DISCOVER THE ENDURING APPEAL OF ART DECO VANITIES
When it comes to pièces de résistance, few things top an Art Deco vanity. With their stepped forms, waterfall edges, and mesmerizing inlays, vintage Art Deco makeup vanities and vintage Art Deco dressers are the epitome of standout style. That said, those who are toying with the idea of integrating a 1930s Art Deco vanity into their home may be daunted by the wide breadth of styles available. From those that lean more Art Nouveau, with more ornate, antiquated details to those sleek, streamlined models that clearly take their cues from planes, trains, and automobiles, the options are near endless, making it tough to decide on the Art Deco vanity that best suits your style.
One reason there are so many options available? Art Deco was among one of the world’s first international styles (Art Nouveau was the first). Art Deco was adopted not only in France where it originated, but in Italy, Sweden, the United States, and beyond. While there are certainly exceptions, French Art Deco vanities tend to be among the most machinist-inspired. They often showcase asymmetrical silhouettes and come equipped with circular or other uniquely shaped mirrors. Highly decorative woods like ribbon stripe mahogany or bird’s eye maple were used, lending the pieces yet another dimension of luxury. Italian Art Deco vanities are similar, although, broadly speaking, they tend to feature more elongated, oblong designs. In contrast to the round mirrors often found on French 1930s Art Deco makeup vanities, Italian ones frequently come equipped with tall, almost floor-length mirrors.
American Art Deco vanities tend to rank among the most traditionalist-inspired. They’re often more compact than European models and feature fewer modernist influences. When hunting for American Art Deco dressers and vanities, you’re likely to find many examples that merge Art Deco sensibilities with Victorian ones. For instance, American vanities will often showcase an Art Deco-like dresser portion with stepped forms and rounded edges but will come topped with an ornately framed mirror that harks back to more ornate Victorian designs. American Art Deco vanities are also less likely to be entirely rendered in exotic wood. Instead, they are likely to feature speciality wood inlays on just the drawers or side panels. In contrast to the high-end wood specimens like rosewood and macassar wood that European designs employed, American designs more frequently featured burl woods.
If you are interested in landing an American Art Deco vanity with more avant-garde style, you may want to expand your search to include designs made after the 1930s. Many high-end American designers working in the mid to late 20th century integrated Art Deco influences into their work, resulting in vanities that more closely resemble European designs from the 1930s. Look for designs from designers like Karl Springer, Paul Frankl (especially those designs he did for Brown & Saltman), and Kittinger.
What is an Art Deco Dressing Table?
While any Art Deco vanity can be dubbed an “Art Deco dressing table” by its seller, Art Deco dressing tables may more accurately refer to those Art Deco vanities that feature no space to push in a vanity seat. Many of these designs feature a floor-length mirror parked atop a slightly elevated platform that is also adorned with a set of drawers of some kind. Often, these sets of drawers are offset, creating an asymmetrical design. Other times, two banks of drawers are placed on either side of the mirror. Occasionally, you’ll even find the bank of drawers situated directly in front of the mirror.
These dressing tables are meant to function more like a valet than a vanity, and perhaps historically were intended to appeal more toward men who appreciated the function of a vanity while getting dressed, but didn’t necessarily desire a formal palace to sit while getting ready. Today, these pieces can be used in a bedroom, but can also be reinvented in enticing new ways. Try recasting one as a bar or buffet in a dining room. In the right scenario, there’s even a case to swap out an ordinary entryway console for one.
Who Are Art Deco Vanities Best For?
Art Deco vanities are perhaps best suited for those who want a vanity, but favor one that is not overly ornate or flowery in design. Art Deco vanities are almost always the antithesis of delicate design, with large silhouettes, chunky accents, and oversized drawers. That said, Art Deco vanities tend to be extremely luxurious. They frequently feature top-of-the-line wood specimens and swooping, avant-garde forms. These traits can make them an excellent compromise for two people with opposing tastes.
Because of their sheer size, Art Deco dressers and makeup vanities may best be reserved for those who are decorating a larger room. Because Art Deco vanities are more often than not statement pieces, you may want to use them in conjunction with more understated bed designs, as well. This is especially true if you have a smaller room. If you are set on the idea of a 1920s Art Deco vanity, but you are saddled with a smaller room, consider American designs which tend to be more compact and less imposing than European designs.