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The Pink Bathroom: A Unique Story

pink bathroom
Honey Joy Instagram

The pink bathroom. Depending on who you ask, they are either hideous or treasured. More often than not, I run into people whose first response is to see it as a wretched hold over from a very confused period of American decor.

But the story of this unique (and very bold) bathroom design from the mid-century goes much deeper, and that story is what we’ll dive into right now.

History of the Pink Bathroom

vintage pink bathrooms

Originating in the 1920s with the advent of pastel ceramic tiles, the pink bathroom really blossomed in popularity after World War II, embodying the hope and optimism in the 1950s and 60s. This era marked a departure from the sanitary white bathrooms that dominated early 20th-century American homes.

The popularity was almost unprecedented. According to Pam Kueber of Retro Renovation approximately five million of the 20 million new homes built between 1946 and 1966 received some form of pink bathroom!

The explosion in popularity of the pink bathroom can really be attributed to the tastes of one very influential lady. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower played a pivotal role in popularizing the color, leading to the coining of her as “First Lady Pink” and influencing the design of millions of homes during her time in the White House.

Pink was her favorite color and when she and husband President Dwight Eisenhower took up residence in the White House in 1953 she proceeded to cover the residence in everything pink. Mamie was a beloved figure and women around the country latched onto her decorating tastes and builders were happy to oblige.

Pink Was Not Just For Girls

Until Mamie Eisenhower’s association with the color pink it was not known specifically as a girl’s color. The idea that these bathrooms were designed for a woman’s world is not factually accurate. Pink was anyone’s color and it wasn’t until the color became associated with Mamie and her extremely feminine and traditional ways that is became a “girl’s” color.

pink bathroom decor

She was such an archetypal female of her generation that the color got stuck as signifying the feminine. Mamie was once quoted as saying “I have a job. His name is Dwight.” That mindset seems unimaginable in most of society today, but it’s one of the more endearing parts of her character and achievements.

The shift away from pink bathrooms began in the 1960s, influenced by changing social trends and a move towards more futuristic or sober aesthetics driven by the Cold War and the Space Race.

Architecturally, designs often follow the country’s mood. As the exuberance of the 1950s and early 60s faded into the strife of the late 60s and the malaise of the 1970s pink bathrooms were replaced by muted earthy tones and brutalist architecture. Anyone remember the “Harvest Gold” trend of the 1970s or the bright brass and gold found in 1980s bathrooms?

Pink Bathroom Decor

Incorporated into various types of homes, including ranches, capes, and split-levels, pink bathrooms were often found adorned with pink tiles, sometimes complemented by black accents, reflecting the mid-century modern design tastes. Click Americana has some excellent examples of the historic pink bathroom advertisements from the period.

Of course tiles were pink, but it didn’t stop there. Toilets, sinks, tubs, walls, bath mats, towels, shower curtains, soap dispensers, waste baskets, and even the bar soap was pink. There was extraordinarily creative color matching done by decorators of the day to find complimentary shades of pink as well as pop of accents colors like blacks and grays that match well with pink.

As pink bathrooms grew in popularity other pastel colors got into the act as well with blue bathrooms and yellow bathrooms. Green got in on the act to and later into the period the colors began mashing up together with pink bathrooms including blue fixtures like a toilet, sink, and tub complimenting the pink tile floor and tile wainscoting.

These spaces featured a mix of materials, including mosaic tiling and marble, showcasing the period’s innovative use of textures and colors to create vibrant, expressive interiors.

Where to Find Pink Tile

So you’ve got a pink bathroom, but you need a few pink tile to repair some damaged or missing pieces. Never fear, there are places that still sell retro tile to match these historic pink bathrooms and below are six of my personal favorites.

  1. B&W Tile – One of the best sources on the web for historic looking pink bathroom tile! They maintain a stock at all times in every size imaginable, from 1” hex tile to 6×6 inch glazed and unglazed wall and floor tiles. They also produce vintage-style wall-mounted & recessed china toilet paper, soap, and toothbrush holders
  2. Clay Squared to Infinity – They offer an authentic reproduction of mid-century tiles in over 20 colors, including pink, with all the necessary trimmings to maintain the original character and enhance the value of mid century homes
  3. Make it Mid-Century – For some truly unique mid-century accent tiles this site has some great stuff. You won’t find a lot of solid colors here, but the patterns are spot on for mid-century tile designs
  4. American Restoration Tile – Their speciality is reproducing tiles from the past to facilitate the restoration of historically significant buildings and residences. They use modern manufacturing technology to exactly duplicate the sizes, colors, and patterns of old ceramic tile installations and can create almost anything you need
  5. American Olean – Easy to find at many big box stores including Lowes these are great options for the field tiles in a variety of pink and other mid-century shades
  6. Nemo Tile – Another great option for high-quality field tiles in the right shades for a pink bathroom.

Pink Bathrooms Today

Carlos Garcia Interiors

Many pink bathrooms have been lost to the sledge-hammer inspired demo warriors and house flippers that spend too much time on HGTV, but some remain and those present an opportunity to live in a restore a time-capsule of unique Americana.

The pink bathroom has seen a resurgence in interest thanks to the revival in popularity of mid-century design and a growing appreciation for retro charm among younger generations. Millennials have put new and interesting twists on the pink bathroom in new construction, and like a lot of style trends given it new life in a new form that embraces the future with a nod to the past.

The story of the pink bathroom is not just about color or decor but about a chapter in American history that reflected the nation’s mood and aspirations during the mid-20th century. As we look back on this colorful era, you might wonder: How can we continue to honor and preserve these distinctive spaces in ways that blend historical reverence with contemporary living?

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7 thoughts on “The Pink Bathroom: A Unique Story

  1. I appreciated the explanation of how Mamie Eisenhower was the way that pink got attributed to being a feminine color. It is SO ingrained now in our society. I have tried to tell people, we have light blue, light green and light red (which is pink). They are all just lighter colors with no gender leanings 🙂

  2. I live at my childhood home with my boyfriend and we have a pink bathroom! I know my house is close to 100 years old, and I love having the everything pink and blue bathroom. The flooring is a deep blue tile and the sink, walls, and bath tub is a pepto pink. I appreciate this article!

  3. Nice NJ dig there buddy. Some of your best friends (me) are from there…tread gingerly. And…nothing screams “I’m indifferent concerning our country’s future!” quite like the monochromatic grays and browns in bathrooms today. Love your work bro…keep it up. jvr

  4. Great article with a lot of good inspiration and resources! When my husband and I were looking at buying our home, we were drawn to the original subway tiles. I was not excited that the tiles were pink at first. But after we gave it a good cleaning, removed the iridescent pink wallpaper, removed the oversized pink vanity and replaced it with period appropriate fixtures, it was like a brand new bathroom. It is unique and has stood the test of time. It’s kind of like a time capsule. I also love the seafoam green and black tile borders. My pink bathroom is safe as long as I live in my home!

  5. Personally, I hope to find a home with an intact pink bathroom! My husband has never minded pink, &actually has a certain fondness for it!
    I love Pam’s site! I discovered your site & hers around the same time. I adore older homes,& as we plan on purchasing our first home within this next year, between your site and hers, I feel grateful for all the information &resources you both provide. Although your blogs take different approaches, the passion & love you both have for homes is almost palpable.

    Now, I wonder if there’s a Craftsman out there for me with an art deco pink bathroom that wouldn’t clash too horribly in styles? My dream is to find a Craftsman I can restore, or “retrorenovate”. If a Craftsman’s not to be, I will never purchase a new(er) house. There are so many beautiful older houses which need saving.(Nicole Curtis is one of my heroes)
    Oh how I dream of *real* plaster,& unique discoveries such as ship-lap!
    My love(obsession? Lol) with older homes goes all the way back to childhood.

    Thank you for your blog. You’ve taught, & inspired me so very much. I’ve been quietly reading for awhile now, & it’s high time to thank you. My journal is filled with terms, techniques, etc. learned from you.

    Please excuse my wordiness,& going off-topic. I hope you have a lovely day!

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