Vanity, oh vanities

Our story so far: We looked for deals as we outfitted the old Methodist church we were turning into a home.

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I suppose it’s called a vanity because one admires oneself in a vanity mirror. But Carly Simon might say a vanity earned its name because of its bad attitude. A vanity thinks the bathroom is all about it—it is, after all, the defining architectural design element and center of attention of a well-appointed lavatory.

I was a fan, however deadly the offense, nodding along with Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate when he said “Vanity is my favorite sin.” From the lights and the mirrors to the cabinets and sinks, I couldn’t wait to find vanities for the four bathrooms in the church that sent messages like “Guests are valued here” and “This is special place.”

Special, naturally, came with a price. I coveted Robern medicine cabinets—sleek ones with built-in lighting, defoggers and stereo systems—but when I priced one in the four-figure range, the look on my face was anything but flattering.

Back to planet earth where people spend only twenty minutes in a day in front of the bathroom mirror. “Vanity can easily overtake wisdom,” musician Julian Casablancas once said. “It usually overtakes common sense.” I reminded myself that we weren’t building a house in a posh suburb or a gentrified downtown locale. We were restoring a century-old church in a small town. We could not be tempted by top-end accessories or we would never recoup our investment.

So then I got stressed out about our bathroom vanities. We needed four of them, three of them quickly. The basement vanity could be determined later, when we finished the basement (Phase, oh, Eight or so). But when we finally chose a plumber, he needed to know where to rough in the vanity faucets, and to determine that, we needed vanities.

I had a good idea of what I wanted for the master vanity, thanks to hours on Pinterest. I wanted double sinks along a 130-inch expanse (go big or go home, remember). Custom or semi-custom cabinets would probably be required in order to get matching cabinets for each sink.

master vanity
Here’s a rendition of our master bath vanity. (On HGTV, you get high-end graphics to prophesy the renovation plans; on Church Sweet Home, you get chicken scratch on legal pads.)

After pricing custom cabinets (with price tags similarly deflating as luxury medicine cabinets), we decided to purchase standard-dimension cabinets online. Tyler had the skills to install them, and we could incorporate those little drawers that were of little use in the display kitchen. Positioned lower in a bathroom vanity, they could house all kinds of little hygiene odds and ends. At first, I wanted light-colored upper cabinets (to go with the drawers) and navy blue lowers, but after incorporating navy blue into my beverage bar design, we went with dark brown lowers.

After committing to new cabinets for the master bath, we sought to find ways to save money on vanities for the powder room and upstairs bathroom.

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Tomorrow: Vanity Number Two. Read about it here.


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