In the past few years, bathroom design has shifted heavily to emphasize functionality over opulence. That means that the most coveted items aren’t fine stone and intricate woodwork, but furniture and fixtures designed to be the most useful on a day-to-day basis. Bathroom vanities in particular have gotten a major makeover. No matter what they look like on the outside, chances are the insides look very different than ones built five or ten years ago. Instead of single open cabinets, these days bathroom vanities are divvied up on the inside to make every bit of space usable for storage. Drawers, shelves, and cubbies are all becoming commonplace, but my favorite new type of vanity storage is the one you’re most likely to overlook: tip-out drawers.
So What Are Tip-Out Drawers?
Sometimes called a pull-out drawer (yes, even though all drawers are technically “pull-out drawers”), tip-out drawers are both the simplest and maybe the most genius innovation when it comes to improved bathroom vanity design. Almost all bathroom vanities have a null space directly beneath the sink – one that’s usually covered with a panel or faux drawer that covers up the bottom of the sink and plumbing. Historically, this is because the space is more or less unusable. On a traditional large-cabinet vanity, that space is left open and empty unless you happen to be storing something really tall in the cabinet. Tip-out drawers take that awkward space and make it usable with one simple change: taking that faux drawer and making it tip out.
How Do Tip-Out Drawers Work?
Depending on the manufacturer, tip-out drawers can work in a few different ways, but the basic mechanics of them are pretty consistent. Instead of a fixed panel beneath the sink, you have a real, movable drawer front. Unlike traditional drawers that are attached to glides or rollers, though, these are attached to a simple hinge that allows them to tip forward, opening to the small space between the front of the vanity and the curve of the underside of the sink.
This is where the designs start to branch out a little. Some are simply that, a door that opens onto a narrow shelf beneath the sink. But most are designed a little like tip-out hampers, with the storage part of the drawer attached to the drawer front. Depending on the manufacturer, these can be made of wood, metal, or plastic, but are all generally wedge-shaped and big enough to store a few small toiletries.
Why Bother With A Teeny Tiny Drawer?
To be fair, tip-out drawers don’t provide a whole lot of storage space. But the storage they provide is in possibly the most convenient and accessible spot in your bathroom, and one that you almost never get to use with any other type of vanity design. All those small odds-and-ends that tend to clutter up your counter space? Can go in their own small drawers instead. From toothpaste tubes to hair ties to your favorite lipstick or razor, tip-out drawers are perfect for storing items that are too small to put in a big cabinet, in a spot that’s more accessible than a knee-height drawer and better organized than just leaving them out on your counter.
This is an especially big boon for small bathroom vanities – ones in the 36″ and under range in particular. Center-set sinks and their necessary plumbing take up a good chunk of space inside the vanity cabinet, and often make it impossible to have traditional drawers up to the level of the counter. Some more modern designs pull this off in a variety of ways (like by offsetting the sink or making the drawers really narrow), but most opt for a second faux drawer panel that won’t get less annoying with age (trust me). Tip-out drawers won’t provide as much storage as a full-sized one, but do make use of that otherwise wasted space.
But I’ve Got A Pretty Big Bathroom?
It’s true that you’ll mostly find tip-out drawers on smaller bathroom vanities, offered up as a solution for the storage-crunched. But this feature is slowly becoming popular enough to find a place on larger bathroom vanities as well. Even in the biggest bathrooms, you still need a space to store small toiletries, and tip-out drawers are among the best option out there for tiny, fiddly items. Besides, in a design market obsessed with not wasting any space, a simple solution to one of the worst wasted spaces in a bathroom vanity is a hard one to resist!
If you’re in the market for a new bathroom vanity and trying to think how to maximize your storage space, double checking to see if that “faux” drawer panel is actually a tip-out drawer isn’t a bad place to start.