Technicolor Tile – Learning to Love Mid-Century Ceramics

As I go about my job, looking at properties and talking with buyers and sellers, I am often asked about colorful bathrooms from the 1950s and 60s. May I redo the bathrooms? Should I coat it all with that white epoxy stuff and get rid of the colors?
My answer is usually something like, “It’s your house. You can do anything you want. But I wouldn’t.” Occasionally, I veer into pleading. “Please don’t do that!”

everything: houses, all sorts of other buildings, automobiles, furniture, decorative arts, cocktail recipes … you name it. So my answers aren’t exactly impartial.
But there are good reasons to get happy with the pink and green tile and hang on to it. They involve history and money. But really, both boil down to money.

History  It’s one thing to replace a Victorian bathroom full of uncomfortable, non-functional fixtures, but by the mid-20th century, comfort and function were no longer an issue. Fifty-year-old bathrooms function about the same as new ones. So it’s an aesthetic choice. And part of the value of a now-historic mid-century house is in the way it looks. In many listings I see, colorful bathrooms that used to be considered a drag on resale value, are being promoted as a plus. There are fans out there, and they are willing to pay for crazy-cool tile and fixtures.  
Money  There are two ways to get rid of colorful bathroom tile and fixtures: replace or “re-glaze”. Both are a hassle of course, and either one could be a financial mistake. A total re-do doesn’t make a lot of sense dollar-wise in the short term. It will cost a lot of money and you will not get all your money back if you sell any time soon. A re-glaze may not hurt you on a quick resale, but re-glazing is decidedly temporary. Even the people who sell this stuff promise only a 10-15 year life at best. Which means it will likely be peeling and look terrible just in time for you to put your house on the market. And, in either case, the historic value of the house has been diminished.
What I say about technicolor tile is this: history preserved = more money when you sell. Not to mention less hassle in the mean time.
So, get with it and learn to love that mid-mod porcelain!