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Sunday, October 20, 2013

1940s Bathroom: In Praise of Subway Tile


We are closing in on our purchase of our new home in Jackson Heights! On Friday I received the mortgage commitment, so the next step will be our interview with the co-op board.

Today I am sitting at the computer assembling all the financial information that the co-op board has requested. Well, that's what I'm supposed to be doing. What I am really doing is flipping through bathroom photos on Pinterest and Houzz.



I have become a bit obsessed looking at 1940s bathrooms. You see, the bathroom in our home to-be is a bit of a sad affair. Remember in my past post, I characterized it as builder beige?



Bathtub is backwards, with faucet over the backrest - ouch!


The separate shower is a real amenity and I love the art deco era door - we'll be salvaging that! But the beige tiles have got to go.

The shame about this beige "upgrade" is that I learned it was done recently, before the PO put the place on the market. This means all this beige blandness was seen as an improvement over the original bathroom. And I disagree. Judging from photos of other units in this co-op, original bathrooms were classic black and white subway tile. Here's a unit currently for sale that retained the old look.


Why anyone would remove all that 1940s original charm and call it an "upgrade" is beyond me. Of all the colors used back in the '40s (think pinks, turquoises, yellows), this black and white retains it's timeless appeal and works well with most of today's fixtures.  I love it.

If I were inheriting this bathroom, all I would have to do is have the tile re-grouted and any chipped tiles replaced. These very subway tiles are still in production today at Dal-Tile, so quite easy to find. And quite inexpensive.

But I don't have this, sadly. I have hideous beige.

So, where am I headed with our bathroom renovation? Well, I'm restoring some of that original charm for one - then going it better. My plan will all center around the tub.

Because the seller messed up the bathtub install by placing the faucet over the tub's backrest and moving the drain to the foot of the tub, I'm going to have to either look for a tub that has the drain at one end and the faucet at the other (if you've ever shopped for bathtubs, that's quite an odd configuration) or we're going to need to move either the faucet or the drain. We'll know more when Henry our contractor gets in there and does some poking around. But Henry, who has worked with me on previous renovations and knows that I'm a fan of a "soaker" has already pointed out that as long as we will be doing all this work, I may as well bring in a tub that I love. And it so happens that one of my favorite tubs, the clawfoot, can be installed with the faucet and the drain anywhere you choose to place them.

And nothing beats a clawfoot for timeless charm. I did a bit of research, and though shallow alcove tubs were becoming the "in" thing by 1946, clawfoots were the standard.


Love the "framing" detail in the tile behind this tub