Bathroom Vanities and the Art of Residential Design
Design/Build: Avoid the dangers of a poorly detailed vanity.
Synopsis: In this column about the art of residential design, Marianne Cusato describes the different sizes and shapes of bathroom vanities, and when they are best used in a bathroom. She covers the typical height and width of micro, double-sink, single-sink, corner, and mega vanities, with detailed drawings and dimensions of each type. She also includes a sidebar about maximizing storage by creating a real bottom drawer in a vanity rather than a false top drawer to allow for the depth of the sink bowl, as well as a description of toe kicks and feet used to dress up the vanity.
A well-detailed bathroom vanity is an efficient and elegant piece of furniture in your bathroom, while a poorly detailed vanity is a frustrating eyesore that contributes to marital strife. The following set of tips can be applied to all styles of cabinetry. The goal of these suggestions is to help you both when building a custom design, as well as selecting a stock product off the shelf.
Vanity Size and Configuration
A double-sink vanity is ideally no less than 72 in. wide. They are commercially available starting at 60 in., but before installing the smaller size, it’s worth considering the homeowner’s pattern of use. Will more than one person be in the bathroom at the same time of day? If not, and if you have limited space, it may be preferable to install a single sink. This leaves more counter space and allows for more drawers for storage. One variation to consider is using a single larger sink with two faucets. This gives the best of both worlds—a little more counter space as well as the ability for two people to use the sink at the same time.
In urban apartments and smaller homes where every square inch is at a premium, look for a thinner vanity that projects from the wall 18 in. rather than the full 24 in.
A good target dimension for a single vanity is 36 in. This gives enough space for storage and a clear counter. If you are installing in a corner, you can offset the sink to one side to maximize storage. If the vanity is centered in a space, it may look better to center the sink, but this will reduce storage. See below for notes about corner installations.
Many, if not most, vanities are located in the corner of a room. This introduces a design dilemma, as most stock vanities are built to be freestanding. If you are unable to purchase a vanity designed to fit into a corner, the next option is to set the vanity four or more inches from the corner; this allows the vanity to be freestanding and, most importantly, allows you to clean between the vanity and the wall easily. Another option is to engage the vanity to the wall. In this case, caulk the joint where the counter meets the wall, and also add a thin filler piece to conceal the gap between the wall and the side of the cabinet. Avoid setting the vanity counter less than an inch away from the wall or engaged to the wall without covering the crack. This leaves a space that attracts moisture, dust, and debris and is nearly impossible to clean.
Marianne Cusato is the author of Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use and Avoid. Drawings by the author.
For architectural sketches and more information on well-designed vanities, click the View PDF button below: