New bathroom plumbing and cabinetry options expand visual space

This month’s column tackles two questions from readers, both concerning bathroom fixtures.

Q: Can you weigh in on the new bathroom cabinets popping up in hotels and recommended online that seem to be installed without bases or legs?

A: Most of us are used to seeing vanity cabinets built in against one or both sides and installed on the floor with a toe kick. In many places around the world, bathroom spaces can be minimal, so a creative way to visually expand the space is to hang cabinets on the wall on a cleat system to studs or wall backing. Typically, there is at least 10 inches of space below these wall-hung vanity cabinets.

This type of installation allows the eye to travel along the floor underneath the cabinet, making the room appear wider. The trick works because the cabinet does not stop on the floor – and thus the 5-foot-wide space does not feel like only a 3-foot space, as it would when a 2-foot-deep vanity is sitting on the floor.

In some instances, the cabinet needs to be supported by the floor for either structural or aesthetic reasons. The floating appearance can still be achieved by using a system of slender but strong steel legs that can be finished in dozens of metal colors, from warm to cool. There is a third option that sports feet or legs in the front and a cleat attaching the back of the cabinets to the wall.

These design decisions can be coordinated with a handle system. Most new bathroom vanity cabinets are being installed with a finger groove – sans handles. These grooves are metal profiles that are very intuitive and eliminate the need for protruding handles. They can coordinate with leg supports for a very cohesive appearance.

Another noticeable improvement in bathroom vanity cabinets is the use of all drawers, even where there is plumbing for the sink. These “plumbing drawers” have cutouts for the waste pipes and offer raised sides to allow for convenient storage of everyday items that can all be seen at a glance. The all-drawer design provides a cleaner, more modern look as well as better functionality. No more losing things in the back of a door cabinet!

New bathroom plumbing and cabinetry options expand visual space

Q: Is there a recommended way to design and install bathroom sinks and faucets?

A: The options for unique sink and faucet designs seem to be growing. From the classic top-mount and undermount sink bowls to the vessel sinks that sit on top or partially inside a vanity cabinet, there are more variations than ever available for different types of bathrooms. While there isn’t a “best” way or type to recommend, there are some aspects of these sinks and faucets to consider.

For an almost worry-free and easy-to-maintain bathroom, a one-piece slab counter with an integrated sink and a single-lever deck-mounted faucet can be very low maintenance. The shape and color of the sink bowl can be selected prior to the manufacturing process for a more personal choice. A contrasting sink color can be seamlessly integrated into the counter.

A more creative design approach may include a top-mounted sink or one that is partially set into the counter. These sinks are finished on the outside as well as on the inside, which will add to the cost. Pair it with a taller deck-mounted faucet (to clear the higher edge of the sink bowl), or install the faucet on the wall.

The wall type, or wall vessel-filler, can have one handle that mixes both the hot and cold water, or there can be one handle for hot and one handle for cold. It requires a rough plumbing part – a valve – which will add to the cost. For a guest bathroom that is not used by young children, these specialty elements should be worth investing in the upgrade.

Other styles of sink include a farm-style integrated into the countertop and a sink with a linear drain style, which usually has a square or rectangular bottom shape angled back to the drain. Faucets for these sinks can be mounted on the side for a unique layout or to cut a few inches off the countertop depth to save space in the room.

Another choice is no sink at all. Mount the faucet on the wall, add a drain in the floor, a wall niche for hand soap and a hand towel bar. This is a brilliant choice for those who don’t like cleaning their sink. There is not much to limit a creative design in a bathroom.

Sherry Scott is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers and proprietor of Sherry Scott Design, 169 Main St., Los Altos. To submit a question and for more information, email design@sherryscottdesign.com.