Vanities are perhaps one of the most important fixtures in a bathroom, and can be one of those important aspects of a home that can impact the overall success and happiness of a marriage. Having lived with just one sink in our master bathroom for seven long years, I can attest to the bickering and elbowing that can result from an insufficient vanity.
Here's a look back at the hideous unique vanity that was in our home when we purchased it. This failed 1980s DIY effort from a previous owner was oddly tall, partially obstructed the view out of the window, and had an uneven tile surface that made cleaning difficult but growing mold cultures in the deep grout lines super easy.
Let's face it. The harsh lighting and unframed mirror certainly didn't do anything to enhance the experience either. Our best guess is that the previous owner had retrofitted particle board kitchen cabinets to make this bad boy, and then slapped a thin coat of cheap paint on it.
After wrapping up the vestibule project, we've now turned our attention to renovating our master bathroom. While Alex works through the less sexy tasks of duct work, insulation, and vent fans, my attention has been focused on the search for a new vanity. My wish list for this extremely important bathroom fixture is as follows:
- Must have enough room to house two sinks.
- Should be made of solid wood, not particle board like the beauty pictured above.
- Should be something somewhat unique -- not your everyday run of the mill vanity found in new construction.
- Must look appropriate with the rest of our house, stylistically speaking. This means it shouldn't look modern and should work well with the salvaged claw foot tub.
- Must look good painted white.
- Must come with or must be able to retrofit a Carrara marble surface.
- Must be reasonably priced.
Keeping this somewhat specific set of criteria in mind, I began scouring local home improvement stores for options. I quickly ruled out anything from a home improvement store as it didn't meet criteria number three. In person, I also wasn't particularly impressed with the look of the white vanities. Despite price tags in the range of $2,000 (like the one below), they just looked a little cheap, almost like the wood was plastic, if that makes sense.
So next up I turned my attention to the Internet and started looking at online retailers. I considered some of the national chains like Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware. Although I really liked the look of some of these vanities, these options, like the home improvement stores, violated #3 and I just couldn't stomach the $3,000+ price tag. Ugh.
I started to realize that buying a true vanity might not be the way to go. Alex graciously offered to build a custom vanity for the space, but I felt like I hadn't exhausted all of my options yet. So I decided to try to find a piece of furniture -- maybe an old dresser or buffet -- that we could convert into a vanity. I know everyone and their brother has designs on getting an older piece of furniture and turning it into a vanity or sink, but I really felt like we could do it. As such, I began a several month long browsing session on eBay and Craig's List. Despite my best efforts, I came up empty handed here as well. The pieces were either not the right style, not the right size, or not the right price. Bummer.
It began to feel like we were going to have to resort to having Alex custom build a vanity (which also meant adding potentially months to the project given his not-so-speedy pace on things like this), and this really made me feel discouraged. Just when I was about to throw up my arms in defeat and tell Alex to look into getting the wood we'd need to build the whole thing, I suggested we stop in an antique/second hand store in the nearby neighborhood of Del Ray. The shopping gods must have been smiling on us that day, because we found something that just might work. There, nestled among the various other random items in the store, sat a solid walnut dining room buffet. This piece, originally $650, had been marked down to a mere $400!
Before you do a little Happy Happy, Joy Joy dance with me, know that the piece isn't perfect. At only 48" wide it may be one of the narrowest double vanities on record, and it's also going to require a lot of elbow grease/alterations and some cash to get it looking the way we want it to. In spite of these shortcomings, Alex conceded that he couldn't build a new piece with this quality of wood for this price, so we decided to give it a try.
In order to turn this buffet into the vanity we've long dreamed of, we'll need to:
- Cut down the legs to reduce the height of the piece by about 1-1.5 inches.
- Prime and paint the piece in a high gloss white (and might just need to buy a sprayer to do this).
- Add a custom cut Carrara marble top.
- Alter the drawer configuration to make room for sinks and plumbing.
- Replace the hardware with something a little closer to the style of the bathroom. I think the pulls, which are carved wood, are very unique and interesting, but I'm not so sure it'll look right in the bathroom. I might see how we like them painted, and if they don't work, we'll replace them with polished nickel hardware.
So after months of searching, the purchase of our "vanity" put us one critical step closer to completing our master bathroom renovation.
What do you think? Can the new vanity function as a double despite its shortcomings? With some effort, do you think it will work? Have you tackled a furniture makeover of your own? Let us know, we love to hear what you think.