The bathroom vanity is the sink-cabinet-mirror combination. It’s the showpiece of your bathroom. Here are ten things to avoid when choosing a vanity…you might be surprised.
You are redoing your bathroom and there are a zillion details. After getting lost in the practicalities, you stop for break. Something catches your attention. You take a careful look at the new mirror you’ve just installed. You notice that you’re looking straight at…your chin. You wonder if they delivered the wrong size. Then you remember that you were sitting in a chair at the showroom when you decided that this was your dream come true. Why didn’t you think to check if you could use it as well standing up?
Choosing the Floor Model’s Sizing.
Many, maybe most people choose style and design without considering height. Height is often a more important element of the vanity for daily use. The common 30 inch size bathroom counter is just not optimum for people over 63 inches tall. However, vanity size is not at all standard. Some floor models are even lower than the usual 30 inches which might be ignored in the quest for the perfect design. Such a decision means you may end up having to bend down to wash your hands. This is only poor planning and completely avoidable.
Just remember that the height of the sinks, mirrors and cabinets should be customized to their users, according to their actual size. Not that they have to be custom made. Customized only means chosen to fit the bathroom at a user friendly height. If it takes going to 6 stores to browse, do it. Drive the salespeople crazy with your questions. If what you want is not there, ask to see more.
If you can’t find a vanity according to your proportions, don’t give up. Even kitchen cabinets might provide workable alternatives if bathroom cabinet selection is limited. And don’t be afraid to improvise.
For instance, if you are a tall family and the style you love only comes in 33-inch size, create simple inexpensive solutions, such as installing 2 or 3 inch glass bricks under the cabinets to add height. One designer suggests wiring in fluorescent lighting behind the glass bricks for an extra special finish.
The same lesson can be applied to shower doors, spigots, towel racks, tubs, etc… Decide if you need taller, shorter, wider, or longer. Remember also that two heights are better than one if you have the space to accommodate users of different proportions.
Buying For Looks Not Function.
You’re a guest at a friend’s house in the Pocono’s for the weekend. You’re in the bathroom and you need a towel. You check to see if a fresh towel is in the cabinet and… Oh no! The cabinet handle comes off in your hand! The cabinet door didn’t open because it’s not there. It’s an imitation cabinet just for show, hiding the plumbing.
While standing there holding the handle in your hand along with some of the veneer board it was screwed into, you look at the stylish row of drawer handles. Maybe one opens all or maybe none open at all. You’re afraid to guess. Isn’t there some kind of truth-in-labeling rule that applies even in the bathroom? This type of cabinet is an economy choice and is often used in industrial settings such as hotels and office buildings. Its dubious charm has become passe;. However, the style is still frequently seen in trade journals and must have a market somewhere.
If you are going to the expense and bother to replace your bathroom sinks and cabinets, choose a vanity that has storage space, not just a plumbing camouflage. If you really don’t want cabinets, put in a pedestal sink or a wall hung sink. The general rule is don’t try to fake it. It could be embarrassing.
Settling For Less.
Maybe you want a stone counter over your vanity instead of the traditional laminate finish but you don’t have the extra money for stone? Install it yourself using the best local home improvement store to take you through the steps. They love to help, so use their expertise. This way you will get the counter you want at a price you can afford. There is always a creative solution to most bathroom design problems. Don’t settle for less.
Forgetting to Customize to Floor Plan.
There are only a few standard bathroom shapes. Each type accommodates different styles. Corridor shaped bathrooms look best with all the fixtures on one wall. The L-shaped bathroom is designed for a discreet place for the toilet with the roomiest area reserved for the bath and vanity. The U-shaped bathroom is the most spacious and can fit extra large or customized fixtures in a choice of locations.
There are also other sizes such as small rooms converted to extra large bathrooms. Such a space takes as much extra planning and design as the space needs. Don’t just throw in the same fixtures you might use for the standard spaces. Large round or double kidney shaped counters look nice in large bathrooms but are definitely not appropriate for the corridor or L shaped plans.
Losing Out on Details.
Most of us want to make the most of our bathroom space, and hate to feel like a bull in a china closet. Detailing can make the difference. Suppose you have a tiny corner bathroom that you added to your Victorian gingerbread house by eliminating the closet under the eaves. You still want a vanity but the roof slant really limits you space. Create a sweet bathroom which maximizes the confines of the space by installing a giant mirror along the long tall wall at an appropriate angle, i.e. not facing the toilet, over a small colorful sink. Add elaborate rococo corners to the mirror for definition. Corners are much less expensive then frames.
Add a narrow cabinet under the sink, or wire wall units or carve a cabinet into the wall itself to save space. Toothbrush holders and soap holders can also be carved out of the wall. The facing of the cabinet should be in a paintable surface for remodeling ease. Paint the walls white for a feeling of space but if you need color, paint just the ceiling. The large size mirror together with the small sink fools the eye and actually creates the illusion of space. Remodeling such a bathroom is inexpensive as well. Just change the mirror corners, the cabinet facing, the ceiling or border paint, and, if you have extra money, the color of the sink. Buy a white toilet because it goes with everything. Tenacious attention to detail makes the difference in solving complicated design problems.
Using the Wrong Lighting.
Lighting your bathroom is one aspect of design that really needs a thoughtful and creative touch. You’ve decided on a lavender bathroom off the master bedroom. It’s finished and everything looks fabulous. The extra large lavender tub, the lavender toilet, the lavender sink are even nicer than you imagined. The hand painted border around the ceiling is really elegant as well. You’ve ordered fluorescents for the ceiling and hand-blown sconces in the same lavender shade around the vanity. You are very pleased. You switch on the sconces and look in the mirror. Oh no… Your skin has taken on a brownish purple hue; you look again. You’re sure you’re not sick. Horrors! It’s the lights! Be very careful with your lighting.
In general it is best not to use colored lighting in the bathroom. Think to enhance and soften. There are so many options available to give personality to your bathroom and the choices in style and material are endless. Choose carefully with an eye on ease of maintenance and upkeep. Remember that the cheapest fixtures are often the most difficult to maintain.
A vanity is an expensive bathroom fixture. Expect to pay 600 dollars for a good quality counter top, sink, and faucet. Add to this the cost of your cabinets underneath, which depending on size, materials and customization, could easily cost more plus installation. Don’t put your whole budget into other fixtures of the bathroom without saving some for the vanity. It is the focal point of the bathroom and a cheap one will reflect the same. Even if you can’t afford anything else, a new vanity will spruce up an entire bathroom. Make sure to match it to any preexisting fixtures you decide to keep.
Awkward Door Swing.
Because bathrooms require special attention to detail, don’t neglect the amount of space you need to open and close your vanity cabinet doors. Make sure they can even open at all. Provide at least 30 inches in front of the sink for an average person to get down on the floor and into the cabinets. Keep the toilet at least 14 inches away from the cabinet sides to accommodate door swing. More if you have extra wide doors. If the vanity is installed along a wall near the bathroom door, make sure the door swings away from the sink. A little planning with a tape measure and some thought avoids this nuisance and saves your cabinet doors from unnecessary wear and tear.
You’ve picked the perfect vanity with beautiful cabinets for the main bathroom in your 8 bedroom Victorian built in 1863. It’s ordered and delivered and the contractor is scratching his head. It’s not designed for the “wet wall” which is the location of the original plumbing. Extending piping around the inside of walls is not a minor consideration and the cost could outweigh the convenience.
Better to coordinate the sink and vanity fixtures with the rough plumbing. Especially in an older home, where plumbing is always an expensive and tricky business and could even be a recipe for disaster. Try to finesse your exquisite taste around the plumbing that’s already there.
Of Course It Fits!
Remember to be exact in measurement and to coordinate everything on paper. You don’t want to redesign things in the middle of installation. For instance, be careful to pick the right size sink to match your cabinet, especially if the cabinets are already built-in. Our consultant master carpenter advises that many unexpected costs in installation can be avoided by taking the drafting stage seriously.
Finally, don’t wait to find out if your vanity cabinet can actually be put in its place. Measure the path, especially the bathroom door. Your installer may not be prepared or even able to disassemble and rebuild the vanity quickly to get it in place. Our advisor had to laugh remembering how often people measure the bedroom door but not the bathroom door. “It happens all the time,” he chuckled.