Back story: Our house was built in 1952, and when we moved in there was a monochromatic upstairs bathroom in a color my artist friend Donna calls Titty Pink. I mean, the room was completely tiled in that color--floor, walls and even the ceiling. The fixtures were all the same dusky peach and there was a marbleized formica vanity top that took up most of the room.
About ten years ago I couldn’t stand it any longer and had the sink, toilet, and bathtub replaced with new white fixtures and a white surround and white tile around the bathtub. Since I wanted the room to be blue and white, I covered the floor with peel-and-stick vinyl tiles and wallpapered over the hated pink with a blue-and-white pillow ticking design.
Ten years later, the floor tiles and wallpapered walls were looking pretty shabby--it wasn’t my best work to begin with--so we called two local contractors highly recommended on Angie's List. All we wanted was to have the walls (on less than half of a small bathroom) replaced with white tile, and a new floor put in. The first contractor swore that if he tried to do that the “whole room would collapse.” Not to worry; he would completely replace the bathroom for $10,000. At the look on our faces, he dropped his offer to $7,000. The second contractor was more realistic, but never got back to us with a price.
So I decided to uncover what was underneath and evaluate it. I stripped the wallpaper first. “Strippable wallpaper” means that you peel away the top covering that comes off in little pieces, then you soak and try to remove the heavy underpaper, then you spray on more Dif and attack the white adhesive film that is left with a metal scraper. When you get tired of that, pull up the vinyl tiles and scrub off the adhesive left behind with Goof Off.
A surprise: The tile underneath, when diluted by white fixtures, was kind of pleasant. Looking for color ideas, I found a website, “Save the Pink Bathrooms!” It claimed that one in four mid-century bathrooms were done in Mamie Eisenhower pink, about 5 million in all. Now they are loved now for their vintage look. Not by me, especially. But on the second try, I got the right color for the window, radiator cover, and door.
Here are Before-and-After photos from Week One. The bathroom needs to be accessorized, and I’m still pondering the fate of the medicine cabinet (original) and the lights (ten years old).
But it shows what you can do when you aren’t worried about dusting anymore.