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Choosing The Perfect Transitional Bathroom Vanity: Why The Cabinet Doors Matter

The most important defining characteristic of a bathroom vanity’s style is the type and style of the cabinet doors. Especially when it comes to vanities that are very cabinet-like, the cabinet doors are most of what you see, so they have a huge impact on the final look and feel of the design. With both traditional and contemporary designs, it’s pretty straightforward what you should look for: doors that are very ornate, and doors that are very simple, respectively. But things get muddied a little when it comes to a transitional style. Transitional design is all about balancing old and new – contemporary and traditional – and it takes a little extra effort to find a look that fits comfortably in between. 

Emily 59" Single Sink Bathroom Vanity TY-6262-59-QZ from Stufurhome
Emily 59″ Single Sink Bathroom Vanity TY-6262-59-QZ from Stufurhome

Shaker style cabinet doors are far and away the most popular option for a transitional vanity, and they’re a fairly obvious, logical choice for an in-between design. Technically speaking, shaker style furniture is very traditional (it’s hundreds of years old!), but it stands out among other antique-inspired designs for its simplicity. Where French, Italian, or British antiques from the same time period feature lots of ornate woodwork, Shaker furnishings are made of simple planks. All those straight lines, sharp angles, and simple shapes are much more in line with a modern aesthetic, but they still carry that subtly old fashioned feel, which  makes them basically the ideal hybrid for a transitional bathroom.

Chanel 36" Grey Bathroom Vanity HD-7130G-36-CR from Stufurhome
Chanel 36″ Grey Bathroom Vanity HD-7130G-36-CR from Stufurhome

Though they have their own distinct characteristics, shaker style cabinet doors fall under the broader category of flat panel doors. That means that the door is built with a simple rectangular frame that goes around the outside edge of the door, with a flat piece of wood (aka: the flat panel) in the center. More ornate cabinet doors will have inside panels with raised detailing or shaped carvings, while the very simplest ones have a panel with no frame (usually called a flush or slab style cabinet). Flat panel doors mark the midpoint between the two, which makes them the best choice for a transitional bathroom.

Arianny 49" Single Sink Bathroom Vanity TY-7340-49-QZ from Stufurhome
Arianny 49″ Single Sink Bathroom Vanity TY-7340-49-QZ from Stufurhome

Mixing shaker style cabinet doors with unframed drawer fronts can make a vanity look and feel a bit more casual. While the cabinet doors are certainly the most important, little details like these can matter, too. You also want to pay attention to the vanity’s legs or feet. Traditional shaker style cabinets will have simple square peg shaped legs (or none at all), but often transitional vanities will have simplified versions of more ornate traditional furniture legs. These are generally  implied shapes rather than actual tooled feet, but they can add just a bit of traditional flair to the design.

Norwood 37" Single Sink Bathroom Vanity TY-7223-37-QZ from Stufurhome
Norwood 37″ Single Sink Bathroom Vanity TY-7223-37-QZ from Stufurhome

Keep in mind, though, that not all cabinet doors have to be perfectly square. In fact, one good way to get a transitional look that skews a bit more to the traditional side is to abandon the conventional cabinet design entirely. This Norwood vanity, for example, does away with the traditional single, large cabinet, and replaces it with three wide drawers, so it looks more like a chest or dresser. The layout hearkens back to French bombe chests, which are a staple of antique bathrooms, and the slightly rustic, weathered wood finish also helps give it a slightly more traditional feel. That said, design is otherwise very simple and square, which keeps it from feeling too traditional.

Windsor 59" Single Sink Bathroom Vanity TY-7585-59-QZ from Stufurhome
Windsor 59″ Single Sink Bathroom Vanity TY-7585-59-QZ from Stufurhome

Conversely, if you want a transitional look with a more contemporary feel, flush or slab style cabinet doors and drawer fronts is the way to go; the vanity will have a sleeker, more streamlined feel, and the lack of ornamentation will give it a clean, modern edge. But rather than opting for a glossy painted or laminate finish as you would for a contemporary space, you want to stick with natural hardwood, preferably with a prominent grain. Using a traditional material will help counterbalance the modern feel of a very minimalist design, and add warmth to your space.

Marla 30" Single Sink Bathroom Vanity HD-6868-30-CR from Stufurhome
Marla 30″ Single Sink Bathroom Vanity HD-6868-30-CR from Stufurhome

The style of the cabinet doors is important even when the cabinet itself isn’t exactly cabinet shaped. Open shelf style vanities are very popular right now, especially in transitional style bathrooms, but while the legs and empty space on the bottom half are more strongly emphasized in the design, that only means that the style, shape, and placement of the cabinet doors is even more important. This Marla vanity uses the aforementioned drawer style cabinet fronts to give this otherwise very modern vanity a washstand-like appearance. But even on a vanity this small, there are a lot of possibilities – two small cabinet doors, a single larger one, four smaller drawers, and so on – each of which result in a fairly dramatically different final look.

So when you’re shopping for a new transitional vanity, make sure to pay attention to the seemingly small details – they make a bigger difference than you might think! Check out more great transitional style bathroom vanities from Stufurhome.