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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Midcentury Mosaic: 1954

Midcentury Mosaic: 1954

Jan. 25, 1954. "H.F. Fischbach, residence at Hampshire House, Central Park South. Tile bathroom." You'll come for the plumbing but stay for the towels. Large-format acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

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Terrible tile work

You guys may want to zoom in on those lines, margins, spacing, cuts, grout, etc. It is very poorly done.

[It's an intentional part of the style. -tterrace]

Dated and Not Dated

I worked on a restoration of a late 1930s early international style house recently, and it turns out that plumbing fixtures were the bane of pioneering modernist architects. There just wasn't anything available that was suitably modern. The main choices were American Standard or Crane fixtures that were decidedly art deco at best, and in most cases still quite victorian looking. I have little doubt that the architect here wanted to hide the toilet as best as possible for that very reason. The faucets, while a bit fussy with their porcelain handles and clumsy spout, have at least predicted the contemporary preference for levers that are easier for arthritic elders and the handicapped to use.

At least light fixtures are easier to custom design. Porcelain bathroom fixtures and working faucets not so much. Off-the-shelf furniture was also a problem for modernists until about the 1950s, so again the architects would have to turn to custom made pieces for the signature rooms at the very least. Today we have virtually the opposite problem. There's so many truly modern fixtures and furniture now that it's a veritable embarrassment of riches. Unless of course you want those same fixtures they had to settle for 70 years ago to do a faithful restoration, then it's surprisingly challenging, not unlike what the original architects had to face.

I visited Hampshire House during the 1980s.

I admire the durability of older builds. My contractors' tile works have never held up as well as the work I see in older installations. Modern grout just seems to crumble away within a few short years. I wonder if it's the new grout formulas, or just poorly installed designs.

Color scheme

I have no idea what the tile color palette might be, but I'm thinking.... lurid. Colorists, start your engines.

Rimless Sink

I thought undermount rimless sinks were a much more recent plumbing development. The design is so modern, yet the faucet set looks like a leftover from the 1930's.

Dated? Cheesy?

I've never seen tilework like that in any motel, ever. The building is at 150 Central Park South, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

Dated Design

Interesting how yesterday's cutting-edge modern can look like today's cheesy motel.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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