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The Colored Plumbing Trend Is Here To Stay – Would You Try It In Your Home? (+ 4 Tips For Pulling It Off Like A Designer)

Alright, color lovers. This one’s for you. Buckle up, because today, we’re going WAY back in time – all the way to the 1920s – and together, we’ll trace the trajectory of the colored plumbing trend over the past hundred years. You know – how it started, why it fell out of favor, and how it’s making its way back into our homes today (but like, relatively quickly and at a high level, seeing as this is supposed to be a “fun blog” and not “Caitlin’s unsolicited Thursday morning dissertation on the history of colored plumbing.”) But wait – WHY THE HECK ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS? Let me set the scene for you…

It’s February 2023. The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (or KBIS, more colloquially) has just kicked off in Las Vegas. And for the first time in recent memory, it’s COLORFUL. Instead of stark-white porcelain and stainless steel, KBIS is littered with a vibrant selection of jewel-toned ovens, cheery concrete sinks, bold faucets and fixtures, and then..this Kohler display. To a rational person, this may just look like a rainbow array of toilets. (Mainly because it is, in fact, just a rainbow array of toilets.)

But y’all, this booth honoring six of Kohler’s historic colored plumbing finishes flooded my brain with so much serotonin that it made me question my neural pathways. (Like, toilets? Seriously? Why can’t I get a boost from things like “going outside” or “chatting with a friend?” Why am I destined to love things like “plumbing fixtures?” Is anyone else in this boat with me?) ANYWAY – we’ve seen a resurgence in the popularity of colored appliances in the kitchen (remember Sara’s blue oven?), but there haven’t been a ton of new, mass-market options for the bathroom…until now. AGAIN, FINALLY. I haven’t been this excited about a trend in a long time – doubly so because of the historical roots.

From The (Very) Beginning

ZAP. It’s the 1920s and – as luck would have it – we’ve reached the “learning” part of this post. (You know how you have to sneak vegetables into your kids’ meals to make sure they’re getting all their nutrients? That’s me, shoving a little bit of history into every one of my dispatches here. IT’LL STILL BE GOOD, I PROMISE. Just try it! You’ll like it!)

In the early part of the 1900s, white plumbing fixtures dominated the bath market. (Sound familiar?) Here’s where Kohler ties back in: after over 50 years in the business (they were founded in 1873 – who knew?!), they wanted to elevate their plumbing fixtures from “functional necessity” to “key design element.” Their solution? Introduce a full bath suite in soft pastel shades, which allowed customers to design and customize their whole bathroom for the first time ever. (To be fair, colored fixtures did exist previously, but they had to be purchased separately and the color-match between pieces wasn’t great. Modern comparison: if you’ve ever bought wallpaper or a bridesmaid dress online, you might be familiar with the variance that can occur between dye lots – Kohler had to figure out how to standardize the process to guarantee a uniform color every time, which was an enormous achievement!)

As time went on, Kohler introduced some of the (in?)famous colors that we now associate with the 1960s and 1970s, like the iconic avocado shade from 1967. (Also introduced: the “bold look of Kohler” tagline, which is still used today. Who would have guessed that it was originally referring to day-glo neon toilets? A bold look, indeed!) This is an awesome timeline of fixture colors through the ages, if you’re also a big ol’ dork who likes thinking about which color tub they would have purchased in the 1930s. (I’m a Cerulean Blue girl, I think.)

Colored fixtures continued to dominate the plumbing market throughout the 80s – more than 50% of Kohler’s output was nonwhite product! – but over the last 40 years, the siren song of the stark white toilet lured homeowners and renovators back into the safe, sterile embrace of an all-neutral bath. It had a lot to do with economics – colored fixtures didn’t feel like a safe choice for those who may need to sell their home in a recession (again – sound familiar?), and the rainbow hued baths slowly began to feel more and more dated. Until…

A Trend Emerges

…the mid-2010s, when the punchy, graphic, vivid bathroom fixture started making a triumphant return. (In a small way, of course.) While color in the bathroom never totally went out of style (highly recommend checking out @vintagebathroomlove on IG for all your historic bath inspo!), we finally started seeing color being offered in new modern, streamlined silhouettes.

These bright faucets, knobs, and shower heads were a low-stakes way to bring color into the bath, and their mainstream introduction seemed to whet the appetite for bigger, bolder statement pieces of plumbing.

A Bigger, More Vintage-Inspired Footprint

We began to see more and more of our favorite designers sourcing entire vintage bath fixtures for their projects. This wasn’t just a knob or a faucet – this was the whole freakin’ shebang. Alternatively, those with deeper pockets were able to order vintage-inspired pieces – and for them, I am grateful, for they have paved the way to a mass market reintroduction of colored fixtures. Case in point:

The Next Wave

Andddddd we’re back to 2023. To celebrate their 150th birthday (!!!), Kohler has resurrected a few of their historic colors – that’s Spring Green (from 1927) on the top left, followed by Pink Champagne (1973), and Lavender (also 1927!). On the bottom, we have Peachblow (1934), Avocado (1967), and Sunrise (1953).

The best part? You can now purchase seven different plumbing fixtures – ranging from kitchen sinks to toilets – in Spring Green and Peachblow. (You can see everything here, if you’re interested – the utility sink in Spring Green is my absolute favorite. I think I prefer the vintage-inspired shapes, but how exciting to see some modern silhouettes in there! Word on the street is that there’s more to come with these heritage colors, too.)

Here’s a powder bath designed by Em’s former boss (!), Jonathan Adler. IT AIN’T YOUR GRANDMA’S BATH, THAT’S FOR SURE. It’s a really high-impact, manageable choice that totally transforms the look and feel of the room, don’t you think? A few cans of paint and some different art would take this space in a totally different direction – these colored fixtures are a design-forward, versatile way to bring a lot of interest into a space without spending a small fortune on permanent tile or a new vanity.

Same goes for this sweet and modern space designed by Justina Blakeney, a dear friend of EHD! I love the contrast of the graphic, modern floor tile with the antique-inspired sinks and tubs. The deco tile motif on the walls really bridges the gap to bring both styles together! Honestly, white sinks and tubs would have been just as beautiful in this space…but there’s something special about the Peachblow that says “I live here.” We spend so much time personalizing our living rooms and bedrooms – it’s so exciting that we’ll have an affordable, high-quality way to personalize our practical spaces now, too.

Make It Work: Stick to A Color Palette

SO. You’ve seen the inspo and you’re considering a switch to colored fixtures in your next remodel. Let’s just review a a few pro tips that’ll keep the space feeling like a time capsule (unless that’s what you’re going for, in which case I admire your commitment to preservation and I’d love to see pictures when you’re finished!).

First up: pick a color palette…and stick to it. Your plumbing is going to draw a lot of attention, so make sure to tie it in with the space via tile, wallpaper, paint, or decor (even your towels and shower curtains will make a difference here!). A restrained palette will make your space feel pulled together and intentional (even if said palette has a lot of color in it, like the bath on the left). More than anything, be sure to pick something you love – it’s about time we start designing our homes for us and not just for resale, you know?

Mix In Some Modern

LOVE THESE. Both baths feel vintage AND fresh, right? On the left, modern art and shelving balance out a classic cast iron tub. (That toothpaste-y mint and red is a really on-trend choice, too. Did you also see the geometric shapes on the tile towards the bottom right? It’s the little things!) On the right, plywood walls, modern pulls, and dynamic lighting placement take this mauve toilet from “ancient relic” to “I paid a designer big bucks to plan this bathroom for me.” Remember to mix eras and styles here – we’re not recreating a bathroom from the past with these fixtures; instead, we’re curating our favorite things in a bathroom fit for the future. 🙂

For Longevity, Pick a Muted Color

An alien has clearly possessed my body, because I can’t believe I’m about to say this: when it comes to choosing a color for your plumbing fixtures, keep it desaturated. Pastels are great, and so are the muted tones above. The tub on the right is one of my favorite examples – it’s deep crimson that’s rich, matte, and a little muted. (Far preferable to a glossy, fire-engine red tub, no?)

When in doubt, consider the earthier version of your favorite color – a sage over a lime; a Peachblow over a hot pink; a Spring Green over an aquamarine. These shades will be WAY easier to decorate around long-term, which is key for a big fixture!

Fake The Look

Love the look of a colored bath fixture, but not interested in a full-blown bath remodel? Consider cladding the exterior of your existing tub (and for extra points, paint your vanity to match). Be sure to choose water-resistant or waterproof materials here – there are tons of great DIY instructions and transformations on Youtube.

Where Can I Get Colored Plumbing Fixtures?

WOAH. That’s a lot of information to digest, huh? But the tides are changing, and I’m so excited to welcome in the next era of cheerful, personalized bathrooms that feel like the folks who designed them. If you’re excited about hopping on the colorful plumbing train, here are a few vetted suppliers that I love (no matter your style, budget, or continent there’s a resource for you here!):

And now, I gotta ask: what say you? Could you ever see yourself going for a green bath suite, or are neutrals more your thing? Are you worried about resale, or would you embrace these colored fixtures with open arms? Do you think we’re headed into a new 60-year cycle of nonwhite baths? LET’S TALK ABOUT IT. (Seriously, please, none of my friends care about which color toilet was released in 1927 – I need to be amongst people who ~get it~.) See you down there… xx

Opening Image Credits: via Kohler

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Emily
6 months ago

Oooh- I always love a Caitlin post and the design history is fascinating as usual. My friends are renovating this truly epic estate house that had untouched 1930s bathrooms FULL of colored toilets, tubs, vanities. It’s been such a delight to see them update the spaces while keeping the vintage fixtures. The guest bathroom I use has a beautiful jade two part toilet and huge pedestal sink and they added this gorgeous dark green tile and a very modern shower set up. It totally works and is stunning.
So… yeah, I’m here for the return of colored bathrooms! I appreciate a clean, calm, neutral bathroom but does it bring me the joy these colored spaces do??? Not at all. Looking at these inspiring color palettes has my head spinning with all the fun options. I currently rent but when I own a home (hopefully in the next 5 years!) I’ll be designing it for my tastes and not for resale.
Great post as usual!

Cassie
6 months ago

Obsessed with this post! Fun, color, history, nostalgia, she has it all.

I grew up near Kohler, WI and my dad worked for Kohler. So when we built the house I grew up in, we had ALL colored plumbing throughout the house.

Julie
6 months ago

Definitely pro. I own a 1955 home that came with a pink bathroom and a second all-beige bathroom that was added on in the 1970s. I’m not a vintage purist. I didn’t want the bathrooms to look straight out of the 1950s, but I did want to have an updated but still period-appropriate look. I kept the pink bathroom pink (with a new vanity and some other updates) and when I was able to renovate the other bathroom, I sourced a sage green tub and sink from a salvage store. The green bathroom is otherwise more or less contemporary midcentury, and I love it. BTW, it helped to have a contractor who got what I was going for.

6 months ago

As a designer I normally try to source toilets that kind of just go away. No one wants to walk into a bathroom and be like OH GOD THE TOILET! …Or wait do they? I have to admit I would have had a hard time designing around the toilets Justina and Jonathan designed around but man did they blow it out of the water. So much character and color! I also think one of the reasons these toilets all work is that they’re relatively light in hue – it’s always really creepy using a darker toilet (ie black) where you can’t see how much water is in it or how clean it is. So much color inspo here! Great post!

Nora
6 months ago

I LOVE IT. Lavender and avocado for me. How did they make the colors uniform across fixtures? Would love to know more about the manufacturing history.

Kyle
6 months ago

My house came with a lemon-yellow toilet and sink in the powder room. In the abstract, that’s kind of cool and I like them better than the beige toilet and sink in my full bath. BUT The toilet is also an unusual shape (an Eljer Emblem, for the toilet historians), I think partly for style reasons and partly because it needs to fit in a small area (not a lot of leg room). Finding a lemon-yellow toilet seat that pretty much matches the color of my toilet is kind of a PITA but possible. Finding a toilet seat that fits on my weird short squared-off toilet is again a PITA but possible. Finding a yellow toilet seat the fits on my weird squared-off toilet is sadly *not* possible, and toilet seats do not (and perhaps *should* not) last forever, so currently I have an off-white toilet seat on my nice yellow toilet (maybe I could get it custom-painted?). Anyway, if you’re buying a colored toilet, maybe think about buying an extra seat or two while they’re still readily available. Replacing the toilet entirely is of course an option, but because of other questionable choices by the previous owners (floor tile… Read more »

Julie
6 months ago
Reply to  Kyle

That is smart! I don’t know if they make your shape toilet seat in black, but that might be a good option depending on the color scheme of the bathroom. I have a 1948 house, and one of the bathrooms is all grey tile with a black border at the top (the other bathroom is yellow!). When I replaced the toilet seat recently, I went for a black top (the rest of the toilet is standard white). It actually looks great and was fairly easy to find.

Kat
6 months ago

Okay the 70s colors are crazy but are we not even going to mention the FULLY CARPETED BATHROOM?? Shag carpet, no less.

I do like the pops of color, especially the desaturated red or burgundy tones. We tore out our hideous seafoam-green toilet a couple years ago (along with seafoam wall tile…and floor tile…and towel rack…) so I think I’m a little scarred from that, but these new fixtures are really gorgeous!

Mara
6 months ago
Reply to  Kat

I had this same reaction to the carpet. As soon as I saw the ad, I could just SMELL that bathroom.

The colored fixtures are really fun, but if bathroom carpeting makes a comeback I will simply retreat into the center of the earth.

Mitten
6 months ago
Reply to  Kat

When we bought our house two years ago I thought the carpeted bathroom would be the first reno job we tackle. But honestly, though it looks ridiculous, it is SO NICE to have cosy toes straight out of the bath or cleaning my teeth on a winter night. The carpet will go eventually but an enormous rug will be coming in!

6 months ago

I’m a designer and I just wanted to weigh in with my favorite brand for colored sinks—Concretti! They are made from concrete, come in beautiful hues and shapes, and I particularly like the rustic modern patina the concrete gives them. Clients are always pleased. Nice article, Caitlin!

Eleanor
6 months ago

Agreed! Here in the UK we have Kast which is similar, I use on a lot of projects (designer here, too).

I also can’t believe I didn’t see the Water Monopoly Rockwell bath in this post, particularly the coloured version with feet, it seems to be everywhere lately: https://www.thewatermonopoly.com/products-filter/page/all?type=1

Sheila
6 months ago

I’m a big fan of colored bathroom fixture and always hoped I’d have the opportunity to renovate a vintage bathroom but it hasn’t happened yet. I followed https://retrorenovation.com for years and love seeing the work that @vintagetilepreservation does to restore the vintage stuff. Maybe mine is still out there waiting for me!

Liz
6 months ago

I have that 1967 Kohler bath ad (complete with bright yellow counters and avocado sink and tub) in the house I recently purchased. 🙃

JRSinFL
6 months ago

I’m definitely a fan! I own a 1963 house, which still has the original pink bathroom. The vanity and toilet were updated to builder grade by the previous owner, unfortunately, but I absolutely love the vintage pink tiles and indestructible bathtub! BTW, the vintage tiles are in perfect shape still, but the master bathroom that was redone in the 90s needs to be torn out because the tile was so shoddy. Anyway, I love the Kohler colored fixtures and I may have to consider some of them for our master bathroom.

Christa
6 months ago

My Opinion*

Yes to the springy pastels! Peachblow, Serene Green, Lavender!
No to any color that remotely resembles baby poop: mustard, avocado, rust, maroon.
No to anything that makes your bath look like a bat cave – black, red, dark gray.

Mariele
6 months ago
Reply to  Christa

Agreed completely! I love the sweet pastels and more vibrant colors of the ’60s-70s. We have a full set of lovely teal bathroom fixtures I can’t wait to have installed. 🙂

Bluestocking Interiors
6 months ago
Reply to  Christa

LOL! This is hilarious.

– Ashley

Josh Rich
6 months ago

I would not do this personally, but this does have a place depending how flexible and open to spending for future updates when this trend goes out. If someone is willing to commit to bright trendy tile, then colored plumbing has a place. I am more neutral in approach.

Caitlin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! your posts always slay me. i was waiting for this post/topic and you delivered. i’ve got two bathrooms to work on at my house, and i’ve been looking for and hoping to find colored vintage fixtures, but since i haven’t so far, these will fill that need for me. gimme all the colors all day long forever. also, those two inspo shots from larissa maria and lowstar studio are my favorite things i’ve seen all week. besides my kids 🙂
ANYWHO. love love love. thank you. saving this post. oh, and yes, i’m in the same boat. this is where my seritonin comes from too.

Liza M.
6 months ago

What a perfectly timed post! We are in the process of renovating a 1913 house and trying to keep some of those colored fixtures! We just discovered that replacement parts aren’t so easy to find for a 1950s maroon shelfback sink. But we have a pink and green bathroom with that same Vitralite tile and pink tub as that top photo and we’re keeping it all! I’m just sad there’s no pink toilet. The Kohler models are like upwards of $700, which is a little out of our price range 🙁

A.B.
6 months ago

I think it can look wonderful and unique and depends entirely on everything around it. We purchased our 1951 home which had all original, colored plumbing fixtures (salmon pink, seafoam green, and burgundy for the 3 baths). We ended up using the seafoam vanities (whose shape includes built-in bars on either side for hand/face towels – why don’t they do this now??) and I absolutely love them.

Martha
6 months ago
Reply to  A.B.

Yes! We have an original seafoam green and yellow bathroom, and it’s awesome! So pretty, and white walls above the tiles plus white towels look so pretty in there. We also have an og black and pink bathroom. Much moodier but still so much nicer than what we’d likely be able to afford to put in now. Then we have a “redone” bathroom that nobody wants to use. Fifties tiles / fixtures for the win!

Julie S
6 months ago

While I can imagine these finding a place in designer homes, and I like well done updated vintage bathrooms where people work with their blue, green, pink fixtures, you will never ever convince me that that anything besides white or cream are good picks for standard newer homes. They are forever limiting the decorating choices, and way harder to replace than a bad backsplash tile.

Julie
6 months ago
Reply to  Julie S

I 100% agree.

Natasha
6 months ago

We have a little pink tub and pink sink in our daughters’ bathroom, with a pink square tiled countertop and tub/shower surround. We kept it all when we moved in 12 years ago as it was in good shape, suited our little girls, and that room was low on our priority list for renovation. Cut to now, when all these things are being put in high-end, high-design bathrooms. It just goes to show that if you wait long enough, all the trends come back! With that said, I am a designer and I would only recommend this to a client if they could afford to not make decisions for the long haul. Or maybe if it was a period-specific restoration. Because this is a very specific trend, and trends die. It’s really fun to look at though, and I love this post!

Shannon Shalowitz
6 months ago

Love this post Caitlin! And I’m it’s a bonus to learn that the green sink for my in-progress laundry room is right on trend. Would love to post a pic but not sure how with this new format…?

6 months ago

I’m white and blue all the way, but this post is fun all the same! Mostly popping in to say HURRAY on getting rid of the up-and-down likes! Comment section feels even safer and kinder now. Thank you.

Reanna
6 months ago

I loved this post! So fun to learn through visuals and good storytelling 🙂

Liz
6 months ago

I’m so glad this is a trend! Hopefully it will keep more people from ripping out their amazing vintage bathrooms! Has anyone tried reglazing their existing white fixtures in a color? I wonder if that’s a more cost effective way of adding color without replacing?

k
6 months ago

What happened to the Comments plug-in? Loved the old one you could use to upload photos to your comment (but wouldn’t miss the ability to “down vote” comments). This comment format isn’t very attractive/easy to read.

Emily
6 months ago

Caitlin, I will read anything you write, whatever the topic.

Reply to  Emily

I second that! She is my spirit (not animal) human.

Lisa
6 months ago

I’m 10000% in for a colored freestanding bathtub. Not sure about everything else. But, my daughter would be in love with that lavendar toilet.

KD
6 months ago

Fascinating! Why not bring back the colorful bathroom (and kitchen!) fixtures of the past.

Patricia
6 months ago

In the mid 60s, my sis and I (in our teenage years), shared a double sink powder pink bathroom with pink toilet and tub. The walls were pink and white stripe wallpaper. We loved it.

Life could only have been better had we our own princess phone. Nope. Still, got to give mom credit for giving us such a cool bathroom.

Aline Camacho
6 months ago

18 years ago when I purchased my house in Miami, my bathroom was all pink, from floor and wall tiles , to sink, vanity, and toilet! Lol I lived with it for around 6-7 years and used to find it so old-fashioned and ugly. Now looking at these pictures, I love it! I would totally get a colored sink and toilet again. The trick is in the balance.

6 months ago

Obsessed! I have a 1950s house with the original pink bathroom and there’s a white toilet that I’m sure used to be pink. I’ve been eyeing the Kohler Peachblow toilet and it’s out of stock in both toilet styles. Hopefully they will have it back! Love this post so much.

Deb
6 months ago

I purchased what I hope will be my last house five years ago. One bathroom has a blue toilet and sink. The lid cracked way before I became the owner and so the blue toilet has a white lid. This new blue color toilet would not go with the sink or shower but I would love to replace it with one of those yellow toilets. If I was starting from scratch it would be Lavender all the way!!!
I know this would not be popular for someone who “knows” they are probably only going to be in their home five years but if you plan to be there ten or more years than I would definitely say make your life colorful if that is your thing. But I gotta say NO to avocado ever again:):)::):):):)
Great post Caitlyn!!

Carrie
6 months ago

My 1959 house has the original pink bathtub and toilet (I wish I had the sink too!). My initial instinct was to paint a green like those first Koehler ads but I didn’t like the tests I did and ended up with a navy blue instead (inspiration from another vintage ad). With a white shower curtain and white cabinetry, I think the combo is great and helps the pink not be so in your face (pink is my least favorite color, after all). It also helps that there’s a window letting in natural light, so the walls don’t feel too dark.

Amanda
6 months ago

Love this! I’m a renter but have full intentions of a pink toilet in my own house someday.

MR
6 months ago

Love this post, Caitlin – I learned a lot (and enjoyed it)! I love seeing old ads as well…it’s fascinating to see how they used to pitch products. For some reason, it blows my mind to imagine Lavender fixtures in houses in the 1920s…! I’d be willing to give Lavender or Spring Green a shot now that you’ve shown us some neat updated ways to do it. 🙂

Jamie
6 months ago

I just hate the name of Peachblow. BLOW??? There are no good connotations I associate with the word blow when it comes to a toilet. 😆

MR
6 months ago
Reply to  Jamie

Right?!?! I kept thinking, surely, it’s “peachGLOW” instead, but nope…it’s the grossest version imaginable. Weird marketing choice lol

Roberta Davis
6 months ago

I had a house built in 1941 and one of the bathrooms had a deep burgundy toilet, sink and tub, with burgundy and a yellowish cream tile. I absolutely loved it. But I don’t like those pastel-ish colors shown above!

Lynn Klein
6 months ago

Nope! Renovating an old house that had a combination of a burgundy toilet and sink from the 80s combined with a pink tub and burgundy and pink tile from the 50s. I like color but in bathrooms, it should be through tile or on the walls!

Janet
6 months ago

I have a pinkish tub/shower unit from the early 90’s in my main bathroom, the sink and toilet have been replaced with white. I want to redo tile, vanity, lights. I was going to have the tub refinished but it is in perfect shape. Could I work with the tile, vanity etc and leave the tub/shower?

Amy
6 months ago

Wow, this is making me miss my grandparents! They had one bathroom with all matching peach fixtures, and another bathroom with all teal fixtures and black tile. I had no idea this was back! So cool!