Out with the new, in with the old.

Fact: back when this house was built, indoor plumbing wasn’t even a consideration. Pitchers, bowls, and thunder mugs were about as close to de rigueur as one would get.

Fact: when the former owners gutted and rebuilt this house’s interior, they took certain liberties. Like putting in a bathroom on the first floor complete with toilet, sink, and a shower with a high-walled floor pan that makes it, according to my father, “the perfect dog bath.”

Fact: we do not yet count a dog among us. That’s up to my husband, with him taking a two-week “pupternity leave” mandated by myself.

Having multiple bathrooms felt like a luxury to us when we moved from our one-bath house to this one. The first floor bath probably gets the most use out of the three in the house, though. Our waking hours are spent on the first floor, guests visiting us rarely venture to the second floor, so that’s the room that burns through the toilet paper fastest.

The finishes in the bathroom were not bad, and considerations were made to honor the age of the house – yet while it was unoffensive, it was also not that interesting. Given an unlimited imagination and budget, there’s a lot I could do in this space. But I honed in on one a couple of years ago on what my husband would probably call that ill-fated holiday tea and B&B tour I went on with a couple of friends. I came home with poorly-lit and occasionally blurry iPhotos of trim ideas, window treatment inspirations, and one bathroom vanity that, as verified by my tea-soaked companions, would totally work in an old house like ours.

You probably know where this is heading: the old dresser-turned-into-a-vanity trick that’s been featured in magazines and on different home improvement programs. I put my husband on notice that I would be on the lookout for a just-right piece to use, and would run with it if the right opportunity came along.

Back in February of this year, the right piece came up: a style we’ve admired, marble-topped so we knew it would hold up to the occasional drops of moisture, and just wide enough to fit the wall the existing sink stood against. The opportunity to add more storage and counterspace there was tantalizingly real. Here’s a picture showing the soon-to-be-old sink, with green tape outlining the dimensions of the new unit:

It may not seem like much, until the realization hits that where there was air there could be drawers. And a spot for a box of tissues. Space to spread out things like soap and hand cream. Ooohhh…

The piece was secured, and stowed in our front foyer while we pondered options for sinks and debated the best way to not only bore holes through really, really old marble but also to modify the back and drawers to accommodate plumbing. Then springtime was here, and the warm air too tempting to spend time indoors. And with summer came the growing season. Fall is hunting season.

And, if I may be honest, my incredibly talented husband needed the time. He loves antiques, and is loath to mess much with one that comes into his custody. This dresser is solidly built and the idea of making these kinds of permanent changes – no matter the bargain price at which we acquired it – was not an easy thing for him to do. To say that he moved way out of his comfort zone to make this happen is an understatement. It’s also a testament to the kind of mental strength he possesses. And a reminder that I probably need to make him a batch of popovers again soon.

After settling on a sink style, ordering a faucet and working with a local stone cutter to cut the holes in the dresser top we needed, my husband and our trusted plumber made an afternoon/early evening project of removing the old sink and installing the new fixture. With a quick dinner break included, the bulk of the heavy lifting and connecting was wrapped up before our son was in bed.

Much, much better, don’t you think? But those drawers needed a few modifications to accommodate the plumbing now inside the old dresser. That’s where America’s Favorite Husband stepped up again, toting the drawers out to his shop to keep the drawers serviceable. The end result:

First drawer is boxed in.
The bottom drawer needed fewer modifications.

The sink, a hammered copper number, along with a bronze-finished faucet, played up the warm tones and complemented the piece without trying to “appear” old:


The old candle holders became the perfect spots to add a couple bathroom niceties.

Room spray.
Hand cream.

Given that the shower isn’t used, there were not really any concerns on our part about whether or not excess moisture would add to the wear and tear that a hundred years’ use has already imparted.

Time cannot take away from some of the beautiful details that you’d pay through the nose to replicate today.

The new-old sink was installed in time for our Thanksgiving crowd – and the reactions we heard were very positive (including one from another “love-it-as-is” antique fan). There may be a few tweaks down the line, such as whether or not to swap out the towel bar for a couple of towel rings, or a few new accessories to take advantage of the expanded storage options. But just walking past the doorway to see this peeking back at us is still a thrill. Worth the wait, without a doubt.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ellen says:

    Hey, what happened to the old sink? Any chance you still have it after all this time? Was it in good shape? I have just that old style in my kids upstairs bath and they broke it! I blame their curling irons – drat teens! – but it’s changing the trim around the curvy back that is just curling my whiskers . . . You know, you just get a nice space and something like this happens!

    Enjoy your new vanity!

    1. Hi, Ellen – yes, we are holding on to the old sink. It’s in storage for now, and depending on whether we can use it in another bathroom (or someone we know is in the market for a pedestal sink), we’re hoping it will see a new life someday!

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