A ’70s Sunken Tub Was the One Thing That Stayed in This Retro Bathroom Refresh
There’s a trick to matching the dozen shades of yellow.
Published Aug 14, 2022 1:00 AM
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It wasn’t the arched metal fireplace or wet bar worthy of a throwback cocktail that sold Sam Ushiro and her partner, Kyle, on becoming the second-ever family to own their 1979 home. It was the grooviest detail of all: the sunken tub in the main bathroom.
The rest of the space, however, was painfully retro (no, not in a good way). There was dingy black and white tile that the designer and Aww Sam blogger quickly diagnosed as low energy, plus the layout was cramped. Invigorating the house would require a full demo and the use of a single hue—lots of it.
“Yellow is one of my favorite colors and feels like such a joyous and energizing shade to start your day with,” says Ushiro. “Spending every morning getting ready in the bathroom, I needed a space that lifted me up and gave me a smile.”
Looking back, the only thing she’d do differently is wait for everything to be delivered before starting any parts of the process (“So there wouldn’t be as many delays!” she says). Here, Ushiro reveals how she nodded to the bathroom’s past while bringing in the sunshine.
Play Up the Quirks
Plenty of things needed to be modernized, from the floor tile to some structural issues, but Ushiro did want to pay homage to a few key original features. “We always had the intention with our whole house of staying true to the style and even updating it further to look like it could have stepped right out of the ’70s,” she says. That sunken tub wasn’t going anywhere, nor was the vanity’s tiled countertop—the idea of it, that is.
A new base in a lighter wood finish better complements Ushiro’s fresh take on the gridded surface: canary yellow squares. While the tub’s bones remained intact, it also got a facelift with brass fixtures (golden in their own way) and two sizes of light-reflecting glass tile. The same but just different enough.
Save Your Samples
One of the biggest tasks Ushiro had to pull off? Matching all those yellows, from the flooring to the towels to the wall hooks. “It was made easier by always having a sample of the tile on hand,” she notes. “Whenever we knew we were going to be purchasing things, we brought it with us so we could match colors as closely as possible.”
Source Genuine Vintage
The tub will always be the focal point, but Ushiro tracked down pieces from the ’60s and ’70s to authentically amp up the groovy factor in every corner. Some of her favorite finds: porthole-esque mirrors, a space-age stool, “and the coolest toilet paper holder I’ve ever seen.”
Give the W.C. Some Love
Before, the toilet nook felt much smaller than it really was thanks to a wall of bulky, built-in cabinets. Ushiro couldn’t nix the valuable storage space altogether, but she could reimagine it. Looking to the round vanity mirrors for inspiration, she designed inset arched shelving that takes up half of the cupboards’ footprint. “We knew we wanted the toilet area to have its own distinguishing feature,” she explains. Mission accomplished.