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Decorating a Bathroom

Bathroom Cabinet Ideas

A freestanding cabinet serves as an excellent vanity with storage.

Bathroom cabinetry doesn't play the starring role in the bath that it does in the kitchen, but it's just as important. Function comes first, of course: Plan enough storage for everyone who uses the bathroom, and make sure vanity doors or cabinet drawers don't interfere with opening and closing the bathroom door. It's been known to happen!

Maximizing bath storage is key to keeping the place looking neat, so plan for ample storage space early in the remodeling process.


Buy as spacious a vanity as will comfortably fit; recess tall, shallow shelving units (with or without doors) between wall studs; build in open shelves for colorful, neatly folded towels; or put a linen closet just outside the bathroom in the hall or in an adjoining master bedroom.

If you're just redecorating this time, simply hanging a handsome shallow cabinet on the wall above the toilet can help ease the storage crunch. For items you don't mind keeping in view, narrow, tempered glass shelves with rounded corners are unobtrusive and useful.

In addition to doored cabinets, you can choose convenient storage drawers, swing-out hampers, and more.

Most cabinet manufacturers make both kitchen and bath cabinetry, so you may want to see if any kitchen units have features you desire.

Like kitchen cabinets, bath cabinets may be factory-made stock units, semicustom units that come in standard sizes but offer a choice of door styles or finishes, or custom-made units to fit your exact specifications.

Whatever you choose, request self-closing cabinet hinges and self-closing doors to avoid accidents from doors and drawers left ajar.

When it comes to styles, you have a wide choice, from clean-cut modern units in carefree synthetic materials to opulent traditional designs in fine, furniture-grade woods.

Proper ventilation and a waterproof finish are the secrets to using good-quality wood in the bathroom, so don't hesitate if that's your preference. Real wood cabinets make a warm, natural contrast to the predominantly colder materials used throughout the room.

Wood on bathroom cabinets may be stained in a natural wood tone; given a colorwash stain; whitewashed with a bisque finish; painted with a waterproof, opaque paint; or given a faux finish to resemble marble or other material. If floorspace is really tight, paint or stain built-in cabinets and any freestanding pieces the color of the walls to minimize visual clutter. You can bring in additional hues with towels and accessories.

When selecting built-in cabinets, you can choose from "frameless," also called European-style, for a clean-lined, very modern look, or conventional framed cabinetry, which can look traditional or contemporary depending on the door style.

For a modern look, choose a slab (plain panel) or channel (a horizontal groove or pull along the bottom) style. Select elegant cathedral (arched top panel) or curved raised panel for a traditional, formal look; for a traditional, country style, consider board and batten (a door made of narrow vertical boards).

A square raised panel door can look either traditional or contemporary and can work well in a transitional-style bath.

Traditional under-counter cabinets give this bathroom ample storage space.

The trend in recent years has been away from medicine cabinets and toward large wall-hung mirrors, but that solution begs the storage question. A big vanity may make an overhead cabinet unnecessary, but if you don't have one and don't want to skirt a pedestal or wall sink or bring in covered baskets or other storage, you will want to make room for a medicine cabinet.

A medicine cabinet mounted on the surface of the wall above the sink is an easy option, but for a better look, choose one the same width as, or a little narrower than, the vanity or pedestal sink itself, and select a frameless-looking unit with the mirror (beveled-edge is elegant) extending to the edge of the cabinet door. An arched-top mirror cabinet is a pleasing option that echoes the rounded shapes of bath fixtures.

If you're able to open up the wall, neater and more stylish than a surface-mount cabinet is a model hung in the recessed area between wall studs so that the mirrored surface is nearly flush with the wall.

If your vanity or sink is tucked into an alcove, you may want to mirror the back wall and recess a medicine cabinet into each side wall. If youngsters have access to the bath, be sure to install inexpensive childproof latches on any medicine chest and lower cabinet.

The freestanding furniture look that's so popular in kitchens is also a hit in the bath, so if you've got the room, bring in a chest of drawers or an armoire in the style of your bath. If that's too much for the available space, you might consider actually converting a chest into a vanity; drawers below the top one can stay functional.

Simpler yet, you can add charm with a small wooden child's chair or stool to hold extra towels or with a basket holding rolled fingertip towels or loofah sponges. Don't overlook offbeat solutions: An artist's tabouret (a small cabinet on wheels with a multitude of shallow swing-out trays) is a fine place to store makeup and medicines in a house without small children.

Bathroom countertops -- important in full baths or those without vanity tables -- can be made out of a host of different materials. On the next page, find a countertop to suit your taste and lifestyle.

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