Color Toilets and Sinks—Fixtures of Midcentury, Kitschy Interiors—Are Chic Now


“This is an age of color,” proclaimed a 1927 Kohler marketing brochure promoting color toilets and sinks, picturing pale pink and jade green iterations. “Color in the world out-of-doors affects our moods, our outlook upon life. And properly employed within the house, it has a like effect.” On first glance, the pastel-hued bathroom fixtures meant to replace regular old white might seem like a design move reserved for the likes of Betty Draper, but nearly a century later designers are revisiting the throwback style and amping up bathrooms with colorful sinks, toilets, and tubs.

“With a rise in midcentury-modern home remodels and an increased nostalgia for retro furnishings, we’re seeing more customers favoring color,” says Alyssa Wilterdink, Kohler’s senior marketing manager. What’s more, as Kohler celebrates its 150th anniversary, the legacy company has polled the public for their favorite vintage hues which will be put back into production. The winners? A blush-y pink called Peachblow and a soft teal dubbed Spring Green.

“They help liven up a space that can sometimes feel clinical and spare,” explains AD100 interior designer Virginia Tupker, who recently ordered custom colored Water Monopoly sinks in pale pink and blue for a family home in Connecticut. “I love them in older houses as they bring back a retro glamor.” She’s also used them in children’s bathrooms (“a splash of imagination”) and a black toilet in a basement night club (“It upped the swanky factor ten-fold”).

Other designers have been experimenting with a similar look. AD100 designer Beata Heuman spray painted an old-fashioned sink teal blue in a fun London flat. In Stacy Bendet’s New York home, the slipper tub from the Cast Iron Bath Co. is painted grassy green. Meanwhile, in Mary Weatherford’s midcentury-modern LA home, designed by Oliver Furth, a pink toilet—vintage Kohler, in fact—sets the tone.

Inside the Brooklyn town house of David Harbour and Lily Allen, which graces AD’s March cover, a soft blue toilet, sink, and tub trio wonderfully outfits the kids bath, as does a black toilet in a separate powder bath room. Shares Stranger Things actor in the AD Open Door tour: “I’ve always wanted a black toilet and I got one, because I’m an adult.”

To keep things from going too kitschy, Tupker says, elevate the color toilets and sinks with elegant millwork or wainscoting, or wallpaper. “Stay away from the 4×4 coordinating colored square porcelain tiles and matching fluffy toilet seat covers and mats, which take it in that 1970s direction—unless that’s what you are after of course!”

Color fiend Frances Merrill is, not surprisingly, in on this trend—in a Cape Ann, Massachusetts, home, she installed a cobalt blue sink in the powder room and painted the primary bath’s clawfoot tub in Benjamin Moore’s Eggplant. Sometimes, she prefers just a dash—colored faucets in an otherwise white bath—other times she’ll go all in. But she advises, “I only want to use fixtures like this for a client who is confident about what they like and will be in the house for a long time. It would be such a shame—and so wasteful—for someone to come in and tear them out.”

Searching for the vintage (and vintage-inspired) gems is half the fun. Tupker’s go-to brands are Water Monopoly, which makes an elegant console sink, and vintage Crane sinks, which you can find on eBay if you’re lucky. Merrill seconds Water Monopoly’s rainbow assortment, and recommends a roam around Square Deal Plumbing in LA for restored vintage options.

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