The terms dressing table and vanity are used interchangeably; however, there is a slight distinction between the two. A dressing table is usually in the bedroom or closet and is used less for makeup application, more to hold jewelry, small accessories and brushes. The vanity is near or in the bath and most often used for makeup application.
Dressing tables have evolved through 200 years of design since originating in 18th-century France.
The term "dressing table" immediately evokes the image of a demilune table, skirted in floral chintz, with an oval, gold-leaf mirror suspended from the wall above it.
But today's styles are sleek built-in elements incorporated into bath and closet organization. Or they might fill alcoves just big enough to insert a table and mirror, a design that's as functional as it is decorative.
"I'm seeing more requests for dressing tables," said Hank Matheny, owner of Haskell Interiors in Cleveland, Tenn. "Whether they are built-in or freestanding, in the closet or bathroom, more women are wanting them."
Matheny said aristocratic women of the 1700s often posed for portrait sittings at dressing tables in their boudoirs.
"It was a very refined space. The true dressing table was not only a place to apply makeup but also contained pictures, mementos, was a place for correspondence. Historically, the man had his library or study, and the boudoir with its dressing table was the equivalent of the lady's study."
Over the years, the dressing table lost favor, said Matheny, when women took a larger role in running their homes and going into the work force, having little spare time to sit and primp.
"For years, hardly anyone wanted them, but now women want them again. Women are spending more time on themselves and like having that little space that is theirs," he said.
The interior designer attributes this phenomenon to the fact families are spending more time at home.
"People are not spending money on big trips or new homes. They are reinvesting in the homes they have. Instead of buying new homes, people are keeping what they've got and making what they have special. Instead of spending money on an extravagant trip, they'll spend on big-screen TVs that the family can watch together," he explained.
Another factor: the growth of condos and number of baby boomers downsizing. These homeowners want to get the most out of the smaller spaces they've bought, which can be done with built-ins.
Space savers such as a dressing table are smart choices for small areas, said ezinearticles.com, because they are multi-use furniture. A dressing table offers storage, can double as a desk in a small bedroom, and the mirror offers an alternate space for one spouse to dress in the morning while the other occupies the bath.
Matheny has this advice for remodelers:
"Whether you choose a true dressing table or a makeup vanity, make sure you have good counter space, drawers to the left and the right within easy reach and adequate lighting overhead as well as to the left and right of the table."
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...