The Dry Sink as a Modern Day Favorite: Wash stands of the Past

A dry sink is a multi-functional piece of cabinetry from American history. Though the dry sink is still in production today, the most desirable may still be those handcrafted from yesteryear. This versatile piece of furniture, also known as a wash stand, was used in bedrooms and kitchens before plumbing was invented. Typically made of pine, a dry sink was a common addition in most 19th century homes. Before running water became available, it provided a wash area with storage for personal effects or kitchen aids. It serves mainly as a decorative household piece today yet can also be used as a baby changing table or storage cabinet.

Wash stand Features and Styles

A dry sink, modern or antique, is a square or rectangular shaped cabinet with a flat top originally used to house a wash pitcher and bowl. Some vintage wash stands have a recessed area in the top. The unit typically has one or more drawers and an enclosed cabinet for towels and other necessities. Often a bar or hook is attached to the cabinet.

Many antique dry sink units have a trough construction on the top, designed to catch water spillage. More expensive pieces historically had copper or other waterproof material to line the trough. Still others had no trough, but a marble top instead.

Identifying a Fake Antique Dry Sink

Easily reproduced, dry sink cabinets are crafted daily. However, the antique version still remains popular. Unscrupulous dealers may try to dupe the unsuspecting consumer by “aging” a dry sink reproduction with various distressing techniques. One popular way to discern reproduction furniture from antiques is by taking note of whether a dry sink has five or more evenly spaced dovetails at the drawer dovetail joints. If so, it is most likely machine cut and therefore not antique. Older joints are uneven because they were carved by hand and generally only consist of three dovetails. Upon close inspection, a careful eye may also detect circular saw blade cuts on board ends that are exposed.

How to Find a Dry Sink Today

Antique wash stands still turn up in antique stores and galleries. For a particular style, ask the owner to be on the lookout for one. Flea markets, yard sales, estate sales and even the internet may also be viable options to find an antique version of this time honored classic. New pieces may be purchased at furniture galleries or constructed by design. Many new production dry sinks can be distressed to give them an antique look if desired.