Formica vanitory unitsWe are Retro Geeks. And we love to uncover and revive odd terminology from the way back time machine days. Today we spotlight: Formica’s 1959 Vanitory. But is this an Australia-only invention??

Facebook follower Joel recently sent us a tip to this woddity, which he spotted in an advertisement for sale on ebay Australia from seller huckleberryhash

Pam remarked that she’s seen a play on words like this to describe unique bathroom vanity designs before: Beauty Queen made a line of Lavanettes, including the Vanette model.

Back to the Formica Vanitory: Marketed as “your first step towards the home of tomorrow” these Vanitory units are quite dreamy. In particular, the curvy one-piece countertop design makes the unit look built-in. And of course, the purple polka dot laminate — we want! In fact, this whole bathroom is so cheerful and colorful — doesn’t it make you want to pull up a chair and primp for a while?

We have scholarship (yet to be published) that verifies that laminate could be “post formed” — curved — like this, as early as 1952. And of course, laminate can still be post-formed today. So: Vanitory, anyone?  Perhaps an intrepid reader will give it a try.

Mega thanks to ebay seller huckleberryhash for letting us feature this vintage Vanitory advertisement.

Readers, keep sending us your tips and photos about odd vanity designs, this is a particular interest here!

  1. susan says:

    I hate to be the one to point this out but, that is not a polka dot design. It is like a basketry woven design. Personally, I think a polka dot would look nicer.

  2. Patty says:

    You don’t see the plumbing in this illustration. I wonder if you would in the actual installation? I would think you would have to for the sink to drain properly.

    The mirror looks too high to be able to see your face while sitting in the chair. Does look like something that could be installed for someone in a wheelchair.

  3. Lynne says:

    Wow! They sure weren’t afraid to mix color and pattern, were they? Polka dots, plaid, and a geometric floral all in one little room!

    1. Robin, NV says:

      We Americans can’t compare with the Brits and the Aussies for mixing and matching colors and pattern. They really go for it. We tend to be a bit more subdued, which is kind of a shame. Although I am preparing to paint the walls in my yellow and green bathroom a nice shade of pink.

  4. Mick D says:

    Holy Hollyhocks! *WANT!*

    The concept of this is very simple, yet its amazingly fun to look at! I have never seen one in all my days of selling houses, but I may actually get out my heat gun, an ikea under-mount drawer unit, some plyTanium and my glue gun and try to re-create this just for fun! I LOVE the look of this!
    Now, where to get some fantabulous purple polka-dot laminate …

    Hmm…. !

  5. Annie B. says:

    Oh, how happy. The mirror looks like a lavender polka dot TV. I love it. Also love that Eames-ish chair.

  6. J D Log says:

    Hmmm never seen a Vanitory unit before or that patern Formica in that colour. Although I have seen mauve Formica once. I have seen vanities where they have been curved at the top and bottom with Formica, Laminex and Panelyte ( Charles Hope ltd an Australian company). In many cases the Laminex lifted water got into the wood and they would rot out. Unlike the stand alone enamel sinks which have lasted the test of time.
    I remember reading a magizine article for the home owner on how you could bend it, if my memory serves me right it involved heat similar to how you would mould plywood.

    1. Tom says:

      Yes, Formica/WilsonArt/laminates are mostly layered plastic, so one just heats and bends to their heart’s content. Heating plywood is a new one on me, though!

      1. pam kueber says:

        I’ve never heard of postforming (bending) laminate as a DIY — please consult with a properly licensed professional.

        1. Mary Elizabeth says:


          When you order the straight laminate, it comes shipped rolled up. It’s easy to bend a piece of edging around a slight curve; actually it’s easier to bend it than to straighten it out when it has been sitting in the garage a few weeks. So that gives you an idea of its flexibility.

          When my DH and I spruced up our knotty pine kitchen with DIY laminate countertops, we had a huge piece left over. Many months later, we built an addition that included a laundry room, and we decided to use the leftover laminate on the countertop in there. But I wanted a rounded corner, because the countertop was up to the doorway, and I am a certified klutz, always hitting my legs and hips on furniture and whacking my skull on open cabinet doors. So he made the countertop curved and used a scrap of the laminate to test whether he could create a curve similar to the one in the vanity illustration. It was a great success. For a gentle curve like that done in warm weather when, as I said, the laminate had been sitting around a while, you don’t even need to heat it. Just press it down onto the adhesive with the little roller that you use to make the countertop itself flat.

          As for wood, my grandfather was a woodworker, and he constructed a steam cabinet to make a Shaker style table with a curved apron–out of oak! You can go on line and learn how to do or get a DVD from the public TV show “Rough Cuts” in which that gorgeous Tommy MacDonald does it.

          1. pam kueber says:

            I am wondering whether, back in the day, laminate was thicker. I have a related post coming up, will continue to research this issue.

            1. Mary Elizabeth says:

              I think it might have been, Pam, because I remember my father using it in the 1950s (yeah, I’m that old), and I think it was as thick as linoleum. Let us know what you find out.

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