Solid wood bathroom vanities are becoming much rarer these days. There are a number of reasons for this, but ultimately most of them boil down to cost: solid wood vanities are more expensive than ones made of compressed particle board or MDF, which are becoming exponentially more popular in furniture of all types. For bathroom vanities in particular, it can also be difficult to strike a balance between showcasing a wood’s natural beauty and preventing it from being damaged by the hot, humid conditions of the bathroom. Many vanities that do put a wood finish front and center of the design use patterned exotic wood veneers to create a highly sophisticated style. Simple, good old fashioned wood vanities are harder to find, but James Martin furniture is one of the few that does them really well.
What Is A “Real Wood Finish”?
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There are, essentially, three types of wood bathroom vanities: those that use patterned wood veneers for style, those that use a finish to recreate the look of wood on a MDF or particleboard vanity, or those that stain solid wood or wood veneers to bring out the natural character of the wood. The vanities by James Martin Furniture fall in the final category, using only solid wood components and letting the natural wood grain speak for itself.
Why Solid Wood?
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While solid wood bathroom vanities are a little hard to come by, many contain a solid wood component – either the frame for strength or a veneer to cover a lower quality material – but few are made entirely of a single type of wood. James Martin Furniture’s vanities are made of 100% timber, usually grade-A solid oak hardwood. With few exceptions, the wood you see on the outside is the wood the vanity is built from all the way through. The result is not only a gorgeous wood finish, but the durability and longevity of a high quality, furniture-grade construction with a solid frame that’s meant to stay in one piece – not to be assembled or disassembled.
What About Water Damage?
I mentioned before that one of the reasons for the lack of authentic wood finishes in bathroom vanities is that wood simply doesn’t hold up well against changing humidity levels. Most untreated woods will warp or even mold or mildew when exposed to too much moisture. But while heavy-handed finishing will cover up the natural beauty of wood, it is possible to get the best of both worlds with a somewhat lighter touch. Many of James Martin Furniture’s wood bathroom vanities undergo a 12 step finishing process to prevent peeling, cracking, and fading, and then an additional 3-step hand-applied varnish to increase durability and prevent warping. This provides an extremely high level of water protection without covering up the beauty of the underlying wood.
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Many bathroom vanities are done in dark wood finishes – that is, they’re stained to a deep, rich brown tone. But most of the woods used to make bathroom vanities are naturally much lighter in color. Moreover, minimally treated wood typically loses some of that vibrant color within about a year, fading to a more delicate silvery gray. This type of weathered finish is rarely seen in bathroom furniture because wood that’s left untreated in a bathroom doesn’t last long. But James Martin Furniture manages to capture this slightly aged, elegant gray wood tone for a uniquely weathered, antique look that will hold up to the rigors of a bathroom climate.
James Martin Furniture even offers a full line of totally unfinished bathroom vanities – a feature that’s even more difficult to come by than a a solid wood construction. Rather than the dark cherry or mahogany stains that are so common in contemporary bathroom design, these vanities are left with the light blonde color of natural oak. This lighter wood tone can help brighten up a bathroom, and works especially well with a natural spa-style bathroom. You’ll want to at least apply a layer of clear polyurethane to protect an unfinished vanity against moisture, but this light natural tone pairs well with woods that can stand up to much more abuse – such as ones built in to a sauna or integrated into the shower floor. Together, this creates an overall bright, earthy vibe you won’t get from most other contemporary styles.
Reclaim The Grain
I’m not one to stand in the way of progress, and certainly when the option is there, I’ll always take the more environmentally friendly choice. But I do feel that something has been lost in the shift from solid wood to MDF that has little to do with longevity or durability. By and large, traditional furniture making has gone by the wayside, and with it an appreciation for the subtle natural beauty of wood. Each and every bathroom vanity from James Martin Furniture is made and finished by hand, which makes a difference you can visibly see in the beautiful, deep wood grain on every piece. So while solid wood vanities may not be the number one most earth friendly option, I will say honestly that seeing wood a little closer to its natural form is a nice way to help put your bathroom in touch with nature.
What do you think of these solid wood bathroom vanities? Do you love the look of a natural wood grain, or are you looking for the added stability of a solid wood construction?
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