Bathrooms of the 1950s

Written by amie martin
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Bathrooms of the 1950s
Typical 1950s bathrooms featured coloured appliances and tile, wallpaper, built-in accessory holders and sconces. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Bathrooms of the 1950s were in the middle of old and new. Existing homes in the 1950s were usually small and took full advantage of every square inch with accessory holders, such as soap dishes and toothbrush holders installed in the wall. Newer homes were designed for more bathroom space, including the under-sink cabinet that is so typical today. Whether old or new, however, the signature of 1950s bathrooms was colour.


The post-war 1950s home was full of colour, and the bathroom was no exception. Though the bathroom was still widely considered a basic utility room at the beginning of the decade (usually all white or white and black), as it progressed, the typical 1950s bathroom was infused with colour. Vibrant colours such as turquoise, cerulean (or cobalt) blue and flamingo pink were as popular as their lighter counterparts, including aqua, light blue and especially classic pink.


Ceramic and plastic dominated the 1950s bathroom. In newer bathrooms that included a counter with a built-in sink, Formica was the material of choice for the counter laminate overlay. Laminates came in a growing array of colours as the decade progressed and were easy to clean. Floors were predominantly ceramic tile, though some newer bathrooms used plastic laminate flooring. Ceramic tile went beyond flooring and was used on bathroom walls, usually one-third up from the floor (sometimes higher), with paint or vibrant wallpaper covering the rest of the wall up to the ceiling. Wallpaper patterns were typically floral or geometric in the same bold or light pastel colours of the bathroom overall.


While older 1950s bathrooms sometimes featured enamelled iron bathtubs, most used the same material that's predominant today: ceramic, or its porcelain byproduct. Sinks and toilets were also in ceramic and porcelain. Many sinks (especially in older homes) were pedestal-style, while newer houses had built-in sinks with surrounding counters and built-in cabinetry underneath. Other signatures of 1950s bathroom fixtures include built-in toiletry and accessory holders for soap, toothbrushes and hand towels. Light sconces on either side of the over-the-sink medicine cabinet were also staples.

Modern Retro Application

Mid-century "retro" design is increasingly popular today. Whether you are repurposing a 1950s house, or seeking the 1950s look in your new home, know that the fixtures in most 1950s bathrooms still meet today's standards, according to StarCraft Custom Builders. While you may choose to rebuild or design your modern bathroom from scratch, using the popular colours and ceramic tile of 1950s bathrooms can give you that vintage style. Also consider accessories: Modern light sconces on the side of your medicine cabinet or vanity mirror echo the use of sconces in 1950s bathrooms.

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