It seems like every other home tour the Rue team is sighing over another gorgeous vanity table. We would so love to include one of these in our own bedrooms. What a treat- a piece of furniture dedicated just to the art of beautification. We’d sit there slowly brushing our hair and daydreaming. (Okay, probably while looking at our Instagram…) Don’t you just love a good vanity table, too?

Interior design historians trace the furniture piece back to the 17th century when it was known as a toilet table. Then, in the 18th century, the lowboy, a small table with one or two rows of drawers, was popular as both a vanity and side table. As a dressing table, the lowboy was typically a women’s item. In, fact the opposite of the lowboy was the tallboy, which would have been used by a man as he stood preparing himself for the day. Later it became known as a dressing table and today is commonly called a vanity.

Because the vanity was found mainly in upper class homes, it traditionally was highly decorative. Pieces from the Queen Anne, early Georgian, and Chippendale periods often have cabriole legs, carved knees, and slipper or claw-and-ball feet. Often a vanity has a mirror though it is not required to be considered a vanity. Thomas Chippendale designed a “toylet” table in 1762 that had not only a mirror but also a fancy, ruffled fabric skirt. Traditional style vanity tables still often have a pleated skirt that hides the table’s legs. A separate stool or seat was typically designed to match.

These days, a vanity table is delineated less by form and more by function. In the pages of Rue we have often seen desks, side tables, and other pieces repurposed into vanities. Matching tables and chairs gives a formal, traditional look while picking coordinating but separate styles works for a more modern look. Even if you don’t have the space for a true dressing table, a collection of trays can give the feeling of a vanity to your dresser. Here’s how some of our past Home Tours styled their. Which inspires you?

Image 1. July/August 2011, image by Scott Woodward; and May 2012, image by Laure Joilet // 2. February 2012, image by Dean Dagen // 3. November/December 2010, image by Teri Lyn Fisher