How the Vanity Table Became This Year’s Must-Have Item

Once seen as fussy furniture relics from the past, vanities have made a big comeback. Here's why.

Mark Zeff designed this modern bathroom for a townhouse in Manhattan’s West Village. He paired a chrome and marble vanity table with a cantilever Lucite chair. Photo by Eric Laignel

Last year, when Fendi unveiled its exquisite “traveling VIP room,” created by Italian designer Cristina Celestino, design critics applauded the mixed marble inlays and recurring earring-back motif, plus the nod to 1950s elegance and Giò Ponti. A flurry of breathless press followed, hailing Celestino as a new talent to watch.

“It’s really about using colors, forms and finishes to create atmosphere,” she told the Telegraph about her vignette, which is centered by a vanity table in satin-polished brass and pink lacquered wood, walnut and marble. “To make a place where people can simply feel calm and happy.” What could possibly sound more enticing?

After years — decades, in fact — of being perceived as old fashioned, vanity tables are becoming cool again, as contemporary designers and upmarket brands step in to revamp their image. Newer pieces such as Scarlet Splendor’s Woman of Paris dressing table in teak with resin inlay, designed by Matteo Cibic, not only resemble works of art, but they’re also fully functional and supremely luxurious. As Cibic notes, vanity tables are “definitely more comfortable and chic than standing in front of a sink.”

At this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, the Future Perfect founder and tastemaker David Alhadeff noted Italian design duo Dimore Studio’s vanity mirror suspended from a ceiling as part of a general trend toward luxury items with well-defined uses. “There are these very specialized features, almost to the point where they should be built-ins, but they’re a piece of furniture,” he said.

Vanities, of course, also provide a certain comfort to their owners. “Beauty routines, taking the time to protect what you have, a moment to accessorize, a moment to pause and slow down — these are all so important now as an antidote to our fast and hectic lives,” says Oona Bannon, creative director of Pinch Design in Clapham, South London. “Just thinking about a dressing table makes me feel calm.”

When Pinch was designing the Lana dressing table, sold at the Future Perfect, the goal went beyond creating a space to reflect, store jewelry and pamper. There were concerns about sizing — “small dressing tables can easily look apologetic and a little bit twee,” Bannon says — and how the item would fit in the overall scheme of one’s home.

Ultimately, Pinch decided that anyone who purchased the Lana was making the space and themselves a priority, “so we didn’t compromise on the size,” Bannon says. Thoughtful storage, including a removable leather-lined tray for fine jewelry, a hidden drawer and a divider, was added. (The unit measures an impressive four feet long and stands two-and-a-half feet high.)

For Shanghai-based Studio MVW, the Jinshi Pink Jade Console #1 represents a piece of jewelry for the home, says Virginie Moriette, one half of the duo. “Jinshi literally translates from the Chinese language as golden stone,” which is fitting, given the glamorous console’s rose gold-colored anodized stainless steel and gleaming pink jade. That each piece of jade has a “powder-like transparency,” as Moriette puts it, only underscores the console’s appeal as a sensory space made with beauty in mind.

Of course, not every piece is meant to indulge all the senses. For some collectors, a vanity table is simply another way to showcase personality. “A vanity table personalizes a built-in response, which sometimes can be kind of boring and relentless,” says Los Angeles interior designer Kay Kollar, underlining the banality of built-in units. “Some clients really want their dressing spaces to reflect their individuality,” or the overall level of design in the home.

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