I’ve been talking a bit lately about trying to squeeze as much storage space as possible out of antique bathroom vanities. Generally speaking, traditional vanities aren’t quite as efficient as more contemporary styles, so it can take a little extra effort to put two similarly sized vanities on the same footing. But once you get to really, really large bathroom vanities – like 70″, 90″, or even larger – the distinction sort of evaporates, and you’re left with an entirely different consideration: not how to get more storage, but how to prioritize it to make the most of your space.
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What I mean by prioritizing your storage is giving thought not just to the overall appearance of the vanity, but thinking about the type and location of the various different sorts of storage. Shelves, cabinets, and drawers are all good for storing different types of items, and in a very large double bathroom vanity you shouldn’t be lacking for any of them. But paying attention to how many of each, their size, and how easy they are to reach can go a long way to making the vanity more enjoyable to use.
For 70″ bathroom vanities (or thereabouts) the standard, default configuration is to include two comfortably wide vanity cabinets underneath each of the sinks with a row of drawers marching down the middle. What this design does well is that in a master bathroom, it leaves plenty of room for the vanity to be used by two people at the same time, with enough distance between them so they won’t be bumping elbows. The large cabinets provide separate storage for each person’s bulky personal items, while the three or four drawers in the center can be shared.
Personally, though, I prefer large bathroom vanities that do exactly the opposite: place a column of drawers on either edge of the vanity, with a large communal cabinet in the middle between the two sinks. This type of setup is definitely rarer and a little more difficult to find, but to me it simply makes sense. Larger items – like toilet paper, cleaning products, soap refills, and so on – are more likely to be shared property, while smaller items, like a hairbrush or razor, are more personal. Having two sets of drawers not only means more storage space for the most-used items, but also more personal storage for each person using the vanity.
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Go a little larger, and you can get both: antique bathroom vanities with not one, not two, but three sets of drawers, one on either end and one in the middle. Once your vanities are large enough for this, you’re probably going to have more storage than you need for items you use on a day to day basis. That’s where prioritizing comes in. Take stock of the items you use most often (as well as the items you keep in the bathroom but don’t use every day), and figure out what kind of storage configuration is the most convenient. That is, where you want to store your items (in a cabinet or a drawer) and where on a vanity that type of storage would be most accessible.
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While many large antique bathroom vanities hold this simple drawer-cabinet-drawer-cabinet-drawer layout, if you do a little digging you can find designs that are much more innovative. If you take the time to look, there are styles that replace the undersink cabinet with drawers and the drawers with smaller cabinets, ones that replace the drawers with shelves, and even vanities built entirely out of drawers, without any cabinets at all. Since the high quality wood finish and intricate, ornate wood carving are the markers of antique design, drawer, shelf, and cabinet placement won’t look strange, no matter how unconventional the layout. Feel free to be picky about your storage, because it’ll give you a better chance of ending up with a vanity you’ll enjoy using.
Finally, for anyone looking to buy very large bathroom vanities, especially anything in the over 90″ range, it’s very much worth considering modular antique bathroom vanities. The larger the vanity gets, the more cumbersome it is to move, but modular vanities are delivered in individual, freestanding pieces. Each one is roughly the size of a small vanity and can easily be moved through a standard door, but when all the pieces are pushed together, they form a seamless ornate bathroom vanity. Not only does this make installation easier, but it also offers you a little more freedom, as the pieces can be assembled in almost any configuration, giving you complete control of the placement of both the sinks and the supplementary storage.
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What kind of storage do you prefer in a bathroom vanity? And how large a bathroom vanity are you in the market for? Let me know in the comments!