Growing up, I had such a dressing table–or, as we called it, a vanity. It was 1940s art deco with an enormous full-moon mirror. Something like the photo at right. My mom painted over the showy and somewhat thin veneer a couple times through the years, eventually splitting the piece apart to make over each flanking drawer stack into nightstands.
‘Vanity Fair’ at the Abbey vs. our house
So much transpires in Mary’s bedroom while she sits at her dressing table, puts on her jewelry and waits patiently for Anna to do her hair. Mother and daughters often gather, and it honestly seems the only place where Mary and Edith do a decent job of tolerating each other.
My mother used to do my hair at my vanity until around sixth grade. I remember buns and French twists, barrettes and headbands, curlers winding and unwinding, and lots of squealing (from me) when she pulled too hard.
Now things are even less glamorous. While the master suite I share with hubby Chris is adequate–even generous by today’s condo standards–it’s thoroughly utilized. The master bath vanity is barely wide enough to accommodate the double sinks the first owners squeezed in, so it’s tough for me to do my hair while Chris shaves.
Instead of risking elbowing him while he holds a razor to his jugular, I sit on the toilet seat and gaze across into the mirror while I blow-dry. The cord blocks the doorway if he finishes firstr, since the only plug is by the sink, and I usually have to lurch to one side to be able to see what I’m doing.
I’m at that age where I know I’ll never have a bedroom the scale of what’s on Downton Abbey (or even Real Housewives), and that’s okay. But oh, how I long for a simple, elegant spot that’s mine alone to fix my hair, arrange a scarf, and decide which earrings best complement my outfit.
I’d like that spot to be IN the bedroom where the steam from the shower doesn’t frizz my ‘do and run my mascara. And I’d like my jewelry readily accessible–all of it–because I don’t have Anna to fetch it for me.
Is that asking too much?
Methinks Lady Mary would say no
Though she shivers at the thought of life without Anna–or any servants, for that matter.
Unlike some of the other furniture at the Abbey, the dressing table’s scale is about right for modern sensibilities. It takes up little room in Mary’s bedroom and remains in the same place it stood prior to the room’s redecoration in anticipation of marriage to Matthew.
The above shot, sans actors (but with blocking tape still in place) provides an excellent overview of a:
- Delicately styled dressing table with elaborate inlays/veneers
- Three-sided, hinged mirror
- Flanking lamps sized down for the smaller space
- Fringed stool upholstered in the same fabric as the draperies
- Photo of Matthew in a silver frame
- Ornate hand mirror
- Decorative vanity tray
- Decorative jars to hold trinkets, hairpins, and perhaps creams and/or perfume
- Delicate lace dresser scarf
Let’s start by brainstorming available “looks.”
Enter the Downton version
Though sized about right, an historically accurate Downton dressing table with accessories is priced a bit on the high side–for me anyway.
Some other looks to consider
Available in a variety of styles and at all price points, mirrored pieces maintain the romance of old world style but pump up the glamour factor.
The mirrored surfaces of any such piece behave just like a wall mirror to make a room feel brighter and larger. They do fingerprint easily though.
2. Thrift shop finds and repurposing
Some desks will work as dressing tables, as will some console tables.
|Found on Decor4All|
|Found on Etsy|
For instance, you could add a plain table top to two nightstands. They wouldn’t have to match as long as they were the same height. Unify by refinishing and changing out hardware to match.
|Found on Decor4All|
No mirror? No worry. Hang a decorative wall mirror at eye level when you’re sitting and keep a pretty desktop mirror around for close work. And don’t forget to add a cute chair, stool or comfy bench from which to enjoy your new-found new solace, as well as a pair of sweet lamps to light up your view of you.