wants. Luckily you weren’t put in that position!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah3.15.19 - 8:15 AM

    So glad to see vintage bathrooms get the love they deserve! All too many people are ready to rip them out entirely, but I think there’s so much potential for charming there. (Although I must admit, of the classic pink, mint, and yellow, yellow is definitely the one I would struggle the most with keeping…)ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 9:20 AM

      We’re with you. Yellow is a tough one, but we also don’t see it as often!ReplyCancel

    • SheLikesToTravel3.15.19 - 1:35 PM

      Oh, that is funny to me because yellow is my preference if I get a vintage bathroom.

      I liked the design of the before, but the rest of the house would really have to live up to it. I like the after design a lot too!ReplyCancel

  • thelady3.15.19 - 8:39 AM

    This is so beautiful! So crisp and lovely. It looks like a beautiful boutique hotel with a history! And that mirror !! WowReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 9:18 AM

      The mirror makes my heart sing, for sure.ReplyCancel

  • Kara3.15.19 - 8:41 AM

    I LOVE the challenge of working with what you’ve got and honoring the history of a house. So happy to see that you were able to accomplish that in this space. I’m also happy that some of the fixtures you sourced, like that shower head, will help solve some of my own bath problems!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 9:18 AM

      Hooray! That shower arm was a game changer.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara Flynn3.15.19 - 8:53 AM

    I love the new makeover. It feels so much lighter and brighter. But I have to admit that I also loved the old fashioned glamour of the Before. I’m betting that it is an age thing. The Before reminded me a European hotel bathroom; heavy and grand, rather museum like. For such a small space brighter is certainly more user friendly. I still would like to see a little more interest in the window. Lowe’s has a window privacy film Artscape Light Effects Old English that I think might be cute.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 9:18 AM

      Oh, the window film idea is super interesting! Definitely worth checking into for the homeowners. Thank you for the suggestion!ReplyCancel

  • Anne3.15.19 - 8:53 AM

    This is amazing. What a beautiful bathroom. I wouldn’t have believed that such relatively subtle changes would make SUCH a difference. Good job!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 9:18 AM

      All the small details can definitely add up. :)ReplyCancel

  • Laura R3.15.19 - 9:07 AM

    Tiny switches to really let that bathroom shed that weight and those tiles to shine. The bathroom is beautiful – nice job!ReplyCancel

  • Molly3.15.19 - 10:01 AM

    This bathroom is so so so gorgeous! I originally thought the ‘before’ was the ‘after’ when you first shared this bathroom- but oh my goodness- Wow! The after is stunning! The white really makes the yellow and black tile pop. It feels so much lighter and happier now.

    I’d kill to have a bathroom like this in my house! You guys did a fantastic jobReplyCancel

  • Rachel3.15.19 - 10:14 AM

    Nice! At first I thought the white paint plan was a mistake, but it really does let the tile shine. I’m not a fan of the glass shelf over the toilet. That wall is already busy and it seems a bit redundant with the toilet top “surface” right below it. Otherwise, lovely refresh :).ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 1:19 PM

      We hear ya! The homeowners were on the fence at the beginning with the shelf, too. We would rather set something on a shelf than directly on the toilet. Personal preference though. :)ReplyCancel

  • Ashley3.15.19 - 10:21 AM

    I love how this turned out. I appreciate the restraint and your deft hand — all the little details that add up to a (subtly) big impact. What a refreshingly beautiful “after.” And for the record, I’m #teamvintagetile all the way!ReplyCancel

  • southern gal3.15.19 - 10:29 AM

    well its nice but
    i would have left the yellow border in the ceiling and the original light and medallion and painted the ceiling a very light complementary yellow which would have popped the black tile border

    as for the scones – i would have cleaned and polished them and left them.

    the glass shelf is great and the shower fix

    but its so so sad to get rid of that gorgeous ceiling light and medallion- now that ceiling is bland.

    obviously IMHO.ReplyCancel

  • Shauna Mooney3.15.19 - 10:34 AM

    GLORIOUS! This is such an amazing makeover. And I am so so so happy that all the details are preserved. I will say, I totally would have kept the ornate medallion and sprayed it black. (With the white ceiling.) In fact now I kind of want some medallions like that in my house, do you ship? LOL. Seriously, wonderful job.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 10:51 AM

      We went back and forth on spraying that old medallion black – or even white – several times before deciding that it just didn’t ‘fit’ with the rest of the family home. Pete and Rachael’s house is so sweet and full of vintage charm, but it’s not over-the-top or ornate just for the sake of being different. This feels more like them, which was the whole goal while preserving the tile (which is the real star of the room!).ReplyCancel

  • yasmara3.15.19 - 10:35 AM

    I love it! You have brought the absolute best out of this bathroom.ReplyCancel

  • Melanie3.15.19 - 11:15 AM

    I’m one of the people who thought the before was the after (and loved it, initially!); I think because you took the time to get such beautiful photos and nobody does that for the “before” look! I really appreciate it because I get a much better sense of the actual difference. It looks much fresher now; I’m pretty crazy about this bathroom (and the glimpse of the wood doors, love!). If they let you share any more of their house I’d sure love to see…great job!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 1:16 PM

      Melanie, I couldn’t agree with you more! Purposely terrible ‘before’ photos drive me nuts. (Sometimes I understand it might be an old listing photo, but otherwise, there’s no excuse, haha.)

      You can actually see their living room (with the blue velvet sofa!) in this post: https://www.yellowbrickhome.com/bali-olympic-room-makeovers/ReplyCancel

  • Taylor3.15.19 - 11:52 AM

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this. It feels so much more accessible than a full renovation, and it makes me feel like I can make some small updates to my old bathroom to make it better! We have a 1959 mint green tiled bathroom :)

    I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s the point of having lots of different styles! And in an older house, it’s not always worth an expensive total overhaul.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.15.19 - 1:16 PM

      Be still my heart! Mint green!ReplyCancel

      • Lisa3.15.19 - 2:54 PM

        Yes! Friends of ours have a gorgeous mint green bathroom with black tile accents. I frequently tell them that I would scoop their house up for that room alone!ReplyCancel

  • Ann3.15.19 - 2:30 PM

    The white paint brightened up the room a lot, and I like the change to the more simple medallion – it lets the schoolhouse fixture stand out, in a way the fancy medallion didn’t – it was fighting with the fixture for attention. Now the schoolhouse fixture looks right.

    I still don’t think the sconces fit with the room, but I guess choices were limited by the need for a large backplate and the limit of one-store shopping. If they find some vintage tiles in the future, they could also redo the electrical boxes so that they could install different lighting with much smaller backplates there.

    I still miss that lovely fabric window shade that was there. Even if it was broken, or they didn’t like it, the window still needs some window dressing to look right. If they don’t feel the need for a shade or blinds due to the window glass not being clear, then the window just needs a fabric valance. I did this in one vintage bathroom I had – I didn’t need a shade as it already had needed plastic blinds (which I left, since it was a rental), but I did add a small valance to the top of the window – not very full at all, mostly just straight fabric with a little ease in it, on a small spring rod I stuck up there inside the window frame. The valance was easy to make – I didn’t get out the sewing machine, but just used iron-on bonding stuff to make a pocket for the spring rod, and to hem the bottom and sides.

    Windows like this one just look bare without something (unlike ones with extensive wood molding), and a valance works for these. I used fabric that was the same as that of a sink skirt I made for the old wall-hung sink (also using flat panels of fabric) to cover the ugly old pipes and give me some needed hidden storage. In this bathroom, I would have used something other than a plain white shower curtain – though I had a white shower curtain in that bathroom with the fabric valance and sink skirt, I think every bathroom needs some colorful fabric. For this bath, I’d find a fabric that picks up on the yellow and black of the tile for the shower curtain, and use that, or another fabric that coordinates with the shower curtain fabric colors, for the valance.

    All in all, a nice improvement here. The new mirror looks great as well. I’m thinking there may be some original caps out there that would cover the screws in the centers of the tub hot and cold valves they might find in some vintage place, but maybe those are the first things to break or get lost, and so are hard to find. Or they might make reproduction versions. It isn’t clear they’d be white ceramic ones – the handles on the hot and cold look like they could be newer replacement ones for the original ones – they look different than the shower diverter handle.

    I love the old 30’s tiles – and I love the yellow ones here. I know some don’t like yellow in bathrooms, but I do. I had a black and white tile bathroom that I use yellow and some greens in as the accent colors, including a nice yellow fabric shower curtain. I have friends with the green and lavender versions of the sort of tiles here, and I like them too, especially the classic light green ones. I don’t love the pink ones as much, but I once had a very pink tiled bathroom (not the 30’s version, but a mid-century version) – but by the time I got working with the pink to tone it down to make it work (using blue and grey fabrics), I came to like that pink bath.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.17.19 - 7:09 PM

      We love and appreciate this thoughtful comment! Thank you so much, Ann.

      Regarding the window treatment, I can’t say I disagree. Perhaps a valance would be a nice way to add some texture and a dash of “something.” The window is frosted, so there’s technically no need for a shade of any kind, as privacy isn’t an issue. I had considered a black roller shade or a bamboo shade for warmth, but once the old shade was down, the room felt so much bigger! We decided to leave it for now, and if the homeowners decide that they need a little boost, they would choose a fabric that THEY love, as opposed to the previous homeowner. :)

      Also, a lavender bathroom – be still my heart! Lucky friends you have!ReplyCancel

  • peter3.15.19 - 2:30 PM

    So in love with the transformation! Great job guys <3ReplyCancel

  • Kristi3.15.19 - 3:48 PM

    Come do this to my PINK AND MINT GREEN bathroom….haha! I love the old school tile and want to embrace it but it looks like a clown threw up in my bathroom. You guys did and amazing job, I am jealous!ReplyCancel

  • Emily3.15.19 - 8:08 PM

    I have two of these vintage bathrooms in my house. One’s pink and one’s a creamy, light yellow with black border. To be honest, I’ve thought about renovating our bathrooms, but I’m a stickler for keeping what’s original or vintage in the house. I love seeing this refresh. It makes me see my bathroom in a new light!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah3.16.19 - 7:38 AM

    I’m pretty sure this is the prettiest and my favorite bathroom I’ve ever seen. Perfect job!!!!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Miranda3.16.19 - 8:32 AM

    I loved this makeover! I love seeing vintage bathrooms get the love they deserve. I know they’re not for everyone, but I’m so, so sad that ours was ripped out about 10 years ago in our 1932 Dutch Colonial. Oh well.

    I know that you probably didn’t purchase this since it isn’t in your list of products, but because they’re your friends you may know ;) Where is that cute little stool from that their daughter is using?ReplyCancel

  • Kim B.3.16.19 - 12:36 PM

    This is SO charming and exquisite. And I would have said I don’t like yellow and black! But the detailing and the restraint that you chose really made this room sing. The restoration to the original mirror shape, the sconces you chose the morning of!! (and your trick solutions), letting the tile sing, the terrific solution with the shower head and oh my, that silhouette. Bravo, well done!ReplyCancel

  • lak3.16.19 - 2:46 PM

    It looks fabulous….I too like seeing a redo with many existing features incorporated in the design! NICE JOB!ReplyCancel

  • Amy3.17.19 - 11:58 AM

    This bathroom mimics your blog logo ?. I love the refresh you gave it.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer3.17.19 - 6:12 PM

    I would love it if you could talk more about the mirror switch. Was the old one just screwed in? How did the new one fit in without those weird screw head/rivets on the front? So many questions!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer3.17.19 - 6:14 PM

      Also, great job! I just let my mirror enthusiasm overtake me!

      I’m a fan of vintage bathrooms, and I think you did a really great job honoring the original while making it functional (that shower head…genius!) and striking. So well done!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.17.19 - 7:05 PM

      Great question! Do you see those little buttons in the four corners of the rectangular mirror? Those were little discs that covered screws that attached the rectangular mirror to the original shape. We couldn’t tell what the shape was from the back, so Scott removed the discs (or caps) and unscrewed the mirror. We didn’t know if it was glued on or what – but luckily, it was only held in place with screws, and it revealed the new shape underneath! Rachael took the door off the hinges, and when she had a mirror cut to replicate the original shape, they glued it right onto the door, which eliminated the need for those caps/discs. It couldn’t have turned out better, we think!ReplyCancel

  • Kate3.17.19 - 8:22 PM

    Thank you for showing how freshen/style a vintage bathroom! Both homes I’ve owned have original, vintage bathrooms and it’s so much harder to figure out how to update while working with what you’ve got. Thanks for showing it can be done and done beautifully!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa A MacGregor3.18.19 - 11:14 AM

    Love this!! Amazing job!!ReplyCancel

  • love links – in backyards3.18.19 - 12:31 PM

    […] not usually into older homes, but this bathroom makeover is […]ReplyCancel

  • Ryan3.18.19 - 4:18 PM

    I think the bathroom came out great and you’re right when you say that they new white paint and other makeunder details lets the feature be the original tile instead of fighting with the other bold additions.

    For the leaky tub filler, they probably don’t need to replace the filler but need new stems in the hot/cold/diverter. If they do want to replace the filler spout it should screw off from the tub side – hoping that the replacement filler has the same threads though might be an issue. The old tub handles were made with compression stems and those can also be replaced from the tub side. Use a screw driver to remove the handle and then you’ll need a stem wrench to remove the stem. I bought a set with multiple sizes since I wasn’t sure what size i needed and just tried them all until one fit. The washers on the old stems are probably worn and stretched and that’s why the tub is leaking. It’s probably easier to get new replacement stems than just new washers but you’ll want to find an old plumbing supply store since Lowes probably won’t have parts for pluming that old. It’s not an easy fix but really isn’t very hard at all and once you have all the right tools it’s quick.ReplyCancel

  • Leslie3.19.19 - 5:16 PM

    I think the bathroom is adorable. I live in a 1920s house with lots of stained glass. I admit that I haven’t quite gotten the upstairs bathroom right. The window is a big lily pond with cattails. It has blues, green, pink and brown. What goes with that?
    Some people say not to worry about it, but I think that in a small bathroom the window should be the star and everything else shoudl comlement. Any ideas?ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.19.19 - 5:29 PM

      I agree with you, and I’d keep everything else subdued. Maybe choose a very pale pink, which is also a very flattering color under bathroom lighting.ReplyCancel

  • […] and speaking of mood boards, take a look at this awesome bathroom refresh that one of my favorite blogs, Yellow Brick Home did. The bathroom has a similar layout and color […]ReplyCancel

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