Posts Tagged ‘mid-centry modern’

My Atomic Powder Room

April 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 21 comments

Pink bathrooms. I love them all. I wish I could save every pink bathroom in America. I eschew the fools who decimate and destroy old bathrooms.

For one, it violates the First Commandment of Old House ownership:  “Thou shalt not destroy good old work.”

Secondly, the quality of workmanship and materials found in older bathrooms can’t be replicated by the modern junk sold at Lowes and Home Depot.

I loved the 1960s. And that’s why I love my old house. It was built in 1962, and it still looks like 1962.

We purchased this house from the home’s original owner (his estate, actually) and it looks much like it did in 1962. Style-wise, this old house would best be described as a “Mid-Century Modern” brick ranch, and (be still my heart).

Soon after we closed, I started looking for Retro Wallpaper and couldn’t find a thing. Then I saw a blog at Retro Renovation about a woman who did her own “Atomic Kitchen,” I decided to give it a try in my own 1960s kitchen. It turned out beautifully.

Next, I was ready to hit the bathroom. And yes, it took a lot of time (more than 100 hours), but oh boy, what a blast! My only regret is that I’m now out of rooms to “decorate” with Retro designs!

If you like the look, please leave a comment below!

To read about My Atomic Kitchen, click here.

To see vintage images of real-life 1950s kitchens (including a PURPLE kitchen), click here.

I also “restored” the bathroom in my 1925 Colonial Revival. Read about that here.


It started

The trouble started when I saw that blog at Retro Renovation. It inspired me to replicate the "Atomic Ware" pattern on my own kitchen. And when I was done, it looked gorgeous!



By contrast, my old bathroom looked dull as dishwater!


bath 2

It needed some snazzy new colors!


Crave yard (see link below)

At "The Crave Yard" (see link below), I discovered this pattern and thought it might work for my bathroom. I used this as a guide, but my own pattern was a bit different.

To see all manner of cool retro ideas, visit The Crave Yard here.


It started with "flecking" the walls which made a big mess. I'm still finding charcoal gray flecks on the floor, the toilet, the shower curtain, etc. I used a toothpaste and a $2.99 sample can of charcoal paint to do the flecking. I dabbed the paint on the toothbrush, and then ran my index finger along the bristles, which sent all manner of gray specks flying onto the walls. I did a few practice runs with cardboard before I went crazy on the walls.


Bath 3

Using that pattern (taped to the door trim) as a rough guide, I started behind the bathroom door. I figured it was the least noticeable part of the whole room. The door came off the hinges and stayed that way for several days.



I used templates to draw the patterns on the walls. Spacing was random. REAL random.



Next step was to paint "between the lines." I used Sherwin Williams Duration paints (quart size). The colors were pink, turquoise and gray (pink and gray were color matched to the existing bathroom colors). The turquoise was a wild gamble, but it worked. The chair atop the counter helped my aching shoulders. Kneeling on the counter left me too low and standing was too high. The chair was jusssssssst right.



The process was rather messy. Note the dead pen in the trashcan. I killed off at least 40 pens.


Even before I was anywhere near finished, I began to fall in love.

Even in the early stages, I began to fall in love.



You can see how the black lines really make a difference.


post 437

The cacophony of retro designs created a mid-century modern masterpiece. I was very pleased.


home stretch

As I finished up around the door (which was back on its hinges by this point), I was quite smitten with the overall look. You can still see the "pattern" taped to the bathroom mirror.



The turqouise worked out well. The towels were found on clearance at Bed, Bath and Beyond ($5.99 each) and that curtain, well, that's another blog. In short, it was a white curtain that I dyed turqouise (too dark). And then I bleached it (too light). And then I dyed it again (too dark). And then I washed it in hot water (just right).


Pretty 376

Am I pleased with the end result? Abso-galootely!


Pretty 2

I can not walk into this bathroom without a big grin on my face. The dots and the colors make me smile.



Even Mr. Grumpy Bear likes it. ;)


Even bathrub

When we finished, I noticed that the bathtub was smiling.


I made a few of my own

These are the "Atomic Balls" that I added to the pattern. They were easy to draw and looked right at home.


North star

The pattern on the right is known as "North Star" and figuring out that six-point cross about drove me to hard liquor. The amoeba was easy and fun.


not a rtocket

And my old favorite, the starburst.


Who doesnt love ameoga

Two amoebas walk into a wait, that's something else.


I went for a slightly differen tlook over thes shower head

I went for a slightly different look on the wall with the shower head.


picture s84746

The whole gang.



I created templates to draw the patterns on the wall.


About 25% of pens

Shown above are the pens that survived. This represents about 25% of the Sharpies used in the project. Many gave their lives in service, and went to the great beyond.


For the amoeba, I used these oil-paint sharpies (white).

For the amoeba, I used these oil-paint sharpies (fine and regular).


Peoples reaction to The Worlds Most Beautiful Atomic Powder Room is mixed.

People's reaction to The World's Most Beautiful Atomic Powder Room is mixed. Some fall in love with it, and others say things like, "Well, as long as you and Wayne like it, that's all that matters."


And we do!

And we do love it.


A lot

A whole lot!


Please leave a comment below!

To read about Sears kit homes, click here.

The blog that piqued my interest originally can be found at Retro Renovation.

Read all about my kitchen dots, here.

*      *      *

A Brief Social History of 20th Century America, As Told By Porches

February 27th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

When you cut a tree down, you can learn a lot about local history by examining its exposed trunk. How many rings does it have? How old is the tree? During which years did the area experience a drought?

By studying America’s early architecture, you can learn a lot about life in that time period. For instance, in the early 1900s, why did the Victorian Manse fall from favor so fast? Why did the diminutive bungalow gain ground so fast?

What ignited The Bungalow Craze?

The germ theory.

In the late 1800s, about one in five children died before their 18th birthday. Parents were desperate to do anything to protect their children’s health. When it was discovered that “germs” were the culprit and that sanitation was the cure, people couldn’t get out of those big houses fast enough. It’s a fascinating topic, and to learn more about this one slice of American architectural history, click here.

Porches also tell a story about the social fabric in early 20th Century America.

In the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, we loved our front porches, and by design, they were intended to “woo and welcome the weary wanderer.”

Men, women and children passed many happy hours on the oversized front porch, and it was an open invitation for folks to drop by a “set a spell” (as we say in the south).

In pre-air conditioning days, the front porch also provided a welcome respite from the summer heat.

Last but not least, there were the salutary effects of fresh air. Primitive heating systems (usually fired by coal) had no filtration, and were probably partly to blame for the fact that so many children suffered from pulmonary diseases.

And there was a body of belief that fresh air was a cure for so many diseases. Being “cooped up” in an unevenly heated, often drafty old house was a recipe for disease, according to the prevailing thought of the day. In the early 1900s, a daily dose of fresh air was akin to today’s fascination with vitamins and herbal remedies.  (In the 1920s, “sleeping porches” became the rage for this very reason.)

And we were a society of walkers. Most communities were full of walkers, on their daily rounds. Without modern refrigeration, excursions to the butcher, the grocer, the baker and the general store were daily events.

And if you passed by The Thornton Home on Thornrose Avenue and saw Rose sitting in her wicker swing on the front porch, it was de rigueur to walk up to (but not on) the front steps and say hello. If Rosemary was in a fittin’ mood, she’d invite you to “set down for a bit and rest a spell.”

Front porches were a significant piece of our social construct in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

When houses got smaller, so did the front porch. By the 1910s, they were significantly downsized. And by 1920, a funny thing happened on the way to the wicker swing. The porch got moved to the side of the house. We still wanted to be part of the community, but we also wanted our privacy, and some alone time with our loved ones.

And in the 1950s, the porch moved again - to the back of the house. After making the commute back home from the foundry or the mill or the Skippy Peanut Butter Plant, we wanted to relax and put our feet up and enjoy our own little oasis in the back yard, away from the madding world. If someone wanted to drop by, they’d darn well better call first, and if they just showed up at the door, we could ignore them, and remain safely ensconced (and hidden) on the back of the house.

As I said, it’s a fascinating thumbnail sketch of American society.


Aunties home

My great Aunt (Addie Hoyt) lived in this classic Victorian home, which was extensively remodeled (completely rebuilt) in 1895. Note the massive front porch, replete with three hammocks hanging from the porch posts. This photo as taken about 1899 or 1900.


close up

Here's a close-up of those three hammocks. Very inviting!


auntie poker

Front porches were very inviting - by design - and also became kind of an "outdoor den" and social center. Here is Addie (facing the camera) playing poker with an unidentified woman friend on the front porch of her home. She captioned this photo, "We have a real kitty for the kitty!"


contemporary shows off porch

A contemporary view of Addie's home (2012). This photo really shows off those amazing porches. The second floor porches facing the street were sometimes known as "Parade Porches." This house has two second-floor porches. BTW, this house is now a famous Wisconsin landmark, and it's also a B&B. It's known as the Fargo Mansion Inn. Look below for a link to the site.



In 1957, my parents moved into this house at 515 Nansemond Street (Waterview) in Portsmouth, Virginia. It was built in 1924, and you can see the open porch is now on the side of the house. By the early 1920s, porches had migrated to the side, giving the homeowner a little privacy.


side porch

My parents loved this house, and they captured a picture that really showcases the idea of the "private oasis" and the side porch. This house was in the suburbs (of the time), and not many people were likely to be walking down the street (compared to downtown districts), and yet we still wanted a bit of privacy from the world. Between the long awnings and the tall shrubs, it's hard to see much of anything on that porch, and that was probably by design.


house house

Close-up of the side porch. In the late1950s, my mother stepped out to her beloved side porch one summer evening and saw a bat hanging upside down in the corner. The next week, a contractor was at the house, screening in Mother's porch. She dearly loved that screened-in porch and spent many happy hours there, looking out at the side yard.


front porch shelter rain

By 1925, front porches were a place to stand for a moment, sheltered from the elements, while you dug out your house keys. Or in this case, pose for an Easter photo (1957). My brother Tommy stands on the left, with Rickey on the right.


house house

By the 1950s, porches had migrated to the back of the house. After a hard day at the office, we wanted our privacy and we didn't want to share our quiet time with strollers meandering down the street. There were new social rules. Visitors were by invitation only, and if someone decided to drop by (without calling ahead), we could hide safely in the back of the house. This house (my house) was built in 1962. The porch on the back is invisible from neighbors on either side. When built, this was a screened-in porch with a cement floor. In 1979, the windows were installed, and the 12x14' room became a sunporch. We purchased the home in 2012, and did a few more improvements to the room (some repairs and the installation wall-to-wall carpet). This is now the place where we spend 95% of our time.


house house

Even before proper porches, people tended to congregate in the front of the "old home place." This is a soddie ("the first house") in Dighton, Kansas. It was made of sod - literally.


To learn more about Addie, click here.

To stay at Addie’s home, click here.

To read more about Rose’s much-loved mid-century brick ranch, click here.

*   *   *