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The bathtub recess features a magnificent “sharkfin” opening. All photographs by Jaimee Itagaki.

An Art Deco Bath in a Spanish Colonial House

by Sarah Hilbert on March 5, 2012

in Kitchens & Bathrooms

ABOVE: The bathtub recess features a magnificent “sharkfin” opening. All photographs by Jaimee Itagaki

This brilliant bathroom, original to the 1933 Spanish-style California bungalow, features green tiles and butter-yellow fixtures. It’s a period piece that delights the home’s owners and their guests.

The Spanish Revival bungalow or casita has a red-tile roof and a courtyard patio on one side.

The Spanish Revival bungalow or casita has a red-tile roof and a courtyard patio on one side.

We were lured here by the tile. In 2009, we left our beloved 1912 Craftsman home for this 1933 casita or Spanish Bungalow, as we were smitten by its gorgeous, over-the-top, green-tiled Art Deco bathroom, an exclamation point on an exceptional house.

The tile design and bullnose trim are obvious in this corner, where a “shortcut” door opens into the hallway linen closet. The green metal cabinet, likely from a medical or dental office, was a flea-market find.

The tile design and bullnose trim are obvious in this corner, where a “shortcut” door opens into the hallway linen closet. The green metal cabinet, likely from a medical or dental office, was a flea-market find.

The bathroom is a marvel of color and a time capsule of design—and, we’ve learned, it’s also a love-it or hate-it kind of room. It’s been interesting to see visitors’ reactions: They either shriek in delight, or they just smile politely. I imagine the second group is thinking, “Only one sink? Such a small mirror? A combination tub–shower?” We love it; the bathroom takes us back to flappers and Art Deco opulence, to the advent of modern design and convenience, to a domain unique in design history.

Like many bathrooms of the day, ours is a riotous tile showcase: tile on the floor, walls, countertops, and inside the shower. Alternating seafoam- and jadeite-green hexagonal tiles form a honeycomb pattern on the floor. Wall tiles are squares set on the diagonal, which produces the geometric zigzag pattern so common in this era. The accent border offers a yellow-and-black tulip design. Narrow bullnose tile trim throughout the room rounds the corners. Original fixtures are butter yellow. (Other popular colors of the time included salmon pink, orchid purple, and black.)

Our floor plan is not large. The bathroom room is 7-1/2′ x 9′ with an additional 3′ x 3′ toilet niche. It’s relatively simple—no fancy elevated tub deck or enclosed water closet here. We’ve been told the shape of our unusual shower portal is called a “shark fin.” At over 7 feet tall, it does suggest prowess. A built-in wall heater labeled “Markel Heetaire” remains, no longer operable but offering a decorative grate.

Having the toilet in its own niche is typical of these Deco bathrooms. The Sunset magazine covers on the walls date to 1933, the year the house was built.

Having the toilet in its own niche is typical of these Deco bathrooms. The Sunset magazine covers on the walls date to 1933, the year the house was built.

The treatment may appear garish to some 21st century eyes, but these candy-colored rooms beg for preservation. Our bathroom is not what you’d call timeless; in fact, it is an undeniable period piece. But it’s sure not fuddy-duddy. In our eyes, no amount of modernizing, no steam shower or his-and-hers vanity could improve upon its brilliance.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 bchukran July 3, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I love that you left the bathroom the way it was. Gorgeous colors! Cute casita/courtyard, too.

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