Reusing Old Materials for Green Bath Design

For a unique and eco-friendly look, try using salvaged materials in your bathroom design: reclaimed wood, antique tiles and even old sinks.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionLeah Hennen decorates with salvaged lavender porcelain sconces.
Leah Hennen, was looking for a more recent but still retro look for her mid-century ranch home. Several years and one home later, she's almost ready to start renovating her 1930s-era bathroom with the lavender tiles and fixtures she's salvaged. It all began with a pair of lavender porcelain sconces she found on eBay, which led to a lavender porcelain towel bar and toilet paper holder. At her local salvage store, Ohmega Salvage, Leah found a large box of tiles with (you guessed it) lavender ones scattered throughout. She and her children spent the afternoon sorting through boxes of tiles for the lavender ones. She has since found a lavender toilet and sink, but she had to forgo a cast-iron lavender tub since the cross-country shipping fee totaled more than $1,000. Today, she's just about ready to start her purple passion of a renovation.

Like Leah, you can find antique tiles and other retro bath fixtures on eBay or in architectural salvage stores. They can cost anywhere from a few dollars each to a few thousand dollars each, depending on age, rarity and condition.

And, unlike Leah, if you've only managed to collect a few treasured tiles, you can scatter them among new field, or background, tiles on a chair rail or a sink surround; think Arts and Crafts Batchelder tiles among field tiles of limestone.

If you have some tiles that you'd hate to lose should you move from your house (such as heirlooms from your grandmother), consider surrounding them with an edge of wood or metal, such as copper or pewter, and then laying them so they can be removed and replaced with less sentimentally precious tiles. Be sure not to mortar the back (only the sides)of the surround to make removal easier.

For these aficionados of the past, it's about reusing and not losing materials and products.

"I believe that old things have a beauty and a quality that newer things, even reproductions, lack," Leah says. "Often, these things are perfectly usable or can be refurbished so that they are and will last another 30, 50 or 70 years."


Staples Cabinetmakers,

Duluth Timber Company,

Ohmega Salvage,

Reclaimed Wood Council,

Solar Antique Tiles,

Karen Michelle Antique Tiles,

Mountain Lumber,

Pioneer Millworks,

The Woods Company,