A Quick Look At How Bathroom Vanity Drawer Outlets Work (And How To Get One)

There’s tons of advice out there about sneaking more storage into your bathroom and making your space more usable, but there’s one functional necessity that’s almost always in limited supply and that can be hard to get more of: bathroom outlets. For some, that might not be a big deal. But if you need somewhere to plug in your drier, hair straightener, curling iron, electric razor, electric toothbrush, water pick, and charge your cell phone before work? A single outlet probably isn’t going to cut it, and one overloaded with outlet extenders can be a fire hazard. Luckily, high tech bathroom vanities with built-in drawer outlets are becoming more common.

Portland 60" Single Bathroom Vanity In Cottage White 620-V60S-CWH fgrom James Martin Furniture
Portland 60″ Single Bathroom Vanity In Cottage White 620-V60S-CWH fgrom James Martin Furniture

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Until recently, having outlets in the drawers of your kitchen or bathroom cabinets was something of a novelty: a little luxury you might have heard of, but one that you’d almost certainly have to have custom manufactured, often at great cost. But it’s a feature that’s definitely making waves, and one that’s become a lot more common and readily available in the last few years. Nearly all the vanities in James Martin’s updated 2018 collection include one either in the back of a drawer or in an internal shelf, making them an actually-attainable convenience. 

Castilian 72" Double Bathroom Vanity in Aged Cognac 161-V72-ACG from James Martin Furniture
Castilian 72″ Double Bathroom Vanity in Aged Cognac 161-V72-ACG from James Martin Furniture

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Once the novelty of the mere idea of having an outlet inside your drawers wears off, though, you’ll probably find yourself wondering how exactly they manage to fit a working outlet into a moving drawer, and the answer is surprisingly hard to come by. For whatever reason, many companies are a bit opaque on the point of how to install these high-tech vanities, which can be a little disconcerting, if not outright off-putting. The good news is, all you need to do to set up a high-tech bathroom vanity is plug it into an existing outlet behind the vanity.

Portland 60" Single Bathroom Vanity in White Washed Walnut 620-V60S-WW from James Martin Furniture
Portland 60″ Single Bathroom Vanity in White Washed Walnut 620-V60S-WW from James Martin Furniture

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Of course, the actual how of building one of these vanities is a little more complicated. Before they were commonly mass produced, drawer outlets were made using somewhat makeshift parts, usually a standard outlet installed into the back of a shortened drawer, with a heavy duty extension cord connecting the plug inside the drawer to an outlet on the wall behind it. These types of drawer outlets raised some safety concerns, specifically that the cord might become kinked, frayed, or damaged, and potentially cause a fire – behind the drawer and out of sight where it can’t be monitored.

Castilian 72" Double Bathroom Vanity in Empire Gray 161-V72-EG from James Martin Furniture
Castilian 72″ Double Bathroom Vanity in Empire Gray 161-V72-EG from James Martin Furniture
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Modern, mass produced outlet drawers tackle safety issues head on. For one, the outlets installed in the drawers are designed for that purpose. Depending on the model, you can find outlets rated for different levels of power, ones with a combination of standard and USB plugs, and even ones with thermostatic safety shut-offs, in case you leave a hair drier or curling iron on inside the drawer. Even more importantly, more sophisticated outlet drawers use a special mechanical arm to protect all the electrical wiring from the moving parts of the drawer. The arm folds and unfolds smoothly as you open the drawer, keeping the extension cord from bending or twisting and preventing potential damage long-term.

De Soto 48" Single Bathroom Vanity in Silver Gray 825-V48-SL from James Martin Furniture
De Soto 48″ Single Bathroom Vanity in Silver Gray 825-V48-SL from James Martin Furniture
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Outlets installed onto shelves rather than in the backs of drawers are, of course, a little bit simpler to pull off: you don’t have to worry about moving parts, and the outlet itself is generally pretty unobtrusive. These types of outlets are a little more common, but work functionally the same way: you plug a cord coming out the back of the vanity into a standard wall outlet, and that cord runs through the vanity to power the outlet inside of it. In-drawer outlets are a little more convenient for storing stuff you use every day and want to keep plugged in (with the messy cords concealed), like a hair drier or curling iron, but shelves give you an extra outlet at about knee-height that you can use with your vanity door open, which is a great way to avoid having to constantly plug and unplug your every-day counter-top items.

Tiempo 48" Wide Bathroom Medicine Cabinet FMC014836 from Fresca
Tiempo 48″ Wide Bathroom Medicine Cabinet FMC014836 from Fresca

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If you’re really hungry for outlets, I have even more good news: bathroom vanities aren’t the only appliances getting a high tech update (and I don’t even mean that toilet with a heated seat!). You can also find medicine cabinets with built-in outlets, not to mention some other cool features, like built in speakers, bluetooth connectivity, and USB charge and data connection, so you can play music directly from your phone while it charges (and while it’s safe inside a waterproof cabinet). Depending on the model, these may require a little more specialized installation, but they afford you not only more outlet options, but also a little extra fun functionality for your space.

Not having enough outlets used to be one of those problems you just had to live with, but these days fixing it doesn’t have to be an unobtainable luxury. Whether you just want one more plug for your pesky curling iron or want to charge half a dozen devices while listening to tunes in the shower, an extra outlet or two can make your morning go a lot more smoothly.