“It is hard to be funny when you have to
be clean,” Mae West
We all need a sink to
clean up in, and the proliferation of great designer vessel sinks
has opened a world of possibilities to recycle all manner of antique
cabinets, chests and tables as vanity cabinets. Endless design
possibilities can create a truly unique bathroom in almost any
style. Juxtaposing historic pieces with contemporary fittings
generates excitement, and many vessel sinks cleverly mounted on
cabinets are really works of art. Sinks are available in countless
styles and colors of glass, painted porcelain, brass, copper and
nickel. Faucets have many different finishes in traditional and
modern configurations. Antique and vintage dressers, sideboards,
writing tables, work benches, and baker's tables can all be recycled
into sink cabinets that are one of a kind, reflecting your
individual taste and creativity. Many of these pieces are much less
expensive than than the charmless mass-produced cabinets seen in
home centers and bath design shops. It takes a little more planning
and vision, but the result is certainly worthwhile.
This example uses a late Victorian or Eastlake washstand from
the 1880's. Originally made for a bedroom in the days before
plumbing, a bowl and pitcher would have sat on the marble top, and
the waste jug would have been behind the door on the bottom. Built
of solid walnut, the original beveled mirror and marble top were
fitted to accommodate a glass vessel sink and brushed nickel
contemporary faucet. The stunning result is functional and truly
unique. A craftsman easily drilled the marble top, made adjustments
to the interior of the chest, and the installation was relatively
simple. The result is an elegant and historic look.
recycles an Art Deco cabinet from about 1930 that was meant to hold
sheet music next to a piano. Now fitted with a textured glass vessel
sink and a waterfall faucet, this adaptation of an antique piece was
even simpler. Compact enough for a small bathroom, this installation
is bright and cheerful with the clean, sleek lines of the 1930's.
Countless antique and
vintage pieces of furniture can be adapted to hold a sink. I suggest
ignoring the original function of the furniture, judge how much the
piece appeals to you, and consider its size and scale for your
project. Take the time to find a piece you really like to live with.
As Willie Nelson says, “The early bird may get the worm, but the
second mouse gets the cheese.” Bathroom sinks can be so much more
fun than the “hospital equipment” look of the past. Surprisingly,
historic cabinets are the latest innovation not only in bathrooms,
but in kitchens as well, anywhere a sink would be convenient. Go for
an exciting or timeless look - “Exuberance is beauty,” according to
William Blake. Of course, recycling a historic piece is so much
better for our environment as well.
Author Ken Melchert has taught Art History for many years. Since 1985, Ken and his wife Rebecca have operated the Harp Gallery Antiques in Appleton, WI.