How to Choose a Bathroom Vanity


How to Choose a Bathroom Vanity

Choosing a bathroom vanity is one of the most important choices you will make when you are constructing or remodeling your bathroom. Vanities draw the eye into the bathroom. They are statement pieces and help to set the theme of the room. Since it is one of the biggest pieces within the bathroom, it is important that you take the time to plan and carefully select the best vanity for your bathroom space.

As you plan your bathroom space, it is key to keep certain parameters in mind. Remember that your overall aesthetic will be tempered by the bathroom’s square footage. Additionally, you want to look at the variety of styles available on the market today. Keep reading for more tips to help you choose the right vanity for your bathroom space.

Choose a Vanity Size to Fit Your Space

The bathroom square footage will play a large role in narrowing down the vanity size options that you can choose. Consider the following when choosing your bathroom vanity:

  • Existing plumbing will be a constraining factor for the size and type of bathroom vanity, especially in the case of a remodel. Moving the current piping can quickly escalate the costs of a remodel. The plumbing in the bathroom thus narrows where you can place your vanity.
  • The vanity should fit the room but not overwhelm it. A vanity that is too big for the space makes maneuvering the room too difficult. You do not want people using the space to bump into the vanity just by walking through the bathroom. Moreover, you do not want to feel crowded or cramped when using the facilities.
  • Consider whether you have room for drawers and doors to open. Vanity placement also has to leave clearance for the entrance door’s swing trajectory. Walk through how you would use the space and make sure there is clearance for any door or drawer. 

It is better to realize before you make your purchase that the vanity style and size you like will not fit. Choosing a vanity is tied closely to the size and type of bathroom space so make sure this is one of your first considerations. Then, you can think about how the space is used.

Main Bathroom Vanities

These bathrooms are the central ones used by the family on a daily basis. The main bathroom may get more usage for things other than showering or bathing. They may be used for doing hair, make-up, shaving, and general bodily grooming. What type of usage and how often the bathroom will be used should greatly influence what characteristics you look for in your vanity.

If several people will be using the main bathroom at the same time, you may want to look into two sink vanities. Two people can simultaneously get ready to go out or to go to bed without stepping on each other. Counter space between the two sinks can house toiletries close to hand. The storage space under each side can help to keep items separate. For example, the space can be divided into a kids’ area and a parent’s space.

Additionally, having multiple people using the main bathroom for their bathing and grooming needs means that the fixtures and materials need to be durable. They must withstand not only high humidity levels throughout the day but also repeated daily use by multiple family members. Choose a vanity that can take the abuse of everyday life without showing the usage.

Master Bathroom Vanities

Two-sink vanities are also a popular choice for master bathrooms, as they can be divided into his-and-hers sections. Recently, the trend for master bathrooms has been towards larger spaces, featuring a shower, tub, toilet, and vanity or sink area. Including all of these items in the bathroom necessitates a large space. Even if you decide to go with a one-sink vanity, you can choose a wider vanity with a lot of counter space.

Master baths are full usage bathrooms. As such, the high humidity rates have to be taken into consideration when choosing the right vanity for your space. Certain wood materials and finishes will not be able to endure the high humidity levels in these spaces.

Children’s Bathroom Vanities

For children’s bathrooms, you want to choose a durable vanity that can take the wear and tear of everyday use from children. Further, the material is going to factor greatly here as the counter surface and vanity should be easy to clean. Sink choice for a vanity in a children’s bathroom also needs to be functional and able to take an occasional hit without cracking.

Children are unpredictable in their actions and where their imagination will take them. Design their bathroom with that fact in mind. Choose a countertop that is not porous so markers and make-up spills will not leave a stain. The drawers and doors should be able to hold up to children banging them shut.

Guest Bathroom Vanities

Guest bathrooms, conversely, often see very little use. The size of these spaces tends to be smaller than other bathrooms in the home. They may not even be full bathrooms, but rather ¾ bathrooms with a toilet, sink, and shower. A vanity in a guest room can be used to store items that are not used often or extra toiletries. Another option for the guest bathroom is to choose a vanity for its aesthetic rather than its storage capacity.

Powder Room Vanities

Half-baths or powder rooms are bathrooms that house only a toilet and a sink. These are the bathrooms that are used mainly by guests visiting for a short time or for the commode only. Since these are often a public bathroom vs. a private family space, some feel it is important to decorate it as a small showpiece. Thus, a fancier sink or vanity option could be put to good use here.  

Since powder rooms do not have showers or bathtubs, the humidity level is not as high as in a master bathroom or a ¾ bathroom. The lower humidity allows for a greater choice in vanity materials. They are not as restricted to wood or finishes that can withstand environments with high humidity levels.

What Is a Comfort Height Vanity?

When choosing a bathroom vanity, you also want to factor in the height of the individuals who will be the ones using it most frequently. If your family is on the tall end, you want to make sure that the vanity plus sink is at the right height for them. Comfort height speaks to how comfortable the piece is to use. If it is too short, one will have to bend over to use it. A sink and vanity that are too high are difficult for children to use.

Vanities that are too low for the height of household members can contribute to lower back pain. Traditionally, the standard height for bathroom vanities has been 30 to 32 inches. This height is a bit of a compromise in terms of comfort for both adults and children, meaning it can still be too low for many adults and too high for younger children.

More recently, the trend has been to use vanities that are 36 inches in height, the same as most kitchen counters. 36 inches is considered the comfort height for vanities. The average height adult can easily use the 36-inch vanity without putting undue strain on the back. Custom vanities allow you to individualize the vanity to the best height for your household.

Sink Choices and Height

Choices abound when designing your new bathroom. You not only choose your vanity but also your sink option. When it comes to sinks, attend to the height of the sink over the vanity as this adds to the overall height for usage. Some common sink models are: 

  • Drop-in Sink – These sinks, true to their name, drop into the hole in the vanity countertop. They have a rim that rises over the countertop. The drop-in style is a common find in many homes.
  • Vessel Sink – A vessel sink sits entirely above the vanity countertop. The vessel sink comes in several shapes and depths. Models can range from a large bowl that is placed on the countertop, to shallow rectangular or square versions. Keep in mind that choosing a vessel sink does increase the overall height.
  • Rimmed Sink – This version is similar to the drop-in sink. The main difference is that the rimmed sink is framed by a metal edging that is flush with the countertop.
  • Undermount Sink – A recent favorite, the undermount sink, offers a clean line and easy cleaning. They are installed under the sink without a rim or edge. Undermounted sinks must be attached to a solid stone or composite countertop.

The sink and vanity style you choose is going to depend heavily upon the bathroom’s function and the decorating theme. Remember to factor in the sink height when planning as some vessel models may make a sink vanity too difficult for smaller children and shorter individuals to use comfortably.

Decide on the Function of Your Bathroom Vanity

Another factor that influences which bathroom vanity you choose is function. Are you adding a vanity to your bathroom because you want extra storage? If this is the case, you are going to want a piece that has drawers and cabinets for you to store all your bathing and grooming necessities.

  • Floating Vanities – Also known as a wall-mounted vanity, this model has a few benefits, including easier to clean under and making the bathroom space look larger.
  • Free-Standing Vanities – Vanities of this type usually stand on legs. Some models will have cabinets, others may be two-tiered with the countertop and then a shelf below.
  • Cabinet Vanities – If you are looking for additional storage space, this is the model for you. These come in a variety of widths. With a large enough bathroom, you could use one that had four doors and three to four rows of drawers.

If you simply like the aesthetic of a vanity for your bathroom, your options are wide open. You are not tied down to a large vanity with ample storage space. Instead, you can choose a smaller piece that meets your decorating vision or a wall-mounted vanity.

A Functional Storage vs. Statement Piece Vanity

The main benefit for many people of choosing a vanity for the bathroom is the additional storage space that is gained. The vanity is not only part of the bathroom decor, but also serves the purpose of organizing and storing all your toiletry needs. The storage capacity of the vanity is a definite plus if you are in an apartment or if your home has limited storage space. 

Statement piece vanities exist at the other end of the spectrum. The goal of these models is to catch the eye and show the creativity of the owners. Often these may be paired with vessel sinks that are more about the aesthetic appeal of the space instead of its functional uses. The statement piece vanities look more like furniture you might find in the rest of the house rather than a bathroom sink, countertop, and cabinets.

Choosing between a functional storage vanity and a statement piece is a critical component of your bathroom decision-making. If you love the statement piece vanity you saw advertised online, but have a current bathroom countertop overflowing with items, the cabinet vanity may make you happier in the long run.

Bathroom Traffic and Usage

Another factor to consider in seeking out the right vanity for your needs has to do with the amount of traffic that will come through the bathroom on a daily basis. Additionally, you will want to consider what this particular bathroom will be used for daily. This means that you have to be aware of how the vanity will work with the flow of people through the bathroom area and what people are doing when they are in the room.

A bathroom that gets little use can have a fancier, more ornate vanity than one that is used daily by everyone in the home. In the latter case, you want a vanity that will stand up to the pressure of regular daily usage.

Foot traffic is another important consideration when choosing your vanity. The size of the vanity must fit your usage needs, however, it must also flow with the use of space. Before you purchase your vanity, mark out the space in the bathroom using tape or chalk. Then, walk around the bathroom as you would during a regular day while using it. Ensure that there is clearance for you to get into and around the vanity.

Choose the Style of Your Bathroom Vanity

Like any piece of furniture for your home, bathroom vanities come in a myriad of styles to match your decorating needs. Once you have narrowed down your size constraints and your bathroom movement flow, you can begin the fun part. Choosing a bathroom vanity that meets your designing needs.

Whether your decorating theme is Beach Cottage or Rustic Farmhouse, you will find a vanity that is perfect. As you start narrowing down your choices based upon your theme, remember to keep your other parameters in mind, especially whether you prefer a comfort height vanity or a standard height one and if you need a functional piece for storage.

Vanity Designs

Regardless of your design theme, you will find a variety of bathroom vanities that fit. Current trends in vanities are for sleek, modern-looking floating vanities with a vessel sink. If modern does not align with your decor mojo, you can go with some tried and true styles listed below.

An additional option for a unique, but functional, bathroom vanity is to repurpose an antique or vintage piece of furniture. A repurposed vintage cabinet can give you a distinct look while still offering a functional storage option. Upcycling is currently all the rage on DIY pages and blogs. If this is in your wheelhouse, research some examples to help stoke your creative energy. 

Trends come and go, even in bathroom vanity design, however, you can not go wrong with the styles listed here. From form to finish, the variety is endless. As long as you keep your functional needs in mind, any of these styles should offer a practical and aesthetically pleasing solution.

  • Beach and Coastal – Vanities in this category tend to follow traditional lines. Some may include shiplap or shutter design elements. Finish colors tend to be white, whitewash, weathered wood in sandy or light tones.
  • Farmhouse – Within this style category vanities are sturdy with functional elements. Wood decorating elements with wider, plank features are common. The finish is often white, natural wood, but also can include tan, beige, brown, and shades of blue or red.
  • Rustic Farmhouse – Rustic farm style is very similar to the farmhouse style above. The big difference is that rustic styles favor a rougher, unfinished wood or weathered look. If a colored finish is used, it is a distressed version to simulate weather-beaten wood.
  • Modern – Vanities in the modern vein tend toward smooth, shiny finishes with clean, linear designs. Often drawers or cabinets are hidden within the design and without handles to keep the sleek look of the furniture.
  • Shaker – The hallmark of the Shaker style in furniture is a functional design with very little excess. They feature panel doors and a sturdy look.
  • Antique and DIY – There are some great tutorials online that can show you how to repurpose an old desk, antique cabinet, or retro dresser into a stylish and useful bathroom vanity.

Regardless of your decorating aesthetic, you can find the perfect vanity. The range of ready-made styles available is great. Moreover, if you can’t find the perfect vanity on the shop floor, you can venture into custom designs. Also, the ability to upcycle an older piece of furniture into a new bathroom vanity is worth entertaining if you cannot find what you are looking for in the stores.

Material Matters

When choosing a bathroom vanity, it is easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of redoing a room in your home. Unlike most other rooms in your home, however, bathrooms require extra consideration when choosing your bathroom furniture and finishes. 

The material used to construct the vanity is another factor for you to consider when choosing your vanity. Some materials are going to be better suited to the wet and humid conditions found in bathrooms that are used regularly. Thus, the materials used in the bathroom vanity need to be water-resistant or waterproof. If the bathroom is used by the entire family or by children, the vanity needs to be solidly built as well.

Unless you are decorating a new or redoing your current guest bathroom, chances are high that this room is going to see a great deal of use and traffic. All the showering, bathing, and shaving that takes place in bathrooms lend themselves to humid conditions. When choosing a vanity for a high-use bathroom, you have to remember the materials, finishes, and fixtures have to be able to withstand the regularly high humidity.

  • Moisture-Resistant Wood – Solid wood vanities are definitely the best choice for durability, however, not all woods are suited for the humid conditions of most bathrooms. Teak and Birch are both good choices for bathroom vanities, however, solid wood pieces tend to come with a higher price tag.
  • Particle Board – Although you can find vanities made of this material, it should only be a last resort option or for a bathroom that sees very little use. Particle board does not hold up under humid conditions and it does not stand the test of time under heavy countertops.
  • Plywood – Vanities made of plywood can be a cost-effective alternative to solid wood vanities as they offer a durable product that is able to endure humid conditions. They come with a variety of veneers to choose from, ranking them very closely with solid wood vanities.

Whatever your budget, make sure that you are choosing a bathroom vanity composed of the right materials for the amount of usage and traffic. It is worth the extra money to purchase a plywood or solid wood vanity over a particle board one for your general use bathroom. Otherwise, you may find yourself shopping for a new vanity again in a few years.

Choose a Finish for Your Bathroom Vanity

The finishes on bathroom vanities need to be water-resistant. They are not only placed in a high humidity environment, but they are also likely to have water splashed and spilled on them from the sink. Any finish or paint needs to be waterproof.

An additional factor to keep in mind is that, especially for high-usage bathrooms, the finish must be easily cleaned. When choosing paints, make sure to select satin or semi-gloss, as these can weather the humidity and are easy to clean.

Wood finishes for bathroom vanities can be finished with a lacquer or varnish. They need to be sealed to protect the finish and the wood from water damage. Polyurethane is another option for finishing wood bathroom vanities.

Avoid Common Mistakes When Choosing a Bathroom Vanity

Avoid these common mistakes when choosing your bathroom vanity. Being knowledgeable about the pitfalls of bathroom decorating when choosing your vanity puts you on a good path for your project.

  • Choose the Right Materials – Always keep at the forefront of your planning that anything placed in the bathroom needs to be able to withstand wet conditions with high humidity. Additionally, the materials need to be durable and easy to clean.
  • Plan for Function First – You want to make sure that the furniture and items in which you are investing for the bathroom will meet your needs. Do not fall in love with the look of vanity that is too large, too small, or does not have the storage space you need. 
  • Assess Your Storage – Before purchasing anything, assess your storage needs. Look at what you need to store in your bathroom. Make sure that your vanity is able to meet that need. If storage is limited in the vanity because of the size needed to fit your bathroom space, decide what other storage options exist.
  • Comfort Height – Keep in mind who in the family will be using the bathroom vanity regularly. The height of family members should be taken into consideration when choosing your vanity’s height. Standard height is 30-32 inches, which is several inches shorter than the comfort height of 36 inches.

Choosing a bathroom vanity does not have to be a frustrating experience. Assessing your functional needs and the space with which you have to work will start you on the right path. Once you know your dimensions for both width and height, you can move onto your design theme. As you add your sink model, remember to keep in mind that vessel sinks add to the overall height of your vanity.

By keeping in mind the functionality of your vanity, you set the stage for a beautiful new bathroom. Choosing durable, water-resistant, or waterproof materials for the vanity ensures that your new bathroom will last for many years despite high usage and humid conditions. 

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