How to Setup Your Vanity: An Ancient Tool for Success

I’m not exaggerating when I say setting up your own vanity area is a great way to prepare yourself for a successful life. It is a personal space just for you, a place where you can get to know yourself, relax, meditate, and focus on yourself for some time each day. It makes getting glamorous more glamorous. Not to mention, it is a great way to add some personality to your living space.

What Is A Vanity Mirror?

The term vanity mirror can refer to any mirror used for checking your appearance, applying makeup, grooming and tweezing, and doing your hair. They range in size and shape from tiny handheld compacts to Hollywood mirrors with lights to a huge vintage makeup dresser, and can be lighted and/or magnified.

The term vanity is also very vague, but for our purposes refers to either:

  • an area of a room you use for grooming
  • a desk or table specifically designed for your beauty routine

A Brief History of Vanities

However, vanity setups you would recognise  today became popular from the late 1700s.  Madame de Pompadour, a style-setter for the period, is credited with commissioning tables with a flat desk, a mirror and storage space.  

Madame De Pompadour at her boudoir
Mme de Pompadour at her vanity

The basic style has not changed much since. Many of the modern dressing tables closely resemble the designs seen in paintings from hundreds of years ago. 

Do You Really Need a Vanity?

Many girls dream of having a gorgeous vanity when they grow up. Well, you are all grown up now, and it’s worth remembering that dream (although you should perhaps cut back on the pink and diamanté). When you see a great vanity in a friend’s house it shows you that they take their appearance seriously. A well thought-out makeup vanity setup is more than just a piece of history or nostalgia, though. 

Boosts Self-Esteem

Having this space helps to build your confidence in yourself. It helps you to feel good about the way you present yourself to the rest of the world. When you feel good about the way you look, you carry yourself differently. 

It also makes you feel like you have your act together. Think of the women you know who have a vanity. Most of them are successful, attractive, and confident. Spending time every day on your appearance helps you to put things into perspective and present yourself to the world in the way you want others to see you. 

Makes Your Morning Less Hectic

You can make your morning routine more manageable by having everything you need in one place. There is also something relaxing about sitting down at an attractive table on a comfortable chair while getting ready. It beats standing up, leaning into the foggy bathroom mirror. 

Gives You a Space of Your Own 

If you live in a house with other people, you likely share most of your space. Having a personal space is good for your mood and mental well-being. Everyone needs a place they can get away for a few minutes to think. Your vanity table is the perfect place to reflect, literally and figuratively. 

There are many Feng Shui rules for mirrors

It is Multifunctional

If your space is limited, your vanity can be a great asset, as, like Mme de Pompadour, it can double as a writing desk. You can also use it to feature important items, inspire you, or give you a sense of well-being. 

Pros and Cons of Creating a Vanity

There are so many positive reasons to invest in your makeup vanity setup, but also a few drawbacks as well

Boosts your self-imageTakes space
Saves time in the morningRequires thoughtful setup 
Helps you stay organizedRequires an initial investment
Gives you a place to reflectYou have to dust and clean it regularly
Adds personality to your spaceIt takes time to get it right
Offers a multifunctional spaceChildren might mess with your beauty products

Essentials for Vanity Setup

The essence of a successful vanity setup is in having everything you need within reach, but only the things you need. You do not want to pack it full of unnecessary stuff. This space should be clean, composed, and peaceful. 

Here’s some items you should consider for your collection:

  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Makeup
  • Makeup brushes
  • Skin care products
  • Brush
  • Blow dryer
  • Straightener
  • Q-tips
  • Cotton balls
  • Face wipes
  • Hair ties
  • Bobby pins
  • A sewing kit
  • Nail polish
  • A file
  • Nail clippers
  • Perfume
  • A jewelry box or tray
  • Mirrors (lots of them)

Things You Should Avoid

It is just as essential to keep certain things out of your dressing area. You do not want to overcrowd this space. If you are searching for things you need to get ready in the morning because your vanity is a mess, it defeats the purpose of creating this space.

Additionally, your vanity is very personal. You do not want your family to rummage through it to find items they need. Here are some things you should keep out of this space: 

  • Bills
  • Mail
  • Food
  • Products you never use
  • Your significant other’s products

Make Your Vanity Comfortable

A vanity is supposed to make getting dressed more enjoyable, so comfort is crucial . The components that make up your vanity need to work well together; you should make sure that your vanity stool and desk are at the correct height. 

If you choose to make a DIY vanity out of a piece of furniture that you already have, make sure it is not too deep. Otherwise, you will be too far from the mirror. If you are purchasing a piece, make sure that you try it before you buy it. 

You should be able to sit up straight while doing your makeup. If you have to hunch over or lean into the mirror, it will cause back pain and posture issues. Proper posture helps to improve your self-image and health. So, make sure your space is set up to promote proper alignment while still being comfortable. 

Make Sure It Has Plenty of Storage

Storage is crucial for a successful makeup vanity setup. You want everything you use to fit neatly in the drawers. A range of drawer sizes will help you to keep your makeup collection organized. Ideally, you should have shallow drawers at the top where you can store smaller makeup products and larger drawers at the bottom to keep blow dryers, brushes, curlers, and other tools.  Purpose -made makeup storage organizers are cheap to buy and a great DIY customisation option.

Using a dressing table with larger drawers allows you to use drawer organizers to keep everything in a designated place. The easier it is to maintain the cleanliness of this space, the better. 

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall (This is the Most Important Part of All)

You need a great vanity mirror at your dressing table. Without it, you will find yourself running to the bathroom to see yourself in the mirror, which defeats the purpose. So, pick a mirror you love. The choice can be overwhelming – read my article – everything you ever wanted to know about choosing and using makeup mirrors.

You might also want to add a smaller magnifying mirror for doing your eyebrows and other tasks, and a handheld for your hair. (Check out my guide to the best handheld mirrors here). A quality magnification mirror can make a massive difference in the results you achieve when doing precise makeup application such as brows, mascara and eyeliner. Magnification will also reveal skin tones and blemishes – sometimes more than you would like!

The mirror you choose should be easy to clean, as well. It is vital to view a crystal clear reflection of yourself. The placement of your mirrors can help to designate the space. Furthermore, a larger mirror gives you room to post pictures, reminders, and inspirational items. A separate wall-mounted makeup mirror (see my reviews) saves space on your vanity top, as does a tri-fold mirror.

Light It Up 

Lighting is essential. If you have ever put on your makeup indoors only to walk outside and realize it looks different in the sunlight, you understand the importance of lighting. 

Hollywood mirror lighting

General ambient lighting from the room lights is your worst option. These are often the wrong color (temperature) and cast harsh shadows. Far better to either buy a lighted makeup mirror, or add a LED light kit to your vanity mirror. Natural daylight from a nearby window is the best option, but obviously is not reliable. Modern LED lights imitate it very closely. As well as the type of lighting, the positioning is also crucial. It should be at the same level as your eyes, rather than downlighting from the ceiling. Diffuse “ring lighting” is the best of all. I’ve discussed all your options in my guide to makeup lighting.

Be Selective About What Goes On Top

Carefully choosing what you place on your vanity counter and how you arrange it has a significant impact on your space’s feeling and utility. So, reserve this surface for essential items and things you like to look at (and you do not mind other people seeing). 

Always Keep Your Vanity Top and Mirror Clean

Keeping your vanity clean is always important. It will make you feel better about yourself. After all, a vanity dressing table is very personal, and it is a reflection of you. So, you always want it to be orderly. You should also make sure you always keep your mirrors clean. Looking at yourself in a mirror covered in product and foundation can distort your self-image. 

Add Some Inspiration

Seeing things that motivate you first thing in the morning is a great way to start your day. Your dressing table is the perfect place to inspire yourself since you will be getting ready there each morning. You do not want to clutter the space, but add some things that speak to your soul. Below are some ideas for inspirational items you can include in your space: 

  • Photos of places you want to travel
  • Inspirational quotes
  • A list of things for which you are thankful
  • Things to look forward to
  • Photos of loved ones
  • Flowers
Use your vanity space for personal inspiration

If your vanity top space is limited, consider adding a shelf or cabinet beside it for placing personal items. You can also add a corkboard or pictures on the wall next to your mirror. Or use an over-the-door mirror with a cork or metallic frame.

Make Some “Me” Space

Ideally, you want your vanity to have a specific space. If you do not have a corner nook or a designated vanity area in your home, you can set one up pretty much anywhere, but you will want to add some elements to give it some separation. If you decide to create your dressing area in your bedroom, make sure that it is close to your closet and bathroom, if possible. That will make it easier to get ready and limit the amount of space needed in your vanity area for storage. 

Placing your desk in a room corner gives you the option of using the wall space for shelving. Putting shelves on either side of the vanity table can help to create some separation from your bedroom. You can also add a floor-length mirror beside your table or a rack to hang your clothes.

Depending on where you create your vanity space, you can add an area rug to tie everything together. A rug is also beneficial in this area because it will help to protect your carpet if you accidentally drop makeup or nail polish. 

A Final Word to Help You Create the Perfect Vanity Setup 

Your vanity should be all about you. It is your place to prepare yourself in the morning and get ready for bed after a long day. Mix elements to make it peaceful and inspiring. Keep it clean and purposeful. By following these tips, you will create the perfect place to focus on yourself and live a more fulfilling life. 

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