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Old-House Online » Old-House Tips, Restoration Stories, & More » Kitchens & Baths » Bathroom Furnishings & Fixtures » The Evolution of Colored Bathroom Fixtures

The Evolution of Colored Bathroom Fixtures

Mid-20th-century bathrooms displayed a rainbow of hues, as evidenced by these vintage advertisements.
By the OHJ Editorial Staff

    Briggs' 1930s pastel toilets were marketed under the name "Beautyware."

    Briggs' 1930s pastel toilets were marketed under the name "Beautyware." (Photos: Arcalus Archives)

    When bathroom fixtures transformed from solid white porcelain to an array of decorative colors at the end of the 1920s, these punchier versions quickly became popular bathroom accessories. The trend would appear in bathrooms across the U.S. by the early 1930s, and remained in fashion for decades—at least through the 1970s. A look at advertisements from each era highlights how designs on technicolor fixtures would change over time. Who would have thought that matching toilets to the tile and wallpaper would have been so popular?

    1930s

    Ming Green was the name of this color in American Standard’s early color repertoire. It made a bold Art Deco statement when paired with mauve and peach tiles, as in this advertisement from the early 1930s.

    Ming Green was the name of this color in American Standard’s early color repertoire. It made a bold Art Deco statement when paired with mauve and peach tiles, as in this advertisement from the early 1930s.

    The Streamline era ushered in some of the most modern toilets ever created. This pale blue design by Briggs remains highly collectible today—although the 1936 ad copy exclaiming, “As easy to clean as a Porcelain Platter” might give folks some pause.

    The Streamline era ushered in some of the most modern toilets ever created. This pale blue design by Briggs remains highly collectible today—although the 1936 ad copy exclaiming, “As easy to clean as a Porcelain Platter” might give folks some pause.

    1940s

    By 1940, close-coupled toilets in bright colors were the norm, like this outstanding bathroom suite in baby blue.

    By 1940, close-coupled toilets in bright colors were the norm, like this outstanding bathroom suite in baby blue.

    1950s

    The early 1950s saw an explosion of bathrooms with pink toilets, tubs, and sinks and walls tiled in shades of gray—like this textbook example.

    The early 1950s saw an explosion of bathrooms with pink toilets, tubs, and sinks and walls tiled in shades of gray—like this textbook example.

    At the end of the 1950s, colors became richer, like this striking teal, and the latest innovation involved toilets bolted to the wall—technology that claimed to make cleaning easier (note the mop beneath the toilet at right).

    At the end of the 1950s, colors became richer, like this striking teal, and the latest innovation involved toilets bolted to the wall—technology that claimed to make cleaning easier (note the mop beneath the toilet at right).

    1960s

    A 1960s grooviness (as well as an updated edgy design for toilets) is evident in the turquoise fixtures of this American Standard ad from 1968, billed as the height of bathroom fashions at the time.

    A 1960s grooviness (as well as an updated edgy design for toilets) is evident in the turquoise fixtures of this American Standard ad from 1968, billed as the height of bathroom fashions at the time.

    1970s

    While it’s hard to imagine this color combination being well-received today, Kohler’s pairing of acid green, lime yellow, and cherry red in this 1970s-era advertisement was considered cutting-edge at the time.

    While it’s hard to imagine this color combination being well-received today, Kohler’s pairing of acid green, lime yellow, and cherry red in this 1970s-era advertisement was considered cutting-edge at the time.

    Published in: Old-House Journal October 2013

    { 4 comments }

    Diann Wilson July 25, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Really love to see again, these “modern” applications. Thanks

    janet krueger December 4, 2013 at 10:55 am

    When did they make Lavender toilets? We just found a nice pristine lilac colored porcelain toilet in a DUMPSTER! We hauled it out, and it is a gorgeous shade of purple or lavender. And, it seems to be made by Kohler. LOVE it.

    Ellie February 20, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Kohler made the lavender fixtures from 1929 to 1944.

    Wendy Hermance June 3, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    I have a 1960 house with bright aqua blue range, wall oven and kitchen sink, b ut the color seems like the later aquar in the 1968 ad above. How can I get a color sample to be sure and get it to the reglazer?



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