Bathroom Cabinets Buying Guide

If you’re building a new bathroom -- or remodeling one you have -- you’ll want to read our helpful buying guide on how to purchase bathroom cabinets. Once you have an idea of what cabinets are available -- and how they can help your bathroom work hard and look good -- you’ll be better equipped to make wise bathroom cabinet purchases.

Types of Bathroom Cabinets

Types of Bathroom Cabinets

Before allotting part of your bathroom project budget to cabinetry, figure out exactly what you want to store in the cabinets. Take inventory of any items you’d like to have at hand in the bathroom, and make note of their height, width, and depth; you’ll need to purchase cabinets with appropriately spaced or adjustable shelves. Next, carefully measure the spaces where you want to place cabinets. Only then will you be adequately prepared to shop for cabinets that are perfect for your bathroom. Oh, and we’ve covered vanity cabinets in a separate buying guide.

Medicine Cabinets

Medicine cabinets come in two configurations: recessed and surface-mount. Recessed medicine cabinets fit into a cutout between the studs in your bathroom wall, so they sit relatively flush with the wall to save space. Surface-mount medicine cabinets hang directly on the wall and are anchored into the wall studs. If you’re replacing a recessed cabinet with a surface-mount cabinet, fill the wall cutout with insulation before mounting the new cabinet over it. Before considering a recessed model, make sure there’s no wiring or plumbing in the wall where the cutout would be. And consider hiring an electrician or plumber -- this style is tricky to install.

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Wall Cabinets

Bathroom wall cabinets can be short and compact or tall and columnar. Compact cabinets are great for storing small items such as nail polish or makeup. Taller cabinets -- with their multiple shelves -- are perfect for storing big, fluffy towels or odd-shape items such as hair dryers. Mounted on the wall, they give a bathroom a contemporary feel. Short or tall, wall cabinets sometimes have open shelving or glass-front doors that are great for displaying attractive bathroom items. Closed-door cabinets, on the other hand, make a subtle home for not-so-pretty stuff, like toilet paper or shaving cream.

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Corner Cabinets

Corner cabinets can be big or small -- either way, they’re great for utilizing space. In a corner not otherwise occupied by a vanity, tub, or shower, a tall corner cabinet that sits on the floor is perfect for storing items you want close by but not on your countertop. And smaller corner cabinets can tuck neatly into upper wall spaces, providing that bit of extra storage you need.

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Linen Cabinets

While linen cabinets are often located in a home’s hallway, we like the convenience of having linens right where they’re needed -- in the bathroom. There, a tall linen cabinet usually works best; a narrow, vertical wall is often the only space available for such storage. Linen cabinets come with numerous combinations of drawers, doors, open shelves, and glass-front doors. Some units sit on the floor, while others mount on the wall. Or you can try a less-traditional storage method, such as a pharmacy cabinet -- a narrow glass-front cabinet on tall legs -- or stack some of the modular laminate cubes you can find at stores such as Target.

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Space-Saving Cabinets

Space-saving cabinets take many forms. Medicine cabinets that are recessed into the wall use less space than surface-mount models, and a mirrored door makes a room look bigger. Cabinets with supports that fit around a toilet and shelves that stretch above it offer space-saving capabilities for an oft-unused bathroom wall space. Wall cabinets also take advantage of small or tall, narrow wall spaces. Corner cabinets are designed to take advantage of unused space, so they’re ideal for bathrooms. And linen cabinets can also provide storage options for awkward spaces that are otherwise unused.

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Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

The style and features of your bathroom cabinets are important in your purchase decision, so before you shop, have a good idea of not only how you want them to look but how they will be used. Here are our tips for making wise bathroom cabinet purchase decisions.

Medicine Cabinets

Choose a medicine cabinet with a rust-resistant finish; bathrooms are humid environments. Although some medicine cabinets have doors that slide, most swing; if you’re leaning toward a large unit -- especially one with a mirrored door -- make sure it has sturdy hinges. Consider a model with a lock to discourage children from accessing the contents. Also, be aware that medicines might be better stored in a dark, dry area where they’ll be safer and last longer than in a warm, humid bathroom. Some medicine cabinets offer mirror defoggers, chilled compartments, built-in electrical outlets, and interior lights

Wall Cabinets

Be sure to measure your available wall space accurately before shopping. Once home, install the cabinets at the right height. Reaching high with your hands full is awkward, and having the door at a safe height avoids bumping into it when it’s open. Something else to keep in mind is that combining wall cabinets -- such as placing units around a gorgeous pedestal sink -- likely gives you more storage than a vanity, as well as an elegant, contemporary look. And if the cabinetry is near a sink, make sure you choose a long-lasting material such as laminate or metal with a baked-enamel surface.

Linen Cabinets

Choosing a linen cabinet that suits your needs depends on the items you want to store. If you have beautiful towels in a color that complements your bathroom’s decor, choose a cabinet with a semi-transparent glass door -- it will allow the colors to show through softly without giving the bathroom a cluttered look. If you’d like a linen cabinet big enough to hold a laundry bin, make sure it's in a separate compartment away from fresh towels. Perhaps the door might hold a rack for stain-treating sprays. Also, avoid models with coated-wire shelves -- they leave unattractive grooves in linens that necessitate ironing before guests arrive. Some linen cabinets must be assembled once you get them home; if you‘d rather not bother, consider hiring a woodworking pro to build a linen cabinet with exactly the style and dimensions you want.

Space-Saving Cabinets

Always check out the available shelf space in a cabinet; if it’s not configured for the items you need to store, it’s not going to save you any space. Also think about not just what it will store, but how it looks proportionally in the space. You don’t want a cabinet intended for space-saving capabilities to make your bathroom look crowded. And always remember to measure the space before purchasing to avoid extra trips to return an item and shop for another one.

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