One of my favorite movies is “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything -Julie Newmar.” It’s a campy cult classic starring 3 silver-screen veterans, Patrick Swayze (RIP), Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo, who are cast as glamorous drag queens from New York City embarking on a cross-country journey in an old beat-up Cadillac convertible in order to participate in a Miss USA style drag pageant.
If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s hilarious, colorful, campy, as well as being very moving, inspirational, and touching. Anyways, the reason I brought this up is because of the opening scene. In the opening scene Patrick Swayze sits in front of an antique vanity while putting his face and body on, and we watch through the mirror of the vanity as he undergoes his transformation. And, I have always loved that vanity! So, when I came across this old vanity, I just had to have it!
Sadly, it had seen better days. It was dinged and scuffed up pretty bad, had water marks all over the tops, and the tole painting on the details of the front was peeling off. There was just no way to save the original finish or to restore it without spending a fortune. BUT…it was in perfect shape for a wonderful shabby chic finish…so that’s what it got… Meet The Alexandria!
I painted her in a lovely aqua green-blue shade that allowed her lovely details to steal the show. I also added just a little bit of white highlighting on the posts and legs to draw attention to the less loud detailing. And, of course, it can’t be shabby chic without lots of distressing…so I beat her up pretty good and rubbed her bare in all the places a heavily used vanity might show wear and tear over the years.
Rather than paint the table tops, I opted to refinish them in a honey colored stain to show off the beautiful wood grain…something the previous finish actually hid…
To finish her I used a heavy-handed dark waxing technique to mimic dirt and dust settling into all of the nooks and crannies and brush strokes in the paint. I just love the wax the wax shows off all of that wonderful routed detailing on the drawers that the tole painting once highlighted.
Like all of my work, I sealed and protected The Alexandria with a couple coats of a durable and water-resistant furniture wax that give the piece a bit of a satin-sheen and then I replaced the ho-hum hardware with some that are just a little bit more playful and deserving of this beautiful vanity:
I just love that purple ceramic knob on the top! The middle knobs are a pretty light blue glass and the bottom knobs are a white ceramic with oranges, reds, blues, and purples painted on.
I chose to photograph this piece in the middle of the day under the bright sunlight because I wanted the knobs and the paint to really pop! I also wanted bright lighting to illuminate all the wonderful depth and character the paint has. It worked…and all of the pictures turned out beautifully until I tried to take a picture from the opposite angle…
I don’t know if it was the angle the sun was at, or if it was the adorable chihuahua stealing the show, but for some reason I just couldn’t get the correct color to show up in this photo. But little Boston is too distracting to notice anyway, amirite? He’s giving fierce model face…just like the drag queens in To Wong Foo!
And so we’ve come full circle…
The Alexandria is up in the Etsy shop now and is ready for her new home. She’s perfectly imperfect, perfectly beautiful, perfectly shabby chic, and she would be a perfect addition to any fabulous woman’s room, or the room of a fabulous little princess, or she’s even fit for a fabulous and fierce drag queen like Miss Vida Boheme herself!