Remember those old black-and-white movies where the glamorous leading lady got ready at an equally glamorous dressing table? Add some Golden Age glamor to your bedroom by setting up your own vanity or dressing table. Here are the antique and vintage finds you'll need for yours:
Art Deco and Art Nouveau vanities are especially elaborate and striking. A simple kidney bean shaped vanity table—the type you're supposed to skirt—may be easier to find. You can make a simple shirred or pleated skirt from a remnant bolt or other bargain fabric, and then affix it to the vanity with hook-and-loop tape.
If you can't find an actual vintage vanity or dressing table, look for old pieces you can convert. An antique ladies' writing desk works well. They're usually fairly petite and they have some drawer space.
A table desk or sofa table will also do in a pinch. If yours doesn't have drawer space, you can tuck a cheap, plastic rolling cart underneath and then skirt the table to hide it.
If your table doesn't have an attached mirror, you can hang one on the wall over your vanity.
Depending on your dressing table and the rest of your bedroom decor, you might opt for an antique mirror with carving and gilding, a glamorous Venetian mirror with an etched mirrored frame, or a sleek contemporary framed in glossy lacquer.
If you can't find a mirror that suits your style, you can always have a mirror cut to fit an antique or vintage picture frame.
Whichever option you choose, make sure you mount yours securely in the studs using picture hangers rated for your mirror's weight.
Chair or Stool
To make your vintage vanity functional, you need a comfortable space to sit while you primp.
Antique stools and low-backed vanity chairs work well—and they're usually as easy to reupholster as dining chairs. A single parlor or dining chair also works well. You can always give it a makeover with new paint or stain before reupholstering the seat.
For a more modern look, haunt consignment stores until you find a Philippe Starck ghost or Saarinen tulip chair. Or, if you prefer an eclectic, well-traveled look, consider using an antique African stool carved from exotic wood.
A vanity tray is ideal for corralling perfumes bottles, cosmetics, and bits of jewelry. A tray keeps small pieces organized and tidy. Choose a tray that complements your vanity's style, perhaps silver, crystal, porcelain, or painted wood.
Lotions, Potions, and Perfumes
No beauty regimen is complete until you've dabbed on your various lotions, potions, and perfumes.
The personal products that keep your skin soft and sweet smelling look lovely atop a dressing table if you display them in comely containers. Choose products with an eye toward packaging design—or start a collection of vintage powder jars or antique perfume bottles. With the latter, you can pour your scents into the antique bottles or blend your own at an essential oil shop.
You won't look your best if you can't see what you're doing. If your dressing table has enough space, flank the top with a pair of lamps. Consider standing chandeliers dripping with crystal, porcelain figural table lamps, or a pair of sleek Art Deco lamps with bases featuring stacks of clear acrylic cubes or spheres.
If your dressing table is on the small side, consider flanking your mirror with antique or vintage wall sconces. A lamp shop can convert hard-wired sconces to plug-in versions if needed.
As with any piece of furniture in your home, you need to accessorize your vanity or dressing table to give it a finished, well-decorated look.
Antique vanity sets consisting of a hand mirror, comb, and brush are both functional and decorative. You might choose a sterling silver set or even celluloid inlaid with rhinestones.
In addition to functional vanity items, consider adding a few framed photos and a vase filled with fresh flowers.
Your vanity is a good place to display your vintage jewelry. Lovely options include crystal ring stands, velvet necklace busts, and small silver bowls and trays for holding pins and earrings.