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Making The Most Of Your Bathroom Mirror – Beyond The Medicine Cabinet

Bathroom mirrors are highly underrated and, even worse, they’re horribly underutilized. Now, I know that sounds a little silly to say – after all, what bathroom doesn’t have a mirror in it? But bathroom mirrors are almost always just that: only a mirror. Often a mirror can take up most of one wall, and if all they do is reflect, that space is at least half wasted. To get a little more mileage out of the prime real-estate over your bathroom vanity, look for mirrors that come with extra functionality.

Medicine Cabinet

Slider Medicine Cabinet From Broan Nutone
Slider Medicine Cabinet From Broan Nutone

Easily the most obvious item on this list, medicine cabinets are the simplest way to turn your bathroom mirror into something more. Combining a smooth mirrored face with hidden, adjustable shelf storage, medicine cabinets should be the stock and trade of every bathroom. Often, though, they’re used as a secondary mirror – more like a storage cabinet that happens to be reflective, placed kitty corner to a primary large, framless mirror. In part, this is because it can, admittedly, be a pain to have to swing a mirror in your own face to get at your toiletries. But before you dismiss medicine cabinets as a second fiddle, keep in mind that larger medicine cabinets sometimes have sliding mirror panels, which allows you to get a larger, uninterruped mirrored surface and more storage space without the swinging door.

Ledge Mirrors

Cherry Modern Bathroom Vanity With Ledge Mirror From Legion Furniture
Cherry Modern Bathroom Vanity With Ledge Mirror From Legion Furniture

Ledge mirrors – also sometimes called shadowbox mirrors – are the slightest of twists on the traditional framed mirror, with a decent sized ledge in place of the bottom edge of the frame. I especially like the way this looks in practice, with any small bottles you place on the ledge creating a simple, orderly decoration. Some models are designed with a second shelf for added storage, while others have holes or indentations drilled into or through the ledge, allowing you to use the bottom edge as a holder for your toothbrush and tumblers.

Side Shelves

Walnut Wall Mounted Bathroom Vanity And Matching Mirror From Vigo Industries
Walnut Wall Mounted Bathroom Vanity And Matching Mirror From Vigo Industries

A common twist on the ledge mirror – and one I’m starting to see paired with storage smart bathroom vanities quite often – are bathroom mirrors with small shelves built onto one or both sides. Sometimes that involves extending the frame a little farther to one side, as with the mirror above, and sometimes it simply means thin wood shelves extending from either side of the mirror. This variation might be preferable to some, as none of the items you’re storing will directly cover your mirror, while still keeping several small items organized and easily reachable.

Simple Storage

Christine Wall Mounted Sink With Storage Bathroom Mirror From Design Element
Christine Wall Mounted Sink With Storage Bathroom Mirror From Design Element

This type of bathroom mirror definitely appeals to my inner neat freak. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a little obsessed with organization, minimalism, and good design, and this bathroom mirror and others like it have it (and style) in spades.  With a small, easily reachable cabinet for personal items and shelves designed to prevent anything on them from being accidentally knocked over, the storage here is sweet, petite, and efficient, taking up little space and not detracting at all from the size of the mirror.

The Bridge

Portland Double Vanity With Twin Mirrors And Shelf Bridge From Design Element
Portland Double Vanity With Twin Mirrors And Shelf Bridge From Design Element

I think the tendency to opt for large, frameless bathroom mirrors is the most prominent in master bathrooms. After all, they do make a nice, seamless face behind a double bathroom vanity. But personally I think it’s here that the space is most wasted. A shared bathroom is almost inevitably a slightly crowded bathroom, and while a big mirror certainly does look nice, it doesn’t contribute much else to the cause. That’s why I love bathroom mirrors like this one – really, it’s two separate mirrors, one for either side of a double vanity and bridged by a series of shelves. What type of and how many shelves connect the two mirror parts depends a little on the designer, but choosing a design like this allows for much more and very easily reachable storage. Plus, I find the tiny hand towel bar both incredibly useful and terribly charming.

Backlit Mirrors

Fly Bathroom Vanity With Backlit Mirror From Iotti
Fly Bathroom Vanity With Backlit Mirror From Iotti

All the mirrors I’ve mentioned here are ones whose dual functionality is extra storage. But adding storage isn’t the only other thing that mirrors can do. In fact, mirrors with built in lights are fast becoming a must-have in luxury bathroom design. These backlit mirrors offer the most efficient bathroom task lighting, illuminating your face from directly in front of you to prevent unsightly shadows often cast by bright overhead lighting. This allows you to get the bright, intense, accurate lighting you would from a vanity mirror, but large enough for everyday use.

What do you think – should bathroom mirrors be multitaskers, or do you prefer the look of a seamless, frameless mirror (with or without the extra storage!)?