Bathroom Furniture Buying Guide

Where to start

Bathroom furniture is a great way to enhance a bathroom look – just a few smart changes can be all it takes to turn a room around. For example, pair an elegant upholstered chair in a patterned fabric with a vintage or second-hand cupboard, then paint the walls in subtle hues of greys or greens. Or if a minimalist bathroom is more your thing then think white: a white chair and a white cupboard disappearing against a backdrop of white walls to give the illusion of space.

Make small spaces work hard with a corner cupboard, for example, that nestles into the nook of a cloakroom or a skinny vanity unit with storage underneath. Bigger bathrooms can handle cupboards in bigger proportions, and there might be space for more than one – just don’t overcrowd the room so be selective about what you really need. Ultimately, tick the boxes for function and decoration with your bathroom furniture and you’ll be winning.

Where to start

Draw a plan. It’s a good idea to draw a scaled drawing of your bathroom floor on graph paper. Then make scaled drawings of the fittings you already have, or the fittings you want to buy allowing for the circulation space around them. This will then show you where the gaps are for furniture – don’t forget there’s plenty of opportunity in the vertical wall space too!

What are your storage needs? Towels, toilet roll and toiletries are some of the basics you’ll need to store but you may also want to have a place for cleaning products, laundry and linen like bed sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers. But stay realistic about the cupboard and cabinet sizes you can fit in.

Who’s using the bathroom? You may be the one that jumps in the shower, cleans your teeth and exits. How about other family members? Consider activities like shaving, applying make-up, soaking in the bath, playing in the bath. All these undertakings need a handy place for storing the relevant items.

Practicalities

Look for wall-hung furniture that does double the job, like basins moulded or mounted to wall-hung vanity units with drawers, doors or open shelves underneath. Pull-out a drawer (flick closed with a gentle soft close) and you’ll be able to see and reach everything inside, such as make-up or a shaving kit, which is great when paired with a mirrored cabinet above. Mirrors reflect light and the shallow design is good for storing medicines out of reach. Be aware that wall-hung vanity units can get quite heavy because of the basin so use a wall frame if the unit is being mounted to a plasterboard wall.

Freestanding furniture has its merits too – particularly if you live in a rented property and are likely to move. Cupboards with doors and adjustable shelves inside are handy if you want to store tall bottles of bathroom toiletries or cleaning products, as well as have a space to hide the loo roll. Some furniture might need fixing to the wall to keep the unit steady. But this doesn’t mean you can’t undo the screws and change the furniture around or take it with you if you move.

Even the humble shelf has its place in the bathroom. In a narrow shape, where furniture and fixtures on both sides would cramp the room, lean a ladder shelf opposite fixtures or mount a long, narrow shelf to the wall. Use for towels or to display bathroom accessories like candles, a diffuser or pretty ornaments.

If you’re renovating and space permits, ask your builder to create a recess inside a new plasterboard wall for an in-built alcove shelf – perfect for the shower, above the loo or next to the basin.

Remember electricity in the bathroom needs to comply with Building Regulations and be connected by a qualified electrician. Electrical bathroom products, like a mirrored cabinet illuminated with LEDs and/or a shaver point, have a zone rating so you know where they can be used. For example, zone one is above the bath and zone two is above the basin.

Materials

Bathroom furniture needs to be able to cope with heat and damp and is usually constructed from solid wood, MFC (melamine faced chipboard) or MDF (medium density fibreboard), a wood fibre and resin glue composite. Mirrored cabinets tend to be made from stainless steel.     

MDF and MFC furniture can be vinyl- laminate- or acrylic-wrapped in a range of colours and finishes for a water resistant finish. The key here is making sure the furniture has sealed edges so no moisture can become trapped. Our Premier engineered range, like Thorpe and MyDesign are made with 18mm MDF and are laminated inside and out, top and bottom, including the corners.

Solid wood looks great in the bathroom but as a natural material it is more likely to absorb water than MDF and this can cause cracks or warping. Don’t leave puddles of water on a wood surface and remember to always buff dry. Apply a layer of varnish to seal the surface or regularly treat the wood with oil. Iroko is a good wood choice because it has a naturally high oil content while bamboo is water, mildew and mould resistant. Price-wise, solid wood tends to be more expensive than MDF.

In all cases, it’s important to maintain the life of your bathroom furniture by keeping damp and humidity at bay. Install a bathroom fan and open the windows after a hot shower or bath.

Look out for the guarantees available with bathroom furniture.

Aesthetics

Without a doubt, the style of furniture goes a long way in dictating the overlook look and appeal of a bathroom. The crisp clean lines of wall-hung furniture work for a modern aesthetic as do open shelves where you might want to make a feature of spare towels or display storage baskets. Look for a handle-less design with soft close drawers and doors in a minimalist bathroom.

Glossy furniture in white bounce light around a dark room and can also create a minimalist style when coupled with white fixtures and fittings against white-painted walls and a neutral floor. Glossy black can introduce an element of glamour into the bathroom when accessorised with metallic and purple, while gloss grey is a great on-trend contemporary colour that provides a gentle contrast with white bathroom fittings.

Wood is a versatile material with plain finishes in pale tones having a more modern feel than darker colours with intricate detailing, and chunky pieces look rustic. Wood is tactile and warm and can make a bathroom feel cosy in contrast to white bathroom fittings. Enhance this idea with open shelves displaying soft, fluffy towels and choosing curtains or a roman blind in a textured fabric.

Go for freestanding furniture in wood or painted wood in matt colours of greys, creams and soft greens if you prefer a more traditional feel. Enhance this idea by choosing cupboards with shaker-style doors or detailing in the wood. An inset basin with lever or cross-head taps will complete the look.

If you don’t want the real thing, then wood-effect is a way of introducing a modern wood look into the bathroom. All kinds of finishes are available from oak through to zebra, for example.

Of course there are no rules with bathroom furniture. If an eclectic finish is more your style, then mix and match floorstanding furniture for a loose fitting feel that will make your bathroom feel bespoke.

The Types

Cupboards and cabinets

Available in a range of colours, finishes, shapes and dimensions from the tall and thin to short and squat, and can be freestanding or mounted to the wall. For example, the Salisbury freestanding tall storage unit is a great choice for a traditional style while the Trezzini wall-mounted cupboard is a stylish design with space-saving attributes at only 150mm deep but 1085mm wide.

Pros: A huge variety of choice for all budgets, styles, sizes and needs

Cons: Not all doors are interchangeable so the swing needs to be the right-way around for the bathroom layout

Costs: £70-£260

Mirror cabinets

A stainless steel wall cabinet with shelves and one, two or three hinged or sliding mirrored doors. Designs are tall and thin, short and wide, in gloss and wood-effect finishes. Some models come with a mirror inside, like the Bassi cabinet, or are backlit with LEDs such as the Dewez Illuminated cabinet. Usually placed above the basin – cabinets with electrics must be at least 60cm away from all basin edges to comply with building regulations.

Pros: A great space-saver with a mirror, storage and lighting in one. Reflects light in a dark room. Options in sizes and styles

Cons: A qualified electrician must connect any electrics  

Costs: around £110-£220

Vanity Units

A cupboard or drawers freestanding on the floor or mounted to the walls. A basin is moulded into the unit or sits on top. Some products are sold with a basin as well as the vanity unit and handles, but you might need to buy a tap and waste. Check to see what’s included in the package. If the basin has an overflow, then you will need a slotted basin waste. If the basin doesn’t have an overflow that you will need an unslotted waste to connect to the overflow. A basin that’s mounted to the top of a vanity needs a freestanding tap to stand behind or to the side.

A wall-hung vanity appears to ‘float’. The basin can be a countertop design or inset like the wall-hung vanities we sell. Designs come with cupboards, like the Rivera, or drawers, such as the Nash, and are curved or square in a range of widths and depths. Our smallest designs are 400mm wide and go up to 1100mm wide.

Pros: Set off the floor gives the illusion of space. A modern look. Drawers are easy to access

Cons: Needs a wall-frame to be hung safely and securely to a plasterboard wall. Not the best choice if you want a traditional-style bathroom

Costs: £70-£350

A freestanding vanity unit sits directly on the floor or on legs. They come with drawers or a cupboard and with an inset or countertop basin in a variety of aesthetics. Our sizes range from 300mm to 1100mm wide.

Pros: Can be moved around or taken with you when you move house. Makes the bathroom feel more bespoke

Cons: Can look big in a small room. Might still need to be fixed to the wall. Harder to locate items inside a cupboard than drawers

Costs: £70-£420

Combination units

An all-in-one toilet, basin and storage unit concealing the cistern and pipework. Comes in straight or L-shaped designs in right or left-hand styles in a variety of finishes and lengths. Our combination vanity units are between 900-1500mm wide.  A straight design has a vanity unit that is flush with the cistern. An L-shape design has a bigger basin and vanity that projects further into the room. There are also combination units with wall-hung basins, like the Thorpe 400, MyDesign 400 and Loft 400, leaving a space underneath for a bin.

They also have quick release panels for easy access to the pipes, and come pre-assembled – except for the doors, handles, basin and tap.

Pros: A great way to achieve a streamlined look with everything you need in a small or large bathroom. Allows more floor space for the shower and/or bath. Hides pipework. Easy to install. The ledge of the unit can be used as a shelf

Cons: Might look too bulky in a tiny bathroom. Not all units include a toilet, tap or waste – check what’s included in the package

Costs: £190-£430

Toilet units

A back-to-wall toilet with a boxed-in cistern hiding the pipework. Comes in a range of finishes such as gloss white, matt grey and wood-effect and sizes as small as 500mm wide like our Thorpe, Essential and Loft ranges.

Pros: A great space-saver. No need to conceal pipework in the walls. Choice of finishes. The top of the unit makes a handy shelf

Cons: No storage

Costs: £70-£110

Shapes and sizes

Space-saving furniture

Wall-hung furniture is a great way to give the illusion of space because your eye is drawn across the open floor. Tall wall cupboards, like the Burges 400 wall hung, add to the illusion, heightening the room and making use of dead space up high. Keep cupboards to one wall if you can so you don’t crowd a narrow room.

Freestanding cupboards can be great space-savers too, particularly those that stretch up to around two metres and are just 300mm wide, like the Essential White 300 Freestanding Tall Storage Unit. Also choose designs that double-up, such as mirrored cabinets, vanity units with storage underneath, and a bottom- hinged door for laundry.

Toilet units, just 500mm wide, work well in small bathrooms as the cistern and pipework are tucked away. Combination units take this one step further with a toilet, basin and storage built into one.

Rounded furniture and basins look softer in a smaller space, like our Rivera range. Go handle-less if you can (Loft range) or choose smaller knobs rather than bar handles for a sleeker finish. Keep furniture and walls the same colour to make the bathroom feel more open and spacious.

Pros: Lots of options including many specialist space-saving choices

Cons: There might not be space to pull out a drawer or swing a door. The door may not be the right way around for your bathroom layout

Costs: £70 to £420

Cloakroom Furniture

Small-scale vanity units, combination units and wall cupboards to fit into cloakrooms tight on space. Vanity units are wall-hung, freestanding or corner designs with cupboards and/or shelves. The space can be in the width with narrow proportions so the vanity fits along a wall but doesn’t project into the room, such as the 600mm x 255mm Loft White 600. Or small dimensions all around, like the 400mm x 220mm Nash 400 and square Thorpe 400 (400mm x 355mm). A tap to the side maximises the bowl size as do basins that curve out slightly. Useful features are those with a towel rail, toilet roll storage, toilet roll holder, loo brush holder.

Slimline toilet units are around 500mm wide, and some of the smallest combination units are 850mm, packing in a toilet, basin and cupboard. Look for shallow wall cupboards that don’t intrude into the room like the 800mm x 300mm mirrored Bassi cabinet.

Pros: Lots of style choices

Cons: Measure carefully so you don’t get the proportions wrong

Costs: £70 to £320

Corner Furniture

A wall-mounted corner cabinet, a free-standing corner cupboard or corner vanity unit that slots into the corner of a room. The profile can be curved or angular with drawers or doors and come in small or big sizes in a range of finishes. Our Rivera Corner Vanity Unit starts at 310mm wide. Wall-mounted corner cabinets tend to be tall and mirrored, designed to be placed above the basin. Freestanding corner cupboards are usually a combination of shelves and doors.

Pros: Useful for smaller bathrooms like cloakrooms and ensuites

Cons: Sizes are often limited

Costs: £90-£190 for a corner vanity unit

What Else?

It’s useful to have a chair or stool placed near the bath or shower for leaving clothes, a towel – or simply for having a snuggle with your little one after they come out of the bath. Upholstered chairs look stylish in a traditional bathroom or go for colourful plastic or metal for a more contemporary feel.

Laundry storage is handy, particularly a sturdy wood design with a lid that can double-up as a seat, like the Argos Monks bench style laundry box. Storage caddies with a handle or on wheels, which you can move around the room, are useful for positioning toiletries, make-up and towels exactly where you need them.

If space permits you might want to store all your linen in the bathroom. In which case you’ll need a storage trunk or a freestanding wardrobe or linen press. Vintage designs make for a pretty addition in a traditional-style bathroom.

In Short

Bathroom furniture enhances a bathroom style

Mirrored cabinets reflect light

Wall-hung furniture gives the illusion of space

Mirror cabinets with lighting and a shaver point offer more

Save space with corner furniture

A slimline vanity unit slots into a cloakroom

Freestanding furniture can be taken with you

Glossy white furniture bounces light

Inject glamour with black gloss

Grey gloss is bang on trend

Chunky wood furniture looks rustic

Pale wood suits a modern scheme

Shaker wood doors are traditional

Wall-hung furniture is contemporary

Freestanding furniture looks bespoke

A combination unit streamlines a bathroom

Tall, thin cupboards maximise wall space

Drawers are easy to access

A combination unit conceals pipework

Curved edges look softer

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