Think outside the basin when it comes to a bathroom's vanity. Designers are coming clean when considering the bathroom's furniture focal piece. Sandra Diaz-Velasco, principal architect and designer of EOLO Design in Miami, says the vanity is the place where many elements must work together.
"Whether it's a guest or master bathroom, the vanity is usually the first and last thing you see, whether you're looking in the mirror or washing your hands," she says. "There are a lot of elements to consider -- water, wood, stone and metal -- and how they are combined should create a harmonious form that also functions well."
First-place winner of the 2019 National Kitchen and Bath Association's (NKBA) Design Competition in the Large Luxury Bath category, Diaz-Velasco's design of a master bathroom in a Coral Gables, Florida, home blends contemporary design with comfort. The vanity's design should be in keeping with the style of furniture found throughout the home, she says.
EOLO's award-winning design of the Cocoplum gated community home's master bath features a walnut wood vanity with copper-colored tubing and fixtures. A round mirror is suspended in front of a glass backdrop, which allows for natural light to help illuminate the vanity. A rectangular overmounted sink sits atop the vanity for dramatic effect, as the wooden structure stores personal effects neatly inside.
"The vanity is the most personal space in a bathroom, so treat it carefully," Diaz-Velasco says. "All eyes are focused on it, so make sure it has the right lighting, and is a place where one wants to put their best face forward."
Furniture Focal Point
Vanity varieties include everything AND the bathroom sink, according to Faye Nielsen, owner and designer of The Nielsen Collection of Interiors, based outside Dallas.
"The vanity is a focal point with function," she says. "There should be a place for everything, and everything should be in its place with drawer pullouts that organize everything."
Vanities come in all shapes and sizes and can give a bathroom its bearings. Start by selecting a vanity based on personal style and the room available -- a single or double sink variety; a leggy freestanding cupboard/dresser; a custom-made contemporary with sleek storage; or a wall-mounted sturdy "shelf" that resembles a large mantelpiece with sinks -- are all viable options.
Sinks make a statement, but bigger appears to be better with the trend toward rectangular trough sinks. As part of a vanity's freestanding cabinet, retro console or futuristic metal framework, the right sink depends on a homeowner's style sensibilities.
-- Self-rimming sinks have a secure, waterproof outer lip, which can be "dropped-in" and sealed into a custom-cut hole in the vanity's countertop.
-- Undermount sinks give a clean look of open counter space. The sink is mounted beneath a vanity's countertop with special brackets for a seamless look.
-- Vessel sinks sit atop the vanity's counter with the rim above the surface. Sometimes called countertop sinks, these can be used to dramatic effect.
The first step to a super-clean bath design is to make sure the vanity remains squeaky clean. Marble countertops are a popular choice, but Nielsen says engineered stone or quartz surfaces are waterproof and stain-, heat- and scratch-resistant, and can be manufactured to mimic stone. Because a quartz countertop lacks surface holes, it does not require sealing, nor does it support the growth of bacteria.
Glass, concrete or stone countertops with integrated sinks are also popular custom choices, says Nielsen. "Colored glass countertops with integrated sinks make for a streamlined style," she says. "As a rule of thumb, the countertop should be no more than 3 feet tall by 2 feet deep."
Fixated on Fixtures
Chrome is still cool when it comes to fixtures on and near the vanity, Nielsen says. But the inclusion of more metal finishes doesn't mean design has to be watered down, and can feature the popular oil-rubbed bronze, matte black or warm copper-colored finishes. While some faucets still mount into the vanity's top, more designers are considering the wall-mounted variety for added effect.
Fixtures not only include faucets, but also lighting. "Mirrored medicine cabinets with integrated lights on either side are great," Nielsen says. "Avoid a single fixture on top of the mirror, which creates harsh shadows on the face."
Shed real light on a design concept by creating a layered lighting plan that blends different types of illumination -- eye-catching ceiling fixtures, coupled with task or accent lights on either side of a mirror should have finishes that match the faucets. For a final touch on the vanity, choose knobs or pulls that complement the accent color or metal finish in a bathroom.
But the most illuminating tact toward having a ravishing vanity is to have a bathroom infused with as much natural light as possible -- either through windows or a skylight, Diaz-Velasco says.
"When you first set eyes upon the vanity, one should almost have the feeling they're entering a spa," she says. "On balance, it should be clean and austere, but also warm and welcoming."
-- National Kitchen and Bath Association, NKBA.org, click "Find a Professional" box for a certified kitchen professional near you, or contact the NKBA Member Engagement Team at 1-800-843-6522
-- EOLOdesigns.com, or call (305) 250-9939
-- NielsenCollection.com, or call (214) 463-2743