We were lured here by the tile. In 2009, we left our beloved 1912 Craftsman home for this 1933 casita, or Spanish bungalow. We were smitten by its gorgeous, over-the-top, green-tiled Art Deco bathroom, an exclamation point on an exceptional house.

shark fin opening, Art Deco bathroom

The bathtub recess boasts a magnificent “shark fin” opening.

The bathroom is a marvel of color and a time capsule of design—and, we’ve learned, it’s also a love-it-or-hate-it kind of room. It’s been interesting to see visitors’ reactions: They either shriek in delight, or they just smile politely. I imagine the second group is thinking, “Only one sink? Such a small mirror? A combination tub/shower?” We love it; the bath takes us back to flappers and Art Deco opulence, to the advent of modern design and convenience, to a domain unique in design history.

The tile design and bullnose trim are obvious in this corner, where a “shortcut” door opens into the hallway linen closet. The green metal cabinet, likely from a medical or dental office, was a flea-market find. 

The tile design and bullnose trim are obvious in this corner, where a “shortcut” door opens into the hallway linen closet. The green metal cabinet, likely from a medical or dental office, was a flea-market find. 

Like many Art Deco bathrooms of the day, ours is a riotous tile showcase: tile on the floor, walls, countertops, and inside the shower. Alternating seafoam- and jadeite-green hexagonal tiles form a honeycomb pattern on the floor.

Markel Heetaire

The built-in enameled electric fan/heater combo made by Markel Electric features an attractive grate with a stylized M, presumably for Markel. 

Wall tiles are squares set on the diagonal, which produces the geometric zigzag pattern so common in this era. The accent border offers a yellow-and-black tulip design. Narrow bullnose tile trim throughout rounds the corners. Original fixtures are butter yellow. (Other popular colors of the time included salmon pink, orchid purple, and black.)

butter-yellow sink

The butter-yellow sink matches the toilet and bathtub.

Our bathroom is 7 1⁄2' x 9' with an additional 3' x 3' toilet niche. It’s relatively simple—no fancy elevated tub deck or enclosed water closet here. We've been told the shape of our unusual shower portal is called a “shark fin.” At over 7' tall, it does suggest prowess. A wall heater labeled “Markel Heetaire” remains, no longer operable but offering a decorative grate.

Art Deco toilet

The toilet niche is typical for an Art Deco bathroom; Sunset magazine covers on the walls date to 1933, the year the house was built.

The treatment may appear garish to some 21st-century eyes, but these candy-colored rooms beg for preservation. Our bathroom is not what you’d call timeless; in fact, it is an undeniable period piece. But it’s sure not fuddy-duddy. In our eyes, no amount of modernizing, no steam shower or his-and-hers vanity could improve upon its brilliance.

vintage bathroom pieces

The room has vintage pieces collected over 20 years: a floral Capri Dusting Powder tin, a jar from the Sorority line by The Buerger Brothers in Denver, a jadeite Deco ashtray, a celluloid container from a vanity set.

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