In a very vintage bathroom, my motto is to leave well enough alone. If you’ve ever looked for a rental apartment in an old building you’ll know this is not everyone’s motto. Partially renovated bathrooms are more the rule than the exception. In the best cases, there’s a mismatched toilet or a handful of replaced tiles in a different shade of pink (or yellow, or blue). More often, there’s also a lopsided particle board vanity where a pedestal sink used to be, or a hardware store medicine cabinet that’s twice as big as necessary and semi-detached from the wall. There’s nearly always laminate that’s bubbling up in a corner and grout that’s gone missing. In the worst cases, there’s a poorly constructed tub fitter that squishes underfoot when you shower and ceilings that sometimes rain and eventually collapse.
Needless to say, our very vintage bathroom feels comparably like a real diamond in the rental bathroom rough. It’s pink. It has an enormous pink tub and a pink toilet and pink wall tiles bounded by maroon. The floor tiles are a color that can only be described as yellow-pink, which is probably just a convoluted way of saying brown. The bath and sink hardware are original or close enough and I’m grateful for their occasionally leaky, slightly squeaky charm. When we moved in, the shower head was a plastic handheld with a rubber hose that knocked us in the back as we stood to shower and so we replaced that with an inexpensive rain shower head that’s made all the difference.
Mostly, we’ve recognized our good fortune and left things as they are. One of my friends is very hopeful I might still go the grandmother route and add in a matching 3-piece rug set, lest I (or the commode) catch a chill. I’m not tempted to wrap my toilet in a towel, but I do sometimes wonder if we should embrace some drama and go whole hog with some woodland wallpaper on the portion of the walls that aren’t tiled.
Here, a few things that have made small improvements in this space, in case they’re helpful:
+ Matching Bath Toys. These silly little stacking cups are of relatively little consequence but most children’s bath toys are a scourge and my sister found these and I love them very much. They come in four different color ways, one of which is pretty much guaranteed to match a similarly vintage pink (or blue, or yellow, or green) bathroom. We have the original set and we keep them stored stacked up. They do sometimes need a scrub so when that happens we declare a toy cleaning morning and the kids have at the nooks and crannies with toothbrushes and forget entirely they’ve been put to work by their fastidious mother.
+ DIY Hooks. I made three little towel hooks out of vintage glass knobs and hung them up with Sugru Moldable Glue by tesa. I have a small partnership with this company going live on Instagram later today, but suffice to say, I could not love this stuff any more. It’s a small DIY miracle for renters or anyone; apologies in advance for getting lost in their Youtube Channel.
+ First Aid Cabinet: In my humble opinion, trying to squeeze more storage into a small vintage bathroom is usually not worth the effort. That said, some of you might recall that I replaced the bathroom medicine cabinet and hung a shelf in our last bathroom and I never regretted either upgrade for even a minute. Here, the original medicine cabinet is still in place and we added the same enamel first aid kit that we’ve used for years now. (I can’t find the larger size that we have anywhere these days, but even the mini version linked here would be useful for stashing first aid items.)
+ Towel bars, toothbrush holders, and other built-ins: We replaced a broken built-in towel bar in the tub when we moved in. I try hard not to buy new plastic, but I made a concession for this $5 towel bar and I don’t regret it. The handle on the built-in soap dish, alas, is ceramic and long gone, leaving the broken off bits something of an eyesore on the tub wall. I don’t have immediate plans to fix it, but I did very much enjoy this 1978 gem on the subject. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect-fitting, eco-friendly-ish, pretty toothbrushes for the whole family to fit in our built-in vintage toothbrush holder. Now, as in 2008, the struggle is real! For now, let’s pretend I live alone like some kind of Brooklyn Amélie Poulain and my precious toothbrush is the only one that need be propped daintily in a cup. Tra la!
+ Book basket: Kids, and sometimes adults, need books in the bathroom. It’s a fact of life. We keep our bathroom books wrangled in a little wire basket I found a few years ago, which is raised a bit off the ground and not too big for a funny shaped bathroom. My friend Chelsea’s gorgeous book, FIELD, FLOWER, VASE came out today and it matches the tile and Silas will sigh and tell me it’s “so beautiful” and so here it is.
+ Sized-to-fit Shower Liner: As with many vintage bathrooms, we have a tub that’s partially freestanding with an l-ring corner shower curtain rod installed above it. When we had one of these years ago, I did what most people do: hang two regular-sized curtains and curse them out daily. This time, I searched for an extra-wide shower liner to span the whole length of the rod and I’ve been so happy I did. It means less plastic, less cleaning, less billowing liner as I sing (or scream) in the shower. (If you embark on your own search, just measure carefully! Our rod is hung strangely high and I had to hang our liner on a double set of hooks to make it long enough to extend beyond the tub.) TMI: Our liner recently had a rather aggressive wash at the laundromat which has left it sadly beat up, so I think the next step might be to get a linen curtain custom-made to cover the battered liner.)
Those are the details I can think to add. If you have questions to ask or vintage bathroom tales to tell, the comments are all yours!
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