Choosing a bathroom vanity

The vanity is often an uncelebrated part of the bathroom, regarded as a functional place to wash your hands and store some belongings. However, upgrading this feature can greatly improve the appearance and functionality of the room.

When choosing a new vanity, the first thing you'll have to consider is its location. You may simply want to put it in the same place as the old one, but an upgrade is also a good time to consider moving the vanity to another site.

Naturally, the vanity shouldn't interfere with the use of the bathroom. Vanessa Brunner, writing for the home design site Houzz, says it shouldn't block traffic or prevent any doors from opening. Kate Reggev, writing for Dwell, says painter's tape allows you to outline the space a vanity will occupy and see if it will cause any trouble.

Don't forget about any existing features in the bathroom you intend to keep in place. Riverbend Home, a home renovation and decoration company in Londonderry, N.H., says the vanity should not interfere with things like the mirror, lighting, or medicine cabinet.

Determine whether you'll need to modify the plumbing at all. This process will increase the cost of the upgrade substantially, which is why it's often ideal to keep the vanity's location unchanged. Brunner says certain changes, such as going from a floor-mounted vanity to a wall-mounted one, can also necessitate a change in how your pipes run.

The size of the vanity should be appropriate for the space. An oversized or undersized vanity will look out of place.

The type of bathroom often dictates what kind of vanity you'll be able to install. Peter Walsh, writing for HGTV, says bathrooms without a shower or bath require minimal counter and storage space, which means you'll only need a small vanity. Master or guest bathrooms can typically accommodate larger vanities, which will also be more useful for storing cosmetics, bathing supplies, and other items.

Consider what type of vanity would be most useful. Reggev says it might be a freestanding option mounted on the floor, a wall-mounted vanity, or a corner-mounted vanity. Freestanding options usually provide the most storage. However, wall-mounted—or floating—vanities open up more floor space and are easier to clean. Riverbend Home says this often makes them a good choice for smaller bathrooms.

Many vanities hold a single sink, although you might create visual interest by placing the sink on one side of the vanity instead of the center. Larger vanities can comfortably hold two sinks, which is helpful in a shared bathroom.

Decide how much storage space you'll need. Reggev says double sinks will reduce the amount of available counter space, so you might decide that a single sink is more prudent. Brunner recommends taking an inventory of what you store in your current vanity and making sure your new vanity has at least this much room. Adding drawers to floating vanities can help eke out some additional storage space.

The bathroom is a wet environment, so any vanity should be built with materials durable enough to stand up to the frequent humidity. You can still get creative with your choices. Haley Johnston, writing for Angie's List, says one option is to repurpose an antique dresser in the space.

Lighting is a crucial part of the vanity's functionality. Walsh says sconces work well to properly illuminate the area around the vanity, since overhead lighting tends to cast more shadows on your face when looking in the mirror.

Take the opportunity to incorporate some useful and interesting features. Brunner says you might opt for a custom design and include electrical outlets to make it easier to use hair dryers and other devices. You can also work in some luxurious touches, such as a vessel sink or waterfall faucet.

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