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Going Gray: Aged Wood Bathroom Vanities For A Natural Antique Look

Left to their own devices, most types of wood don’t stay the color they were the day you bought them. This is a fact that producers of wood products – from floors to decks to furniture to bathroom vanities – do their very best to ignore, overcome, or at the very least keep quiet. Often, many layers of finishing, stains, and other techniques are used to gloss over a simple and inevitable fact: like most people, most wood will go gray eventually. But from where I stand, this isn’t a bad thing. Naturally weathered wood vanities and aged wood bathroom vanities have their own unique charm, and in their own way are maybe a little more honest than a mahogany-finished model that’s actually made of oak.

Why Gray?

Savannah 60" Aged Wood Bathroom Vanity From James Martin
Savannah 60″ Aged Wood Bathroom Vanity From James Martin

When wood is first cut, it contains all its natural oils and moisture. This base line color is then usually enhanced at the very least with a basic sealant that helps keep good moisture inside and can perk up the wood’s natural color. But over time unfinished wood will lose some of that moisture, and the natural oils will dry out. With very oily woods like teak, a simple re-application of the natural oil will bring the color back, but this is almost entirely a cosmetic choice, just like dying hair. Graying is a natural process that takes between six months and a year, leaving the wood a natural silvery color that’s not the same as the original color, but is maybe more natural.

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Why Gray Bathroom Vanities?

Toby 36" Bathroom Vanity Cabinet From Sagehill Designs
Toby 36″ Bathroom Vanity Cabinet From Sagehill Designs

All that said, while the graying of wood is natural, it isn’t always considered to be particularly desirable. In fact, in some applications, homeowners even consider it to be a drawback to the use of natural wood. First-time deck owners in particular can find it to be an unpleasant shock, as the color a deck will be after a year is rarely pictured in advertisements. But when it comes to furniture – including bathroom vanities – silvery gray aged wood actually holds a certain appeal, perhaps not in the least because it comes as-advertised.

Merging Rustic And Antique

Providence 60" Grey Bathroom Vanity With Cabinet From James Martin
Providence 60″ Grey Bathroom Vanity With Cabinet From James Martin

When you think of antique bathroom vanities, more likely than not you’re thinking of dark wood finishes, especially mahogany and cherry. But while these materials (or at least these finishes) were used in original antiques, without lots of care and maintenance, they don’t keep their deep, rich chocolatey color. Aged wood bathroom vanities offer a different, slightly more rustic antique – like an heirloom that’s been passed down and loved more than maintained or restored.

Au Naturale

Savannah 72" Double Bathroom Vanity From James Martin Furniture
Savannah 72″ Double Bathroom Vanity From James Martin Furniture

Perhaps my favorite thing about aged wood bathroom vanities, though, is that they really showcase the natural character of the wood. Exotic wood veneers are beautiful, and the finishes on many solid wood vanities can be quite nice, but silvery aged wood not only offers a more natural alternative, but makes even a simple wood grain stand out spectacularly. Slightly more weathered pieces have a unique rustic appeal, with a little of the personality of reclaimed wood that’s perfect for a charming seaside cottage or farmhouse style.

What About Moisture?

Providence 60" Gray Double Bathroom Vanity From James Martin
Providence 60″ Gray Double Bathroom Vanity From James Martin

When it comes to aged wood bathroom vanities in particular, arguing for a heavy finish for water protection as well as color and style certainly isn’t out of line. But it is possible to preserve the elegant silvery color of aged wood while also ensuring that the vanity will hold up to the heat and humidity of a bathroom. These vanities from James Martin Furniture are all finished by hand in a 12 step process followed by three additional layers of hand-applied varnish. Together, this protects the wood from weathering (cracking, warping, and peeling in particular) while allowing the natural appearance of the wood to show through.

Pay Attention To Hardware

Providence 72" Grey Double Bathroom Vanity From James Martin
Providence 72″ Grey Double Bathroom Vanity From James Martin

Finally, it’s worth noting that the right accessories can go a long way to making this look work. If you want to play up the antique aspect of aged wood bathroom vanities, look for detailed pulls, knobs, and accents done in pewter or antique brass. This slightly elegant touch will elevate the appearance of the whole vanity, giving the aged wood an air of sophistication. Conversely, for a more rustic bathroom decor, opt for more basic hardware in a neutral metal or even wood, so the knobs or pulls blend in to create a hand-hewn appearance.

What do you think of aged wood bathroom vanities? Do you see the beauty, or just a deck in need of resurfacing?