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A Quick Guide To More Innovative, Effective Bathroom Storage

When you talk about small bathroom storage, often the conversation starts and ends with choosing a really great bathroom vanity. But while a bathroom vanity will occupy most of the real estate in a small bathroom, they aren’t the be-all end-all of storage, even in the smallest bathrooms. Today, I want to revisit a few of the oldie-but-goodie options, give them a few contemporary twists, and take a look at some new, innovative options for making the most of a small space.

Mount Your Storage Cabinets On The Wall

Senza Walnut Bathroom Linen Side Cabinet FST8092GW from Fresca
Senza Walnut Bathroom Linen Side Cabinet FST8092GW from Fresca

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The number one rule for small bathroom storage is simple: use your walls. Because there often isn’t much floor space to spare, to make the most of what you’ve got, you need to think vertical rather than horizontal. Adding a stationary, floor-mount storage cabinet (whether it’s a car on wheels or a large, wardrobe style cabinet) is great if you’ve got the space, but in many small bathrooms will crowd and overwhelm an already tight layout. Instead, look for wall mounted storage cabinets. These are the gems of small bathroom storage, as they can mount on any wall, at any height, and in any number, offering a decent amount of storage but taking up no floor space and protruding only very little into the room itself.

Supplement Medicine Cabinets With Storage Mirrors

Sink Vanity with Storage Mirror WTH20160A from Legion Furniture
Sink Vanity with Storage Mirror WTH20160A from Legion Furniture

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Medicine cabinets are one of the all-time go-to options for adding storage to bathrooms of all sizes, and they certainly have their place. The lean, mirrored surface with slim concealed shelf storage is perfect exactly as advertised: for storing medicine. But even in very small bathrooms, medicine cabinets are rarely installed directly over the bathroom vanity; they’re usually stuck onto the adjacent wall. If the main mirror is just a mirror, that space is wasted. Instead, opt for a decorative bathroom mirror with built in storage – like cabinets, towel bars, toothbrush holders, or even just a simple ledge – to add functionality and flair to your vanity area without sacrificing any space.

Work On Over Toilet Storage

25" Wall Cabinet in Espresso WCV8000WCES from the Wyndham Collection
25″ Wall Cabinet in Espresso WCV8000WCES from the Wyndham Collection

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To me, over-toilet storage is a pretty hit or miss option. Hang it at the wrong height, pick one that’s too thick, or one with legs that stick out a little too far, and it’ll be nothing but a nuisance. At the same time, though, it’s basically the ideal form of storage because it’s located in an area that’s otherwise underutilized but within arm’s reach of the bathroom vanity. Where you might normally hang, at best, a towel (or at worst nothing at all), an over-toilet cabinet can offer a good amount of accessible, concealed storage. Just be aware of the height of the tallest person that will be using the toilet. It’s better to have a cabinet that’s a little too high than one low enough for someone to bump their head on, and always opt for a wall mounted version (rather than a stand version) when possible.

Skip The Shelves

Adding Petite Niche Storage Is An Elegant Way To Get More Storage Space, And Works Equally Well In The Main Bathroom Or In The Shower (by Tileshop)
Adding Petite Niche Storage Is An Elegant Way To Get More Storage Space, And Works Equally Well In The Main Bathroom Or In The Shower (by Tileshop)

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You might be wondering, if the number one rule of small bathroom storage is to make use of your vertical space, why would I ever recommend against using shelves. But the reason is simple: while, yes, shelves make use of the empty spaces on your walls, they don’t do it very elegantly. They’re uncovered so you can see everything on them (which can wind up looking quite cluttered) and can only be placed at certain heights and in certain places without disrupting movement or narrowing walkways, especially in a very small space. The solution? Instead of building onto the wall, you need to build into the wall. Bumping in a small square of the wall between studs and tiling creates a clean, elegant, artistic look and actually adds practical, usable space to your bathroom. The best part? Because they’re flush to the wall, you can put in as many as you want, wherever you want, without taking up any extra space.

Carve Out A Linen Closet?

If You have Unused Wall Space, Consider Bumping It In And Finishing It For Instant Shelf Storage That Won't Crowd Your Space (by Gast Architects, photo by Margot Hartford)
If You have Unused Wall Space, Consider Bumping It In And Finishing It For Instant Shelf Storage That Won’t Crowd Your Space (by Gast Architects, photo by Margot Hartford)

Often the tiled niches found on the walls or in the shower are fairly small, say maybe a foot or so square. But this type of mini-expansion is really only limited by the distance between your studs – they can be as tall as you want. Though these little storage compartments are only as deep as your wall is thick (unless you’re willing to sacrifice a little closet space from an adjacent room), they can provide a good amount of storage which, again, won’t occupy any of the space in your bathroom. This technique works especially well in odd spaces that would normally be closed off and unusable (like at the head or foot of a tub or shower or alongside the toilet) but that can easily be converted into surprisingly deep recessed shelves.

Build It In

Customized Storage, Whether It's A Little Or A Whole Wall, Makes A Bathroom More Efficient And Easier And More Intuitive To Use (by Dura Supreme Cabinetry)
Customized Storage, Whether It’s A Little Or A Whole Wall, Makes A Bathroom More Efficient And Easier And More Intuitive To Use (by Dura Supreme Cabinetry)

Finally, it’s becoming more and more popular for homeowners to go above and beyond the conventional bathroom vanity and opt for fully customized storage installations that can take up an entire wall. This option is definitely more time and money intensive (and won’t work in the smallest bathrooms, as you’ll have to give up at least a foot of your bathroom’s width or length), but has a great seamless look that you simply won’t get from more conventional options. Maybe more importantly, it means having complete control over the type and placement of storage in your bathroom, including innovative options that don’t come standard: slim, efficient pull out drawers, customized storage for hair driers or other styling products, jewelry, makeup, dirty clothes, or clean towels.
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