The Retro Has Got to Go

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

Set the scene: your new home is beautiful. The kitchen's been remodeled, the living space is newly carpeted, and the bathroom has pristine green and pink tile. Green and pink tile? Yes, welcome to the bygone era of seashell colored bathrooms. If you're not seeing green and pink, you might be seeing powder blue. Yellow, maybe?


If this is your bathroom, there's hope beyond winning a makeover is a sweepstakes. Bathroom remodeling can be expensive, falling second to kitchen makeovers, but there are inexpensive ways as well.

After eleven years, I called for estimates to replace my sea green tile. It has to go, but for more than $2,000 to demolish and replace wall tile in a 5x7 foot bathroom, it looked like it was staying. Instead, we sat down and brainstormed some options that are in our price range.

I Can Learn to Love It

For eleven years I've been inventing tricks to draw attention away from my tile. By adding dark green towels, a rug, and other accessories, the green can be visually toned down. Don't choose colors that are opposite in color scheme; these will work but they will accentuate the color rather than detract from it. For example, pink is the complementary color of foam green. Stand back and see what that does for you. Instead, pick something in the same hue that is more to your taste.

If color families are confusing, pick up paint samples. The colors on one sample card are similar hues and work together. Find cards with colors close to your tile and look at the other saturation options.

Make Small Changes

Until we can afford to make large scale changes, we're making smaller ones. The floor can be replaced for a fraction of the cost. For under $200, we can replace the floor with light gray tile (or laminates) and soften our look. Then, we're replacing the cabinets with clearance finds for less than $80 that can be painted white. These changes make the room look fresh and the light green almost intentional.

Bigger Changes


Tile can be coated and resurfaced by professionals. It's a spray procedure that fixes and re-colors tiles and tubs. It's expensive, but it's still a fraction of having the tile replaced. This is not a temporary option on the road to bathroom remodeling due to its cost; this is a final product.

Fixtures that are baby bootie blue can also be replaced before the tile. Removing a tub will damage the tile around it which will then need to be replaced. You may want to leave the tub and replace the toilet and sink instead. Think creatively; disguise the remaining blue tub with a nice shower curtain. Even if you have shower doors, you can still hide the blue tub behind a curtain when it's not in use.

The Big Move

Our final solution is to budget some money each month. We totaled our costs and divided it into affordable monthly savings. Within a year to eighteen months, we should have enough put away to remodel our bathroom.

In the process, we made some money-saving cuts in our design. It would take another 18 months' savings to have the tile replaced, so instead we decided to go with new drywall. The tub area is the only area to be retiled in a neutral color. The flexibility of drywall was appealing after being stuck with outdated tile. We also opted not to reconfigure the layout and to keep the tub rather than replace it with a shower stall. It would have added almost $900 to our budget. Everything came down to the question, "How important is this to me?"

If anyone is wondering, what color are my new walls going to be? Bright purple. Why not; it's just paint.

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at

October 17, 20080 found this helpful

If it were me...I'd play up the green and black...redo the floor and repaint the walls. I'd have a skirt made for the sink and possibly change out the fixture. Home Depot and Lowe's always have a deal with 6 months interest free.

We were blessed to build our home without a loan or interest. I never knew where the money came from, but God provided. It took us 7 years plus an addition later, but time is what we had. God Bless

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October 17, 20080 found this helpful

I grew up with an old bathroom in black & white. My MOM hated it. But the tile was in perfect shape. The only shower curtain that would go with it was white. My mom tried everything; ignoring the black & white, working with it, etc. One year I was visiting a house tour & the house had the same bathroom.

They had changed nothing but added a white vase with a huge red rose on the vanity. I cannot tell you what huge difference that splash of red made! Amazing. Also I have seen tile/ paint for the shower at lowes but have not tried it. They used it on one of the designed to sell shows, has anyone used this? I would like to know.

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October 18, 20080 found this helpful

I love the green tiles. I would redo the floor! And change out the sink to a pedestal one.

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May 26, 20090 found this helpful

On some of the home decorating shows on HGTV, I have seen where they paint the tile. I don't pay that much attention, because I rent an apartment. I'm sure someplace like Lowes or Home Depot could advise you on what to use and what to do.

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