So, what is a make-up vanity and what is its purpose? A make-up vanity shouldn't be confused with your bathroom vanity, where your sink is housed. A vanity is obviously a place for you to apply your make-up in comfort, rather than leaning over your sink fighting for space with your significant other or roommate. But it also has other uses, such as a keen place to store your make-up and toiletries as well as a place to apply your creams and such. If you are one who curls, blow dry or straighten your hair, this is also an ideal place to sit and do such tasks. I have to say, that I find it quite nice to wash my face and then set myself down in front of my vanity with my music playing to get ready for the day or for bed. At the end of the post I've included links to different styles of vanities for your inspiration.
There are many styles of vanities out there ranging in prices, but mostly expensive. Because of the high cost of the furniture, I'm going to focus on making a vanity yourself. If you aren't a do-it-yourselfer and would rather buy a vanity, Craigslist and Ebay are the ways to go. You'll find very unique styles with small price tags.
I've had two vanities so far, both that I created with what I had. If you have a small space, you can make a modest one out of an end table or perhaps create one from a suitcase so you can close it and put it away when not in use. You can also find vanity cases on Ebay. If you have a little more space, you have many options for creating a vanity. If you need a lot of storage, you can use small drawer sets to help you out. Blueprint has a great how-to in their May/June 2007 issue how to create a vanity with two drawer sets, and a piece of plate glass. They also have it online and you can modify it by using plastic drawers with plexiglass or plywood. You can opt out of the plate glass and only have the two drawers with a lengthview mirror and a little stool to sit on, like this 1930s vanity. There is also an online how-to on using milk crates to create a vanity.
You can also use a patio table, card table or anything else and cover it with fabric and you've got yourself a vanity! My new vanity was created this way, using a card table, fabric and a piece of glass. Another option is to use an armoire. One lady cleared off 2 shelves of her armoire, covered them with fabric, added a vintage looking lamp, and a table-top mirror. This allows her to close the vanity when not in use, which may be something you would be interested in if you share your room with someone or have very curious children. You can also just prop a mirror on your dresser and go that route. Just make sure to give yourself enough space to layout everything you need.
The mirror is an important part of the vanity, but the type you get will depend on your needs. A large mirror is considered the ideal because you can use it to look at your whole outfit. If this is your ideal, don't feel like you have to start off with this - you can work your way up to your ideal. I started out with a cheap wall mounted mirror that I just propped on the vanity. After using your vanity for some time, you will notice what kind of mirror will be most useful to you and you can splurge then. When I redid my vanity, I went for a tri-fold mirror so I can view the back of my head while setting my pin curls. At the same token, a small round tabletop mirror might be just fine with you or you may want to go with a mirror with built in lights (which I talk about in the next section).
This is one I am still trying to figure out with my vanity. Right now I am just using the power of the sun during the day and indirect light from a floor lamp at night. The best type of lighting you can get is a mirror that has lights set-in like this one or this one with four different light settings. But if you already have a mirror you like, you can also supplement it with a lighted magnifying mirror for those tiny details (this one is wall mounted, but I'm sure you can find, or already have, a cheaper version in the tabletop styles). There is also the option of the round, in a line bulbs like you have in your bathroom, but those are normally hardwire lighting and it is very rare that you will have a hardwire option for your vanity area. If you have an Ikea nearby, I would suggest looking through their lighting options. They have a lot of wall mounted styles that are plug-ins and work great for vanity needs, like this one. There is more info on choosing a lighted mirror here.
Firstly, the bathroom is a horrible place to store your make-up. It is humid and has drastic changes in temperature - what do you think all that moisture and humidity does to your make-up? Its not pretty. Storing your make-up and creams outside of the bathroom is ideal, and you vanity is the place to do it. If you go the drawer route, you should be OK with storage, but if you don't, you have other options. I don't use much make-up at all, so i make do with using glasses to hold my make-up brushes and such. You can also use cute boxes to hold your items. I'm sure you can find many options at the Container Store or Ebay. You can also use pretty dishes or tea cups to hold jewelry or other small items.
Where you put your booty is also important, but there are oh so many options. I used an ottoman for quite a while and right now I am using an office chair that I put a slip cover over. A sofa chair that is thin is also good. Heck, you can even use a milk crate and cover it with foam cushion stuff and cover it in fabric. This may be a place you would like to splurge, as there are some really pretty vanity chairs out there.
The little extras
Beyond your make-up, bobby pins and hairdryer, there are other things you may want to place on your vanity. If you want to get vintage vanity sets or accessories, Ebay has oodles. I tend to put photos of my friends and family on my mirror, but it is also a good idea to place pictures/print outs of any styles you'd like to emulate. Hanging pictures of movie stars on ones vanity was common during the 30s, 40s and 50s. It was also common to have a phone nearby, and there are some really nice repo vintage phones out there (here and here) if you wanted to have a vintage styled vanity. If you have a cute radio or music player, you may want to make space for that too so you have good music to listen to while preening. I have speakers on my vanity so I can plug in my computer and listen to my music.
Music to get ready to
I love vintage radio. I'm a wee bit obsessed with my old time radio shows, in fact. I tend to lean toward detective and mystery shows, like The Whistler & Let George Do It. If you are into the same, Mystery Play I-Radio is pretty good. Although, my favorite is Antioch, which I've mentioned here before. Antioch is my favorite because they plays different types of old time radio shows, from family, variety, comedy, suspense and mystery. They try to play the shows on the dates they aired, if possible. So come Halloween or Christmas, you'll be listening to the same shows they listened to during those dates 50 or 30 years ago. Antioch also has no breaks for modern day commercials, which is quite a nice change from other internet radio stations. Both of these stations can be accessed through iTunes> Radio> Talk/Spoken Word.
If you aren't too keen on radio shows and prefer vintage music, Radio Dismuke is the best. They even include vintage commercials. There is nothing like getting ready in vintage wear to vintage radio. If anyone has any other suggestions for OTR, I'd love to hear! If you do end up listening to any of these stations a lot, make sure to make a small donation so they can keep doing what they are doing.
Pink Vanity with tuft • Minimal Vanity • Opulent Vanity • 1930s Vanity • Dresser Vanity • Walnut Vanity • 1920 women at Vanity • Judith Barrett at Vanity • Joeri's Vanity • 1950s vanity
Hope you find this all useful. If you end up making/building your own vanity, Id love to see what you created!