Beauty Queen Lavanette and Vanette

“Vanity … Powder Bar … Lavatory — All in One!”

lavanette This morning we took a look at the 1959 Formica Vanitory. Continuing with our bathroom scholarship, let’s examine another rare bathroom vanity, from mid century America: The Beauty Queen Lavanette line.

Here at Retro Renovation, we already know Beauty Queen as a not-uncommon brand of vintage steel kitchen cabinets. The Beauty Queen brand seems to have been the market name for some of the products produced by Toledo Desk & Fixture Corp., Maumee, Ohio. I have been to Maumee, Ohio. Ford had a stamping plant there, now closed. Meanwhile, here’s a story from the Toledo Blade with some history on Toledo Desk & Fixture — looks like its corporate offices were on the same street as the Ford plant. The newspaper article says the company like they had some automotive business, too.

Like their Beauty Queen kitchen cabinet counterparts, the Lavanettes and Vanettes were made of steel cabinet bases and drawers. The ads say: Formica tops.

I saw one of these vintage Lavanettes — New Old Stock! — a few years back, for sale for $250 in Rochester, New York. Or maybe it was Syracuse. I thought for a heartbeat about going and getting it. However, I recall that I was already on thin ice with DH over too many “projects” in storage in the garage… which put the brakes on the idea. Do I have regrets? Heck to the yeah!. But surely: Some other super appreciative buyer snapped it up. Because who else would?

How did they hold up to all the humidity in bathrooms, I wonder.

Here are some terrific archival illustrations of several Lavanette and Vanette designs, all from my personal collecting of mid century marketing material:

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Above: From this advertisement, we can see that a Lavanettes is 36″ wide…. The Deluxe Vanette (in green) is 48″ wide…. It’s unclear which moniker the double sink unit gets. I’m guessing it’s 60″ wide. From the text, it seems to be a Lavanette. But this is not crystal clear. Nor is it clear how and why Beauty Queen made the distinction between what was called a Lavanette vs. a Vanette. And, I need to go find the year for this ad, too. My bathroom scholarship is lacking, alas.

beauty queen lavanetteAbove: A photo in an ad — which indicates a later year…. And, no mention of Vanettes here. Yes, I need to continue to keep my eyes peeled for more information tracing the history of  these nifty bathroom vanities.

I also want to point out the fact that this historical nomenclature — like that of the Formica “Vanitory” — continues to underscore the likely pervasive use of the word “Lavatory” in mid century America. Lavatory = wash. Vanity = Sit and primp. Restroom, Washroom, Bathroom — not mentioned in these marketing names.

Do any readers have a Lavanette or Vanette in their bathroom?
I would LOVE to get photos and archive them here! 

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Comments

  1. Robin, NV says

    You would have needed a good sized bathroom for these. My bathrooms are way to small for such a luxury. My grandmother had a vanity in her bedroom but I wonder if anyone actually uses such things anymore. We’re so casual these days. Personally I dislike going into a fancy restaurant only to find that everyone is wearing jeans, t-shirts, and flip flops. It’s sad but we really don’t have dress up “occasions” anymore.

    Ooh! Pam – you should plan a Retro Renovation convention and hold a retro dress up dinner or cocktail party. That would be fab! You could hold it in Las Vegas and we could all troop over to the Clark County Museum to see the time capsule houses they have on display (real, honest to goodness, WHOLE houses!). The fact that I can drive to Vegas is totally beside the point. ; )

  2. Jay says

    The illustration of the beauty queen in front of the Beauty Queen makes more sense. I thought the intent was to sit at it like a desk with your legs underneth (the Vanitory) which would not be too practical. I too would like to see an actual picture of one in a house. Perhaps the distinction is that a Vanette has drawers on both sides like a vanity.

  3. Gracie says

    I bet these are rare because they rusted away! I just can’t picture metal cabinets in a bathroom… way too humid!

    • Pat Wieneke says

      if the rust on metal cabinets isn’t TOO bad, you can have it sanded and the entire cabinet repainted where they do cars. I had a friend who did that with a St Charles kitchen. I bet a bit of well applied Bondo would fill in some small areas where it rusted through.

  4. JKM says

    I wonder how many beauty queens ripped their nylons banging their knees into corners of metal Lavanette drawers…

  5. Lynn-O-Matic says

    I have the Deluxe Vanette in Sea Green with Mother of Pearl Formica countertop, just waiting to be installed. She’s a beauty, all right! Will send pix once she’s in her proper place.

    And Gracie, no, not a spot of rust. The sink has a ding in the porcelain enamel where the cast iron is rusting through, but the actual vanity is pretty pristine. And I have a vintage pink metal cabinet in our other bathroom, plus assorted vintage black painted metal shelves. They don’t rust, at least not if the paint is intact.

  6. Scott says

    I’ll be anxious to hear what year this is from too as that ad illustration is almost saucy enough to be calendar art, LOL. I’ve taken to collecting 1950s issues of Better Homes and Gardens and so far I’ve never seen anything remotely like this.

  7. Cheryl says

    My daughter has one of these in her mid-century bathroom in York, PA. When I first saw it I thought it was a desk that they had converted to a vanity. She has no rust issues with hers. I think it is really something special…but she does not share this thought with me.

  8. Janet in CT says

    I posted this very one shown on the for sale forum back in December, off of Craigslist. Apparently it didn’t sell because it is back on again. As mentioned, it is very rusty and it looks like one side was repainted and the faucet replaced but if you have alot of vision, you might be able to restore it. It is in Rochester NY and cheap at $45. It could be painted, I suppose, and is small enough to fit most bathrooms. The inside of the drawers and the swing door on the bottom are interesting. Forgive me for posting the link here but you can see it “in person”. I will also put it in the forum for sale section. For those of you who don’t know, go to the Steel Cabinet forum shown in a column at the right and you will also see a section for Kitchen, Bathroom and Other for sale which is great! Here it is in pink and gray – http://rochester.craigslist.org/hsh/3576947691.html

    • Janet in CT says

      The more I look at it, the more I think I should go get it myself. But my husband would kill me! He used to paint cars so this would be right up his alley but he has enough to do! Wish more people would fix things like this, not just toss them! They are rugged and worth repairing! Sink looks rough too and would probably need to be replaced. I do like the gray countertop though.

      • Janet in CT says

        Well, I do have to keep plugging your forum for cabinets, bathroom, kitchen and other stuff! I love that forum! I love old stuff period. I am pathetically stuck on retro fifties!

  9. Blair Kooistra says

    Wow. That top illustration is sooo erotic–in a Ward Cleaver/Rob Petrie sort of way. Alluring, just enough skin in strategic places. And the vanity ain’t bad, either!

  10. Mike says

    That’s my toilet in the background! I scored it for free on Craigslist and had to drive 16 hours round trip to get it.

  11. Scott says

    Here’s a little piece of the Lavanette timeline… a half page ad nearly identical the first one above appeared on page 180 of the September 1952 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

    The difference between this ad and yours is the second model shown with the red top is a less deluxe version with only the sink, countertop, and three drawers… same shape, details, colors, and styling but about a third as wide.

  12. Daniel Lay says

    I have a Beauty Queen double drainboard/double sink cabinet (with white porcelain sick) that I am having powder painted (less expensive,but less durable than powder coating) pale green, as well as two matching side cabinets ,also pale green,to flank my white 50’s O’Keefe & Merritt range.
    My vintage Vent-a-hood will be pale grey to match the base’s of 3 medium back vinyl stools from an SS Kresge fountain that will surround a slightly modified boomerang linoleum tabletop mounted to a side wall . I hope to dye the vinyl a darker green from the red they are now. It’s a small kitchen, so I won’t have room for my SS Western-Holly double ovens,with portholes, but some things just had to give. I’ll send some photos,if you’s like, as I begin. Hope to be done by late spring 2014.

  13. says

    Anyone know what the original faucet looked like? What brand. Mine has an old delta on it now but not sure if it’s original.
    Also, to the rust question…. like a previous post, cabinet is fine, but sink rusted through. 🙁

    • pam kueber says

      See our several stories about where to find hudee-rimmed bathrooms sinks in Bathroom Help/Sinks category.

  14. Randy Mitchell says

    I have a Deluxe Lavanette for sale. It came with our 1914 house and was plumbed into our master bedroom. Wife says “time to go”. When I unhooked it from the plumbing I found a new boxed faucet tucked underneath and another metal pocket box that hangs inside one of the lower doors! I live in Central Washington and plan to post it on Craigslist Seattle. Thanks for the helpful information!

  15. Laurie says

    We actually have 5 of these units (2 blue and 3 green ones) we are going to be putting up for sale in Northern California. They are in near-perfect condition with just a few small dents. Not sure if this site allows “for sale” postings but if you are interested, google search ReMax Top Properties in Red Bluff, CA for our phone number and I can get you more info.

    • pam kueber says

      Michelle, no buying/selling here on the blog or it becomes chaos. Watch craigslist like a hawk. If you live near Western Massachetts, email me via the Contact forms at the bottom of the page. I have one in my garage I will sell you!

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