Map out your bathroom storage strategy, from a vanity to shelves to custom built-ins
Laura and Matthew’s double drawer wall-hung vanity
With all the fixtures taking up space in the bathroom—sinks, toilet, plus tub or shower—it can be hard to also fit sufficient storage. The vanity alone is rarely enough. And if your space is traditional, with a pedestal sink, the need is greater. However, with smart planning that addresses all the tasks in the bath, you can find the best bathroom storage solutions.
Planning your space
First, figure out where the fixtures will go. If you’re remodeling, you need to decide if everything stays put or if something moves. Evaluate the floor and wall space to find areas for storage—bathroom cabinets, shelves, or freestanding pieces like furniture.
Once a simple box with doors and drawers for storing toiletries, the vanity has expanded its capabilities. Manufacturers like Kohler and Duravit have introduced built-in internal storage compartments that corral items small, medium and large, while still remaining in arm’s reach. Look for helpful add-ons like electrical outlets, adjustable shelves, and rollout trays. For existing vanities, small acrylic trays and storage boxes at the Container Store fit a variety of drawer dimensions. If the bathroom is shared, and you have room for twin vanities instead of one large one, go for it! This allows each occupant to organize the space exactly as he or she wishes. You can identify the type of vanity you want from among the following styles:
*Floating – This style, attached to the wall, keeps the floor clear for an open look. You can find models from manufacturers like Decorá that include at least one drawer under the sink. Expect a small cutout in the middle of the top drawer to clear the plumbing pipes, and still allow room on the left and right.
*Freestanding – The advantage here is the vanity can be moved, with little impact on the wall behind it. It typically goes countertop to floor so there’s more square footage for storage and more door-and-drawer combos. Ronbow makes vanities with integrated sinks and storage below starting as narrow as 19 inches wide, good to fit twin sets in a small bath. Console styles closely resemble furniture, with shapely legs below the cabinet to create an open effect, and usually incorporate a shelf near the bottom.
This might be custom cabinetry, similar to what you would order for the kitchen, and from many of the same manufacturers. Or it might be bespoke, crafted by a carpenter. Because the unit is built into a wall, it can be as large and long as you want. It also allows the addition of matching units above the counter, on either side of the sink, or between double sinks. You get lots of opportunities to vary door, drawer, and open shelf combos above and below the counter. KraftMaid makes a narrow pullout unit with shelves, much like a pantry, to make use of a narrow vertical space. Consider upper cabinets with glass doors as bathroom storage for towels and pretty toiletries in a spa-like display.
Similar to kitchen solutions, you can add a cabinet or an open case fitted with shelves in any free space in the bath. Make sure there is clearance for any activity taking place nearby. The advantage here is that the shelves can be adjusted when you wish—to hold a hamper or bath towels on a lower shelf, and smaller personal care items at arm level. Another alternative: a shelf that is not a shelf, such as an étagère—an open-back shelving unit—or one side of a ladder. These repurposed bathroom storage ideas can be found at resale shops or some furniture stores that make small decorative furniture for the bath.
Shelves maximize vertical space anywhere there is an open wall space with studs that provide support for attaching the units. Find a place for shelves adjacent to a sink, between sinks, or flanking sinks, above a toilet tank, high up around the perimeter of the ceiling, on a wall a foot or so from the shower, or even a shallow ledge above the vanity. In addition to shelves that match a manufacturer’s vanity collection, options include a wide selection of widths and depths or you can have a carpenter craft shelves to exact specifications. As with vanities, they come in a variety of styles.
The most versatile, these shelves go anywhere there is sufficient support to attach them: above the toilet, between sinks or flanking sinks, high up around the perimeter of the ceiling, or even a shallow ledge above the vanity.
Melina and Fabio’s gold and marble floating shelves
Why go for a simple mirror when you can capture storage above the sink too? You have two options for storage here, with medicine cabinets that recess into a wall or mount on the wall, each with the traditional mirrored door that opens out.
*Recessed – Placed in the shallow wall space between studs, this style comes in versions from 4 to 8 inches deep—big enough to stow rolls of toilet paper. Kohler offers one for less than $100. Robern adds options with one, two, or three doors as well as electrical outlets for added organization and versatility.
*Wall mount – If you mount the cabinet on the surface of the wall, check out Decorá, which makes a model with storage shelves that slide out from either side, disappearing when not in use.
Maria and Eric’s built-in niche
This type of shelf is located in a recessed area, such as between studs or even between two cabinets. Built-ins also work on a smaller scale in the shower, in the form of a niche for shampoos and soaps. In the wall above the tub, you can go larger and perhaps fit a couple shelves for a practical display of bath salts and liquid soaps. For visual interest, insert mirrored panels or beadboard on the back surfaces of the niches, or paint them a contrasting color.
In addition to the small decorative pieces described above, it can be fun to introduce a vintage dresser or bookcase, if you have the room. Use the top to display personal items as well as toiletries. Drawers hold towels, small appliances like a hair dryer or electric razor.
Solve your bathroom storage with some of the suggestions described above, and begin to enjoy the serene space you deserve.
We love Brian’s unique take on classic bathroom storage; check out his antique basin table and custom red balau wood medicine cabinet.
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