Decorating trends come and go, and what was popular years ago now seems incredibly dated (think gold and green shag carpeting from the '70s, along with heavy drapery and faux Tuscan furniture). Luckily, what's "in" for bathroom vanities this coming year is a lot more practical and basic than in years past.
According to Patricia Dunlop, owner of Boise-based Fine Kitchens and Baths, bathroom vanities will have clean lines, plenty of storage space and great lighting in 2013. "Cabinetry in general is moving toward simpler, cleaner lines — either a flat panel or a shaker style door," Dunlop notes. "Perhaps this is in response to the spa-like feel people are after: clean, quiet spaces with interesting details — but not fussy."
Many homeowners are opting for non-traditional woods to help get that personal spa look. Rift-cut woods, which have very straight grains, have become increasingly popular as have laminates with straight patterns, bamboo, zebra and other exotic species of wood. These choices add character and style to a bathroom without overwhelming the small space.
"Floating vanities" are becoming more popular because they take up less visual space in the bathroom and create a more modern look. Dunlop advises that these vanities should be hung at least a foot off the floor to give a good sense of space, and suggests adding under-cabinet lighting to create more depth.
If you're considering a switch from the traditional vanity to a wall-mount, take a look at your plumbing. A wall-mount vanity requires plumbing that comes out of the wall rather than the floor, so you may need to call in a pro to rework your pipes.
Plumbing is bound to take up a lot of the space inside your bathroom cabinet, but more manufacturers are learning to work around it. Many vanities on the market today have partial depth or U-shaped drawers that fit around pipes, allowing for more storage space. Dunlop suggests using a roll out drawer or adjustable shelving in the sink base cabinet to allow for better access to items stored there.
To add even more storage space, think vertical. "Add vertical storage between double sinks to divide the space between the two users," advises Dunlop. Like the cabinets used to hide appliances in kitchens, this space can house your blow dryer, curling iron, lotion, hairbrush or any other tools you use every day. Add spice rack style shelving on the door and store brushes, hair product and other essentials inside. Additional storage space can get expensive, but it will make your life a lot easier — especially on those mornings you're really in a rush to get out the door.
No matter what type of vanity you choose, Dunlop advises consumers to focus on quality. Poorly built cabinetry can quickly break down in the humid environment of the bathroom, which means you could end up spending more on replacements in the long run. If you live in a particularly humid area, consider one-piece MDF or laminate cabinet doors to eliminate the shrinking and expanding of joints in the door frame.
(Photo: Patricia Dunlop)Taller cabinets — often three feet tall or kitchen counter height — are on-trend right now, so make sure that height works for you in the store before you purchase a cabinet and install it at home.
If your bathroom vanity looks dated but new cabinetry isn't in your budget, don't worry. A coat of paint or stain and some new hardware can brighten up any old fixtures. Dunlop suggests using hardware with contemporary, clean lines to modernize an old cabinet.
If your vanity is low, like many older ones, try a vessel sink that sits on top of the counter to dress up your bathroom. You can also look into wall-mounted faucets which have a clean, modern look.
Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.