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Small Bathroom Solutions: Offsetting The Sink

One of the most frustrating parts of using a small bathroom is the lack of surface space. Sure, you can hang up shelves or store your stuff in drawers or cabinets, but the truth is, most of us don’t want to totally tidy up the bathroom every time we use it. Unfortunately, in a small bathroom, the bathroom sink takes up most of the space on the bathroom vanity, leaving little or no room on either side to stash toiletries. Offsetting the sink is a surprisingly simple solution that opens up more usable counter space without increasing the size of the vanity itself.

Usable Surface Space

London 36" Vanity from Design Element
London 36″ Vanity from Design Element

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Most small bathroom vanities leave a thin strip of counter to either side of a fairly large, round sink. The sink is the functional fixture and is put front and center, leaving the counter as little more than decoration – and often leaving little room for anything more than a soap pump or toothbrush holder behind the sink, and little or no surface space on either side. But most people use many more toiletries than that on a daily basis, and even if you don’t plan to store them out on your countertop, it can be really, really nice to have a place to put them while you’re using them. Whether it’s a can of shaving cream or a set of makeup, the issue is less about increasing storage space and more about increasing usable work space. Even on a fairly slim vanity, offsetting the sink combines two unusable strips of countertop into a single usable surface, making it a little easier to spread out your stuff while you’re getting ready.

Styling Center

Ultra Modern 36" Gray Bathroom Vanity Set from Virtu USA
Ultra Modern 36″ Gray Bathroom Vanity Set from Virtu USA

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If you use a curling iron or hair straightener, those few extra inches of counter space can actually make your bathroom safer. Heated hair styling wands can get very, very hot, and at risk of sounding like someone’s mom, it’s important to have enough space to put them down securely – not hanging over the edge of the vanity, not rested against something, just all in their own space and allowed to sit perfectly flat. In a small bathroom, that can be hard to pull off, but resting a hot iron against your sink or wedging it haphazardly into a narrow space between the sink and the wall makes it a lot more likely that you’ll bump or drop it, potentially scorching or melting your counter, floor, or worse, burning yourself. Offsetting the sink gives you enough space to comfortably lay out all your hair styling products.

Extra Drawer Space

Caroline Parkway 36" Single Bathroom Vanity in White from Virtu USA
Caroline Parkway 36″ Single Bathroom Vanity in White from Virtu USA

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But the benefit of offsetting a sink isn’t just that it provides more counter space; it also frequently means there’s more drawer space, too, because it isn’t just the sink that’s moving – it’s the plumbing, too. On a standard bathroom vanity, the area directly beneath the vanity top is occupied by the sink and plumbing. This leaves only a few inches of space on either side, so often the whole space is simply closed off. But when the sink is offset, those few inches add up to a space wide enough for a drawer. Putting a row of drawers on the side opposite the sink enhances the asymmetrical look of these vanities, but also hugely enhances the amount of storage space for smaller items, again without changing the dimensions of the vanity itself.

Why So Hard To Find?

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

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You might be wondering why such a simple, elegant solution is the exception rather than the norm. And it’s true – this type of vanity isn’t common, and can even be a bit difficult to find. But the reason for this is simple: people like symmetry. This is true of everything from people’s faces to bridges to buildings, and yes, bathroom vanities, too; we’re hardwired to like it when both sides are equal and mirrored, and naturally tend to favor symmetrical things, even when they’re less practical. Creating a symmetrical vanity is pretty much the default, which is why it’s so much more common. The flip side of this, though, is that making an asymmetrical vanity is a very deliberate choice, which means that vanities with even subtly offset sinks feel quite modern and stylishly convention-defying. Many even include stylishly asymmetrical storage mirrors which helps enhance the modern effect while keeping the mirror centered over the sink.

The Catch

Space SE07 31.1" Bathroom Vanity from Iotti
Space SE07 31.1″ Bathroom Vanity from Iotti

The only real drawback of bathroom vanities with offset sinks is that they’re often more than 30″ wide. With a narrower bathroom vanity, the sink takes up such a huge proportion of the available counter space that shifting it the few available inches to the left or right really won’t make much difference. It’s only once you get up above 30″ (the smallest ones are about 31″) that combining the little strip of counter space on either side of the sink really starts to add up. What that means is, if your bathroom is small enough that you have to shoehorn in a 24″ vanity, there isn’t enough width to make this look work. That said, if you have a little more space to work with, this is a great, no-fuss way to make your small bathroom a little more useable.

For all but the smallest bathrooms, simply shifting the bathroom sink a few inches to one side can make a world of difference in the functionality and usability of your bathroom vanity. But what do you think of this look? Is this small change worth the trouble? Let me know in the comments below!