There’s something about bathroom décor inspired by vintage tile designs that speaks to an appreciation of the classic beauty and functionality of ceramic tile, as well as tile’s versatility in modern designs.
We know we’re not alone in this sentiment, so we’re sharing vintage bathroom tile ideas to stoke your creativity — plus some new retro ideas (inspired by vintage looks).
First, let’s take a look at some vintage bathroom tile designs that are still incredibly popular today.
Vintage Penny Tile Bathroom
Penny tile (sometimes referred to as penny round tile) consists of circular tiles about the size of pennies — hence the name. They got their start in the early 1900s during the Industrial Revolution, when bathrooms were first introduced into homes.
Tiled bathrooms were originally white. Homeowners were nervous about the new addition to their homes and the potential spread of germs and white gave bathrooms a feeling of light and cleanliness. Penny tile options now include a broad range of colors and textures (see the lovely variegated green penny tile above).
While early penny tile bathroom installations featured simple layouts that were easy to manufacture and install, more affluent homeowners soon began choosing to make unique designs with penny tile. These vintage designs often featured multiple colors and tile borders.
Subway Tile Bathroom
Subway tile is another — if not the most — popular vintage ceramic bathroom tile design. It first appeared in New York’s City Hall subway station, but it soon made its way into homes and businesses all over the world.
Although there are now many modern twists on subway tile, the subway tile design in the modern bathroom depicted above is still most people’s (and our) favorite.
Checkerboard Tile Bathroom
You can trace checkerboard designs throughout history, from Egyptian hieroglyphics to ancient Roman building design. In more modern settings, we’ve seen checkerboard floor tile in royal spaces such as ballrooms.
The design was revived for residential applications in the 1920s, with the mosaic option pictured above becoming popular for bathrooms.
Hexagon Tile Bathroom
Like penny tile, hexagon tile got its start with the rise of indoor plumbing during the Industrial Revolution. Also like penny tile, hexagon tiles were originally mostly white, although black tiles were sometimes used as accents or to create designs.
Modern installations, such as the bathroom tile flooring above, continue to be inspired by vintage hexagon bathroom tile.
Bathroom Tile Colors
The original white bathroom tiles soon gave way to colors. Let’s take a look at vintage — as well as retro — bathroom tile designs by color.
Vintage Green Tile Bathroom Ideas
Green tile is trending right now (in a big way), but it’s certainly not new. This shade of green tile (seafoam or mint green) in particular was popular in the 1950s. It was a favorite for bathrooms because of its fresh and clean feel.
This bathroom is a modern take on the vintage mint green bathroom tile we saw above. The color has the same fresh vibe, and modern features (note the curbless shower) create a much more contemporary look.
We also love that the bathroom features both subway tile and mosaic hex tile!
Here’s another retro green tile bathroom to admire. It’s obvious that this isn’t actually vintage tile, but the subway tile layout, the floor tile pattern, plus the sink and hardware choices give it a vintage feel.
Blue Tile Bathroom Ideas
This vintage blue bathroom tile features several vintage staples: a tile border and a color-coordinated sink, toilet paper dispenser and soap holders. (The tub isn’t shown, but we’d venture to guess that it’s blue, too.)
As with seafoam, lighter shades of blue were popular during the 1950s.
You might assume you’re looking at a retro blue tile bathroom here (that is, vintage-inspired but not actually vintage), but guess again.
Scroll to the right to see what this bathroom used to look like. Updating everything but the blue tile gave this bathroom a complete makeover. You’d have had us fooled if you said this tile was just installed (and that speaks to the durability and timeless beauty of ceramic tile).
And if you’re looking for vintage blue tile decorating ideas, follow this bathroom’s example and pair your blue tile with crisp whites for a bright and clean look.
Pink Tile Bathroom Ideas
Pink tile bathrooms were yet another staple of the 1950s, and they were so popular that we bet you’ve seen one in person before.
First Lady Mamie Eisenhower was largely to thank for pink tile’s popularity. She decorated her private quarters in the White House in pink, earning it the nickname the “Pink Palace.” Everything in her bathroom at their Gettysburg retirement home was pink as well — even the cotton balls, they say. So, it’s no wonder pink was often referred to as “First Lady Pink” or “Mamie Pink.”
Note the tile borders, matching sink and matching toilet.
This retro bathroom has such charming vintage-inspired details that you may not be able to tell whether it’s vintage or retro. The soft pinks paired with gray add sophistication to a playful combination of patterns.
Fun fact: You may see more vintage and retro pink tile bathroom designs thanks to the efforts of Save the Pink Bathrooms. Save the Pink Bathrooms believes that pink bathrooms are a wonderful part of our design heritage and wants to discourage homeowners from replacing them during renovations.
[Related: Pretty Pastels: Tile in Pastel Tones]
Yellow Tile Bathroom Ideas
Pale yellow bathroom tile was popular as early as the 1930s, but brighter hues like the one above came into fashion in the 1960s. This sunny vintage yellow bathroom tile dates to 1971 — no surprise there!
More ’70s designs heading your way!
While this is clearly retro yellow bathroom tile rather than vintage, it draws from the ’70s with its bold yellow color and circle motif (plus groovy stool and mirrors). We love that the countertop is yellow tile as well!
Here’s a retro yellow tile bathroom that takes a vintage pattern and runs with it.
First, the space uses larger hexagon tiles rather than a mosaic. Then it opts for bold grout that’s thicker on the sides than the top. The result: a vintage-inspired contemporary design that really pops.
And if you’re wondering how to decorate a yellow tile bathroom, don’t worry! Let the yellow tile do all the talking.
Black and White Bathroom Tile Ideas
Not all vintage bathrooms were colorful. In fact, many of the original residential bathrooms featured white tile with black accents, such as that pictured above.
This retro black and white tile bathroom features multiple tile borders, a subway tile-like layout and black mosaic hex tile flooring — not to mention a colorful toilet!
This sophisticated shower is a slightly modern twist on black and white tile. A black and white diamond border lines crisp white diamond tile floors and walls.
The most contemporary of our examples, this retro black and white bathroom tile features hexagons in hexagons and on hexagons. That’s right — a double line in black is printed onto white hexagon tiles that when installed create both a double black-outlined hexagon and a white interior hexagon for a unique bathroom feature wall.
[Related: Black and White Tile Designs for Every Space]
Brown Tile Bathroom Ideas
Brown was big in the ’70s, including bathrooms. This bathroom features a slight brown variegated tile as well as a random blue floral print for added interest.
This contemporary retro brown bathroom floor tile features a far-out pattern and a solid flashback to the ’70s — yet is also right at home with contemporary décor.
Once again, the hexagon shape shows up to pair with retro features (such as this stylish tub) to complete a retro look.
Your Retro or Vintage Tile Bathroom Awaits
Whether you’re buying a home with a vintage tile bathroom, renovating your bathroom tile, or designing with vintage inspiration, your new (old?) bathroom awaits!
For even more vintage tile ideas, visit our Pinterest collection.