Some sacrifices are too big. This was the case for homeowners Lisa and Steve Harding, who could not bring themselves to say goodbye to their “Mamie Eisenhower” pink tile bathroom (part 1). The original features of the 1953 home in North Tustin, California—from the wood flooring to the windows—charmed the couple so much so that their main goal was to preserve, not replace. But the plumbing issues in the bathroom that Steve discovered could not be ignored. Luckily, the Hardings found their saviors.
A well-respected referral, Comstock Plumbing in Fullerton, CA, saved the day. “They endured the cramped crawlspace without complaint, spent a few hours under the house, replaced several feet of pipe and rang up a well-earned bill for a mere $700,” Steve said.
The plumbers did such a great job, it inspired an idea: Could the plumbing be reconfigured to enlarge the master bathroom and preserve the pink tile shower? Although not an immediate necessity, it ended up being a great decision for the couple. The entry door, which oddly opened into an adjacent bedroom, was closed off and moved to a spot inside the master bedroom. This allowed an expansion from 5’ x 6’ to a roomy 5’ x 14’. A single pink sink with an extremely small vanity measuring 24” wide by 21” deep was replaced by a custom two-sink vanity designed to fit the new space. The glass sliders in the shower were removed and replaced with a single sheet of tempered glass.
A lot of elbow grease got the tiles cleaned, and a hand-rubbed polish made them shine like new. The pink bathroom of Lisa’s dreams was becoming a reality. After some research, Lisa found the essential pink-and-gray tile needed for the new vanity at B&W Tile in Riverside, CA, which specializes in hard-to-find tile from the mid-mod era. She promised Steve that she’d incorporate gray tile for neutrality, and Steve conceded. “She was right. Everyone’s skin tones look great in a pink bathroom,” he said.
“The original bathroom had only one pink sink, which was reused. I found a second pink sink on Craigslist, drove 200 miles and got it the next day. In my opinion, there is nothing more iconic in a 1950s home than a pink bathroom. Based on what I see on my social media channels, there are more and more people choosing to save these vintage bathrooms, rather than rip them out,” Lisa said. “Creating a hybrid midcentury detailed bathroom using the original sink and shower was so fulfilling.”
According to Lisa, “We had to demo the kitchen down to the studs and start with a clean canvas.”
A complete gutting was imperative for the kitchen—rendering certain splurges essential. A new arrangement of cabinets and appliances required the doorway leading to the laundry room to be closed off. A second doorway was widened to improve the home’s overall flow from the front door, through the living room, the kitchen and into the step-down dining room. With drywall and patching complete, the electrical work county-approved, and the walls and ceiling painted, the kitchen took shape.
Flooring came first. Lisa laid out a pattern of colored VCT tile and worked alongside the installers. Piece by piece, row by row, they worked together as Lisa directed and the installers positioned each tile according to Lisa’s design. Although the flooring was a random pattern, there was nothing truly random about it. “I didn’t want to leave the placement of any tile to chance,” Lisa said.
Steve and Lisa paid more than budgeted for the kitchen cabinets; but they wanted slab-front fir doors and drawers to pay homage to the originals. “Our next-door-neighbor has original cabinets in her 1950s kitchen and we really couldn’t help ourselves.”
Another “must-have” was the custom tile backsplash Lisa designed through ModWalls. The charm and cheery vibe of the pattern inspired Lisa to name it “Happy Lass,” since the house is on Lassen Way. Next, appliances were installed; and once the coffeemaker was cleaned of construction dust and took its proper place on the counter, they had a kitchen and the house started to feel like a home.
Pink Tile, Down. One More Thing to Go…
From generous home expansions to driving 200 miles for a pink sink, the Hardings do not hesitate when it comes to making major changes. But there was one project that had Liza in a hold up—find out what made her second-guess herself in Part 3.