Before sprawling bathroom mirrors were all the rage, antique shaving stands with mirrors were the compact pieces of furniture used to keep a close shave. These unique vestiges of the past will make for a great addition to a bedroom or bathroom if you're lucky enough to find one.
The Shaving Stand's Purpose and Design
Shaving stands began as usually narrow, tall tables with mirrors on top that allowed Victorian gentleman to easily take care of personal grooming.
- Victorian shaving stands - Victorian shaving stands with tables often had a drawer or two and perhaps even doors that opened to a narrow cabinet. The tops of these tables were big enough to allow a mirror and shaving utensils to be placed on the top. Some mirrors were attached to the stand and in some cases, the mirrors were attached so that they could be moved to facilitate shaving.
- Wash stands - Other shaving stands had a cutout area that held a pitcher and bowl. These are sometimes mistakenly referred to as wash stands. Wash stands or dry sinks have more surface area than the small shaving stand, which was meant to be set up in an unused corner.
- Cast iron shaving stands - As the Victorian period waned into the 20th century, elaborate wooden shaving stands fell out of fashion, and sleeker industrial cast iron stands took their place.
Like any other antique, some of these were very ornate and beautifully carved, while others were little more than primitive podiums that sat in the corner of a bedroom.
Various Shaving Stand Styles Throughout History
Like most furniture during Victorian period, shaving stands were highly decorative and customized to match the buyer's wants and needs. Thus, you can find a wide array of them available today, and here are just a few of the examples of these types of customizations.
Storage Shaving Stands
Much like walking canes before them, shaving stands were sometimes designed to have a dual purpose. These stands were built to have larger sections of storage than most shaving stands and feature small compartments for items like medicines, sewing notions, ties, cuff links, and so much more. Typically, these stands were fabricated out of wood and made during the 19th century.
Cast Iron Shaving Stands
Less decorative than wooden shaving stands, cast iron stands were built out of an iron and more utilitarian in their designs than their wooden counterparts. This industrial aesthetic matched the growing anti-Victorian decorative sentiments and mechanical age.
Shaving Stands With Decorative Tops
During the Victorian period, shaving stands became more elaborately designed, serving as an aesthetic piece of the house rather than just a functional one. On top of having beautifully carved frames and legs, some of these shaving stands were even built with luxury materials like cream and white colored marbles. Topping these stands with stone gave users the ability to create less water damage and denting/scratching to their furniture than they used to incur on the once purely wooden frames. Additionally, by the turn of the century, some manufacturers were adding cheaper materials in place of the marble, such as enamel, to appeal to a broader market.
Adjustable Shaving Stands
Another specialty type of shaving stand created during the Victorian period was stands which had adjustable mirrors - a characteristic that would catch on like fire in the following century.
Portable Shaving Stands
Portable shaving stands were smaller, often only 18 inches high. They had a mirror and limited storage for the razor and other items a gentleman would need for grooming. The portable shaving stand could be held on a lap or placed on a table, dresser, or desk to facilitate shaving.
How to Display an Antique Shaving Stand
Antique stands are wonderful accents for your bedroom or bathroom. They don't take up much space and will immediately add a historic charm where ever you put them. You can easily use one to display an antique collection such as:
- Shaving mugs
- Hat pins
- Snow globes
They can also be used in other rooms as plant stands and small side tables. In fact, they are perfect for displaying any small items that you might want to showcase.
Antique Shaving Stands Value in Today's Market
Like any antique, the old shaving stands' values depend on many variables, including:
It might surprise you, but antique shaving stands can be quite expensive collectibles, worth thousands of dollars. Right about now, you're probably kicking yourself for trying to color all over your grandfather's old shaving stand with markers and paint. Thanks to both the level of decoration that the Victorian craftsman put into these pieces and the sheer value of the high-quality woods that they used, it's not uncommon to see 19th century shaving stands sell for $2,000-$10,000, though the ones that usually sell end up selling for about $100-$500. In contrast, portable shaving stands are worth significantly less, thanks to their smaller sizes and (typically) metal materials. These shaving stands tend to sell for around $50-$100, on average.
If you're thinking about buying or selling an antique shaving stand, here are a few that've recently come to auction:
- Antique wrought iron portable shaving stand - Sold for $55
- Damaged antique Belgian shaving stand - Sold for $250
- Mid-19th century alder shaving stand - Listed for $3,003.23
Repairing an Antique Shaving Stand
Refinishing and repairing any antique isn't a project to be undertaken lightly. Many antiques actually lose value if they've been refinished or improperly restored, so the first thing you should do is talk to an appraiser to make sure that your item isn't extremely valuable as is. Likely, antique shaving stands aren't going to be impacted too much if they've had some repairs done, so long as the original components are all intact and the wood is preserved.
If you're looking to fix up a lightly damaged antique shaving stand, period-accurate knobs and drawer pulls can often be found on eBay. Try to match the style of the pull to the style and era of the stand. However, any major repairs should probably be done by someone who is experienced in working on antique furniture.
Keep Your Home Looking Sharp With an Antique Shaving Stand
Once you've found the antique shaving stand to relive all of your Victorian dreams with, make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight and dust it often to keep it clean. Once or twice a year, rub it with a wood oil to help the wood stay supple and moist as this'll help prevent cracking. Since using antiques in the way they were made to be used is the best way to enjoy them, don't be afraid to place it somewhere out in the open for everyone to enjoy.