Storage may come to be the defining word of 21st-century interior design and nowhere in the home is that fact likely to be more true than in the bathroom, the smallest room in the house. 

Vanity units aren’t just storage, they are closed storage, making them the perfect place to hide away unsightly necessities so that there is a place for everything without that place being visible.

These days, there is a huge range of vanity units from which to choose, so we’ve put together a brief guide to help you choose the right one.

Start with looking at where the vanity unit is going to go

The obvious answer is under the sink and if you’re just updating an existing bathroom, then it’s probably most sensible to choose a vanity unit that will fit into the sink’s current location as moving around plumbing will probably cause upheaval and expense.

If, however, you’re carrying out a major refurbishment anyway, then you probably want to think about the best locations for your appliances, including your sink and vanity unit, in your current situation.

For example, you may have opted to remove an old bath and replace it with a modern, self-contained shower cabin, thereby freeing up floor space and increasing your options for your bathroom.

Look at what size of vanity unit you can realistically accommodate

When you buy a vanity unit, the vendor will usually state the dimensions of the unit with the cupboard(s) and drawer(s) closed.

Obviously, for a vanity unit to be of any use to you, you need to be able to open the cupboard(s) and drawer(s) so remember to account for this when deciding how big a vanity unit you can realistically accommodate.

Also, keep in mind that this size is a limit rather than a target, in other words, maximizing storage has to be balanced with practicality and aesthetics.

Decide whether you want a wall-mounted vanity unit or a floor-standing vanity unit

Wall-hung vanity units can trick the eye into thinking that a bathroom is bigger than it is and also help to make for smooth floor cleaning since the mop (or vacuum cleaner) will not have to work around the vanity unit.

On the other hand, you’re giving up a bit of your vertical storage space and if you have young children in the house, you’re going to have to make sure you always keep a close eye on them.

Whenever they’re in the bathroom to stop them from deciding to use a wall-hung vanity unit as an item of play equipment and potentially pull it off the wall (down on top of themselves).

A floor-standing vanity unit will maximize every last bit of vertical storage, but it will create more of a visual impact and you’ll have to work around it while you clean.

Hint – corner vanity units and vanity & WC combo units can be ideal for small/awkward spaces

Think you can’t quite squeeze a vanity unit into your small space? Think again.

Manufacturers have realized that small spaces are exactly where the storage options and streamlined look of vanity units come in most useful and have responded to the demand for them.

Corner units can help to prevent space from being wasted in a small bathroom (or even a larger one if you have other plans for it).

Vanity & WC combo units not only help to make the most of the tightest spaces but help to give a streamlined, seamless look, which can open up a smaller space visually.

This is why they’re particularly popular for cloakrooms, but could, feasibly be used for larger bathrooms.

Think about your storage requirements (now and in the future)

These days, vanity units come in all kinds of forms from those which are just one large cupboard or one supersize drawer to those which are a combination of lots of small cupboards and drawers via all shades in between.

As is generally the case, there is no right or wrong, just what suits you and your needs now and in the future.

If you want maximum space for storing larger items, then cupboards are generally the way to go and you can always subdivide (and hence organize) them with storage containers as, when, and if your needs change in the future.

On the other hand, if you want to keep the whole family organized then you could choose a vanity unit that gives everyone their own drawer.

Just remember that the easy accessibility of vanity units does mean you have to think a little about what you put in them if there are young children around, anything sharp or small enough to be put in a mouth should be elsewhere.

Choose your color

White is often the default choice for bathrooms and it’s perfectly understandable why, but there are plenty of other options.

You can stick with the principle of classic neutral by opting for wood tones, or be a little bolder, for example with dramatic black.

Hint – if you do go for white, it’s easy to ring in the changes by covering your vanity unit with contact paper.

Obviously, it’s not going to last as long as a professional finish, but it’s an affordable and easy way to give an existing cabinet a quick facelift and if you don’t like it or decide you want a change, it’s equally easy to swap it out for something new.

Be prepared to pay for quality

While it can be fun to give a vanity unit a new look with a simple DIY, the fact is that you still need the underlying vanity unit to be of high quality so that it will stand up to life in a bathroom, where there can be significant changes in temperature and where it can get very humid.

Because of this, it’s usually a good idea to steer clear of “bargain basement” vanity units and to look for brand names you can trust to last the long term.