Bathrooms during the 1950s -- also referred to as "mid-century" in architecture and design terms -- are mostly known for their predominant use of tile and colour. Prior to and during World War II, bathrooms were considered utility rooms, not unlike a pantry or broom closet. By 1950, however, people began to splurge a little. Simultaneously, manufacturers turned their attention from defence to the home front resulting in new (or improved) materials, as well as expanded colour palettes. The typical 1950s bathroom is an illustration and culmination of both of these trends.
Blue, pink and sometimes green were the colours of choice for the typical 1950s bathroom. In earlier decades, bathrooms were predominantly white with black accents, and many mid-century bathrooms kept the black and white palette. Colour, however, is a distinct characteristic of the typical 1950s bathroom, and it was used in floral patterns on the wall, towels, tiles, and appliances. Mid-century bathrooms are also known for their built-in accessory holders: soap dishes, tooth brush holders, as well as towel rings and cup holders were fixed to the wall by the sink for easy access and to maximise the typically small square footage.
While inherited 1950s bathrooms typically had a pedestal sink, newer constructions added a counter surrounding the sink. Formica was the material of choice for a countertop overlay; it was easy to clean and came in a wide range of colours which was important to the mid-century designer or homeowner. The newer 1950s bathrooms also intoduced cabinet storage space under the sink and counter.
Black and white checkerboard, or white with black trim and detail, is typical of many 1950s bathrooms. During this time, however, more colour was introduced in flooring. Ceramic tile was still a mainstay, but laminates also became available. Like they were for newer bathroom countertops of the time, laminates became a popular flooring material; they were easy to clean and install, and they came in the wide range of colours popular with consumers of the time.
Appliances and Fixtures
The typical 1950s bathroom included a mirrored medicine cabinet flanked by light sconces. The sink was pedestal-style in older homes and generally built-in to a counter in newer or remodelled ones. The tub often didn't include a shower head, but it may have included an attachment to the bath faucet for hair washing, similar to an overhead affixed showerhead as we know it today. According to StarCraft Custom Builders, "As the 1950s approached the end of the decade, showers were becoming routine. Tub/shower combinations were a mainstay of nearly every new bathroom by 1958." Other than this significant difference, StarCraft also asserts that, "Fixtures were fully modern. Aside from the low-flow siphoning toilet, every fixture in a mid-century bath is identical to those in today's bath."