Finding a way to make a small bathroom livable is one of the biggest design challenges homeowners will face. Unlike many other rooms, in a small bathroom there isn’t a whole lot of room to skimp on furniture or fixtures. To make a small bathroom work, you really need to know exactly where to pare down and how to do it intelligently. You see, one of the most obvious ways to save space is to get a smaller bathroom vanity. But bathroom vanities that are merely small can present a whole host of their own problems, especially when it comes to storage. You start to see real small bathroom solutions when you look at vanities that aren’t just built small, but are built smart, too.
The number one problem with small bathroom vanities is that no matter how much you pare down the physical space it takes up, some portion of what’s left still has to be devoted to the plumbing for the sink. That means that while you might be able to find ultracompact vanities that clock in at under 20 inches wide, they probably won’t have a lot of storage space – there simply isn’t a whole lot of room left once the plumbing is installed. So if you need something very narrow, make sure it’s something like this 16 Inch Wenge Vanity from Fresca – with an easily accessible upper cabinet – and be aware you might have to stow your stuff around a drain pipe, or add on a secondary storage cabinet if you need a lot of space.
One of the smartest solutions I’ve seen to the plumbing problem with small bathroom vanities is to slightly offset the sink to one side. That means the plumbing is offset, too, leaving one side of the vanity clear for storage where it would ordinarily be blocked off by the drain pipe. Your vanity will end up being a little wider, but it’ll easily save you from having to buy a secondary storage unit, which ultimately opens up more floor space. This Cambridge vanity from Ariel is especially well designed, with five fully functioning drawers as well as the typical two-door cabinet (plus shelves!) in the main body of the vanity.
Now, before you bemoan the extra six inches or so of space that the addition of drawers tacks on to the width of your vanity, hear me out. This is the big place that functionality outweighs footprint. I mean, think about it: most of the stuff you keep on or around your bathroom vanity is small: toothpaste, razors, makeup, hair ties, antiseptic cream, cotton swabs, and so on. Little tubes and tubs and do-dads that can easily get lost in a big cavernous cabinet. Adding drawers – especially ones that start at counter level and are easily accessible – will make your life so much more pleasant. No more bending, leaning, stashing, or searching in a single poorly organized cabinet. You just have neat, well sorted drawers for all the small stuff so you won’t need a separate storage cabinet for the big stuff. This Stanton vanity from Design Element even boosts up the cabinet so it’s easier to access (and a more manageable size), and adds a fourth bottom drawer for extra storage.
I can admit I have it in for bathroom vanities with large cabinets, but it’s not without reason. Big cabinets are hard to organize, force you to bend down to use, are easy to lose stuff in if they’re deep, and end up with a lot of unusable space if they’re too tall and don’t have any shelves. That’s why one of my favorite small bathroom solutions is to opt for wall mounted vanities like this Mezzo vanity. They cut down the size of the cabinets and raise them up to waist level, making them easier to access and navigate, while leaving lots of room for much more useful drawer space as well.
Wall mounted bathroom vanities tend to come in some cool designs, too – many of which make for some pretty great small bathroom solutions. Take this Extra Space vanity for example – the sink isn’t merely offset to keep the plumbing from interfering with your cabinets, it also provides a whole lot of counter space. While this is probably a whole lot wider than anything you’d probably think of for a small bathroom, it’s really quite ingenious. Not only do you have room to leave out your toothbrush, toothpaste, and hand soap (which many very small bathroom vanities don’t), it’s also a great place to do your makeup or your hair. And because it’s wall mounted, you can even stash a stool underneath and use it as a dressing table.
Plus, you can’t discount the usefulness of the shelves and cabinets built into the mirror. While medicine cabinets make great small bathroom solutions, having to open the mirror all the way can be a pain in a tight space. Instead, I like vanities that are pre-paired with matching mirrors with built in shelves or smaller storage cabinets. This Modern Vanity from Legion Furniture can even act as a built in toothbrush holder, clearing up your counter space and allowing you even easier access to some of your smaller daily-use toiletries.
Finally, I want to share one of my favorite small bathroom solutions because it’s one that wouldn’t occur to most people. Instead of your typical small bathroom vanities, you can make a whole lot more of a lot less space by opting for a corner bathroom vanity like this Hampton vanity from Stufurhome. Corner vanities make the most of the least useful space in your bathroom, and can be much wider without taking up as much space as a standard vanity. The cabinets aren’t quite as deep, so it’s easier to find things in them, and because it’s facing out into the room instead of shoved up against a corner, you won’t be bumping your elbows into the light switch while you’re brushing your teeth. For a truly tiny bathroom, this is actually a much smarter choice than most very small bathroom vanities, if only because it’ll give you more storage space without a secondary cabinet without taking up more space – and it’s easier to use.
So if you’re in the market for a small bathroom vanity, or if you’re just trying to find a solution to make your small bathroom more user-friendly, keep in mind: it isn’t always small that matters. Smart design is much more important to usability than anything a measuring tape can tell you. Before you buy, remember: think about the plumbing, check for working drawers and shelves, and don’t be afraid to think a little outside the box. What problems are you trying to solve in your small bathroom? Anything you love or hate about your current bathroom vanity? Let me know in the comments!