Bring grandma's old buffet down from the attic and dust it off. It's time to give the old girl a facelift. No, no, not grandma — the buffet. Imagine, a nip here, a tuck there, and you could have a brand-new bathroom vanity.
Classic good bones, handsome, rugged strength, pretty lines, or just downright sentiment are stirring these furniture lovers who go to a great deal of trouble and cost to re-tool, retrofit, re-design — re-purpose — everything from family heirlooms to funky odds and ends.
If you are creating a cottage or vintage look in your bathroom, you may want to choose a vessel sink. Many designs and styles of vessels are reminiscent of the old pitcher and bowl or wash basin that sat on top of a cabinet or dresser in days gone by.
A vessel sink is a sink that sits partially or completely above the surface of the vanity. By sitting entirely above the counter, they are beautiful as well as functional. In addition, since it is not sunken under the countertop, that solves the problem when any piece of furniture is not wide or deep enough to accommodate a modern bathroom sink or plumbing. Moreover, mounting one may possibly reduce the "slicing and dicing" necessary to retrofit an antique or older-style piece of furniture.
Kathy Buffington of Ashland Recycled Furniture has seen everything from rustic cast-iron, copper or brass items to elegant, delicate antique china bowls and old-fashioned porcelain used for vessels.
"I have even seen a cast-iron mail box mounted on a pedestal," Buffington says.
To protect the wood surfaces, Hart recommends creating a tiled or marbled surface on the top of the furniture. At the very least, a durable polyurethane should be used on the wood to prevent water damage.
Instead of "retiring" to the garage, basement or attic, these beloved old-fashioned objects are aging gracefully in contemporary bathroom design.
Vintage vanities, or pieces made to look vintage, add style, grace and charm. According to experts, the average person spends more than seven years of his/her life in the bathroom. This certainly justifies making the bathroom exceptional with extraordinary furnishings.
The ingenuity her customers exhibit amazes Kathy Buffington of Ashland Recycled Furniture.
She says they frequently perform extreme makeovers on buffets, hutches or dressers to accommodate bathroom sinks.
Buffington adds that she has also seen teacarts and bakers' racks transformed to display bath linens and accessories, wooden picture frames to border mirrors, compact disk racks to hold colorful, decorative bars of soap and French doors to enclose tubs. Even recycled fireplace mantels hang above bathtubs to display candles, collectibles or swags of greenery.
"It's really quite magical what people do," she says. "They are amazingly clever."
Even if a piece is not in exceptional condition, it is still functional and fun, Buffington says. "People seem to really like the distressed or rustic look."
She recalls a 150-year-old vanity that someone had spray-painted gold. Most of us would say, "Yuck!" Nevertheless, a customer saw it and fell in love with it.
"They just re-painted it, and found a place for it in their bathroom," she says.
Artist Chris Hart of Chris Hart Studio in Grants Pass says that keeping and making use of grandma's old buffet, or some other favorite piece that people remember from their childhood, is a good idea.
"There are sentimental reasons not to get rid of it," she says. "Instead of putting it in the attic or the garage, this is a way to keep it and use it. It can be adapted to their lifestyle."
Both Buffington and Hart recommend choosing furniture made of hardwood.
"Oak is best," says Buffington. "Pine is not."
Hart has re-purposed 1950s television cabinets for clients who want to use them as bathroom vanities. She's also created bathroom vanities from sewing machine cabinets, library tables and commercial warming ovens.
The challenge comes when the cabinet must accommodate the depth of the sink and hide plumbing, Hart says. Adding four inches to the sides or backs of the pieces can easily do the trick in many cases, she adds. Reconfiguring drawers into an L-shape allows placement of a drain.
Hart says you can remove the actual drawer, too, leaving behind only the drawer face and hardware to create a false front or door.
She also has "cannibalized" components from other pieces, such as moldings or legs, to re-design a piece that will be either wall-mounted or free-standing. People are limited only by their own creativity and imagination, she adds.