Need a retro bathroom vanity? Look at these 5 authentic 1952 designs

retro-bathroom-vanity-IXL-1952-5Do you need a new bathroom vanity for your 1950s or 1960s bathroom — but want to keep the look midcentury authentic? Here are five authentic designs for single- and double-sink vanities from a 1952 I-XL Furniture Company catalog recently added to my collection.

retro-bathroom-vanity-IXL-1952-4These 1950s wood bathroom vanity cabinets are similar to many of the wood kitchen cabinets we see from the 1950s: They feature full-overlay, slab doors with what looks like a radius edge, installed with knife hinges. These are very much in the look of steel cabinets from the same era — except in wood.

Click any images in this blog and they should double in size on your screen — for better viewing.

The marketing copy says:

I-XL is featuring 5 standard models in the Lavanity Line of Bathroom Lavatory Cabinets….

… 4 popular off-shade tints of Willow Green — Citron Yellow — French Blue — Sandalwood — also White — Natural Finish — and Unpainted.

Lavatory bowls are offered in Spanish Buff — Sea Coral — Tusk Ivory — Spray Green — and White. Many patterns of Formica are regularly stocked from which to round out the color combination of your choice.

The one-piece Formica Tops are trimmed in mirror-finished stainlesss steel moulding — 1-1/2″ face on top, 3/4″ face on back splasher, with 1-1/4″ corners — stainless steel pressure moulding around stink well — water-proof mastic insures water-tight seal around bowl.

… Finish — … heavy coat of water-resistant penetrating sealer — over which is applied the undercoating and final coat of enamel, or shellac and varnish if Natural finished.

Trim — Appropriately large, clear plastic and chrome pulls enhance modernistic styling…. Towel bar of modern design may be supplied as an extra.

Standard sizes available were 25″ wide, 40″ wide and 55″ wide. Units are 21″ deep. Height with installed tops is 31-1/2″ high and tops have 1/2″ overhang.

Look at the old way they used to do undermount sinks with Formica countertops. We see this occasionally on kitchen countertops, too.

Formica patterns mentioned included:

  • Tan Moonglo
  • Gray Moonglo
  • Blue Moonglo
  • Yellow Moonglo
  • Red Moonglo
  • Green Moonglo
  • Red Linen
  • Blue Linen
  • Tan Linen
  • Gray Linen
  • Green Linen
  • Mother of Pearl
  • Plain Black
  • Gold Linen


Above: The 1952 price list. Accounting for basic inflation:

  • The smallest unit, $119.80 in 1952, would be about $1,078.82 in 2015.
  • The largest unit, $180.20 in 1952, $1,622.74.

These things cost a chunk o’ change back in the day. But then, you did get the factory-painted cabinet, sink and steel-edged countertop.


Above: on the back of the brochure, entising kitchen cabinets, in the same colorways, although we call this style of door a 3/4 overlay.

  1. linoleummy says:

    Would these be considered a Woddity? I don’t think I’ve seen any pictures of these stainless rimmed all-in-one vanitys even here on RetroRenno before. Now THAT would be something to come across at the Re-Store! But plastic pulls…

    1. pam kueber says:

      Well, I’m not sure I’d call them a woddity, but they sure are nice.

      That said: The all-steel vanities like the Beauty Queen Lavanette and Vanette — I think those are woddities — likely quite rare.

  2. Marya says:

    What about an article on good sources for off the shelf options, for those of us on a budget? I’m planning a new bathroom and totally stumped -the only vanities I’m finding are shabby-cottage, ikea modern particle board or faux Tuscan monstrosities. I feel like affordable mid century knockoffs are everywhere – except the bathroom.

    1. Retroski says:

      Marya-I feel your pain! I’m on a budget too and need to replace a damaged cheapo vanity. I didn’t go pure retro but did find a close out plain wood vanity in a classic style. Best route if you want retro on a budget? 1st, scour this blog to get ideas.
      -Then scour craigslist, the ReStore, and maybe even demo sales for old/vintage vanities.
      -DIY saves $$ too. You could build a basic vanity (see Kate’s bathroom) or go online for plans like at Ana White.
      -Refinsh or repaint a vanity and change the pulls, or reface a wood one with retro-appropriate doors/pulls…like w/ those ubiquitous 80s oak vanities or basic unfinished cabinet at the hardware store! (Not as hard!)
      -Baker Cabinets look like good price for custom-made, are made in US.

      Some DIY know how + patience + work + planning = the route to budget renovation! Good luck.

      1. Mary Elizabeth says:

        I agree with “Retroski” that you can build your own vanity out of plywood with little prior carpentry skill. Kate had never done it before when she built hers, and she gave really good instructions.

        There are also instructions on line. When my DH built his first vanity, he said, “How hard could it be? It’s a box with doors and a hole in the top for a sink.” He got ideas for the first one from a home carpentry magazine. Years later, he has built three bathroom vanities with drawers as well as doors, a kitchen island, and laundry room cabinets, His latest project was a storage wall with drawers and shelves for our bedroom, in lieu of separate dressers and bookshelves. Basically, cabinets of any kind are boxes.

        Barring that, there are unfinished wood vanities available:


        Or white ones that can be painted:


        By painting the vanity a color to go with your tile, and by putting on a laminate top that coordinates well with it, you can get the retro look. Look in this site for stories on suitable faucets to go in the retro bath–there are many available in the big box stores, too.

        Before moving into my current 1959 house, I have had custom laminate tops built for me at the big box stores with special order laminate patterns that fit the period of my home. They will also cut the sink hole for you if you give them the pattern that comes with your drop-in sink. Even with minimal skills, you can attach the laminate top to your vanity and have a plumber or clever friend hook up the sink.

        Do study the many baths on this site for inexpensive ideas!

    2. pam kueber says:

      When I prowl around my Home Depot just to see what’s out there, in the custom kitchen cabinets section I see plenty of full-overlay slab door units now available. I don’t know how much they cost, but they are there.

      When I did my bathrooms, I used Cabico cabinets – I had to order them – I got 3/4 overlay slab doors with radius edge (because that’s what was in the old vanities I was replacing). They are great. They are some variety of MDF factory painted white. They were not particularly cheap.

        1. Kathy says:

          Or just order the cabinet body (the hardest part to build) and make your own doors and drawer faces with birch plywood, table saw and a router.

          Nearly identical to original hinges are still sold very inexpensively, best used with magnetic catches. Simple retro chrome handles and concave knobs are also readily available, although the iconic boomerang and starburst handles are more expensive. Salvage is still a good option too.

  3. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Of all the vanity cabinets I found in the literature on mid-century houses, I liked the plain ones the best. So that is the one I replicated for my husband to build, very similar to the one at the top right of the first leaflet. (Too bad we don’t live near Portland, Debbie, or I could recommend a carpenter for you.)

    We didn’t do chrome trim here or on our kitchen or laundry room cabinets. We weren’t afraid of the installation being too hard, but I was getting strange vibes about it and my husband didn’t like the fact that “grody stuff” could get underneath. I still toyed with the idea, though, until the woman who grew up in our house said, “My mother always hated the chrome trim on the counters. She was always pulling it up with a knife and scrubbing underneath with bleach on a toothbrush.” So I told my husband, “The ghosts in the house have spoken–go with self-trim or wood trim, both of which are OK for the late fifties.” He did self-trim on the laminate in the bathroom and in the laundry, and he did curved wood molding in the kitchen.

    1. Kathy says:

      What a great story. I felt some of the same vibes with our first home, and later found out that the original owner founded the town’s newspaper and served in the Army during the Civil War and wrote a book about his experiences. Both my husband and I were military journalists, so perhaps it was meant to be. We plan on retiring there.

      Unfortunately, the perfect housekeeper (makeup, heels and all) of the former owner of our current house hasn’t rubbed off on me! But her pink bathroom and kitchen lead me to this site, and I love them even more now.

  4. Debbie in Portland says:

    These are fabulous! I bet that you could show the drawings to a skilled cabinetmaker and have one replicated. The hardest part would probably be finding someone who knows how to install the metal trim.

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