When it comes to bathroom storage, the vanity is often the workhorse. However, there are numerous options to consider when purchasing a new vanity — or organizing the interior of one you already own. Here are some of my favorite ways to make your vanity look and function beautifully from the inside out.
1. Make the shelves available. Stacking towels on open shelves is a common design feature for a variety of reasons.
The sink itself takes up a lot of space under the counter, as this open, airy sink stand reveals, and then the piping for the sink takes up a bit more. This limits the amount of space available for drawers.
The sink is usually concealed behind a false drawer front or a fixed slab. This is especially problematic when two sinks occupy the majority or all of the top third to top half of the unit.
Using an open shelf in the middle or lower section allows you to maximize available space by tucking towels and baskets around the plumbing.
Furthermore, open shelves can be a very appealing look because they make a vanity appear lighter. Having a visual break in the middle of a dark, weighty wood or stone adds some airiness to the entire room.
However, open shelves are not always used only under a sink. They can break up a vanity in other ways that are pleasing.
In a small bathroom with a single-sink vanity, placing the sink off to one side allows for a larger usable area of open counter on the other side. Take note of how the doored section of the vanity is centered on the sink in this example, with the open shelves on the other end. Because the sink and doors form their own vertical line of symmetry, the overall composition appears more structured.This trick can be used to extend a premade vanity box to fit your wall by adding floating shelves next to it and then finishing the whole thing with a single top.
2. Cabinets with simple doors. A standard doored cabinet with open shelves inside is another option for making the most of the space under and around piping. There are also minor ways to improve the utility of such cabinets.
Take note of how the one shown here has pullouts within the cabinet. These pullouts can then house baskets or loose items, depending on your preference, to accommodate a variety of objects or a few large pieces. The fact that they roll out will make it easier to see and reach for pieces stashed in the back.
3. Drawers that are shaped and shallow. A third option for working around the sink is to make use of every available space by using a drawer that is sized or shaped to avoid colliding with the sink and piping. A drawer with a notch, such as the one shown here, will wrap around the pipe, allowing the entire depth to be used beside it.
This contemporary drawer unit has a full depth portion at the bottom, as well as a slim additional tier toward the front that extends to full height, stealing the usable space in front of the piping once more.
You’ll want this upper compartment to be fairly slim so that you can still easily reach into the main compartment, but this size works well for many daily-use products and tools.
Similarly, in this example, a smaller upper tier within the main drawer is used to maximize space, but it moves independently so it is not in the way when reaching into the main compartment.
In general, adding a drawer to your vanity will increase the cost but also the functionality, with interior drawers typically costing less than full proper drawers because they do not require their own proper drawer front or handle.
4. Thin drawers. Thin drawers (around 5 inches) are also helpful for working around a sink. They also have the advantage of holding small items like makeup and razors without any of them sinking to the bottom and getting lost in the mix. Again, using many thin drawers will cost more than a few larger drawers, but the trade-off in added organization can be well worth the investment.
5. There are two drawers. Not all bathroom items will fit in the slim little 5-inch drawers. However, a super-deep drawer may not be appropriate for your style, particularly in more traditional styles with many drawers and somewhat ornate drawer fronts. Consider installing a double-depth drawer with two smaller fronts to blend in better, with an additional handle or knob on the second drawer front to complete the illusion.
6. Vertical pull outs. It’s quite common in small to average-size baths to have slivers of space on either side of the sink. Rather than breaking this area into many small drawers, consider using a vertical pullout like this one that has a single compartment broken into many interior shelves. This works on the same principle as a kitchen spice rack, presenting all your small products in a way that’s easy to browse.
7. Drawers for your toes. Do you really want to squeeze every last inch of storage space out of your bathroom? A toe kick drawer can turn an otherwise empty space along the floor into extra storage for less frequently used items or a backup stash of paper rolls. These should be well-made to avoid scraping your floors or becoming stuck, so expect to pay a little more than you would for a standard drawer.
Drawers with tip-outs. Consider a small tip-out compartment in places where a true drawer won’t fit. It won’t hold much, but it will house items such as a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Organizing Your Drawers
So you’ve got your perfectly designed set of drawers and compartments — or you’ve got the vanity that came with your bathroom and you’ve got to make the best of it. There are a plethora of other ways to improve your storage.
Compartments that are semi-adjustable. A semi-fixed divider system like this one can be installed in either a new or existing drawer and will stay rigidly in place during daily use but can be adjusted to hold different products as needed over time. A built-in system like this will create the most elegant look, but similar systems that use springs or adjustable parts to fit your drawer interior tightly can be found from various companies.
Bins that are resizable. Use individual plastic mini-bins to divide your drawer into compartments for a similar result at a lower cost. There will almost certainly be slivers of wasted space unless you find a set of bins that are perfectly sized for your drawer, but it can be well worth it to have a specific place for everything. You’ll avoid misplacing items and know exactly where to look for anything you require during a hectic morning.
Dividers that run vertically. Do you have too many deep drawers and need to store some small items? Try partitioning a drawer into narrow, vertical compartments and storing items standing up. Make-up compacts, razors, lip balms, and other skinny items can be stored in this manner to avoid having multiple items stacked on top of each other.
Consider taking your small products out of their packaging and packing them in much more tightly to truly maximize the use of small compartments and dividers. Individually wrapped items, such as Q-tips, will take up much less space unboxed. This may appear to be extra work, but the boxes will have to be disposed of at some point, so why not have the products out where they’re easy to grab and enjoy the extra space?
Slots for tools Another option that requires custom installation but can be a do-it-yourself project if you’re handy. You can add a little convenience to your daily routine by creating a space specifically designed to hold a commonly used tool, such as a blowdryer. This can be accomplished by including a fitted box with a hole in the top to accommodate the nozzle, as well as a removable cup to catch debris.
Adding a built-in power source to your tool drawer will keep cords from cluttering your look. These are most easily added during the initial construction and installation of the vanity, but depending on your electrical layout and the accessibility of your vanity interior, they can sometimes be added retroactively by opening the wall behind the drawer or rerouting power from a nearby outlet.
Trays that are fashionable. Finally, sometimes you can only go so far in decluttering your vanity, and you may need or want to keep a few items on the counter. Gathering these items on a tray can give your vanity a much more organized appearance, quickly transforming an assortment of loose products into a stylish presentation.