The prevailing design trend of the moment can be summed up in three words--less is more--and bath vanities are no exception to this style trend.
For many design pros and consumers, clean lines are in, while fussy details, decoration, and complex curves are out. The most recent National Kitchen & Bath Association Design Trends Report backs up this trend, finding that transitional and contemporary styles have overtaken traditional as the most popular among designers and their clients.
“Transitional and contemporary are expected to be the top bathroom styles in the next few years,” the report says.
The manufacturer has reissued the classic Starck 1 Barrel vanity by Philippe Starck from 1994. Available in a variety of new finishes and colors, the unit is made from glued plywood covered with either wood veneer or a paintable laminate that accepts a high-gloss paint, while the inside features a glass shelf.
One product that is certainly trending modern is the bath vanity. Architect Jill Neubauer says her clients are asking for wall-mount vanities that are off the floor and sidewalls but offer open shelving with some drawers. Flexible storage and space for towels are also on client wish lists, says the principal of Jill Neubauer Architects, in Falmouth, Mass.
Manufacturers say all demographics are opting for modern and transitional vanities, but the wall-hung type is by far the most popular, giving spaces an immediate contemporary vibe but also providing designers with the flexibility to install the vanity at any height. “Thirty-six inches is not an uncommon counter height, but we customize to the height of the shortest adult in the household,” Neubauer says.
Wall-hung vanities also have a functional aspect: They make small bathrooms feel more spacious and make it easier for homeowners to clean the floor underneath.
Like a Shoji screen, the Frame collection takes its inspiration from traditional Japanese architectural principles, the manufacturer says. The line uses a combination of mixed materials such as powder-coated aluminum, natural walnut or oak, and colored lacquered glass. Other options include LED lighting, mirror defogger, and flush-mounted electrical outlets.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen vanities morphing from a simple box shape into products that are more of a design element,” says Bob Gifford, director of bath products at Hastings Tile & Bath. “There are myriad materials to work with, many more finishes and styles, and the biggest change seems to be the increased interest in moving that box off the floor.”
Designers can source wall-hung vanities from a variety of brands, such as Blu Bathworks, The Furniture Guild, Hastings Tile & Bath, Kohler, Kallista, WetStyle, and many more. Units are available in a range of sizes, and materials include new or salvaged wood, wood veneer, MDF, metal, and lacquer.
The vanity collection by Laura Kirar is available in a golden Cerused Oak or in glossy White Lacquer and is fitted with two pull-out, slow close drawers. Raised on two smooth, straight solid cast brass legs that can be customized in a jewelry cut foot, it comes in Antique American Bronze, Unlacquered Brass, Nickel Silver, Antique Nickel Silver and Polished Chrome KALLISTA living finishes.
But wall-hung isn’t the only modern style trending. Some manufacturers offer a hybrid that features two front legs for additional support. Designer Laura Kirar has collaborated with Kallista on several bath lines that include such products. One of her most recent collections includes a vanity that’s available in a golden Cerused Oak or in glossy White Lacquer. “I’ve always had an attraction to white oak for its strong yet soft textural quality,” Kirar says. “And with the addition of a cerused finish, it has greater interest and depth.”
The cabinet is fitted with two slow-close drawers and is raised on two cast-brass legs that can be customized in a jewelry cut foot to match Pinna Paletta or Vir Stil (two other collections the designer produced for the brand).
Not long ago, Sante Fe, N.M.-based Stone Forest introduced the Elemental vanity line, an entirely new type of bathroom collection, the company says. A modular suite of vanities and integrated sinks, the collection consists of brass legs with knurled fittings supporting a combination of stone, wood, and steel components.
The Series 900 wall-mount vanity measures 35½ inches wide and features a unique 45-degree joint on the two lower angles. It has a slim inner drawer and larger bottom drawer for storage and drawer organization elements. The frame is available in Natural Oak or White Matte lacquer finish and Distressed Oak by special request.
“The brass legs are designed to go through each component allowing the designer to put together a vanity or storage element to suit their needs,” the company says. “The brass running through each drawer is then visible when opened, providing a nice surprise and a solid tie to the modular nature of the system. This unique modular concept allows you to combine integral stone sinks, wood drawers, and steel or wood shelving in unlimited combinations to create bath consoles and stand-alone storage systems.”
Providing necessary storage for cleaning supplies and other personal sundry items is an important function for a bath vanity. But consumers now want, even demand, products that offer myriad built-in accessories, says designer April Force Pardoe.
The Solace 48-inch solid oak vanity features two full-extension drawers and a NativeStone solid surface top to create a streamlined look in the bath, the company says. It’s available in Midnight Oak and Sunrise Oak as well as a 30-inch size for smaller spaces.
“Clients want vanities with built-in storage and outlets for blow-dryers and curling irons, and they’re also interested in other storage features like a flip-down drawer face at the sink,” says the principal of Force Pardoe Interiors, in Elkridge, Md. “It’s great for a toothbrush, floss, and paste. More drawers for storage is always a plus.”
Like most designers, Pardoe prefers vanities that maximize storage options with inserts and as many drawers as possible.
“I like very clean lines on my cabinets, like a Shaker door with wider stiles and rails, and I often prefer flat-panel drawers, especially when the drawer front is small,” she says.
The modular Urban Style Collection offers floor- and wall-mount vanities in multiple sizes and various door and drawer configurations. Available in a range of finishes, the vanities can be paired with a solid-surface, cement resin, high-pressure laminate, or porcelain countertop.
Depending on the client and the size of the bath, storage can be a serious concern for wall-hung vanities. Though they’re popular, the design of these units inherently means fewer drawers and less cabinet space. As a result, trade professionals are often required to provide additional storage elsewhere in the bathroom or to select wider products with more drawer space.
These shortcomings of wall-mount units mean floor-standing vanities will remain relevant with many homeowners and buyers. The good news is that the average vanity now offers more finish options, styles, colors, and features. As one manufacturer put it, boring vanities are out and interesting freestanding units are hot.
The Elemental Collection of vanities and integrated sinks is composed of brass legs with knurled fittings supporting a combination of stone, wood, and steel components. Legs are designed to go through each element, allowing the designer to put together a vanity or storage unit to suit their specific storage needs. Legs and fittings are available in aged brass or polished nickel, and the wood drawers can be custom painted.