It’s not always the most glamorous part of a bathroom remodel, but choosing the right vanity can make or break your bathroom’s design. If it’s placed awkwardly in a traffic route, uses poor or mismatched materials, or doesn’t have enough storage, the rest of your bathroom will suffer.
We spoke with six bathroom and vanity designers to get the professional scoop. Here are their suggestions for this bathroom cornerstone.
Access. Choose a spot for your vanity that won’t mess with your bathroom’s traffic flow or block the bathroom door or shower door swing. Beth Fillerup advises homeowners to think about cleaning and about the vanity door swing space, too. Good questions to ask, she says, include: “Are the surrounding areas accessible for cleaning? If the vanity has doors, is the space around the vanity adequate for foot traffic when they are open?”
Designer Robert Berkovich suggests that homeowners take other architectural features into account when deciding on a spot, too. Make sure that any windows nearby will allow for a mirror and wall cabinets above the vanity. “Remember, the vanity plays an integral role in the function of the bathroom and requires the space around it to function properly,” says designer Steve O’Neill.
“Locating the vanity far from other bath fixtures requires a higher cost for rough plumbing,” says contractor David Lawson.
“Vanities are placed in environments that are humid, wet and busy,” says O’Neill. “The materials that make up your vanity of choice should be able to stand up to such an environment.” Wood veneers, laminates and thermofoil (like on the vanity in this photo) tend to work well in bathrooms. Wood should be properly sealed and lacquered — although Lawson does warn that lacquer isn’t indestructible.
“We do caution our clients that clear finishes are generally lacquer and that water will affect the finish if it is left standing on it,” he says. Designer Gina Adamson recommends avoiding pressed MDF too, since it’s susceptible to water damage.
Taking account of what you truly use will help you decide how much storage you’ll need in your new vanity. Take inventory of what you store in your current vanity. Organize everything by what you’ll need to have in reach and what you’ll just need to have nearby.
“This will put into perspective what you need to store and where it needs to be placed,” says O’Neill. Lawson recommends adding about 20 percent more space than you think you’ll need, just to be safe.
If you’re stuck with a small vanity cabinet, consider adding extra cabinets that rest on the counters, as in this photo. “You’ll get more storage without losing floor space,” says Hethmon.
Scale. Your vanity size should always make sense for your bathroom’s size. Cramming a huge vanity into a tiny bathroom doesn’t make sense, no matter what your storage needs are. “The amount of storage required by the client impacts the size of the vanity,” says Lawson. “But more important is the size of the room it sits in. Working within the architecture is part of the equation.”
“By evaluating lifestyle, whether a powder room or master bath, and the demands that will be placed on the vanity, the size will become evident quickly,” says O’Neill. For regularly used bathrooms, Adamson recommends starting with a vanity that’s a minimum of 21 inches deep and 24 inches wide.
The variety of vanity designs today makes it easy to find what you need in terms of design and storage, but many designers still recommend looking into a custom design for greater efficiency. “Custom vanities are not always more expensive than store bought,” says Adamson. “And they have endless design styles and configurations.”
“Don’t forget that your bowl doesn’t have to be in the middle,” says Hethmon. Like the sink in this photo, a sink bowl that’s slightly off center allows for more countertop space. Consider your bowl size, too. “Bigger, deeper bowls can mean less mess to clean up,” Hethmon points out.
Of course, choosing your vanity materials, style and design has a lot to do with how you feel about your home, too. A custom-designed vanity in the master bathroom of your “forever home” might make sense, but a store-bought vanity could work just fine in the guest bathroom of a home you plan to sell down the road.