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Bathroom Vanities

Fashion And Functionality

Bathroom vanities actually serve multiple roles. Their utilitarian guise provides us with places to put towels, hairdryers and any other stuff we want hidden. But more than that, they give us a means to dress up our bathrooms in virtually any style we can imagine.

There are plenty of choices available when it comes to choosing a vanity and you're limited only by the size of your bathroom and your budget. From simple to ornate, functional to artistic, there's literally something for everyone's taste. There's even vanities that look like (or actually were) other pieces of furniture like antique dressers or buffets.

Before you make any firm decisions however, take some time to understand what's available and what you should consider before buying. Once that's done, start shopping and have fun.

Considerations To Think About When Choosing A Vanity

Buying the right type of bathroom vanity will go a long way in regard to your comfort and satisfaction. The vanity gets used multiple times each day and if it's not suited for how you live or the people who use it, you'll quickly see its flaws.

In order to make good choices, consider the following points:

  • Family makeup and primary users of the bathroom

    bathroom vanities

    The "type" of bathroom and who uses it should be primary factors in deciding on which type of bathroom vanity to choose. "Type" of bathroom refers to traffic and use; is it a family bathroom that gets used by multiple people or is it a master bath with less frequent use?

    Multiple users (like families with children) mean a lot of traffic and wear and tear on the vanity. More delicate vanity tops and furniture-like vanities might take a beating. Durable surfaces and sturdier cabinetry might be better in these situations.

    Think about using a double sink vanity if room allows and the bathroom has multiple users. Although a larger single sink vanity has lots of countertop space, two sinks improve a bathroom's efficiency while still providing ample space on the vanity top.

    The height of the people that use the bathroom vanity is also an important factor. Some vanities are lower than the standard height of a kitchen base cabinet which is about 34 inches off the floor. If you're tall, it may be a pain (both figuratively and literally) to bend down to a low vanity. Taller units similar to the height of kitchen countertops might be better. On the other hand, if children are involved a lower vanity may be more appropriate.

  • Bathroom vanities are essentially cabinets - construction and space matters
    Most bathroom vanities are essentially base cabinets for the bathroom. Consider the size vanity you need for the amount of room you have in your bathroom. In other words, ask yourself what you want to be able to store inside of it so you'll be able to right-size your vanity choice. Some lower-priced discount vanities, depending on style or where you shop for them, tend to be on the small side with little storage capacity.

    You may want to consider an expandable/collapsible vanity if you're concerned about getting a new vanity into your bathroom. Their unique design allows them to be transported and installed more easily than a conventional vanity. You can find out more about them in this article.

    Bathroom vanity cabinets that were dressers or buffets (or are reproduced to look like them) won't have as much space as they look like they might. The top drawer is usually much smaller or non-usable because of the room required for the sink plumbing However depending on the overall size they can still offer a fair amount of storage space.

    Materials should also be something to consider. Good cabinet construction is just as important here as it is in the kitchen (the previous link will take you to our kitchen cabinets construction page but it's just as applicable to bathroom cabinets and vanities).

    Find out how the vanity is made and what it's made from to be sure you're getting a good product that will meet your expectations. Bathrooms with tubs and showers tend to see more moisture than kitchens and might pose problems with products made from processed wood products like particle board and/or medium density fiberboard (MDF).

  • Other work in the bathroom might be necessary
    Depending on your situation and the vanity you choose there may be other work required in the bathroom. If you're replacing an existing vanity and the new one has a different footprint there may be floor work involved. Using a vanity with a sink that's higher or lower than what's there now will require some plumbing adjustments.

    Think about what's there now (if you're remodeling) and the amount of renovation you're up for when deciding on the new vanity style. However if you're building new or completely gutting the existing bathroom, this might not be an issue.

  • Choose an appropriate vanity top for your situation
    Choose a good surface for your vanity top that will hold up to the rigors of your particular situation. You may or may not have a choice depending on the vanity you choose. Some are already equipped with a countertop whereas you can choose your top on others.

    Decorative vanities in a powder room don't often get the same abuse as a family bathroom so more delicate surfaces like marble might be fine in those settings.

    On the other hand if you have children who aren't as fastidious as you are you might want a more durable surface and one that's easier to clean like solid surface, laminate or engineered stone. Also keep in mind any typical chemicals you have and/or use around the bathroom. Certain cleaners or things like nail polish removers (acetone) might mar the countertop.

Regardless of your situation there's a bathroom vanity style that should work for you. That is, unless your space requirements are just so small that a pedestal sink might be a better choice.

Publisher's Comments

My home is one of those that has a very small powder room on the first floor. It came with a vanity when we bought the house which reduced the already-small bathroom to the size of a high school locker. We removed the vanity and replaced it with a pedestal sink which gave us some more breathing room. Just one of those situations where a vanity just didn't make sense.

The important point here is to give thought to your situation and plan so that you're ultimately satisfied with whatever bathroom vanity you choose.

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What Styles Are Available?

OK, you've done the practical stuff so now comes the fun part - shopping for the perfect bathroom vanity. If you're still locked into the notion that vanities have to look like cheap cabinet boxes with a pre-formed laminate top, guess again. You've got options.

Conventional Cabinets - these are some of the more traditional bathroom vanities and are essentially bathroom cabinets. They're built in the same form as kitchen cabinets, namely with a framed or frameless construction. They're usually floor mounted like base cabinets in a kitchen with a toe-kick (that small indentation at the bottom for your feet). They're usually solid, dependable and get the job done.

    bathroom vanity cabinet

bathroom furniture vanity     Furniture Style Vanities - these types of bathroom vanities can really give you some decorating oomph if you're looking for something special in your bathroom. These are the ones that look like other pieces of furniture, like a chest-of-drawers, buffet or other similar pieces. Some may sit on the floor or may have legs that raise it up off the floor.

Integral or Vessel Sinks - you can choose whether to use a more conventional sink that drops down from the vanity top or add some decorative flair with a vessel sink. A vessel sink sits on top of the vanity, essentially like a bowl. Keep in mind however that this style raises the sink level and may also require different plumbing, such as a wall-mounted spigot.

bathroom vanity sink bathroom vanity vessel sink

Reproduction or Antique - if you like the look of older furniture-style bathroom vanities you have a choice of buying an original piece or a reproduction. Original and antique furniture pieces require modification to accept the sink, a new countertop and plumbing. They may also need to be strengthened to accept these changes. Reproduction pieces on the other hand are already made to be a bathroom vanity, while retaining the furniture look. Whether it has to be authentic or just look like a unique piece, there are choices available.

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Where Can I Get Them?

Not only are there plenty of choices for bathroom vanities, there are also lots of places to get them too. You can find them at your local home centers but they're also available from online retailers.

Buying From Local Home Centers & Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Buying bathroom vanities at home centers and local retailers offers some advantages in that they're close by, there's usually no shipment/delivery time and you get to see the product first hand.
The drawback is that selection may be limited, particularly if you're looking for something unique or if there just aren't any or too few retailers in your area.

Some sources you may want to check out in addition to big box home centers include:

Restoration Hardware
Restoration Hardware sells home furnishings including bathroom vanities. They have stores located in many states within the US as well as locations in Canada. Their website has a store locator function where you can also view their vanities.

Walker Zanger
Walker Zanger is a leading maker of stone and tile as well as a line of bathroom vanities in upscale styles. There are 17 showrooms and dealers throughout the U.S. Those locations as well as their vanity line can be found on their website.

You can also look in your phone book under "bathroom vanities" (though they may be listed under "bathroom fixtures and accessories) for local retailers or you could use the local search function on an internet search engine (Google Maps, Yahoo! Local Maps or Live Search Maps).

Online Retailers

Buying vanities online is another good, and sometimes better, source for obtaining the right vanity. It offers a convenient way to view a wide selection of products, many that you're just not going to find at the local building supply center.

The drawbacks to buying online are that you obviously can't see and feel the product and there are sometimes (depending on the retailer) shipping charges involved. However good product descriptions and communication with the seller should be able to dispel the 'sight-unseen' issues.

Even if you don't plan on buying a vanity from an online source they're still a great way to do some initial shopping. It allows you to see the range of products that are available and perhaps find out about some new styles that you didn't know existed.

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Here's More Related Info That Might Be Helpful...

Bathroom Design Ideas - Need a few ideas on how to best "equip" your bathroom? Check out this article on bath design ideas before you choose a vanity to ensure you've covered all the bases.

Bathroom Countertops - There's a countertop on top of every vanity and there's no shortage of types to choose from. Discover what's available and how to make the best choice for your next vanity top.

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