That pink bathroom is back in style. And New Jersey has plenty of them

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When Kelly Rodimer purchased her family’s home from her mother-in-law in Rockaway borough last year, it came with a pink bathroom.

“It was my mother-in-law’s favorite color,” she said.

Rodimer briefly thought about replacing the dated color. Instead, she embellished the bathroom, dressing it up with black-striped curtains to highlight the vintage look. She’s not alone in embracing what once would’ve been demolished.

What’s old is new again. The pink bathrooms of midcentury popularity are finding a whole new fan base with trendy homeowners, according to local Realtors and residents.

Inspired by former first lady Mamie Eisenhower, who adored pink, the bathrooms were built by the millions in the 1950s and 1960s. They found their way into the ranches, Capes and split-levels that sprouted across the nation in the postwar boom years. 

That includes northern New Jersey, where a 2015 Census survey found nearly a third of homes dating from the 50s and 60s. Many have their pink bathrooms still intact, and the subject can draw intense passion, with over 100 commenters debating the aesthetic values recently on the Morris County Moms’ private Facebook page.

Parsippany resident Pam Wheelock enjoys the retro chic look of her pink bathroom. 

“We were actually happy the bathrooms were not redone because we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford this house if it had been renovated,” said Wheelock, who purchased her home in 2019.

Previous owners integrated the pink toilet into a newer sink fixture that is espresso brown. The floor tiles have hints of pink to go with the toilet. The bathroom has become a highlight of the house, Wheelock said.

“We have three girls who use it so it’s kind of fitting,” she said.

While homeowners like Wheelock and Rodimer are keeping the pink now, buyers often demolished the bathrooms in the 1970s to adapt to new trends. But the rooms are experiencing a renaissance thanks to new homebuyers who are drawn to midcentury styles in architecture and design.

Pam Kueber started the websites savethepinkbathrooms.com and retrorenovation.com after she bought a 1950s ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts. She worked in corporate communications before launching a career as a publisher.  

According to savethepinkbathrooms.com, at least five million of the more than 20 million homes built in the U.S. from 1946 to 1966 had pink bathrooms. Because Mamie Eisenhower helped popularize the trend, the color became known as “Mamie Pink.” 

Today, several trends are driving a renewed interest in pink, including a desire to live in older suburbs closer to the city.

Nostalgic preservationists love pink bathrooms, but whether it is a selling point for would-be home buyers is up for debate. Buyers do not specifically request pink bathrooms, said Jeff Fellers, Realtor at Kienlen Lattmann Sotheby’s International Realty in Mendham.

If a pink bathroom is in good condition, home buyers tend to leave it alone, Fellers said. But if there are issues such as loose grout, a new owner often looks to renovate.

Some opt for a total tear-out, but bathroom tiles can also be painted over using epoxy or latex paint. Kaila Paris of Mine Hill is currently getting ready to redo one of her two pink bathrooms. For now, she is remodeling only one as a contractor quoted her a $12,000 price to refurbish just one of the rooms.

Kinnelon resident Robin Matthews kept a pink bathroom in her ranch and Cape-style home built for 20 years before renovating. 

“I feel as long as the tile is in good shape, you can live with it,” Matthews said.

She decided to redo the entire bathroom in white when the tiles had some issues. The cost was $1,500 for labor and materials to tear off and replace tiles as a friend offered to remodel it at a low price, she said.

To partially redo a bathroom in Lake Parsippany while keeping its charm, Jennifer Adams and her boyfriend removed six layers of wallpaper to tone down a pink and black color scheme that dated back to 1957. All of the tiles remain but the walls are now painted in a neutral beige tone.

Michelle Amaducci of Succasunna, in Roxbury Township, spruced up her pink lavatory with black and white polka dot shower curtains. The end result was a fun bathroom that’s a throwback to 1950s style.

“I did my best to modernize the look without having to redo the entire room,” she said. 

Love it or take a hammer to it, there are many options for that retro pink bathroom to fit many styles and budgets.   

Mary Chao covers the Asian community, real estate and small business for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news out of North Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.