There's little doubt that an antique bathroom vanity can add charm and distinctiveness to your bathroom unlike any other type of bathroom fixture. They're not something you see everyday and certainly provide a style choice that's 180o from the bland cabinet vanities you get at the big box stores.
But before you get too emotionally attached to the idea, take some time to learn about your options and what there is to know about antique bathroom vanities.
Perhaps you really do want a bona fide "antique" in your bathroom and nothing else will do. Or maybe you'll find that what you're actually looking for is simply a furniture-style vanity, or a reproduction of an antique.
Regardless of which way you choose, the investment in an antique bathroom vanity or even a newly-made imposter can give your bathroom an individuality and warmth that few other bath furnishings provide.
Photo Courtesy of Vanities Of Yesteryear
One of the first questions to ask yourself in the search for an antique bathroom vanity is whether you want a true antique or something that looks like an antique. There are different considerations to think about and different ways of going about getting the vanity depending on your choice.
The term "antique" also means different things to different people and an official definition may be elusive. For the sake of clarity, this article distinguishes a "real antique" as an older (we're not going to put a number on it) and/or collectible and/or period piece of furniture. Maybe a clearer definition is stating what it's not -- a "real antique" is not a newly made piece of furniture even if it's made to look like an antique.
At the risk of offending some tried-and-true antique aficionados by our definition of genuine, the reason for defining antique bathroom vanities this way is simple. It's because when you shop for them you'll find both varieties lumped under the term "antique bathroom vanity". In reality they're either older pieces of furniture that are made into vanities, or newly manufactured vanities styled to look like older pieces of furniture.
Here are some things to consider when thinking about buying an antique bathroom vanity:
Photo Courtesy of Vanities Of YesteryearIf you search for "antique bathroom vanity" on the internet you won't be at a loss for results. But keep in mind that the majority of sources that sell antique vanities actually deal in newly made products, either reproductions or just furniture-style vanities that are called "antique".
There are a few sources for actual antiques and old furniture conversions but most of the products that are out there are new.
This isn't an intent to deceive on the part of vanity makers. It's just the common name the industry gives to this style of bathroom vanity. You shouldn't have any problem distinguishing between a real antique and a reproduction as the manufacturers usually make it clear.
Photo Courtesy of Vanities Of Yesteryear
The vanity is really no different than a cabinet and there's variation in how they're built, particularly with new pieces. It might help to review our page on kitchen cabinet construction.
Although an antique bathroom vanity isn't a kitchen cabinet, the principles of good quality materials and construction are the same.
Some new reproductions are made entirely from MDF (medium density fiberboard) while others are made with hardwood and plywood construction. MDF is made from wood fibers glued and pressed together.
While this enables it to be easily shaped to form detailing resembling hand-carved wood, it's more susceptible to problems from moisture than solid wood or plywood. This might not be a problem in a powder room but it could be an issue in a bathroom with a steamy shower.
If the finish gets chipped and exposes the fiberboard the fibers can swell in the moist environment and look unsightly.
A good finish coat that protects the underlying materials is important too, especially in wet bathroom environments. Be sure any antique bathroom vanity you're interested in has a good surface treatment like a nitrocellulose wood lacquer or something equivalent.
Photo Courtesy of Vanities Of YesteryearAn old chest of drawers or other antique piece of furniture wasn't designed with the purpose of being a vanity later on in life. It will probably need to be modified and possibly beefed up in order to accommodate the sink and its plumbing.
A dresser-style piece will require the top drawer to be modified to make way for the sink, which will cut down on the storage space somewhat.
An antique vanity that will keep its wood top should have a good sealer applied to prevent any water damage. It can also be removed and replaced with a stone vanity top or other suitable surface.
For even better durability, all surfaces both inside and out, should be sealed to prevent swelling wood and sticking drawers in moist environments.
Depending on the type of antique bathroom vanity you want (real antique or new/reproduction) there are various ways to obtain them and sources to buy from.
You may already have the piece in your possession or have your eye on it someplace locally - meaning your search is already ended. If you're handy and can do it yourself, the cost is minimized. You can also see and feel the piece and aren't reliant on a picture and a description on a web browser.
If you're not handy, finding someone to do the job may be difficult depending on the availability of such services in your area.
Everything's done except the installation. You just pick out the piece, purchase it and take it home. You also get to check it out up close before you buy.
Sources for real antique bathroom vanities aren't on every street corner. You may be out of luck depending on where you live in relation to any shops that carry real antique bathroom vanities.
There's the convenience of shopping from your home and the elimination of any issues related to the geographic location of the seller (if they can ship it, you can get it).
Buying sight unseen may be a hindrance for some but with pictures and good communication with the seller, these obstacles can be overcome. Shipping costs will have to factored in unless the seller provides free shipping. There also aren't as many genuine antique bathroom vanity sources as there are for reproduction pieces.
Sources for real antique bathroom vanities are out there however they're not that plentiful. The do-it-yourself route isn't that difficult but it depends on your skills and whether you have the time and tools to tackle such a project.Here are several internet sources for real antique and converted-furniture bathroom vanities.
Canton Antiques refurbishes and sells English and American antique furniture while specializing in antique bathroom vanities. They offer various options for sinks, faucets, mirrors and finishes. They also carry a selection of furniture that you can have them customize for you.
Vanities Of Yesteryear
Vanities Of Yesteryear specializes in converting antique furniture into bathroom vanities. They also offer reproduction/replica antique furniture for use as vanities and kitchen islands. Vanities Of Yesteryear is located in Ashland, Ohio.
You're able to inspect the vanity and see if it meets your standards relative to materials and construction. You may also be able to get delivery and installation depending on the retailer.
Sources and selection typically aren't as broad in brick-and-mortar stores as compared to what's available on the internet.
There's a wide range of styles and choices for antique bathroom vanities available through the internet. Some sources provide free shipping too. You also have the convenience of shopping from home, along with a wider selection than what you'd encounter driving around town.
Just like with a real antique bathroom vanity bought on the internet, you can't actually give them a physical inspection ahead of time. If you do purchase a vanity that ultimately doesn't meet your expectations you'll have to take the time and effort to ship the unit back to the seller.
You may be able to find a new vanity in your local area either through a home center or kitchen and bath showroom. But if you can't, the internet is probably your next best solution.
To give you a head start, check out these sources.
The Furniture Guild - Vanity Flair Collection
Vanity Flair is the bath collection product line of The Furniture Guild. They make custom vanity furniture in a variety of styles based on your interests. The company is committed to high quality in the material and techniques used to manufacture their vanities. Dealers can be located using a source locator function on their website.
Silver Light Editions
Silver Light Editions makes antique styled bathroom vanities in a variety of styles using solid woods and quality joinery. Vanities can be ordered in various sizes and are offered in a range of finishes. You can buy from dealers (located via their website) or directly using an order form on their website.
Quality Vanities is an online store specializing in vanities including reproduction antique bathroom vanities. Vanities are made without tops or can be ordered with optional tops. They offer a range of styles and all products are unconditionally guaranteed.
Simply Vanities is an internet retailer offering a wide range of vanities from contemporary to antique and furniture styles. Vanities are from various makers such as Cole and Co.® and DreamLine™.