Many people are considering an antique vanity when remodeling or renovating. Antique furniture certainly creates a unique bathroom. Both true antiques and many reproductions are available for remodelers, but is an antique vanity right for your home?
Most bathroom and home designers believe the vanity is the focal point of a bathroom. This makes it the basis of your bathroom design. For this reason, many homeowners choose the vanity first, and then design the bathroom around it.
Antique Vanity Challenges
There are several challenges, however, in designing a bathroom around an antique.
- Everything else in the bathroom should also fit the period (Victorian, for example) and the design style. Knobs, handles and drawer pulls must be appropriate for the original design of the furniture. Fixtures and fittings must also match.
- The surface material must be a natural material (marble, stone) to match the period of the antique.
- The tub and shower must also fit with the design of the vanity. Ideally, a claw foot tub is chosen. The shower will be hand-held and the curtain will be suspended from a circular rod surrounding the entire tub. Even the curtain rings must be appropriate.
- Some designers recommend that everything be antique brass. Others recommend chrome and porcelain.
- You must be prepared to either cut holes in the antique or find a style that will accommodate pipes without cutting holes.
An antique vanity will be made of a natural wood. Typically, these were built of oak, walnut, pine, cherry and mahogany. One of the most attractive characteristics of the antique is the warmth of the natural wood.
When introducing a significant visual focus in a natural wood, the wall, ceiling, door and floor colors should also be warm tones. Earth tones and some sea tones are perfect. Sterile white or other clinical shades will be jarring to the eye.
Many of the true antique vanity pieces were built long before modern waxes and chemical sealants became available. As a result, most of the true antiques can be damaged by the moisture in the typical bathroom. The warm moisture can weaken joints and cause warping.
Antique Vanity Reproductions
An attractive alternative is the reproduction of an antique vanity. An array of styles and sizes are available from most dealers. It is possible for you to shop for the style you want in the wood finish of your choice and with the surface material you prefer.
Although it is possible to find antique vanity reproductions in real mahogany, cherry, walnut or other natural woods, most reproductions are made of maple and a finish is applied to create the appearance of more expensive woods. The work of a good cabinetmaker will be difficult to distinguish from the true antique visually. In fact, your cabinetmaker will likely visit antique stores and warehouses to find good antique wood either from a period house, a barn, a boat or even a bridge.
The two most important differences between the antique vanity and the reproduction will be price and ability to endure the humidity in a bathroom. A reproduction has the advantage of chemical treatment to prevent damage by heat and humidity. It is also possible to apply modern sealers to marble and other stone or to use an artificial marble for the surface.
Shopping for the Perfect Antique Vanity
There are many sources for a true antique vanity or for a piece of furniture adaptable for this purpose. Some, for example, use dressers or “dressing tables.” There are also several sources for reproductions.
The true antique vanity or other antique furniture can be found in antique stores, salvage stores or from remodelers who remove them from old homes before they are demolished. Occasionally, it is also possible to find useful pieces of furniture from old hotels when they remodel.
Most people prefer an antique vanity with some scars or other indications of use and age. If this is your preference, you might have the best luck in a salvage store. You might also find something appropriate online.
Antique vanity reproductions are available through most kitchen and bathroom stores, home improvement stores and cabinet stores. Shopping around might also locate a cabinetmaker who has a connection with a manufacturer or who customizes antiques for his or her customers. Reproductions are also available from online stores.
Choosing to remodel your bathroom around an antique vanity will result in a finished room that is attractive, warm and inviting. An antique or reproduction can be used in any home style, but they are typically seen in Victorian, revival, Georgian and Southern Colonial homes. If you are renovating a historic home, you will certainly want to include an antique.