Vintage and antique vanities are making a major comeback in bathroom designs, bringing elegance and old-world charm to modern homes. With their carved details, polished marble tops, and brass hardware, vintage vanities evoke a sense of refinement and luxury. This trend gives bathrooms a unique character you simply can’t find with mass-produced fixtures. Read on to learn more about vintage vanities and how they can bring a touch of bygone style to your bathroom.
The Allure of Vintage Vanities
What is it exactly that makes vintage vanities so appealing? Here are some of the key factors driving this trend:
- Craftsmanship – The woodworking and detailing on old vanities is rarely seen today. The carved legs, built-in storage, and ornamental accents showcase true artisanship.
- Materials – Vintage vanities often feature fine materials like solid hardwoods, marble, and brass. These offer a substantial, quality feel.
- Character – From the patina of natural wood grains to the wear that comes with age, vintage vanities have a depth of character modern pieces lack.
- Nostalgia – Vintage styling conjures images of gracious old Hollywood homes and sophisticated art deco aesthetics.
- Uniqueness – No two antique vanities are exactly alike, making them far more unique than mass-produced furniture.
When it comes to creating a bathroom with timeless appeal, vintage vanities offer something you simply can’t replicate with off-the-shelf fixtures.
A Brief History of the Vanity
To understand what makes vintage vanities special, it helps to know a little bit about the history of this bathroom staple. Here are some vanity highlights through the decades:
- The 1800s – Early vanities were dresser-style pieces fitted with a mirror and basin. They provided necessary storage for washing up.
- Early 1900s – Plumbing advancements led to built-in vanities specifically designed for bathrooms. Styles like art nouveau became popular.
- 1920s – With indoor bathrooms now common in homes, vanities took on a more stylized look with curved legs and decorative carvings.
- 1930s – The emergence of Hollywood glamour made mirrored vanities de rigueur. Glass shelves and geometric details also came into vogue.
- 1940s – War shortages scaled back some of the ornamentation of previous decades, but vanities remained large statement pieces.
- 1950s/60s – Space age-inspired looks with boomerang shapes and formica surfaces marked mid-century style.
As this timeline shows, vintage vanities offer a visual history lesson about design through the decades. Finding a piece that hails from a favorite era can be quite meaningful.
Incorporating Vintage Vanities into Modern Bathrooms
Vintage vanities may seem like relics of the past, but they can work remarkably well in today’s bathrooms. Here are some tips for seamlessly integrating a vintage vanity style into a contemporary space:
- Mix old and new – Pairing an antique vanity with modern updates like industrial pipe fixtures prevents the space from feeling too old-fashioned.
- Stick to a color palette – Choose vintage woods and marbles that coordinate nicely with your current tile and paint colors.
- Update the sink – Fitting a vintage vanity with a modern vessel sink creates an eclectic, blended look.
- Add vintage-style lighting – Sconces, pendants and chandeliers from repro brands like Schoolhouse Electric keep the old-world vibe going.
- Display collections – Adorning the countertop with neat arrangements of perfume bottles, jars, and trays suits a vintage vanity beautifully.
With strategic furnishings and finishes, you can enjoy an antique vanity’s time-honored elegance while still looking current.
Sourcing the Perfect Vintage Vanity
Finding a vintage vanity that fits your space and style takes a bit of persistence and know-how. Here are some top tips for sourcing that dream piece:
- Assess dimensions – Carefully measure your bathroom and vanity area so you choose a piece that fits. Too small or large simply won’t work.
- Study options online – Search sites like 1stDibs, Chairish and Etsy to get a feel for pricing and availability before visiting shops.
- Check architectural salvage stores – These warehouses often have a treasure trove of old building materials like vanities at reasonable prices.
- Search consignment shops – You can uncover great vintage finds when you regularly peruse well-curated consignment stores.
- Utilize auction sites – Sites like eBay and LiveAuctioneers are go-tos for finding unique antiques being auctioned off.
- Find trusted vintage dealers – Well-established vintage shops and dealers offer curated selections and expertise that helps ensure quality.
Cast a wide net until you discover that one-of-a-kind vintage vanity with the perfect blend of condition, style and value for your needs.
Practical Considerations for Vintage Vanities
The ornate, substantial nature of vintage vanities presents a few functional factors to keep in mind for your space:
- Older vanities tend to offer abundant built-in storage with closed cabinets and multiple drawers. Maximize this by editing down your bathroom products.
- Make sure your bathroom’s plumbing can accommodate the sink placement on any vanity you’re considering. This may affect drainage.
- Proper lighting is key. If your vintage vanity needs electrified sconces orcharging ports, ensure electrical capacity before committing.
- Marble is common on old vanities. Be prepared to properly seal and maintain this porous, stain-prone natural stone.
Repairs and Refinishing
- Well-worn finishes or unstable legs may need restoration work. Budget and plan for this investment to revive a quality vintage piece.
With forethought, a vintage vanity can work seamlessly even with modern plumbing and electrics. The unrivaled style makes a little extra care worthwhile.
Design Styles to Look For
Antique vanities span a rich array of historical design styles. Here are some of the most popular vintage aesthetics for bathrooms today:
Intricately carved wood, clawed feet, and marble inlays define the traditional Victorian look. These dark, dramatic vanities feel right at home in Victorian-era home renovations.
The sleek geometry of Art Deco vans reflects 1920s modernism. Mirrored surfaces and exotic inlays in this iconic style beautifully suit contemporary baths.
Romantic design lovers adore the soft, carved curves of French Provincial vanities. Their delicately scalloped aprons and cabriole legs add vintage charm.
From tapered legs to retro hardware, Midcentury vanities exemplify 1950s chic. Their clean profiles suit those looking for vintage appeal without all the frills.
Turn-of-the-century factory carts and worktables converted into vanities are ultra-cool. Their urban industrial vibe adds great edge to modern bathrooms.
The range of vintage vanity styles out there makes it easy to choose a piece that aligns with your preferred design aesthetics.
Vintage Vanity Ideas for Different Bathroom Layouts
Vintage vanities can work in baths of all shapes and sizes. Here are some great ways to incorporate antique vanities based on your bathroom’s floorplan:
Small bathroom – A petite vintage wall-mount vanity saves floor space. Or, use a narrow antique console table as a creative vanity alternative.
Large bathroom – Fill that big bathroom with an oversized double-basin vintage vanity as a substantial focal point.
Powder room – Nothing adds instant powder room glamour like an ornate antique vanity in a standout black or bold color.
Master bath – Treat yourself to his-and-her vintage vanities with matching or complementary styles.
Kids’ bathroom – For a playful, eclectic kids’ bath, try repurposing a vintage dresser or desk as a pint-sized vanity.
Beach house – A weathered, seaside-inspired antique vanity looks right at home in a laid-back beach retreat.
Urban loft – Incorporate cool industrial or midcentury vintage vanities to complement a sleek, modern loft.
With imagination, you can find an old-world vanity to enhance bathrooms of every imaginable layout and style.
Decorating with Vintage Vanity Finds
Once you’ve acquired that perfect vintage vanity, it’s time to decorate! Here are some ideas for styling and accessorizing your new statement piece:
- Display your perfumes, brushes, and jewelry in vintage bottles, trays, and boxes atop the vanity.
- Flank the vanity with matching vintage sconces found at antique shops or salvage yards.
- Add lush, vintage-look textiles like embroidered towels, lace robe hooks, and an embellished shower curtain.
- Select an antique framed mirror or medicine cabinet with details that complement your vanity’s era and ornamentation.
- Fill decorative vintage jars with cotton balls, swabs, and bath salts for an old-timey apothecary vibe.
- Incorporate candles, framed photos, and fresh flowers to make the vanity feel homey and lived-in.
- Stack a few vintage suitcases underneath for charming concealed storage.
- Finish the vintage look with an area rug featuring a traditional Persian or Oriental motif.
Mixing antique accents throughout the bathroom alongside your vanity creates a curated, vintage-chic space.
Maintaining Your Vintage Find
To keep your vintage vanity looking its best for years to come, be sure to care for it properly:
- Use soft cloths and gentle cleaners like dish soap and water to clean the vanity. Avoid abrasive scrubbing.
- Frequently polish brass hardware with a brass cleaner to prevent buildup and tarnishing.
- Re-apply sealer annually to marble and travertine to prevent etching and stains.
- Condition wood vanities every few months with furniture oil to nourish the finish.
- Use furniture wax on carved details to prevent drying and restore luster.
- Invest in professional refinishing if the vanity ever needs extensive repairs.
With regular cleansing and conditioning, your vintage vanity will gracefully withstand decades of use.
Preserving the History of Vintage Finds
Part of the appeal of vintage vanities is their fascinating histories. When sourcing a unique antique piece, try to learn details about its past. Ask sellers and document information like:
- The original manufacturer, date, and location
- The architectural style it represents
- Any past owners, locations, or uses if known
- Details of previous restorations or repairs it has undergone
- Receipts, makers marks, labels, or other identifiers
Learning and recording this history enables you to preserve and potentially share the story of your bathroom’s vintage centerpiece for many years to come.
Key Takeaways on Vintage Vanities
- Vintage vanities offer unmatched craftsmanship, nostalgic design, and antique appeal that enhance modern bathrooms.
- Styles like Victorian, Art Deco, and Midcentury allow you to create a bathroom that channels your favorite design era.
- Practical planning for plumbing, storage, and maintenance will allow a period vanity to function smoothly.
- Decorating and accessorizing with vintage pieces creates a coordinated, curated bath.
- Caring properly for an antique vanity helps preserve its unique history and craftsmanship.
Vintage Vanity FAQs
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about incorporating vintage vanities in bathroom designs:
What are the benefits of using a vintage vanity?
Some key benefits of vintage vanities include their high-quality materials, craftsmanship and charm. The uniqueness, patina, and nostalgic design of antique vanities add character difficult to replicate with new bathroom furniture.
How do I make a vintage vanity work in my modern bathroom?
Balance a vintage vanity by blending it with some contemporary elements. Try pairing it with modern faucets, lighting and mirrors. Use vintage-inspired wallpaper, tile and textiles to tie it all together cohesively.
Where are the best places to shop for vintage vanities?
Check salvage warehouses, antique shops, vintage boutiques and online auction sites. Etsy and 1stDibs also offer curated vintage vanity selections. Estate sales can sometimes turn up great options too.
What should I look out for when buying an old vanity?
Carefully inspect the condition inside and out. Seek out quality materials like solid wood or marble in good shape. Check that cabinets and drawers are sturdy and fully functional. Also confirm measurements to ensure it fits your space.
How do I refresh or restore a worn vintage vanity?
Minor touch ups may simply require cleaning, conditioning and waxing the wood. But extensive repairs often warrant professional help from antique restorers. Refinishing or re-plating original hardware also helps revive well-loved pieces.
How do I decorate the rest of my bathroom to match a vintage vanity?
Look for era-appropriate lighting, tile, wallpaper, rugs and mirrors to complement the vanity’s style. Displaying vintage-inspired accessories like perfume bottles adds cohesive detail. Aim to decorate the entire room to echo the vintage aesthetic.
What maintenance does an antique vanity require?
Expect to regularly clean, polish and condition the vanity materials. Marble and metals require special care like re-sealing and tarnish-removal. Maintain the piece well, and enlist professionals when significant restoration work is needed.
A vintage vanity can infuse a bathroom with timeless sophistication and nostalgia. Antique furnishings offer an elegance modern cookie-cutter fixtures simply cannot replicate thanks to their fine craftsmanship and patina. With careful sourcing and decorating, you can incorporate a touch of yesteryear into your bathroom design. Just be sure to respect the delicacy and maintenance needs of true vintage pieces. Embrace the old-fashioned elegance a period vanity brings, and you may just find your bathroom has become your favorite room!