For those of you not in the know, ‘waterfall’ is a style of furniture that was mass produced in the 1920’s – 1940’s. The waterfall name comes from the curved front edge that the pieces all have. In it’s day, it was inexpensive and was marketed to newlyweds. In 1930, a couple setting up housekeeping could buy an entire matching bedroom suite of furniture including a bed, chest of drawers, dressing table and nightstands for less than $50. Bedrooms suites were most popular, but you can also find dining room sets and other pieces. As I was researching the history of waterfall furniture, I came across a new word, coiffeuse. Apparently this is the French word for dressing table or vanity, and literally means a place with a large mirror where a lady could dress her hair. In which case, today’s piece is definitely a coiffuese.
I seem to have a soft spot for waterfall pieces. Something about their art deco style really appeals to me. I used to have a waterfall buffet in my dining room, although I sold it last winter to make way for my dining room makeover (still in progress!) A little while ago one of my readers, Victoria, mentioned that she isn’t terribly fond of waterfall style vanities, especially the ones with big round mirrors. Ahem. Well, I thought this piece would be a good chance for me to try and change her mind.
Once again, I went with stripping and staining the top in dark walnut. The finish was in terrible condition! But once I got it stripped, I could see that the veneer was quite pretty and in good shape.
There was also an interesting sort of dentil molding on the mirror and on the center drawer, and I decided to strip and stain that as well.
There is that distinctive curved edge I was talking about.
I painted everything else in Annie Sloan’s Coco. This color is the perfect warm, greyish, brownish, neutralish, darkish, sort of rich color. I would never have thought I’d like it until I saw it on another waterfall piece a couple of years ago. Since then I’ve painted several pieces in this color. I think I’m on my third can of it.
Another thing that waterfall furniture is known for is unusual hardware. Oftentimes these pieces have drawer pulls made of bakelite. My buffet had metal handles with bakelite inserts. The pulls on this piece aren’t bakelite, but they are pretty fab. I had to keep them as they add so much personality to the piece.
Remember the vintage radio I scored at a garage sale earlier this summer? It was perfect for staging this piece!
As was my bakelite alarm clock …
I’ve used this old photo before for staging pieces. This came from a big tub of family photos that my relatives in South Dakota have. No one knows who this couple is, but they are standing in front of my grandparent’s home in So. Minneapolis.
I wish I knew who they were. Don’t they look like a really fun couple? I’m sure that she sat at a similar dressing table and made sure the wave in her hair was just right before this festive gentleman came calling. She might have been listening to Bing Crosby or Glenn Miller on the radio. She probably pulled on those fabulous cat eye glasses to read the love letter he sent.
They were likely heading out to catch a street car to Lake Harriet for the afternoon.
Her waterfall style dressing table probably wasn’t painted. But I bet if she’d seen this one, she would have loved it!
Well Victoria? Still not a fan of the waterfall vanities with big round mirrors?
Sharing at Finding Silver Pennies Sunday.