While they weren't done in shades of gray, the bathrooms of the '50s were often tiled.

How to Make a '50s Look With Tile

by Michelle Powell-Smith

Tile, including both ceramic and linoleum tiles, can help you to create a retro 1950s style in your kitchen or bathroom. From pastel tones on the walls to a black-and-white checkerboard floor, tile colors and patterns can define a room, taking it back in time. Whether you're taking a mid-century modern home back to its roots or you want to create a playful kitchen, tile is a smart way to give your home a vintage flair.

Color Palettes

There are a number of options for a 1950s-inspired color palette. Bright pastel shades were popular, particularly in bathrooms. Kitchens could incorporate the same colors, like pink and turquoise, or could rely upon black and white tile, perhaps with touches of red or another color. More modern tile color schemes, suggesting the colors of the 1960s, used natural shades of brown, gray, cream and green. Paired with the right accessories, tile in any of these color palettes can give your home a 1950s style.

Kitchen Floors

The 1950s kitchen typically had a tile floor, with new, brighter colors of durable linoleum tile favored. Linoleum tile was durable, practical and affordable. Colors ranged from bright shades of teal to basic black and white. If you're using linoleum in a kitchen today, choose a single color for a smaller space or opt for a checkerboard in two colors in a larger room or set a checkerboard on end to create a diamond pattern. Small, ceramic tiles, often in a strong color, could also be used for a kitchen floor in the 1950s.

Kitchen Walls and Counters

Tile could also be used on the walls and counters in a 1950s kitchen. To create a '50s tiled look in your kitchen, opt for relatively small tiles in a color reminiscent of the period. A single color was the most common option for a backsplash or wall; however, if the counter was tiled, it might be a contrasting shade. While tile counters require substantial upkeep, the tile backsplash is as practical today as it was in the 1950s. Look for small 1-inch to 2-inch tiles in a single shade to create a '50s backsplash.


Nowhere does tile play a bigger part in creating a '50s style than in the bathroom. Many bathrooms of the 1950s were heavily tiled, with wall surfaces, tub surrounds, and counters using the same tile. Shades of pink, mint and turquoise were popular, often with a contrasting or darker colored accent tile edging at the top of the wall. The same color tile was used on the floor and walls. To recreate this look, tile the floor and walls in the same tile, bringing the tile at least halfway up the walls. Finish the tile with a rounded or bullnose edge in a contrasting or coordinating color.

About the Author

With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.

Photo Credits

  • George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images