When you think of storage smart bathroom vanities, the first thing that comes to mind is probably something at least a little modern. But you might be surprised to know that there are antique vanities out there that are just as efficient. The larger you get, of course, the more storage space you’ll have, but even the smallest antique vanities have great storage options if you know what to look for. No matter what size your bathroom or how big or small a vanity you’re looking for, it’s important to know going in what kind of storage you want, as well as the advantages of some of the different configurations.
Bombe Chests For A Small Bathroom
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Most small antique vanities only have a single under sink cabinet and nothing else, which is probably the least efficient form of storage. Instead, for a very small traditional style bathroom, you want to look for one of my very favorite vanity styles: the bombe chest. These are based on antique French dressers that have a sleek feminine appearance, with curved sides and cabriole legs. More importantly, they have between two and three usable drawers instead of a standard cabinet. As with most bathroom vanities, the top drawer may be a false panel (be sure to check!) or U-shaped to accommodate the sink and plumbing, but the drawers underneath make for convenient, organized storage that keeps oft-used personal items much more accessible than a large, unsorted cabinet.
Efficient 36″ Antique Vanities
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With any smaller vanity – regardless of the style – the sink and plumbing are often limiting factors. Because it’s difficult to have anything but empty space in the area around an undermount sink and plumbing, you tend to see a lot of wasted space, especially in antique vanities. But as soon as a vanity gets more than a few inches wider than that sink, the possibilities for storage opens up considerably. With antique vanities, the sweet spot is about 36″ wide. While this might not afford very big drawers, it allows you to have the best of both a storage cabinet (for large items like hairspray or toilet paper) and petite drawers for smaller items, like a hairbrush, cotton swabs, or makeup. Bonus points for finding a model that includes another drawer beneath the cabinet, which makes the cabinet feel a little less space-wastey, and makes a great place to store hand towels and washcloths.
Elegant 40″-48″ Vanities
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Once you get a little bit larger – specifically between four and twelve inches wider – you can add a second row of drawers to your vanity. This is probably the most common type of single vanity, with a one or two door cabinet in the center with a thin row of three or four drawers on either side. But it’s also at about this width that you can start shifting the parts and pieces around, moving cabinets to the side and drawers to the center, or otherwise rearranging the different storage pieces. Now, unlike modern vanities which can get away with more than a little asymmetry, antique vanities tend to be pretty symmetrical. That said, there’s a little more room to get creative (and picky) about the size and quantity of storage you want. Before you start hunting for a vanity, take a moment to consider what toiletries you have stored in your bathroom now, and how often you use them. This will give you a better idea of what features to look for – drawers, cabinets, and/or shelves – and how many of each you should have. In this size range, you can find just about any combination if you do a little digging.
60″-72″ Double Vanities
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Somewhere between 48″ and 60″, antique bathroom vanities transition from single sink cabinets to double vanities. These larger vanities are big, hefty, and make the perfect focal point for a traditional style bathroom. Because they’re so often made with dark wood with highly detailed wood carvings, these large vanities have a furniture-like quality that will help establish that weighty, sophisticated feel that you want for an antique decor. That said, the one complication of antique double vanities is that they have two sinks instead of one. That means that even if they’re a full foot wider than a large single vanity, there’s a little less room to shift around storage because you have to accommodate the underside of the sink and plumbing in two places. To that end, the most typical layout for a double vanity in the 60″ range is to have two standard cabinets bridged by a row of drawers. If you can stand to go a little bigger, though, look for vanities that have drawers on either far end, or better yet, on both ends and in the middle between the sinks, as it will allow each person using the vanity to have their own personal storage, as well as shared storage in the middle.
72″ And Beyond
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To me, antique bathroom vanities really shine in larger spaces for a couple of reasons. First, the bigger the space, the less interesting a modern vanity will look. With all the straight lines and minimalistic design, very big modern bathroom vanities start to feel very monolithic very fast. On the other hand, large antique vanities have beautiful carved detailing from top to toe and one end to the other, all made of gorgeous natural wood, which means they’re a pleasure to look at no matter how big. On top of that, dressing up a large bathroom with a very big antique vanity makes it feel decadent and inviting, like a parlor or dressing room, which is exactly what you want for a very ornate, traditional style. The larger the vanity, the greater the freedom you have in terms of storage, but the same logic still applies as with smaller vanities: Prioritize the kind of storage you’ll use more often, and put it as close to the sink you’ll use as possible while letting less-used items live farther out of reach. As a final note, if you are considering a vanity that’s 80″, 96″, or more, look for modular vanities that can be installed in pieces. This makes it not only easier to get the vanity into the bathroom in the first place, but also offers a little wiggle room to reorganize your furniture and rearrange the storage later on.
No matter how big or small your bathroom, a traditional or antique style bathroom vanity isn’t out of the question – you just have to prioritize the storage you need and not settle for a design that’s just average. What are you looking for in an antique bathroom vanity? Let me know in the comments below!