A Fresh Take on a Mid-Century Modern Inspired Bathroom

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When purchased in the Spring of 2015, this bathroom–amongst other rooms—was in need of some serious help. The tile, flooring and shower sulked in their original 1960s state, and the size of the master bathroom was cramped and stifling.  With the relocation of a water heater to the attic, the master soon acquired more square footage and was ready for a major facelift.

Before: The Original Master Bathroom

I’ve always been a fan of mid-century modern (MCM) style and knew that this was the direction I wanted to head in terms of design. However, I also wanted to put a fresh and modern spin on that style.  Time for a little history lesson: mid-century applies to the design movement from roughly 1945-1975. Elements indicative of this movement are bold patterns, statement lighting, periodic elements, iconic furnishings and plenty of natural elements.

The first and most challenging  step was finding the right vanity to represent the MCM style. After hours and hours of online search (and custom not being a price point option), I decided that converting a true mid-century credenza would be the best way to go. I found a credenza through Etsy and was able to get it shipped. The credenza was in great condition and really set the tone for the space. Being that it was a true MCM gem, it anchored my design and I was able to build my ideas from there. Keep in mind that when converting a credenza, you will need an experienced plumber. You will also have to compromise drawer space for plumbing.

White circular mod knobs dressed the vanity up and gave it a pinch of quintessential 1960s style. Knowing that pattern would come into play in the form of tile, chose to stick with a counter that I found at a remnant yard as well as a white rectangular vessel sink from Kohler.

Keeping in mind that graphic patterns are synonymous with MCM style, I focused a lot of my energy in finding a patterned tile that was graphic yet neutral, as I wanted to stray from color and really let the natural elements and neutrals shine. Now, I know you’re thinking: “Wait… this tile has nothing to do with mid-century.” You’re right! I chose to create a fresh, current spin on the style, not following MCM verbatim.

I ended up choosing “Tulum II” from Cement Tile Shop LA. I love the bold interesting pattern and because it’s not in a bold color, I really haven’t tired of it!

The next details came in the form of mirrors and lighting. Statement lighting is big in mid-century style, but instead of the Sputnik style lighting, I opted for something that was a bit more understated and industrial. I chose hanging pendants from Schoolhouse Electric as well as a large circular mirror to anchor the look. I love the scale of the mirror and was happy to find a rimless version that didn’t draw too much attention to the frame.

Brass fixtures were a no-brainer as I wanted to add warmth and elegance to the space. Matte-black hardware was the easy choice for the door hinges and shower brackets.

A 3x12 subway was used and stacked vertically with dark grout to modernize the look of subway tiles. The dark grout adds some linearity but doesn’t compete with the floor tile pattern.

Finishing up with end items, I chose West Elm shelves very reminiscent of true MCM style. The wood matched the credenza perfectly, and the brass bracket detail was icing on the cake!

Sometimes it’s fun to change things up a bit, and I currently do so with patterned rugs and restyling the shelves. The MCM feel will always shine through, and it’s a great base to explore more color and layer!

So there you have it! One ugly “BEFORE” bathroom and a mid-century inspired “AFTER”!


For more mid-century modern design: Mid-Century Modern, Designed Then. Relevant Now | 5 Twists on Mid-Century Modern Classics


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Abbie Naber is an Interior Designer/Stylist based in San Diego. A self-professed style mutt, her spaces incorporate Mid-Century, Scandinavian, Modern, Eclectic, Bohemian, and Global influences. Abbie's aim is to design unique and approachable spaces for her clients, often incorporating a variety of textures, patterns, and vintage finds. Her inspiration stems from travel, textiles from around the world, and art of all kinds. When not designing, Abbie enjoys trips to the flea market, thrifting and creating one of a kind pillows and blankets from vintage and globally sourced textiles that she sells in her Etsy shop. She lives in the coastal community of Cardiff by the Sea with her husband, her two year old daughter, and their dog, Diego.