Often when people talk about transitional bathroom vanities, what they really mean is traditional vanities pared down into simple, straight, often extremely square modern lines. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this look – in fact, I think it works great for a casual, contemporary bathroom. But it isn’t really the hybrid of antique and modern sensibilities it often claims to be. That said, there are ways to get bathroom vanities with a little classic, antique flair that aren’t too ostentatious for a contemporary bathroom.
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The key, really, is to focus on simplicity, but to throw out the modern tendency toward straight lines and sharp angles. Square, boxy shapes are practically a defining feature of modern, contemporary, and transitional bathroom vanities, so if you want yours to stand out with a little antique oomph, the #1 most important thing to look for is bathroom vanities with a little curve. Even something as wildly simple and otherwise modern as this Elizabeth vanity gains some great sophistication from the curvy, extremely simplified cabriole legs.
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That’s because the French antiques this silhouette is based on are so iconic that your mind can fill in the missing details. RonBow’s Vintage collection plays this fact up to its fullest, borrowing liberally from the Louis XV style, but streamlining and dramatically simplifying it down to a sleek, minimalist version of itself. The birch hardwood is allowed to be the star, rather than a lot of detailed woodwork, which results in a tremendously elegant vanity that’s still simple enough to work in a casual, contemporary bathroom.
To me, curvy cabriole legs (also known as Queen Anne legs) are like easy mode for a classy, antique bathroom vanity. Whether they’re tall or short, thin or squat, wide or narrow, adding that simple little bit of curve (plus that slight elevation up off the floor) just makes a bathroom vanity feel more like furniture than a built in cabinet. By itself, that furniture-like vibe helps create a more classic, sophisticated look and feel, no matter how simple the overall design.
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And the legs aren’t the only place you can add a little curve to a bathroom vanity. Again using French antiques as an inspiration, simplified bombe chests – which bow out in the middle to create a sort of reverse hourglass – have a great, curvy look that you won’t find from many other bathroom vanities. Often these are played up as being specifically furniture-like, mimicking old fashioned dressers but with much simpler, cleaner lines than the original antiques. They also have the heft (and capacity) of a full sized cabinet while retaining that slightly more delicate, sinuous appearance.
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Bathroom vanities that are fully rounded – as in, cylindrically shaped – are great for establishing a sophisticated, antique feel in a more contemporary bathroom for a similar reason. Because square is king in modern design, rounding off the edges of a vanity immediately makes it feel more old fashioned. The curved lines are elegant and put the vanity in relief, separating it and making it stand out from the surrounding area. Even with a very, very simple design like the one above, you instantly establish just that hint of old world style.
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It’s worth noting that a squared off design isn’t a kiss of death to merging an antique and contemporary style. While many of my personal favorite (and, I think, some of the most effective) styles tend to be on the curvy side in one way or another, the key is really to reimagine an antique design and strip away all the flounces and flourishes while maintaining an iconic silhouette. This Wyncote vanity is a great example: a classic, antique open-shelf design with little arched openings on the sides and a few petite shelves that are great for showing off antique keepsakes. But instead of having tooled legs, it has four simple, straight posts, while the front face sticks with the simplest arched doors. No complicated woodwork, just an iconic antique streamlined for a contemporary bathroom.
Do you like this slightly more antique interpretation of a “transitional” bathroom vanity design? Let me know what you think in the comments!
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