The search for the perfect bathroom vanity set my client and me on a journey to the flea markets at Pasadena City Collage and the Rose Bowl, into Orange County’s antiques streets and up to Main Street in Ventura. Along the way, we were able to fine tune exactly what was needed to fit the space available and satisfy my client’s aesthetic sensibilities. Keeping an open mind helps you find something and adapt it to your needs as opposed to having something custom built and incurring the additional cost.
It is important not to become discouraged when you head out on your search, because what you have in your mind’s eye is not likely to be found in the world of existing products. My client had established the hard surface finishes, which are stone and tile; so she was looking for some warmth in natural wood for her vanity-- that is, not a painted piece. Of course, a found, usable vanity could be stripped and refinished if otherwise worthy.
We didn’t have any success at our first weekend out, which is not unusual. However, when we hit the Rose Bowl, we were amazed to find a great, aesthetically pleasing dresser at the first stall we saw. We especially liked its large, round mirror; usually mirrors attached to dressers are oval. Even the color was perfect, had she wanted a painted piece. The design added to its feminine appeal. We assessed the piece with a practical eye: how much work it would take to add a vessel sink and the necessary plumbing, and how much drawer space would need to be sacrificed. The vendor took our cell numbers and we moved on.
Our second find determined that a dining room server or sideboard might be a better choice. We determined the central top drawer might be sacrificed for plumbing, but the side cabinets would be perfect for keeping curling irons and a hair dryer for easy access. We especially liked the turned legs of the piece adding to the feminine quality. Unfortunately, detail work lost over the years needed to be replaced by a furniture restorer, ultimately adding to the cost. The last problem was that the piece was painted; beautiful mahogany wood, but the missing detail work was key, so we moved on.
Our last option at this site was a pretty Bird’s Eye Maple dresser. We loved the wood, but the piece was pretty plain and the top was damaged, so more work or a stone top would need to be added, increasing the cost.
The search continued the following week into Orange County. Because we had little time and had honed in on what we wanted, we looked at a more limited number of pieces; we found only one piece to seriously consider, but it was costly, and reviewing our “option” pieces, we passed on it.
The next day we headed up north to Ventura, and BINGO! We found the perfect server piece. A previous owner had cut the legs down, so it was low enough to accommodate a vessel sink and, we didn’t have the anxiety of doing it ourselves. It is narrow in depth, which suits the available space nicely, and was not painted. It did have decades of old stain and no doubt a variety of oils and grime on the surface, but that just means it needed to be stripped.
The stripping down part was going to be messy and time consuming, but the price was negotiable, and that made it very appealing. Unfortunately, the most effective stripping agents have been eliminated by the EPA over the past several decades, so the process is more lengthy. If you do not do it yourself, stripping can be very expensive.
In the end, the search process was fun and, as usual, educational, as we fine tuned what would work best. The stripping continues, but we are convinced that the search was successful, and it will become the perfect vanity.