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Many homeowners purchase a home from a certain time period, specifically because of its age. There is a certain charm to a home that has maintained a piece of its history and holds on to the styling of the era. With this in mind, homeowners often update their home, but also maintain its original style. For this, it is sometimes difficult to find a manufactured tile that matches a less contemporary look. For these challenges, homeowners and designers often turn to handmade or custom tiles for that quaint feel.
Coping with what is more likely to be perceived as a homeowner’s nightmare, Rebecca Rick and her husband Tim of Anoka, MN, turned around a plumbing disaster and made it an opportunity to remodel their own residence’s bathroom. “We are the second owners to a unique 1943 Sears Cape Cod home,” explained Rebecca Rick. “The main floor bath had been previously remodeled to a style more reminiscent of the early 1970s. When our toilet exploded and flooded the bathroom, we decided to return the bathroom to a style more true to the original era.”
The Sears Catalog Home, or Sears Modern Home, was a definitive piece of early 20th-century American history. These homes were available to be ordered from the Sears catalog, were shipped in railroad boxcars and arrived in a ready-to-assemble kit. Depending on the model, these homes came with the latest technologies of the time period, such as central heating, indoor plumbing and electricity. These homes changed the landscape of American suburban neighborhoods.
Faced with repairs in a historic property, Rick had a chance to “restore,” as she prefers to say, the bathroom to the original look of the house. “We heavily researched different styles of baths from the early to mid 1940s,” she explained. “We were impressed with the clean lines, use of vibrant color, and creative use of small spaces. Our research showed that two major color themes commonly used in 1943 were black and flamingo pink, and black and bumblebee yellow.
“We decided to run with the idea of having a bumblebee bathroom,” Rick went on to say. The result is a hand-crafted, honeycomb-inspired bathroom. The room has been updated with a selection of bright colors in a warm honey palette, used throughout the space in hexagonal-shaped tiles to mimic a beehive. With the use of these hexagonal tiles, Rick was able to achieve the goal of updating the room with a retro 1940s look that matches the structure of her old home, but she added her own signature and stylized the room by adding a “Bumble Bath” theme. “We wanted guests in our home to never question whether or not the bathroom was original to the house,” she said.
When beginning the redesign of their bathroom, the Ricks first planned on only tiling the shower and shower ceiling. “We had considered installing a wood floor and tiled walls throughout the whole bathroom and instead went with a tiled floor — including a tile rug — and walls with a paintable heavy-duty vinyl wainscoting and chair rail,” explained Rick.
The look of the bathroom floor is stylized to appear like there are layers to the floor. On the first layer, there are large-format honeycomb tiles of a neutral white color. These are accented with a “honeycomb rug” that is made up of small-format, custom mesh-mounted honeycomb tiles that are outlined with a border of flat liners.
The shower walls are tiled with handmade 3- x 6-inch field tiles and are accented with a honeycomb wall trim. This accent is made of 5- x 12-inch strips of mesh-mounted honeycombs. The back of the cove is covered in large-format honeycomb tiles, and one is accented with a bee imprint. The shower ceiling, which is arched, is clad in small-format honeycomb tiles and finished off with 2- x 6-inch bullnose field tiles.
All of the tiles in the bathroom are from Mercury Mosaics. “After much research, we decided to use Mercury Mosaics to handcraft our tiles,” explained Rick. “We had originally wanted to buy heritage/salvaged antique tile but found it to be limiting in our design. We were impressed with the art-like quality that the handcrafted tiles from Mercury Mosaics provided our vision and thought the variations in elements such as color and custom stamping helped to provide the project with warmth.”