Your grandparent's bathroom may be cool again: the cyclical nature of interior design

NOW: Your grandparent’s bathroom may be cool again: the cyclical nature of interior design

SHOREWOOD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Remodeling a bathroom might be at the top of your list as a new homeowner, but more and more often, people aren't ripping out vintage bathrooms.

Soon, you'll even be able to make a bathroom that looks like your grandmother's on-purpose as the cyclical ebb and flow of fashion could be returning to mid-century color pallets.

One Shorewood woman went the extra mile just to preserve a mid-century bathroom that they didn't choose to replace when they bought their home.

"It's very blue. It's very significant in our house. We have a 1920s house, but this is a 1960s bathroom," said homeowner Heather Cook Elliott, "and we love it."

Kohler blue sink, Kohler blue tub, and the centerpiece, the Kohler blue toilet.

"I was able to find the stamp date so it's December 1 of [19]59," said Cook Elliott removing the tank lid and gesturing to the internal mechanisms, "it's a Bolton K series one piece toilet so this is connected all the way through."

This is what Cook Elliot's family's bathroom has looked like since they moved into their Shorewood home 10 years ago.

In recent years, there's been a problem.

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh trickle trickle trickle trickle, wait 30 seconds and repeat," said Cook Elliott imitating the sound of a running toilet.

She says the toilet was running when it shouldn't, meaning they were wasting water.

Cook Elliott began to look for a solution, but parts were hard to find, so she considered a replacement toilet.

"That really brought up the fact that the toilet isn't really replaceable," said Cook Elliott, "It is part of a suite or as I call it a bonded pair with the wonderful tub, a blue shower and then of course the blue toilet. A blue sink. So replacing it was not really an option."

Cook Elliott went online trying to find someone who had one like it, but all she heard about was people saying they remember tearing similar fixtures out and throwing them away years ago.

That's when she learned of Kohler's Heritage Colors Campaign for their 150th anniversary.

"We began with a palette of six colors from our archives fan favorites over time. And we wanted to bring them back in part because it's our birthday this year," said Wilterdink. "but also because there's been kind of a really interesting transition in the market."

Alyssa Wilterdink at Kohler says she's worked there for 15 years.

While she's the senior manager of campaigns and partnerships now, she spent many years working on colors.

"It was an interesting time while I was in that role to be in color because we were sort of in the midst of like this continued white and gray surge," said Wilterdink, "and so it was a bit of a defeating category to work in because we wanted to do more but the market really wasn't looking for it."

Meaning almost everything they sold for bathrooms was white.

For a long time, toilets like Cook Elliots, were considered out of trend for good.

Wilterdink says that's not the case however as people's assumptions about the white toilet might be changing.

"[I think it's assumed] white is sort of this default baseline and then trends happen outside of white when in reality, certainly, for some time, white was simply the trend," said Wilterdink.

From the early 1900's to 1980's, things were different.

"You saw a really significant portion of our sales coming from anything except white," said Wilterdink.

They held a voting contest open to the public between Spring Green, Lavender, Peachblow, Sunrise, Avocado, and Pink Champaign to decide two of these heritage colors to bring back.

"The first time that I saw the toilets in the colors all six of them that we had people vote on. I like physically squealed," said Wilterdink.

The winners were Spring Green and Peachblow.

According to Wilterdink, many Millennial-aged people say these colors remind them of their grandparent's houses, as it does for her.

"Instantly took me back to this like really joyful, comfortable, safe place in my childhood," said Wilterdink explaining that the response has been overwhelmingly positive, "so I think there was a lot of power in the nostalgia of these colors."

Then why did previous generations get rid of them?

"I think there's almost something about like, too close for comfort," said Wilterdink.

Baby Boomers and Gen Xers moving into old homes with outdated looking bathrooms, trying to make a change.

It's exactly what Cook Elliott says she saw first-hand.

"People my parents age people would say it's a great house, when are you going to demo that bathroom?," said Cook Elliott, "and people my age would say that's an amazing bathroom."

"Instead of what their parents did, which is move into houses that had this, rip it out, bring it to you know, this modern, light neutral space," said Wilterdink, "they're saying I'm intrigued by memories of the past like this.

Wilterdink says for summer 2023, toilets, bathtubs, and sinks in spring green and peachblow will be available again for the first time in decades, with more colors potentially on the way.

While Peachblow and Spring Green might not exactly match Cook Elliott's fixtures, she was luckily able to get someone with the right parts to come out and solve her running toilet problem.

"A really great plumber came out and he spent nearly a whole day stripping the insides doing a full replacement, and it worked immediately," said Cook Elliott.

She says she's glad to save the allegedly outdated bathroom that's suddenly finding itself back in style.

"We love the bathroom from a design standpoint, but we've also lived in the house for 10 years and my kids have grown up in this bathroom," said Cook Elliott, "so we have all those little kid pictures of first baths in the bathtub and playing in the bathroom, and I can't imagine suddenly ripping it out just because the toilet was running too much."

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