It can be really difficult to pull off a traditional look in a small bathroom. By design, most traditional and antique style bathroom vanities are big and grand, and all too often scaled-down versions of traditional designs lack the smart, well-organized storage that you need in a small bathroom. That said, some manufacturers are starting to incorporate storage features that are typically associated with modern vanities – like drawers, hideaway drawers, and shelves – into smaller versions of their more traditional designs. Because the vanities themselves are more ornately detailed, though, these features can be easy to overlook, so we’ve got a simple guide to what to keep an eye out for.
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One of the biggest problems with incorporating drawers into a small, traditional bathroom vanity is that doing so almost invariably makes the vanity asymmetrical. In a more modern design, an asymmetrical style can actually be a design feature, but most traditional vanities typically aim for perfect symmetry, which is more or less impossible in a vanity that’s 36″ or narrower. Either you wind up with drawers that are too small, one inaccessible drawer at the bottom, two small drawers at either upper corner, or a design that’s all drawers and no cabinet – none of which are particularly ideal.
Instead, look for vanities that are divided straight down the middle, with a cabinet on one side and stacked drawers on the other. The look might initially seem a little unusual, and it certainly shirks the tradition of symmetry, but it allows you to fit a bank of full sized drawers in a vanity that’s as little as 30″-36″ wide without sacrificing an over-all traditional style.
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Having a column of drawers like this is very common on wider vanities, but when the design is scaled down, they’re often sacrificed in favor of a single large cabinet. But reducing the size of the cabinet instead not only makes it vastly easier to store small personal items, it also makes the cabinet itself more accessible. Even on a relatively small vanity, a single large, open cabinet can easily get jumbled and crowded since there’s so much space and little or nothing to keep it divided. With a cabinet that’s half the size, it’s harder for items to get misplaced or pushed out of sight.
Plus, many of these smaller half-cabinets are also equipped with one or more shelves. Unlike traditional cabinets, which only let you store a single layer of items, these cabinets make better use of the height of the vanity (and the empty space around your plumbing and directly under the sink). Since most vanities are pictured with the cabinet doors closed, this is an important feature to double check for. Shelves are simple and incredibly useful, but less common than you might think, so if you can’t get a look at the inside of the vanity, double check the description to see if it mentions shelves.
Unfortunately, this 50/50 division simply won’t work on vanities smaller than 30″ wide; both the drawers and the cabinets would be too narrow to be practical. That said, it isn’t impossible to find a traditional vanity in this range that has a drawer in it. Most commonly, you’ll find them at the base of the vanity, but for more accessible drawer storage, look for hideaway drawers. These aren’t drawers in the strictest sense because instead of pulling out, the drawer front tips forward (and sometimes extends slightly), allowing you access to a small shelf that rests below the level of the sink.
Most traditional vanities install a faux panel in this area directly under the sink rather than incorporating a true drawer. The reason for this is simple: any drawer installed there has to accommodate both the bottom of the sink and the plumbing. Since the space is problematic, most traditional vanities block it off entirely. Modern vanities often utilize the space with large, U-shaped drawers designed to fit around the plumbing, but hideaway drawers offer a nice middle-of-the-road option. They make this spare space usable while allowing the main portion of the vanity to consist of a single large cabinet, thus maintaining a more traditional look while providing that little extra bit of storage.
If you love a traditional style but don’t have a very big bathroom, never fear – more and more designers are learning the importance of accommodating smaller spaces, and gorgeous designs like these are only becoming more common
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