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The question of the vanity

Are you a planner?

I’d shake my head vehemently NO to that. I am not a planner. I wing it and hope for the best. I jump in with both feet and trust that everything will work out, because doesn’t it always? That’s what you call unwise optimism, to an absolute, undeniable fault, wrapped in a package of impatience and impulsivity.

I’m working on it, guys. Step one is admitting you have a problem.

Step two is thanking your spouse for ever marrying you, because his patience and wisdom are sometimes the only things keeping me from almost certain self-destruction, or at the very least, from accidentally ruining our bathroom remodel.

Anyway: the bathroom. I’ve realized that I can’t just go buy a bunch of things and hope they’ll work out okay in there. I need to make sure the plan is solid before we order up some tile and take a sledgehammer to things. I mean, probably.

The first major hurdle is the configuration of the vanity wall. I thought it would be really simple at first, but with my finger hovered over the “Submit order” button on an online tile purchase, I realized perhaps I should back up and just double-check that the plan in my head would work out?

It ended up being a lot more complicated than I realized. Here’s that wall right now:
Looking at it straight-on, this is mostly to scale:
This is also mostly to scale:
Traffic Captain_origin1.jpg(I’m buttering him up for the work ahead. #MaybeI’mAPlannerAfterAll.)

There’s a wall-to-wall counter with dual sinks, set atop two cabinets and a completely useless vanity area in between.

Are there people who use those vanity areas anymore? Who has time to perch themselves upon a vanity stool, wrapped up in a cozy robe and probably a feather boa, sipping mimosas, for three hours while they carefully apply their makeup in perfect peace?

(Is that just me being a mom-to-preschoolers talking? On the rare occasions when I apply makeup, I have about 30 seconds to slap it on while little people run around my feet, sometimes grabbing my makeup brushes from the bathroom counter and holding them precariously over the toilet bowl.)

Cabinet option 1

We tossed around the idea of ripping out the entire vanity cabinet area and replacing it with a new piece of furniture, or with a premade vanity from the store. I whipped up some little photoshop renderings to see what that might look like:
Bathroom design plan - vanity smaller than the wall
(Don’t pay much attention to the design or finishes. My plan changes daily and I was just playing around here.)

See all that extra wall space on either side of the vanity? In order to go with a premade vanity, the whole piece would have to be significantly shorter than the entire wall. Right now, our vanity takes up the entire 89-inch nook. But most premade vanities are only about 72 inches long, so we’d lose a good 17 inches of counter space, and the vanity might end up feeling dwarfed on that wall.

That’s not the craziest idea, though. Here are a few bathrooms where the vanity is smaller than the width of the wall:
Bathroom vanity that's shorter than the wall

Refined LLC

Bathroom vanity with gaps on the side

We thought long and hard, and almost pulled the trigger on this plan. But ultimately we both agreed we’d regret losing that valuable counter space. What I mean is: I’d regret losing that counter space. Andy gets about four inches of counter space for his toothbrush and contacts case, and my makeup-and-beauty-product-explosion takes up the rest.

(If I’m being real, the makeup and beauty products are just going to expand to take up whatever space they’re allotted, but that’s out of my control.)

Cabinet option 2

Next we considered buying two smaller premade vanities like this:
Dual bathroom vanities

Design by Sarah Richardson via HGTV

And maybe even finding a way to connect them, like this:
dual bathroom vanities, connected in the center

Dual built-in bathroom vanities
House & Home

But that would still either limit our countertop length, or create that same useless vanity area. It just didn’t seem like the best call. So we moved on to option 3.

Cabinet option 3

See also: The Thrifty Option

For this option, we’d leave our current cabinets and reconfigure them to be more functional for the way we live our lives. We’d retrofit that empty center area with cabinets or drawers so it would become built-in storage, then fix up the existing doors so it all looks a little fancier/less boring and builder-grade.

So while it looks like this now:
We would change the center area to look more like this:
We’ll essentially just be keeping the cabinet boxes, but building out the center and adding drawers, plus replacing the existing cabinet doors with something more custom.

The benefit of this plan is that we already have a beautiful marble countertop that will (we hope) fit perfectly on top of the existing cabinets. I found it at the Habitat Restore, and it was basically the most gigantic miracle of all time: it has two sinks, in exactly the same place as our existing sinks, with faucet holes already drilled, and it’s long enough to fit wall-to-wall in that space. AND it was 20% off.

AND we’ve been storing it our garage in anticipation of this project since 2011.

Andy’s has been thrilled to donate a large portion of our garage to this unused countertop for the last three years.

So option 3 it is! But there are a lot of issues this option presents. I’ll show you those issues and what I’m thinking in the next post. I’m not quite sure how to fix ’em yet, so more to come!

Good thing I’m planning this out, right? There’s something to be said for this whole planning thing. Are you a planner? Do you use your vanity area? Are there mimosas involved?

Let's connect


  1. Drool! Your plans look amazing and so does Andy! LOL

  2. when in doubt, choose c, don’t you remember that from multiple choice tests? so good planning and decision making. and i have met andy and can vouch for that pic being to scale.

  3. So my parent’s had the SAME problem in their master bathroom before they renovated. And normally, I don’t comment on blogs because, I’m more of a drive by reader, you know?
    But anyway, my dad took that useless vanity space(seriously, WHO USES THAT?) And made it a pull out laundry hamper! He basically made one giant drawer, split it into two boxes and put faux drawer fronts on it and then put it on a heavy duty drawer track to pull out, I wish I had pictures of it actually at work, because it’s genius, but here’s some pictures I posted on my blog(I’m not trolling this post, I never blog anymore but I understand the 90’s vanity problem and this solution is so much better than shelving or the like)
    You can see where the vanity used to be a vanity, and then the new filled in space.
    Hope this helps give you ideas, can’t wait to see how yours turns out!

    • *GASP.* I had not even considered a laundry hamper! BRILLIANT! Thanks so much for coming out of drive-by-lurkdom for the super helpful idea. Off to see your pics now!

      • too funny! I was going to add that I never knew what a bathroom “vanity” was when I was a kid. It was the spot where the laundry hamper went…. And that is what I do as an adult too. Great idea having it be a built in!

        • I’m an apartment dweller who has one of those vanity cavities and i stick a regular laundry basket in that spot. On the days that I daydream about being able to redo my place (were it my own) I always imagined filling that spot with a pull out laundry hamper thats twice the size of the one I have there now!

  4. I love the thrifty idea! Any time you can save money, I’m all about it. It’s always my favorite option. I’m not predictable at all.
    And to be totally honest with you, that is EXACTLY how I get ready in the morning, except that I’ve also got my perfectly cleaned and brushed toddler sitting quietly on my knee as I apply my makeup….Not touching anything, especially not my lipstick. And she doesn’t have dried banana or milk on her face or anything… And she doesn’t fuss, she just lets me take as long as I want and never objects!

  5. Oooh that piece of marble would have been MOCKING ME – MOCKING ME I TELL YOU! I love your option 3, it totally makes the most sense! I’m doing a little updating on my own vanity area (in my dressing room – actually the whole room is getting a refresh) but it would never in a million years have fitted in my bathroom remodel regardless. I am a little in awe of the amount of space in US bathrooms. Sigh.


  6. I have a glorified pedestal sink, but when by some miracle I have both orange juice and champagne in my refrigerator I most certainly have mimosas regardless of my vanity-less situation. Mimosas for president!

  7. Taylor Carl says:

    Option C is going to be easiest to clean. I don’t know if that helps you feel confident in your decision or not. We have a golden retriever and two cats and I am not a fan of cleaning underneath the useless vanity section that we also have. I like Option C the best anyway, though, because I also like counter space. Option B is super pretty with separate vanities for each of you but let’s be real…Andy would never use all his counter space like you would. Can’t wait to read what’s next 🙂

  8. plan, plan, play … okay that last one was a typo. I like your last idea a lot. Another way to get the size you want is to use kitchen cabinets….

  9. Option 3 is the exact layout I have. When we remodel I think we’ll keep our cabinet base but I’d like a solid counter with copper vessel sinks. I’ve had a love affair with copper since I bought my 1st house in 2003 and am determined to have hammered copper sinks in my life. Swoon!

  10. Definitely option 3 – who needs wasted space in a bathroom and counter space is always a premium. You could also do shelving under that center drawer with lovely baskets to bring in a natural or rustic element.

  11. I like the last option too! That is our same configuration and it works well for us. I like storage that I can close off and not see the disaster of failed beauty products and hair appliances that I never use and that would work. I also like the idea in the comments above of a hamper cabinet, that’s kind of cool!

  12. If you aren’t concerned about symmetry why not push the remade one to one side and then build open shelving on one side for linens and things? Or you could use a smaller counter with a narrow linen shelf/shelves on either side. Open shelving to put baskets and towels

  13. I don’t know, I’m too overwhelmed with all the wonderful options for your vanity. You pick. I’ll head right to the artwork, and I pick a framed Captain Andy Pants on the wall for a pop of color.

  14. Option 3 sounds like the best idea. To get some of your makeup and such off the counter you might consider installing shallow upper cabinets on either end, or one in the middle. I have two 6″ deep upper cabinets and everything fits in them except for a small amount of makeup I have in a drawer. No more toothbrushes and such hanging out on the counters!

  15. My projects always start with mimosa’s and end with something celebratory like a great wine, or not so celebratory like tequila!

  16. Looks great! We have a plan on doing option 3 as well. However, I would like to raise the current vanity and then add wood to the front to make it look like legs. I don’t want space underneath because to me, that’s just a pain to clean with all of the hair I lose! I do love the idea of the hamper, but I planned on adding that on the opposite wall when we revamp ours (hopefully next year!) with a cabinet for linens as well. As for the vanity, I am one that uses one, but it’s in our actual bedroom. I do not use the bathroom one. I, however, do not have young children under foot! No mimosas involved, however. 😀 Now, quit stalling and get on that project already! Jus’ sayin’…..

  17. I had one of those useless vanity areas in an efficiency apartment (weird, I know). I immediately did the cheap and temporary version of Option 3 and put in some ugly plastic storage bins and covered them with a curtain. It added a bunch of storage, and was generally helpful in keeping other areas clean. I did appreciate that the vanity area had a shallow drawer, about the depth of a pencil drawer, that was the whole width of the space. I put some drawer organizers in there, and it kept my makeup nice and accessible. My makeup could explode in there, and then I could close the drawer. It definitely helped to keep the counter top clean. (That was reserved for my jewelry explosion. But you already have your fabulous closet for that.) I never once sat down at it, but it was the best setup for make up I’ve ever had.

  18. You have had a perfect piece of marble hiding out in your garage?! Lucky woman. I like Option 3 the best. I’m a beauty supply and make-up hoarder (I’m admitting my problem!) so I need all the storage I can use.

  19. I love vanities that look more like standalone furniture, the pic from Refined LLC is gorgeous! We went with something similar (but not nearly as luxe) for our bathroom renovations on our small NYC bathrooms.

    However, I think that only works if you’re not as concerned with coutnertop space. Since that is an important feature for you your plan sounds right on. And less costly! I look forward to the In Progress pictures.

  20. Oh my goodness, we have the EXACT same vanity with the same useless makeup area! We were thinking of ripping it out and starting over, but I never thought about building in storage in the “wasted” space. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing.

  21. The house we just moved into has the exact same vanity in the middle of the double sinks. So annoying. There is also one in the kids bathroom (it could have been a double, but they put a vanity spot on one side. UGH!) We have talked about putting shelving in those dead spaces. I cant wait to see what you do!

  22. Oh, why can’t we be a happy medium? I am the opposite of you. My planning causes paralysis. So, you jump in and get lots done (with maybe a few mistakes along the way), and I take years to plan out minute details and then change my mind five times (and reorganize all the details multiple times) before the project finally gets finished (either that, or I just never start the project at all). So sad. I wish I was more of a jumper and less of a planner. 🙂

  23. I would leave the vanity the way it is except take off the doors and add open shelves. I would concentrate on mirrors, lighting and new hardware for the sink. Of course you can always add drawers in the middle. I just have to say I enjoy reading your blog!

  24. we did something like option 2 because we have a cabinet warehouse about 45 minutes north of us. we got our two vanities for a steal, so we just had a custom countertop made. it was easy and still less than some of the bids we got for all custom. but i would have gone with your option 3 if i would’ve scored a deal too! we are all about deals. and i’m also with you on the beauty explosion on your side of the vanity. oops.

  25. You ask do I do any planning? Yes. I do. I plan down to the inch because I love to get out the grid paper and fresh pencil and metal ruler and create a little fantasy world. Which is what it is, because I lose One day I shall find them, all curled up and dead, when we pack up to move into our fantasy mansion. (Love the hamper option mentioned above btw!)

  26. This looks fantastic. And we already know you can build a mean drawer! This is going to be awesome. Can’t wait to see your slab!!

  27. i’m a planner! but not so much when doing home projects. or maybe i’m just a poor planner when it comes to home projects because they always seem to be riddled with problems and 20 trips to lowe’s and/or home depot. i love all of the options but i always wonder about the vanities with the legs or open shelving. am i the only one whose bathroom gets filthy and has hairballs? i like everything enclosed and the vanity being flush with the floor. makes cleaning a little bit easier. so maybe i’m a bad planner, but i am super practical. 😉 and tell your husband that when we got our new master bathroom vanity, it actually sat outside our front door for months. and i mean we had to crawl over it to get in the house. yikes!

  28. 1. I am jealous of your Restore marble miracle. I need one of those, too. 2. Filling up that space in the middle with drawers is genius and had literally never occurred to me before. I thought I HAD to have a chair in that space, scratching up my new tile every time the baby slid it across the floor. Hmm….

  29. I am one of those people who LOVE a vanity area! I had one in our old house, and have missed it terribly for the past two years. I have some extra space in my bathroom right next to our sink now, and I have a stool sitting there, and just pull it up every day to the left end of the sink so I can sit down and do my makeup. I have been sitting down to do my makeup since high school and can’t imagine doing it any other way. And I have three kids, a full time job, and a blog. It isn’t a time thing to me. Because it takes me no more or less time either way, it is just that I can get up closer to a mirror sitting down than I can standing up I think. Anyhoo, I am sure whichever option you choose will be fabuless, and I can’t wait to see the end result!!

  30. We have a very similar layout and we were able to put in a cabinet w a pullout laundry basket for that space. Works great and laundry bin lifts out to take to the laundry room.

  31. There has been an unused countertop in your garage since 2011


  32. I am so not a planner. My normal mode is what I prefer to call unbridled optimism. (Sounds better than unwise, don’t you think?) i think option 3 will look great, plus give you extra room and avoid having things drop off the edge of a smaller vanity.

  33. I have no vanity on purpose; what’s the point? Why would I sit down when I do that at work all day anyway?

    Definitely not a planner. I used to be, but now I’m more of a cogitater: I think about it for a few weeks then out pops a decision, to my husband’s surprise. I’m so sure of myself that I don’t have time for things like measuring and planning. It’s all perfect in my head; what could go wrong?

  34. Oh my gosh. Our bathroom is the WORST. We have the same type of thing but only have one sink and the other entire HALF of the area is a “VANITY AREA.” So dumb. So much wasted space. But here’s a confession: I USE a vanity…but mine is an actual piece of lovely furniture. I have serious love for vanities. No mimosas involved, though… I wish! We ALSO don’t have kids yet so it may become useless when I do…

  35. Look at you being the best planner. Planning is overrated so don’t sweat it! I feel like Superhero Andy is pretty much exactly like real Andy. He needs a mask to fool us.

  36. LOL – I never understood the “vanity area” in master baths. Glad to hear I’m not the only one.

    Can’t wait to see what you and Super Andy come up with.

  37. I think option 3 is exactly what I would do too. I like other options as well but I can just see myself dropping things in between the wall and vanity and having trouble cleaning in those tiny/useless spaces! After living in our little farmhouse, I actually prefer our tiny pedestal sinks because I have no room to leave out my makeup. It forces me to put things away and stay more organized! Sounds silly but it has really worked for me 🙂

  38. Someone may have suggested this but… what if you replaced the vanity? Not with a one-piece deal but with two wider–maybe 30″?–bases, as in kitchen cabinetry from Habitat, let’s say. And then build out the middle space with shelves, as the picture you’ve saved. The middle shelves would be narrower than the two outside cabinets but you’d be able to get the mirrors you want as well as not lose any space in terms of a smaller vanity. And you can paint the thing out–that you’ve done plenty of–and make it look like one big vanity. Just a thought…

  39. Love option 3. I’m so glad you posted this. We are in the process of renovating our 3 baths and have the SAME exact problem with our master bath vanity however our wall is 103″!!! I love your idea about keeping the existing vanity and building the middle out to be usable. My question is we have builder grade white laminate cabinets. I would think maybe we would could do the same as you and just replace the doors/ drawers?? I don’t think I’d want to keep them white but can you repaint laminate?!


  1. […] I took this photo this morning, so THIS IS REAL LIFE, y’all. Ain’t pretty. In the last post, we settled on the vanity cabinet […]

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