MAMIE PINK: The iconic decorating color of the 50s, arguably. Ubiquitous in fashion as well as bathrooms and kitchens. The mid-century trend to pink seems to have come directly and irrefutably from Mamie Eisenhower, first lady from 1953 to 1961. Pink was Mamie’s favorite color. She wore a pink gown with 2,000 pink rhinestones to Ike’s inauguration. Ike sent her pink flowers every morning. Her bathroom in Gettysburg was pink down to the cotton balls. She re-decorated the private quarters in the White House in pink. So much so that reporters called it the “Pink Palace.” The color also seems to have been known as “First Lady Pink.” As a result of all this pink-think, there was probably no question that American women (and marketers) would pick up on it. It also was a color trend right in line with the exuberance of the time — and even supportive of the return of women to the home after WWII and their complete remaking of the American domestic landscape.
In fact, my own informal research from scouring marketing materials from the period indicates that pink kitchens and baths arrived solidly in ’53, reached a total frenzy in 1957, then pretty rapidly started to fade after that, as other trends took hold. A typical adoption curve for a trend like this.
I have an aquamarine kitchen – the decorating gods sided with my husband on this decision. But I really truly wanted pink. I have to admit, a total fixation.
Photo above: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-25814.
2021 Update: After nearly 15 years of blogging about the retro, I have stepped back from posting regularly, and have closed comments. Enjoy all the wonderful comments over the years! Hooray for pink bathrooms!
By Caitlin on
I recently bought a house that was built in 59 and the only thing I didn’t like about it was the kitchen so I immediately started remodeling and I’ve always loved retro style. I found this amazing pink 50s stove on accident and fell in love the funny thing is I had already started remodeling to go with that style. I started to sand the cabinets and low and behold underneath the white they had been previously painted Mamie pink!
By Sue Herbert on
I love my pink bathroom! House was built in the early
60’s. I have decorated it and wouldn’t change it for
By Sandy Anderson on
Hello! For 18 years my husband and I lived in an apartment house that was built in 1957 (which I discovered from city records). It had the original pink-and-grey bathroom. I confess that in 18 years I got kind of tired of it. When the building went condo, we had to move out. We then lived in an apartment that was all white, all the time. A few years later, though, we bought a 1923 bungalow in a nearby suburb, which oddly enough had an almost identical pink-and-grey bathroom, right down to the unique pattern of the floor tiles! I’ve been thinking of restoring it to something more in keeping with how it might have looked in 1923, but I recently discovered that the year 1957 was very significant in the history of the house. It was in that year that the second owner was elected mayor of our town — which probably was why he remodeled right then!
By 50s Pam on Author
See my main blog, RetroRenovation.com Bathroom Help/Tile subcategory here for places to look — http://retrorenovation.com/category/bathroom-categories/tile/
By Catherine on
My house was built in1956, and it has all the original wood trimming , molding, and hardwood flooring. Guest what it also have the original pink bathroom. soap dish, toothbrush/cup holder, shower, walls, toilet paper holder, and the flooring is pink. I had to replace the toilet, and vanity. It also have the original metal medicine cabinet that’s white. My kitchen was also in its original form it had metal cabinets the stove had the broiler on the side of the oven, what they call vintage, cast iron sink. Unfortunately the kitchen and baths had to be remodel because of tenants that live in the house since 1998 until 2014. Water damage. Trying to preserve as much of the home as possible. The only problem is that I can’t find the pink mosaic tile that came with the bathroom. I had New duct work installed and they made the hole in the floor a little too large. So it took some of the tile with the hole but left the bottom of the tile. Anyone know where I can find that type of tile from the 40’s and the 50’s because I really like the pink bathroom an I don’t want to get rid of the pink. That the only thing holding my remodeling up is the tile around the vent. So sad ?. Don’t need much. Maybe I can take from a inconspicuous place like under the Vanity if it’s any there. Still looking to buy the tile.
By Karen on
One of my childhood homes had an original pink and black tile bathroom. I cried when we moved because I loved that house so much. I think my parents’ bathroom was yellow (which I hate!).
By Janet Senatore on
We live in a 1961 house that has a pink bathroom. Our previous home had one that was yellow and turquoise, with a turquoise bathtub. I really miss that!
By Margaret on
I read the feature article in ‘The Times’ of 21 October 2016. My first home, a Devon (UK)house, built in 1971, still has its original pink bathroom suite,in excellent condition, with pink walls which I have freshly repainted. My neighbours have replaced theirs with white, all you can get here now, and supposedly the fashionable 21st century thing to do. After being a holiday let for many years, I’m now preparing it for residential letting. I’m hoping to find tenants who love my bathroom as much as I do. I’ll be leaving around a copy of The Times article.
By Richard on
My home was built in 1953. I have a fully pink and blue bath. Walls and counter top are pink. Tub, sink and toilet are original white. Love it and have no plan to change it.
By Liz on
When I was a little girl we were renting a mid-century Ranch style cottage (this was in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburbs), which had a pink bathroom and the vanity had a white laminate top with sparkles like you discuss on the blog 🙂 It’s been nearly 44 years since we lived in that house but I miss it so much. It sadly got torn down for a subdivision redevelopment in the late 90s.
By Valerie on
We manage the Beach House Inn in Santa Barbara. It was built in the 50’s and one of the rooms head the original pink bathroom including pink tub! A lot of our guests love, and request, that room!
By Lindee Levicke on
I LOVE a pink bathroom! I rented the first apartment that I lived alone in because it had pink and lavender tile in the bathroom (the building was from the ’50s). When my husband and I bought our house (built in 1942) it had pink and blue original tile! I almost swooned I was so excited! The only thing we had to replace was the floor but I was able to source a place in Los Angeles that makes new tile from old molds in just the right shade of pink. It looks completely original. It’s the only room in our house where my husband is OK with having pink—so I take complete advantage!
By Cynde lee on
I am enjoying your blog. I was born in 1951 and we had steel cabinets in the kitchen. My dad was a modernist so I grew up with Eames chairs and a aluminum Christmas tree with blue bulbs and a color wheel. My husband and I bought our first home that had pink and grey tile in the kitchen and yellow and gre in the bathroom! All of the photos bring back lots of memories! Glad that someone sees the style as
By KWG on
Just moved into an MCM and the bathroom, I now discover, was pink! They painted over the tile with an “eggnog” finish. I only figured it out because the paint is peeling off of the toothbrush/cup holder, exposing its original Mamie glory!!!! Any suggestions on how to bring it back to its fabulous pink self? I don’t even know where to begin!
By Casey Sherron on
I live in a 1965 one story brick rental house in town. Our master bath has pink and white tile on the walls almost all the way up and all over the top of the vanity surrounding the sink as well. The toilet paper holder and towel holder are pink ceramic material as well. It drove me insane when we first moved in because even though I’m a woman, I absolutely hate pink. But after watching so many episodes of Rehab Addict with Nicole Curtis, I’m learning to at least appreciate the fact that it’s all still original except for the newer white toilet (which I also hate). I have had a heck of a time trying to decorate around all that pink as well!!
By pat kosluk on
I hve amamie tile pink cant match apaint color that matches any ideas..canomeone help with this..
By Linda on
Thanks to this site (in part) I’ve gone from hating my pink and grey bathroom and planning its demise to being more appreciative. I’m in a 1925 bungalow, and the bathroom was remodeled sometime in the 50’s/early 60’s from what I can tell. I have grey tiled walls 3/4 of the way up to the ceiling with pale pink trim, pale pink tub, white (sorry!) toilet and grey sink/vanity single top piece sink. Love that flamingo wallpaper (I have shower doors each with a curvy-necked flamingo, don’t be jealous!), but didn’t see a colorway that would look ok with all this grey. Did I mention I hate grey?