Remodeled Bathroom with Aubergine Purple Louis XV vanity ormolu mounts

What to Look for When You Buy a Bathroom Vanity

Choosing a bathroom vanity can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you look for? 

You know that a vanity has to be functional, that it has to take a beating, and that it has to last for years. And, let's not forget that it has to look good!

Before you buy, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Does it work?
  2. How is it built?
  3. How does it look?

Does the bathroom vanity work for you?

Unless you opt for a pedestal sink, a vanity is the one must-have piece of bathroom furniture. It holds the sink and may be your only bathroom storage.

At your vanity, you will wash your hands, brush your teeth, style your hair and apply make-up. A good size sink is essential. I find that a 21-inch sink is just right. It doesn't take up too much counter space and is still big enough for daily use.

Drawers, and lots of them, make for the best vanity storage. With drawers, you can divide and conquer your bathroom supplies - one drawer for tooth brushing supplies, one for hair brushes, one for make-up, and so on.

How is the bathroom vanity built?

How a vanity is built, the quality of the materials and craftsmanship, make a difference. A well built vanity will work well and look good for years.

How do you tell a quality vanity from a cheap one? Compare these five items:

1. Cabinet box: The sides, back and base of the cabinet are called the cabinet box. The stability and strength of your vanity will be determined by the cabinet box. Look for furniture-grade plywood construction, not MDF. Stretchers at the front and back of the cabinet provide additional support and stability.

2. Face frame, doors and drawer fronts and any finished sides: These are the parts of the vanity you see from the outside.

  • Face frames, doors, drawer fronts and finished sides on stained wood vanities should be solid wood and finished in multiple steps - like fine furniture. That's how deep, rich wood looks are achieved.
  • Face frames, doors and finished sides on painted vanities can be a combination of wood and furniture-grade MDF. Again, you want a multi-step finish.
  • Both stained and painted vanities should have a tough topcoat to combat the moisture and the heavy use that is typical in bathrooms.

3. Drawer boxes: Look for plywood or solid wood drawer boxes with dovetailed joints. The inside of the drawer boxes should be finished with a clear polyurethane for easy cleaning.

4. Drawer guides: Look for self-closing, soft-close, concealed, undermount drawer guides with self-lubricating rollers. That sounds complicated! A quality drawer guide is a precise piece of engineering that will open and close flawlessly for years.

5. Door hinges: Like drawer guides, door hinges are complex parts. Hinges should be adjustable, both up and down and in and out. That allows you to keep your doors aligned even as the wood in them shrinks and expands over time. Most hinges these days are concealed, meaning that you don't see them when the door is closed. Really think about choosing soft-close hinges too. Avoiding jarring door bangs makes them well worth the money.

    How does the bathroom vanity look?

    Finally, we've reached my favorite part - how to create a gorgeous vanity that is the centerpiece of your bathroom, the vanity that is the perfect style and finish for you. Style refers to the era and feeling of the vanity design, and finish refers to the wood and stain or paint applied to that wood.

    When it comes to style, ask yourself how you want to feel in your new bathroom. Relaxed? Happy & excited to greet the new day? Pampered? My happiest clients are those who boldly pursue a style that speaks to them. They worry less about what's popular and more about what they like.

    Take, for example, my client who wanted a hall bathroom that would make her guests feel truly special. Before, the white builder-grade vanity and granite countertop did not say "special." Both the style and color are ordinary. (See below.)

    Bathroom Remodel Before Picture White Vanity with Granite Top


    After, a custom-made Louis XV vanity sets the tone for a French-inspired bathroom that makes every guest fee like royalty. (See below.)

    Bathroom Remodel After Picture Louis XV Vanity with Ormolu Mounts Purple with Custom Wallpaper

    Some would say that choosing a purple vanity is crazy. I don't think so. By following her heart, my client created a one-of-a-kind room and a one-of-a-kind experience for her guests.

    This vanity is not just the perfect style and color, however. The construction is furniture grade, and the drawers are fitted with a pipe chase providing ample storage. It ticks all the boxes - well-made, functional, and beautiful.

    So, when vanity shopping remember to ask yourself:

    1. Does it work?
    2. How is it built?
    3. How does it look?
    Jackie Lopey, Certified Interior Designer & founder of Wide Canvas
    She didn't know it, but Jackie Lopey's days as an advertising executive were numbered when she bought and renovated a 1950's bungalow. She soon went back to school and started her own design studio. Jackie is an award-winning, certified interior designer and the founder of Wide Canvas, a kitchen and bath design studio in Reno, Nevada.

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