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How to Optimize Storage in Your Bathroom Vanity

By Yanic Simard, Houzz

When it comes to bathroom organization, the vanity is most often the workhorse storage solution. But there are many options to consider when choosing a new vanity — or organizing the interior of the one you already have. The following are some of my favorite ways to get your vanity looking and working beautifully, from the inside out.


1. Open shelves.

Keeping stacked towels on open shelves is a common design feature for several reasons.

Drummonds Bathrooms, original photo on Houzz

As this open, airy sink stand reveals, the sink itself takes up a lot of space under the counter, and then the piping for the sink takes up a bit more. This limits the area that can be used for drawers.

Usually, a false drawer front or fixed slab covers the sink itself. This is especially an issue when two sinks eat up most or all of the top third to top half of the unit.

Using an open shelf in the middle or lower section then gives you flexibility to tuck towels and baskets around the plumbing to maximize available space.

Plus, open shelves can be a very attractive look, because it gives a vanity a lighter appearance. When using a dark, weighty wood or stone, having a visual break in the middle adds some airiness to the whole room.

Open shelves are not necessarily used only under a sink, though. They can break up a vanity pleasingly in other ways.

In a small bath with a single-sink vanity, positioning the sink off to one side is a practical solution to allow a larger usable area of open counter on the other side.

You can use this trick to take a premade vanity box and extend it to fit your wall by adding floating shelves next to it and then finishing the whole thing with a single top.

Plumbers Supply Co, original photo on Houzz

2. Simple doored cabinets.

Another option to maximize the use of space under and around piping is to use a standard doored cabinet with open shelves inside. And there are little ways you can enhance the usefulness of such cabinets too.

Notice how the one pictured here includes pullouts within the cabinet. These pullouts can then house baskets or loose items, whichever you prefer, to fit in many objects or a few large pieces. The fact that they roll out will make seeing and reaching for pieces stashed in the back easier.

Kelly Brewer Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

3. Shaped, shallow drawers.

A third option for working around the sink is to use every inch of space with a drawer that is sized or shaped to avoid hitting the sink and piping. A drawer like the one shown here with a notch in it will wrap around the pipe so the entire depth can be used beside it.

To make sure you can still reach into the main compartment easily, you’ll want this upper compartment to be fairly slim, but this size works fine for many daily-use products and tools.

In general, each drawer you add to your vanity will increase the cost but also the functionality, with interior drawers usually costing a bit less than full proper drawers because they don’t need their own proper drawer front or handle.

4. Thin drawers.

Thin drawers (around 5 inches) are also helpful for working around a sink. They also have the advantage of holding small items like makeup and razors without any of them sinking to the bottom and getting lost in the mix. Again, using many thin drawers will cost more than a few larger drawers, but the trade-off in added organization can be well worth the investment.

5. Double drawers.

Not all bathroom products can fit in slim little 5-inch drawers. But sometimes a super-deep drawer won’t fit with your look, especially in more traditional styles with many drawers and somewhat ornate drawer fronts. In these situations, consider having a double-depth drawer fitted with two smaller fronts to blend in better, with an extra handle or knob on the second drawer front to complete the illusion.

Studio Marler, original photo on Houzz

6. Vertical pull outs.

It’s quite common in small to average-size baths to have slivers of space on either side of the sink. Rather than breaking this area into many small drawers, consider using a vertical pullout like this one that has a single compartment broken into many interior shelves. This works on the same principle as a kitchen spice rack, presenting all your small products in a way that’s easy to browse.

7. Toe-kick drawers.

Really want to wring every inch of storage space out of your bathroom? A toe kick drawer can turn that usually empty space along the floor into an additional storage space for less commonly used items, or a backup stash of paper rolls. These should be well constructed to avoid scraping your floors or becoming stuck, so be prepared to spend a bit more than a typical drawer.

8. Tip-out drawers.

In places where you can’t really fit a true drawer, consider a small tip-out compartment. It won’t hold much but will give a home to things like a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Drawer Organization

So you’ve got your perfectly designed set of drawers and compartments — or you have the vanity your bathroom came with and you have to make the best of it. There are still many more ways to take your storage up a few notches.

Cabinets & Designs, original photo on Houzz

9. Semi-adjustable compartments.

Either a new or existing drawer can be fitted with a semi-fixed divider system like this one, which will stay rigidly in place during daily use but can be adjusted to hold different products over time as needed. A built-in system like this will create the most elegant look, but you can find similar systems from various companies that use springs or adjustable parts to fit to your drawer interior tightly.

10. Reconfigurable bins.

For a similar result at a lower price, use individual plastic mini-bins to break up your drawer into compartments. Unless you find a set of bins perfectly sized for your drawer, there likely will be slivers of wasted space, but it can be more than worth it to have a specific place for everything. You’ll avoid losing items and know exactly where to find anything you need during a busy morning.

11. Vertical dividers.

Have too many deep drawers and need to store some additional small items? Try dividing a drawer up into slim, vertical compartments and storing items standing up. Make-up compacts, razors, lip balms, and other skinny items can be stored this way to avoid having different items piled on top of each other.

To truly maximize the use of small compartments and dividers, consider taking your small products out of the packaging so you can pack them in much more tightly. Individually wrapped items — Q-tips and the like — will take up much less space unboxed. This may seem like extra work, but the boxes will have to be disposed of at some point anyway, so you might as well go ahead and have the products out where they’re easy to grab and you’ll enjoy the extra space.

Rylex Custom Cabinetry and Closets, original photo on Houzz

12. Tool slots.

This is another option that requires a custom installation but can be a DIY project if you’re handy. By creating a space specifically designed to hold a commonly used tool like a blowdryer, you can keep it upright and ready to grab, adding a little convenience to your daily routine. You can achieve this by adding a fitted box with a hole in the top to fit the nozzle, with or without a removable cup to catch debris.

Completing your tool drawer with a built-in power source will keep cords from cluttering your look. These are most easily added during initial construction and installation of the vanity, but sometimes they can be added retroactively by opening the wall behind the drawer or rerouting power from a nearby outlet, depending on your electrical layout and the accessibility of your vanity interior.

13. Stylish trays.

Lastly, sometimes you can declutter your vanity only so far, and you may need or want to keep a few items on the counter. Gathering these items on a tray can give your vanity a much more organized look, turning an array of loose products into a stylish presentation in a snap.

Related Links:

Pick the Perfect Bathroom Vanity Setup
Stock Up on Drawer Dividers and Organizers
Bathroom Ideas to Bookmark Today

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