Bathroom Storage Solutions Less truly is more

Back in July, we wrote a little post about the wonderful experience of removing our bathroom vanity.

This (sorta) Old LIfe:  stuck master bathroom vanity

We weren’t sad to see the vanity go because it was too big for the space and we were looking forward to a bathroom with some breathing room. We were a little worried about how to replace all the storage it provided, though.

In this post, we’ll explain just how we did that.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Bathroom storage solutions

Our old vanity had been crammed into the 60″ wide space we had to work within. It made the space feel crowded, and it didn’t function well at all. If the bathroom door was open, the drawers hit it when we tried to open them. On the opposite end, they couldn’t open all the way without scraping against the half-wall you can see in the left side of this photo:

This (sorta) Old Life:  Crowded bathroom vanity

As we began talking about what to put in its place, we realized that we have some storage needs (wants?) that weren’t addressed even before we began this renovation:  A place to store t.p. and towels in the bathroom, neither of which fit into the old vanity. (The cabinet area was filled with a wastebasket, cleaning supplies, and hair appliances.)

Because the sink area is small, we considered a pedestal sink with cabinets on either side, like this one I pinned from Better Homes & Gardens:

BHG:  pedestal sink with cabinets

Although one of our big desires was to have a bathroom that feels more spacious–and a pedestal sink doesn’t take up much room–we decided against this because we wanted a countertop. When we found a basic cabinet at the ReStore for $20, we jumped on it, even though we weren’t sure if it would meet our storage needs.

This (sorta) Old Life: old and new vanity

The ReStore cabinet was a better fit for our ’70s aesthetic than a pedestal would’ve been, and the price was definitely right. At the Restore we’d also found the angled shelves you can see in the side-by-side photo above, which we thought we could add to the side of the cabinet for some storage space.

That particular shelf unit didn’t quite work out, but Cane did build and attach shelves to the cabinet base:

This (sorta) Old Life: Bathroom vanity in progress

In addition to the shelves, we also added some feet to the cabinet. We know the feet and shelves are more MCM than 70s, but we’re definitely not purists when it comes to vintage style.

Using this cabinet would make it impossible to have  any kind of deep shelves or cabinetry on the vanity side of the bathroom (the vanity-with-side-shelves leaves us only a few inches on either side), which meant we needed to look at the toilet side for the rest of our storage needs.

And the only thing that felt possible there was something over the toilet.

This (sorta) Old LIfe: Toilet wall

We took this shot in July, right after removing the vanity and putting the cut-out in the half-wall. We really were not wanting to stick with the stacks-of-t.p.-on-the-tank look we rocked all summer.

We looked at some standard over-the-toilet units, but we didn’t really like any of them, and none of them seemed deep enough to store towels. We really need drawers, I thought one night as I was getting ready for bed–but there’s no room for any kind of cabinet.

Just as I was falling asleep, I had a vision:  Floating drawers, attached to the wall.

Drawer shelves!

Although I’d never seen this done before, turns out lots of others have had the same vision. Or some variation on the vision. Just do a Google image search of “drawer shelves” and you’ll see what I mean.

This (sorta) Old Life: Google image search for "drawer shelves"

Cane was skeptical. Unlike many who attach the wide bottom of the drawer to a wall (and use the drawer sides as the shelf), I wanted to attach the back of drawers to the wall and use the wide drawer bottom as the shelf. He said it would be impossible to create enough support for that.

I did find one person who’d attached drawers the way I wanted to: Julie at homeMADE, who created these fun shelves for her craft shop.

Drawer-Shelves from homeMADE

I was discouraged to see that she planned to store only lightweight items in the shelves and had added support legs to the bottom shelf, but I argued that our planned t.p. and towels wouldn’t be too heavy.

Cane conceded that maybe we could make them support the weight, but “aren’t they going to stick out too far?” he asked. “You don’t want to hit your head on a drawer when you’re in there doing your business.”

No, you wouldn’t want to hit your head while doing your business. Certainly not.

So we measured to see how deep the shelves could be and how high we needed to hang them.

This (sorta) Old LIfe: Measuring height and depth for drawer shelf

We figured we wouldn’t want them to stick out from the wall more than 9″.

“You’re not going to find drawers that shallow,” he said.

“Oh, that’s no problem. We’ll just cut the back off the drawer. Can’t you do that with your table saw?”

I had a mental picture of him running the whole drawer through the table saw, leaving a neat and tidy half-drawer that we could stick to the wall.

“I don’t know…”

His voice wandered off, something it tends to do when he thinks I want to do something impractical/impossible/not fun at all but he doesn’t want to deal with the fallout of saying an outright “no” to me. :-)

Luckily, we were at one of our favorite places, the ReBuilding Center, just days later. Where we saw these:

This (sorta) Old Life: drawers for drawer shelf

Which we came home with, and then (skipping right to my favorite part of any DIY story) we turned into this:

This (sorta) Old Life:  Drawer shelves

Now, how we got from those drawers to our shelf was a little complicated (and we’ll tell that story in our next post)–but we’re pretty tickled with the results. I love the way the drawer fronts fold down, so we can easily get out anything we’re storing in there without putting pressure down onto the drawer.

This (sorta) Old Life: drawer shelves with door down

Once we got these shelves finished and installed, I was even more sold on the vanity.

This (sorta) Old Life: bathroom vanity

We decided to get a few simple baskets to put on the shelves and use them the way we used to use the vanity drawers. We knew it would work because of two big things we learned about bathroom storage while working on this long project:

1. We don’t need much in the bathroom.

When we took the other vanity out, we saw how much crap stuff it had been holding:

This (sorta) Old Life: bathroom vanity junk

All those drawers had junk in them.

We took the essentials from those drawers and put them in the other bathrooms Cane and I were using. We kept it to the essentials because space in those rooms was tight.

We took the rest of the junk and threw it all in a box. Where it all remained for the two more months it took us to finish the bathroom.

Guess how many times we went digging in those boxes for something during those two months?

Ummm…yeah. Not even once.

Thus, the basket plan was born.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Bathroom storage basket

Under the sink we’ve got a few essential cleaning supplies, a wastebasket, and hair appliances.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Bathroom storage under the sink

Love that long skinny wastebasket. Found that at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Other storage baskets we already had.

2. When you’ve got the right storage, you don’t need more storage.

Our over-the-toilet drawer shelf holds just the right amount of everything. Thanks to our super-long towel bar, we don’t need to store lots of towels in the bathroom. We’ve got 3 bath towels and one hand towel on the bar, and we keep a spare bath towel and some hand towels and washcloths in the drawer shelf.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Bathroom towel bar

Because we were able to plan exactly how we wanted our storage to be in the vanity (based on the things we actually use), we’re OK with having fewer drawers. More drawers just means more junk for us.

We think there’s some law of physics that says our junk will expand to fill the space we have available for it.

When we began this project, our biggest goals were that it would work well and feel good. Because of the storage solutions we stumbled into, we met both goals.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Bathroom hooks

Hooks for robes and clothing are another important functional piece.

For us, better function and less stuff = feel good.

How about you?

What are the keys to feel good in your home? We’d love to hear from you about how you make your spaces work good and feel good.

And if you’re itching to know how we made that drawer shelf, check back on Wednesday. We’ll have the full details then. If you haven’t already, hope you’ll sign up to follow us so you don’t miss it.

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