It wasn't so long ago that if you wanted a vanity that was out of the ordinary, you needed to arrange for something that was custom made. This is still the case if you have an awkward opening or you need something built in wall to wall, but the choice now is so good that you can order an ‘off the shelf' vanity solution to suit most styles. In fact choosing a bathroom vanity can be overwhelming as the options now are so wide. I therefore thought it was time to review the market and show you how to choose a bathroom vanity that is right for the look that you are trying to achieve.
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Selecting the right style of vanity for your home
Another thing that has changed is that there are so many great styles to choose to decorate in. Often you need to take the lead from the type of house you are living in, but there is usually leeway to select a look that you love. We no longer have a one size fits all contemporary look of the times and a Scandi inspired retro style can look just as modern as a classic Hamptons look. While this is great, again it can be overwhelming deciding which style suits your home and your own personal taste. Many people, myself included, can have difficulty pinning down what I really want as there are just so many great looks to choose from.
I have therefore chosen some of my favourite bathroom vanity units and put them into one of the contemporary styles that are popular to help you make this decision.
I don't think that anyone does Coastal style quite like the Australians. With their laid back approach to life, this look has been adopted as their own and really does reflect the Australian way of life. I talk more about this in my related post below. For this segment, I have chosen a classic oak vanity with louvre doors made by the very talented people at Loughlin Furniture. I have been lucky enough to see their showroom and workspace and know that each of their pieces are handmade on the NSW Central Coast. Partnered here with an oversized oak mirror, gorgeous concrete basin and brass tapware, this look is a classic Coastal style that is upmarket and refined.
Related: Australian Coastal Style – 7 steps to achieve this look
Coastal Hamptons style
The Hamptons look is firmly entrenched in our range of decorating styles. As with all styles though, they do evolve overtime and we now also see the Hamptons look in a more relaxed setting with coastal elements. Also made here in Australia by ADP, you can select from a range of colours and benchtops, but nothing says coastal Hamptons like a soft grey blue. The vanity below is painted in Dulux Milton Moon in a matt finish. Partnered with less traditional tiles, this is a great relaxed Coastal Hamptons look.
I talk more about the Hamptons colour palette in this related post Hamptons Style – 7 steps to achieve this look.
The vanity unit below gives you a much more traditional formal Hamptons look. With a classic marble benchtop, undermounted sink, Shaker doors and black handles, this really is a Hamptons classic. White subway tiles laid running bond and a gorgeous blue encaustic tiled floor complete the look perfectly. Turner Hastings are the go-to supplier for this look and make premium bathroom vanities.
Have you noticed the new trend for Art Deco style interiors? Born in the 1920s during the boom times, this is a gorgeous look that is seeing an insurgence for upmarket contemporary, yet classic style homes. For those that don't like the simplicity of Scandi style, nor the traditional formality of Hamptons, but also would prefer something more elegant and upmarket than a relaxed coastal look, Art Deco touches are a perfect solution. This style really introduces a touch of glamour, the look of an upmarket Manhattan apartment or Parisian abode. For lovers of the luxury look, this will be perfect for you.
Related: Parisian Decorating Style – 7 steps to achieve this look
I think there is a little bit of Bohemian in us all. That desire to be just a tad different and to buck the status quo. Bohemian interiors have traditionally been a riot of colour, but the newer, more grown up Bohemian style is more about finding unusual pieces of furniture and partnering them with unlikely pieces. There's a little bit of Scandi to the look, in that many items are a little retro, but there is also an earthiness to the style which is very grounding. This beautiful vanity unit from Loughlin Furniture has been made from a rich walnut timber that makes it so different from their pale oak vanities which suit the coastal look. By using a darker and less popular timber (albeit an absolutely gorgeous one), the look becomes less mainstream and just that little bit Bohemian.
If you like the Bohemian look, this could the choice for you.
Related: 4 key elements of Bohemian Style
This look is now firmly entrenched in our decorating styles. For lovers of simplicity, well made pieces of furniture and timeless design, Scandi style is the go-to look. A little retro, but more importantly, pieces that are streamlined and simple are perfect for this look, which is why I chose this curved vanity below to suit this style. Partnered with a simple organic style basin and regimented finger tiles, this bathroom vanity will suit the Scandi look well. Moving a little towards a coastal look perhaps, but many styles here do take that route.
Related: 5 key elements of Scandi style
If you love a traditional freestanding basin that is very much in a classic European style, then you will love this unit from Studio Bagna. With everything on show, it defeats the purpose of the bathroom vanity unit, but then if you want this look, this really is the way to go.
Wall hung or freestanding?
This is a big question which often has practical and style elements to consider.
What I love about a freestanding vanity unit is that it looks like a piece of furniture in the space. The piece above has classic Shaker doors, unobtrusive basins and is made from a beautiful piece of timber. I believe that adding the legs to this piece enhances the look and really does make it look more like a beautiful piece of furniture and less like a vanity unit.
Bathroom vanity units that go fully to the ground tend to look the most traditional.
There is no doubt that a wall hung vanity unit looks the most contemporary. They are great for small spaces as you gain the illusion of space. They are also the best for cleaning which is made very simple without fiddly legs to negotiate. However, if you prefer a more classic style, this will not be the right choice for you.
Generally, for a more traditional or classic look, I would opt for legs or a unit to the floor. A lux, Art Deco look also needs legs.
You can see though from the image below that you can still create a contemporary look with a vanity unit to the floor. This can sometimes be necessary if you don't have a strong enough wall to fix the unit to.
Choosing a basin for your bathroom vanity
Again, this is a market that has exploded and there are some absolutely stunning options for basins to select from. You not only need to consider whether you want an above counter or undermounted basin, there are now heaps of shapes, finishes and even colours.
One of the benefits of an above counter basin is that you are left with more storage space in the vanity unit. You clearly still have the plumbing to negotiate, but not the actual vessel itself. This style also looks more contemporary and you can really make use of any added design elements or colours.
This fluted above counter basin is quirky and fresh. It suits contemporary bathrooms and I would use this in a coastal look.
The above basin is far more traditional, but it does take up a lot of space so you should ensure that you have enough bench space remaining, both for practicality and visual appeal.
An undermounted sink is an absolute classic which looks clean and tidy. From a functional design viewpoint, you can also accommodate wall taps well without taking up too much space. Always remember that with an above counter basin, if you want wall taps you are using up quite a bit of wall space which means your mirror will need to be higher.
There is no doubt this is a timeless look. It will look as good today as it will in 10 years time.
Choose a colour, any colour, and you can bet your life that you will find a basin to match. Until recently, this really was a niche market, but now many of the bathroom ware brands stock a line of different coloured basins. This look is very much at home in a Scandi or Coastal style bathroom and really does need to be in a matt finish. Always consider the colour of the tapware when you select a coloured basin. Shown above the brass and green are a classic combination, but with a soft pink or apricot basin I would prefer a chrome tap.
Choice of vanity handles
I bet you're wondering when this is going to end! There are so many choices to be made. This is one of the great advances in ‘off the shelf' vanity units. You can often get to choose the colour, benchtop, basin and handles. The downside is being sure you are making the right choice.
A half moon pull handle, as shown above, is perfect for a coastal style look where you want to add a touch of luxe and glamour. Coordinate them with the tapware and other accessories in the room and you ensure that your vanity unit is definitely part of the scheme.
Coastal style bathrooms often include some oak timber pieces as accessories which makes the bathroom more of a room. I love this approach and this vanity unit with co-ordinated oak handles is perfect for this look. With the touch of on-trend sage green, this is a look you could also use for a Scandi style. I think a round oak mirror would also complete this look perfectly.
A touch of black looks stunning in a bathroom and is a timeless classic. To achieve a luxe look with a black vanity, you should consider brass handles and co-ordinate with tapware.
Related: Black bathrooms – how to successfully pull this off
If you find the idea of selecting handles for your vanity simply too hard, then you can opt for no handles. A streamlined look, as above, is clean and tidy and timeless. My only point to make is to ensure you have a shark nose finish to the top of the drawer, as above, rather than push to open.
My practical tips to consider when you choose a bathroom vanity
In summary, I have some key tips to remember when selecting a bathroom vanity unit.
- Only select 2 basins if you have a bathroom vanity unit 1500 or larger and then only if you feel you will use them both. Remember, wherever there is a basin there is plumbing. This means that you lose valuable storage space in the unit. Often, manufacturers will show their vanity units with 2 basins as it can look appealing, but think very carefully about the practicalities of the space. You need to be left with ample bench space too. This is for reasons both practical and aesthetic.
- Don't select a basin that overwhelms the space you have. Ensure that the ratio of basin to benchtop is in proportion.
- Ensure that your tapware is placed in a position where it will not splash into the basin. On this note, don't select a basin that is too shallow or you will always end up with splashed water over the floor.
- Ensure that a wall hung vanity can be safely fixed to your wall. Otherwise opt for one that has a plinth at the back which can give the illusion of a wall hung unit, or one on legs.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my post on how to choose a vanity unit and would love to hear your comments in the space below.
Did you know that I have a Free Resource Library? Whether you are building a new dream home or just undertaking a weekend redecorating project, there will be something there to help and inspire you. Included in my library is a guide on how to plan for your new bathroom. You can download the free checklists and e-books here.