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Going Beyond The Traditional Vanity Cabinet: Smarter Storage For A Small Bathroom

Most bathroom vanity cabinets are just that: cabinets designed more or less the same as kitchen cabinet boxes, with a lot of wide open space and maybe a shelf or two if you’re lucky. But when a vanity is all the storage you have in a small bathroom, you want something with a little more organizational savvy. Dividing up a large cabinet into smaller drawers, shelves, and cubbies can make a huge difference both in the usability of your space and how much stuff you can store.

What’s The Problem With Cabinet Storage?

Monaco 24" Bathroom Vanity Set 000-24-01-M from Blossom
Monaco 24″ Bathroom Vanity Set 000-24-01-M from Blossom

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Most small bathroom vanities clock in somewhere between 18″ and 30″ wide, but even vanities with exactly the same outside dimensions can be functionally very different. When all that available space is used for a cabinet, most of it is going to get wasted simply because not everything you’re going to be storing is the right size and shape for a cabinet. At the very least, most of the top half of the cabinet is going to go unused unless you stack your items on top of each other, which makes them less accessible. Adding in more types of storage divides up the space, ensuring you’re actually using all of it.

What’s The Best Way To Divide A Small Vanity?

Bristol 30" Single Bathroom Vanity in Cottage White 157-V30-CWH-SW from James Martin Furniture
Bristol 30″ Single Bathroom Vanity in Cottage White 157-V30-CWH-SW from James Martin Furniture

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Of course, there’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all bathroom vanity; what type of storage is best for you depends a lot on what kind of items you want to keep on hand. Really, the first step in shopping for a small bathroom vanity should be lining up your toiletries. Skin care, hair care, makeup, grooming tools, towels, TP, cleaning supplies – all of it, anything you have in your bathroom now or wish you had space to store there. From there, it should be easy to figure out how much of what different types of storage you need – and find a vanity that has it all.

When (Small) Cabinets Are Worth Having

Milano 30" High Glossy White Modern Bathroom Vanity KFM30-GW from KubeBath
Milano 30″ High Glossy White Modern Bathroom Vanity KFM30-GW from KubeBath

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Bathroom cabinets aren’t entirely without their merits. While most conventional ones are impractically oversized, narrower or shorter cabinets are great for storing tall, narrow bottles – like hairspray, lotion, or cleaning products. Personally, I prefer cabinets that are either at waist height (making them both smaller and a little more accessible) or that are shunted off to the side of the vanity, letting you make use of the full height of the cabinet without giving you more space than you need. Big bonus points for a shelf (or, better yet, a pull-out shelf) to help you further divide up and organize the space.

Prioritizing Different Types Of Drawer Space

Barcelona 24" Bathroom Vanity Set 005-24-06 from Blossom
Barcelona 24″ Bathroom Vanity Set 005-24-06 from Blossom

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Drawer storage is much more useful than having a single large cabinet, but the types of drawers you can find vary widely in size, shape, and number from one vanity to the next, and different types of drawers are good for storing different things. Most common on more traditional styled vanities are small, shallow drawers, usually placed just beneath the counter or in a column on one side of the vanity. These are great for keeping smaller items sorted and accessible. Some drawers are even divided up to make it easier to keep everything organized.

Bliss 24" Gray Oak Free Standing Modern Bathroom Vanity FMB24-GO from KubeBath
Bliss 24″ Gray Oak Free Standing Modern Bathroom Vanity FMB24-GO from KubeBath

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s becoming more and more common to see small bathroom vanities that replace their main cabinet with a large, deep drawer. Oftentimes these are U-shaped to accommodate the sink and plumbing, but are great for stowing larger items. And while a cabinet-sized drawer has approximately the same storage capacity as a plain cabinet, a drawer mounted on full-extension glides lets you easily see everything stored inside, so you’ll never have to go digging for what you’re looking for.

Consider Cubby Storage, Too!

Levi 24" Dark Gray Oak Modern Bathroom Vanity With Cubby Hole L600WB from KubeBath
Levi 24″ Dark Gray Oak Modern Bathroom Vanity With Cubby Hole L600WB from KubeBath

Last but not least, lots of small bathroom vanities are designed with white space in mind. On the one hand, that makes for less hidden storage – which means these vanities aren’t a great option for people who have a lot of stuff and don’t particularly want to keep it organized. On the other hand, all that white space can help make a small bathroom feel less cramped, and open shelves are good for storing bulky items in an attractive way – like rolled up towels or a basket full of TP – without taking away from the leanness of the vanity’s silhouette.

While there’s no such thing as a single perfect vanity, once you know the best types of storage for the kind of items you have, it’s so much easier to find the vanity that’s perfect forĀ you. When it comes to working with a small space, you don’t want to compromise, and increasingly you don’t have to. No matter what your dream specifications, chances are there’s a vanity that has exactly the combination of drawers, shelves, cubbies, and cabinets for your needs.

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