Master Bath Vanity
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An Updated Cabinet for my Master Bath

I am still in home improvement mode. I guess as a furniture maker, I am actually always in home improvement mode since furniture improves the home (hopefully). But this next project is not furniture making. Rather, it is time for more cabinet work with an update for our master bath vanity.

So, here’s the goals with this project:

  • Update the door and drawer style.
  • Fix the enlarged space at the toe-kick.

The toe-kick issue is the result of our remodeling contractor raising the height of the vanity. He offered to do this to make our vanity more in line with the current trend of taller vanities, an idea we liked. He raised the vanity moving it upward about 2-1/2″. A good thing, but there is now an odd, enlarged space at the toe-kick. I began to think about what could be done to extend the cabinet downward toward the floor returning the toe-kick area to a normal size. As I saw it, I have two options: extend the face frame downward by attaching some molding to the lower face frame. Or, extend the face frame by attaching a flat board and extending the new overlay doors downward as well.

To explore this toe-kick issue, I went to a few of my go-to home inspiration websites. This means scanning the websites of Robert A.M. Stern Architects (examples here with my favorite one here). Another favorite architect is Peter Pennoyer (see his work here). One more: Kligerman Architecture & Design (here). In addition to the toe-kick issue, I also wanted to see if I could make the new doors and drawers more noteworthy. I fired up SketchUp and went to work…

The Toe-Kick

During my research, I found this interesting photo…

A handsome base.

This is exactly what I was wanting to do: add a tasteful, enhanced base. A very good start to my research. The example above has the typical cut out for feet when you need to get up close to the mirror and the large base steps back in a pleasing way. This base design is really the base board design for the whole room which is interesting. Could I somehow modify this idea for my vanity? My first SketchUp model looked like this…

My take on the handsome base.

I like this design. It isn’t too strong and feels at home with the rest of the cabinet. But, I also thought something more simple would be also good. Ultimately my wife and I did not choose this design. I discovered our vanity toe-kick area is significantly larger on the left side than the right side. The vanity is level, but the floor slopes making this design more difficult to implement. Plus, adding this base would mean cutting away the existing base board making room for the new base, something I did not want to do.

From this design I made a decision to simply add a piece of wood to the bottom of the existing face frame which would extend the vanity downward (see the first SketchUp image below). I would then build new overlay doors which would extend downward the same distance. The doors would overlay the face frame by 1/2″ on three sides, but would overlay the face frame about 2″ at the bottom. In the end, a more simple design won out.

Door Designs

With the plan for the toe-kick situation taken care of, I wanted to focus next on the door design. I could build simple doors, or possibly something which is more distinctive. Some photos of things that caught my eye…

Notice the diamond profile on the lower doors.
Note the circle in the door panel, lower right.
Note the box design in the island door.
A diamond profile in the cabinet door.

From these images, I came up with some design ideas…

One panel per door with a big diamond.

In the design above, the blue face frame rail is being added to the bottom of the existing face frame rail (yellow). The overlay doors extend downward. Each door is one panel with a large diamond. I did not like this look.

Two panels per door with slender diamonds.

This design was fair. To me it looks a little busy. I think something more simple would be better.

Two panels per door with a v-groove and a small diamond.

In this design, the diamond is small and I’ve added a vertical v-groove centered on each door panel. It’s more simple than the larger diamond designs above. I thought this design was good.

Two panels per door with just a v-groove along the center of each panel.

Even more simple, this design removes the diamond design and relies on just a vertical v-groove for visual interest.

Six doors, one panel each, modern pulls.

I also thought of six doors instead of three. Visual interest would come simply from the symmetrical arrangement of more doors. This idea got shot down due to the additional time needed to make twice as many doors.

Three doors, two panels each.

In the end, the design which won out (seen above) is the most simple in look. Visual interest is gained by using two panels per door. I have always favored rectangular shapes vs. square shapes. To me, rectangles look better. So here, each door contains two upright rectangular panels. I added a less noticeable design idea by making the rails and stiles of each door just a little wider than the kitchen cabinet door design. Sometimes, just adding bulk is a good idea, especially since there will be no bead for the panels.

It was good to do all the research for these design possibilities. Even though some of these design elements would work, I kept returning to the idea of simple is better.

The first step will be to fix the toe-kick area and then I’ll begin work on the doors. I’ll need to make two drawers and one false drawer front. I’m thinking about hand cut dovetails for the drawers. Which will be a first. An update is coming ASAP.


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