Beyond the Bath Vanity

When 5′ by 9′ was an average-sized bath, even for the masters of the house, the one real cabinet in the bath was a 30″ high rectangle about 16″ to 20″ deep and 36″ to 72″ long. Oh, how times have changed. Today’s baths are not only larger, their cabinetry is anything but an afterthought.

For one, vanities have increased in both length and height. A 72″ run is more typical for a small bath now, and for tall homeowners, a 36″ high counter top isn’t unusual. Vanities also now look more like furniture with cabinets that vary in depth, furniture-like feet and other decoration, and finishes that are often dark and classic.

Don’t Forget to Think About Storage

Storage is precious in baths – you simply need as much as possible. Today’s bath cabinetry has borrowed from kitchens and can be found doing much more than holding up the lavatory basins. Whether you are remodeling a bath or starting fresh, consider both base and wall units, and don’t feel confined by sticking to one wall of the bath. For instance, if you don’t have a traditional linen closet within reach for towels, you may want to create one with a cabinet that matches your vanity.

The key is planning storage in the same way you would for a kitchen. Consider what you need to store and how best to accommodate it. For instance, cosmetics call for a shallow top drawer or two while bulky items like hair dryers want a deep drawer or maybe an accessory fixture screwed to the inside of a door. Other bulky items that need accommodation: big bottles of backup shampoo and conditioner.

Long-term Trend

This handsome array of bath cabinets is from Merillat’s Classics in a Cherry Labelle Finish with an Ebony Mist Glaze.

Because the trend of bathroom furniture continues to be strong, particularly for the master bath, you may want to consider a more formal door style such as raised panel in dark stains and glazes. Also consider altering the line of the front of the cabinets by ordering units with different depths.

You’ll see this effect in the smaller bathroom of Today’s Bath. It was created by ordering a deeper center unit with two shallower side units and ganging them all together under a single countertop.

You should also use your imagination to dress up the look of the cabinets you order with accessories that create even more of a custom, built-in look. In the last 20 years, many so-called stock cabinet companies’ manufacturers who make factory-built units that are ordered from a catalog have become semi-custom cabinet manufacturers by expanding their offerings to include lots of door styles, finishes, and accessories (crown molding, rope molding, corbels, pilasters, etc.) that make it easy to create custom looks at affordable prices.

You can typically find help with this from a bath designer, who can also be very useful in helping you with space planning. Home centers and some show rooms offer these services free, while other designers mark up the cabinets you buy with their help or charge a set or hourly fee.

Bottom Line

Once you and a designer or contractor consider all the places you want cabinets, focus on picking out the most attractive and useful units. This can be a fun jigsaw puzzle because there are many ways to put it together.

The next decision and an important one is the door style. This will set the tone for your bathroom in terms of casual, formal or something in between. You will want to be consistent within the bathroom, and it doesn’t make sense to get too far away from the general style of the rest of your home.

The next decision is the color and type of finish. This is largely a matter of preference, but you will want to consider how much light the room gets, how formal you want the room to be, what colors you will use when it comes towels and others accessories, etc. Finally, in keeping with the door style of the cabinets and how ornate or formal you want this bath to be, choose accessory trim in the same finish to bring the cabinets together and make them look unique.