The ugly bathroom is making a comeback. What was once considered outdated and undesirable is now being embraced for its retro charm and uniqueness. From avocado green tiles to pink bathtubs, bold colors and patterns are back in vogue. This revival is breathing new life into vintage bathrooms, while also inspiring modern interpretations of these eclectic styles.

What Defines an “Ugly” Bathroom?

The ugly bathrooms of yesteryear were characterized by their use of bold, bright colors and loud patterns. Avocado green, mustard yellow, and burnt orange were popular hues used on walls, tile, and fixtures. Gaudy floral, plaid, or psychedelic prints were also common. These bathrooms also frequently had shag carpet and wood paneling on the walls and ceilings.

Some other hallmarks of the ugly bathroom included:

  • Outdated fixtures like harvest gold or pink toilets and bathtubs
  • Terrazzo or ceramic tile countertops and backsplashes
  • Dark grout lines
  • Gold-trimmed mirrors and light fixtures
  • Bulky vanities with ornate hardware
  • Poor lighting that cast everything in an unflattering yellowish hue

While these bathrooms were considered fashionable in the 60s and 70s, changing tastes led to their decline in popularity. By the 90s, they were seen as outdated eyesores. But now, they are enjoying renewed interest among homeowners.

What’s Behind the Comeback of Ugly Bathrooms?

There are several factors driving the revival of ugly bathrooms:


Many millennials and younger generations are drawn to the ugly bathrooms they remember from childhood. Their quirkiness evokes nostalgia and provides a connection to the past. The colors and patterns feel retro and funky in an ironic way.


In a sea of sleek, neutral bathrooms, the ugly bathroom stands out. Its bold look offers character you won’t find anywhere else. For those wanting to make a statement, ugly bathrooms provide the perfect vehicle.


Updating an existing ugly bathroom with new tile, fixtures, etc. is much cheaper than a full gut renovation. Painting or minor repairs can also give these bathrooms new life at a reasonable cost.


Gutting and replacing a bathroom creates huge waste. By preserving existing bathrooms, their materials stay out of landfills. Upcycling also upholds sustainability.

Appreciation of Craftsmanship

Many ugly bathrooms contain high-quality tiling, stonework, flooring, and other artisanal details you just don’t find in flimsy new construction. This old-world craftsmanship is being rediscovered.

Popular Styles Making a Comeback

Several iconic ugly bathroom styles are reemerging in homes across North America. Here are some of the most prevalent.

Harvest Gold

This orangish-yellow color was everywhere in 70s bathrooms. While bold, it provides a warm, sunny look. Modern takes include pairing golden honey hues on walls with white tile and matte black fixtures.

Avocado Green

Avocado green bathrooms were hugely popular in the 1960s and 70s. Today, this color is being used in moderation, like on tiles or vanities, against crisp white backgrounds. Painted cabinets in soft sage also nod to this retro shade.

Pink Bathtubs and Toilets

Few things represent ugly bathrooms like a bubble gum pink tub or toilet. Designers are breathing new life into these statement pieces by repurposing them in modern white bathrooms. Their bright pop brings playful contrast.

Terrazzo Tile

Terrazzo was the quintessential ugly bathroom flooring. Made of concrete with chips of marble or other stones, it provides visual interest. Designers are using new takes on terrazzo in showers, bathrooms floors, and wall tile with great success.

Wood Paneling

Nothing says groovy like wood paneled walls. Instead of tear it out, designers are playing up its retro appeal by adding other natural elements like rattan accents and woven textures.


From floral prints to abstract geometric patterns, wallpaper was everywhere in ugly bathrooms. Today’s versions use this idea subtly, like framing mirrors or vanities in dynamic prints against solid colored walls.

Shag Rugs

For the ugly bathroom that had it all, shag carpet was the final touch. Designers are bringing back shag in bath mats and area rugs, but without coating every surface. Their plush pile provides novelty without going over-the-top.

Tips for Making Ugly Bathrooms Work Today

While ugly bathrooms are stylish again, not every vintage look works in a modern context. Here are some tips for giving your ugly bathroom new life while still maintaining its retro charm:

  • Edit bold colors: Avocado green walls, pink toilets, and golden fixtures can feel like sensory overload today. Edit down to one colorful statement piece.
  • Replace poor lighting: Warm up dingy lighting with bright white bulbs and extra fixtures. Proper illumination makes the space feel crisp.
  • Change dated finishes: Replace worn-out terrazzo floors or laminate countertops to freshen the look while keeping other vintage details.
  • Soften bold patterns: Loud wallpaper and tiles feel less intense against crisp white paint. Use patterns sparingly as accents.
  • Warm up the space: Incorporate natural elements like rattan, linen, and woven textures. Add live plants. These touches soften Retro motifs.
  • Simplify storage: Remove bulky cabinets with ornate hardware. Add sleek organizational elements like floating shelves and drawer dividers.
  • Add modern metals: Matte black, brass, or bronze fixtures and accents feel contemporary and luxe against vintage backgrounds.

Designing a New “Ugly” Bathroom

For those not blessed with an existing ugly bath, achieving this look in a new space is totally possible. Here are some ideas to get that vintage vibe:

  • Scour flea markets and salvage yards for second-hand fixtures, tiles, vanities and lighting to repurpose. This achieves an authentic retro look on a budget.
  • Use bold paint colors like mustard yellow, neon pink or turquoise blue on an accent wall or vanity. Then apply crisp white paint everywhere else to allow it to pop.
  • Install terrazzo floor tile or find vintage look-alikes. With new technology, this effect can be achieved affordably.
  • Wallpaper a portion of the bathroom in a dynamic floral or geometric print. Use removable papers to make it renter-friendly.
  • Paint the ceiling a retro color like sky blue. This unexpected touch channels a playful ugly bath aesthetic.
  • For tile, mix vintage-inspired patterns, like black and white checkered, with solid subway tiles. This feels both Retro and modern.
  • Seek out bath mats, shower curtains and accent pieces in kitschy prints. Checks, swirls and florals add a fun ugly bath edge.

The most important tip? Don’t take yourself too seriously. Embracing outdated bathrooms means leaning into colors, prints and shapes you’d normally avoid. Stay open minded to create something truly special.

Upcycling Ideas for Salvaging Existing Bathrooms

Many ugly bathrooms contain high-quality salvageable elements, from clawfoot tubs to unique tiles. Breathing new life into these spaces through clever upcycling is a sustainable approach that preserves their vintage charm. Some ways to tackle an ugly bathroom update include:

Resurfacing Tile

Ugly tile often has color and pattern you won’t find elsewhere. Resurfacing solutions like tile stripping and reglazing allow you to revive tiles rather than replace them. This also prevents waste.

Refinishing Fixtures

From pedestal sinks to cast iron tubs, many ugly bathroom fixtures are built to last. Carefully strip off old finishes and re-enamel or reglaze surfaces in classic white or a custom color.

Adaptive Reuse

Get creative with vintage fixtures that have seen better days. Turn a damaged pedestal sink into a plant stand or old clawfoot tub into a novel storage box. Repurpose items in new spots around the home.

Painting Surfaces

Budget-friendly paint in soft hues can transform tile, laminate vanities, Formica counters and dated mirrors for a refreshed look. Use high-quality spray paints formulated for each surface type.

Replacing Hardware

Swap out worn-down cabinet knobs and pulls, faucet fixtures, towel bars and other hardware. New brushed bronze, matte black or chrome hardware modernizes the space on a budget.

Adding Wallpaper

Adhesive wallpaper is great for temporarily covering ugly tile or paneling. Choose subtle patterns like Moroccan tiles or textural grasscloth for affordable refresh. Later, it can be easily removed.

Keeping Select Items

Not everything needs changing. If certain tiles, the tub or vanity are in good shape, design around them. Highlight their merits through new lighting, fittings, paint color and accessories.

Inspiring Examples of Revived Retro Bathrooms

Need more motivation to embrace the ugly bathroom revival? Here are some stunning examples of designers who artfully reimagined retro bathrooms into showstopping spaces:

Vintage Color-Blocked Bathroom

This bath was updated by keeping its unique vintage color-blocking on the walls and floor. The mint green, peach and yellow tile colors were unified with crisp white paint on the vanity and tub. Brass accents tie everything together in this vibrant restored bath.

Checkered Floor Bathroom

The eye-catching checkerboard floor tile is the star in this ugly bathroom makeover. Rather than replace it, the designer refreshed the black and white tile and then furnished the space in neutral tones to highlight the dramatic floor.

Wood Paneled and Terrazzo Bathroom

Instead of fighting against the wood paneled walls and terrazzo floor, this design embraces them. The team added vintage lighting, natural finishes like rattan and a clawfoot tub to enhance the retro vibe. The look is cohesive and cool.

Vintage Wallpaper Accent Bathroom

This ugly bathroom’s pink tile and gold trim definitely places it in the 1960s. Rather than make over the entire space, the owners simply added chic vintage floral wallpaper inside the vanity to tie the look together.

Mint Green and Pink Bathroom

Few color combinations say ugly bathroom more than mint green and pink. But this redesign shows how the pairing can be updated for the modern era. Crisp white paint grounds the wall colors while new black fixtures give it edge.

The Future of Ugly Bathroom Design

The ugly bathroom revival is more than just nostalgia for retro motifs. By championing these spaces, designers are promoting sustainability and showing how vintage charm can enhance a home. This innovative thinking is driving the future of ugly bathrooms in new construction too.

Here are some forecasts for where ugly bathroom design is headed next:


With new printing and fabrication technology, tiles, wallpapers and surfaces can be fully customized. Expect ugly bathroom influences like terrazzo and wood grain digitally printed onto tiles, wall murals, window films and more.

Unexpected Color Combos

Vintage color palettes will expand beyond avocado greens and pinks into bolder, more unexpected combos. Think lilac paired with saffron yellow or chartreuse with navy blue. These unusual duos provide Retro flair.

Next-Gen Materials

New ugly bathroom materials will offer the look of vintage finishes with better performance. Faux terrazzo porcelain, digitally printed wood veneers and acrylic wallpapers open new possibilities.

Adaptive Reuse

Salvaging old fixtures and surfaces from demolition sites will continue to drive sustainable redesigns. Using reclaimed materials in new ways promotes circularity over waste.

Natural Elements

Designers will continue incorporating natural materials like rattan, seagrass, wood finishes and plants to soften retro motifs and add cozy texture. These touches provide respite from hard surfaces.

Maximalist Accessories

No ugly bath is complete without eye-catching accessories. Expect embellished shower curtains, bold wall art, sculptural hardware and statement mirrors to amp up personality.

The ugly bathroom comeback is more than a passing fad. With its celebration of vintage charm, artisan details and quirky personality, this look is a significant shift away from the mainstream. By embracing the ugly bath, designers are advancing innovative and sustainable thinking in bathrooms. The possibilities are as boundless as they are beautiful.

Restoring Your Ugly Bathroom on a Budget

Just because your bathroom is outdated doesn’t mean it’s doomed. With some thrifty updates, that ugly space can become your new favorite room. Here are budget-friendly tips for restoring sad bathrooms back to their glory:

Cosmetic Fixes

Small cosmetic changes make big visual impact. Refresh an ugly bathroom starting with these simple fixes:

  • Paint walls, cabinetry – A fresh coat of paint in light, airy hues opens up the space. Use high-quality bathroom paint for moisture resistance.
  • Update lighting fixtures – Replace old fluorescent tubes with slim LED fixtures. Extra lighting makes the bathroom feel bright and clean.
  • Add new shower curtain – Pick a patterned curtain to hide outdated tile. Choose breathable fabrics like cotton that release moisture and resist mildew.
  • Switch out accessories – New towel bars, robe hooks, mirrors and other shiny chrome or bronze accents modernize for little cost.

Strategic Upgrades

Target key elements like tile and vanity for strategic upgrades that make the bathroom feel brand new:

  • Reglaze tile – Professionally restore dingy shower tile and grout to look freshly installed for a fraction of replacement cost.
  • Retile on a budget – Use peel-and-stick tiles or tile stickers to affordably cover outdated surfaces with minimal mess.
  • Resurface countertops – Freshen laminate counters by cleaning thoroughly, lightly sanding and applying enamel paint. Add edging trim for a finished look.
  • Replace vanity – Even a basic new vanity modernizes the room’s look. Seek out affordable options at home improvement stores. Add pretty knobs for flair.

Problem-Solving Fixes

Don’t ignore issues like leaks or ventilation. These fixes improve function and feel:

  • Re-caulk sinks, tubs, tiles – Cracked or missing caulk allows moisture issues. Carefully remove old caulk and reapply with quality bathroom caulk.
  • Ventilate properly – Ensure operable windows or exhaust fans actively vent out moisture to prevent mildew issues.
  • Repair drips or leaks – Address any leaky faucets, showerheads or pipes immediately to prevent mold and bigger problems. DIY if minor, call pros for complex issues.

Economical Touches

Creative accents provide personality on a petite budget:

  • Artwork – Trim costs by creating an art gallery with framed pages from old books, postcards or music sheets.
  • Plants – Add life to stale air and décor with low-maintenance greenery and potted plants suited to humidity.
  • Vintage finds – Give worn fixtures new flair by repurposing like an old dresser into a vanity. Add fun with an eclectic etched mirror.

With smart thinking and modest investment, you can transform ugly bathrooms into fresh, livable spaces. Don’t demolish outdated baths. Breathe new life into them sustainably using these budget tips.

Common Problems in Ugly Bathrooms (And How to Fix Them)

Along with their outdated aesthetics, ugly bathrooms can also harbor some functional issues. But don’t be intimidated! Many common problems have easy DIY solutions. Here are tips for tackling some typical ugly bathroom headaches:

Grungy Grout

Problem: Dingy and discolored grout makes tile look dirty, no matter how much you scrub.

Fix: Refresh grout lines by cleaning thoroughly and using a grout pen to cover discoloration. For heavy staining, use a grout saw to scrape out old grout and re-grout clean tile lines.

Chipped or Dated Tile

Problem: Cracked floor tiles or garish wall tile detracts from beauty and can cause leaks.

Fix: For minor chips, use grout filler epoxy. Cover unsalvageable tile inexpensively using peel-and-stick tiles or removable wallpaper.

Leaky Faucets

Problem: Dripping or leaking faucets are frustrating, waste water and can damage sink basins and countertops over time.

Fix: Replace old washers and O-rings in faucets and showers to stop leaks. If drip persists, you may need new faucet cartridges or professional help.

Poor Ventilation

Problem: Humid, stale air leads to mildew and moisture damage.

Fix: Confirm exhaust fans are working properly. Upgrade to high-efficiency fans. Open windows regularly. Add household plants to absorb humidity naturally.

Low Water Pressure

Problem: Weak flow from shower and taps makes washing difficult.

Fix: Check for kinked pipes limiting flow. Remove mineral deposits clogging shower heads. Replace old pipes. Increase home water pressure at the main.

Noisy Pipes

Problem: Clanging inside walls is annoying and can signal bigger issues.

Fix: Secure loose pipes. Insulate pipes to muffle sounds. Adjust water hammer arrestors. If very loud, hire a plumber to inspect for serious problems.

Mold Concerns

Problem: Mold damage poses health hazards and can spread rapidly.

Fix: Eliminate excess moisture. Scrub away small mold patches with bleach mixture. For large outbreaks, hire mold remediation pros.

While some flaws require professional help, many ugly bathroom issues can be resolved affordably with clever DIY solutions. With a little elbow grease, you can make that outdated space safe and livable again.

FAQs About Reinventing Ugly Bathrooms