A guide to vanity units
What is a vanity unit?
Also known as a wash-stand or washstand, dependent on who’s selling it, a vanity unit is a combination of a vanity top – a flat surface featuring either a countertop washbasin or sink – and a vanity base (bathroom cabinet, drawer or chest of drawers). All pieced together as a single piece of furniture.
The benefit of having a vanity unit in your bathroom, rather than just a column-supported washbasin is that it uses the space beneath the basin for storage. So, whether you have a smaller bathroom and need to maximise your useable space or have a larger bathroom and simply wish to keep it looking minimalist and free from clutter, a vanity unit is a luxurious solution to a practical problem.
The history of the vanity unit
The earliest vanity units were the very first examples of modern bathroom furniture and pre-dated plumbing. Whilst it wasn’t until the Victorian era that bathtubs were plumbed in a single room alongside washstands, thus creating what we now know as the bathroom, the vanity unit was one of the most important pieces of furniture in the household because it kept neatly in one place everything we needed to wash ourselves: a basin (usually a ceramic countertop basin) atop a wooden or ceramic counter with a mirror at the top and a wooden frame beneath used to store soap, a water jug and sponges, flannels, etc.
Bathroom vanities evolved during the 19th Century into wall mounted sinks – today’s washbasins – but the vanity unit remained in fashion, almost as an extension of the bedroom (en suite bathrooms could be said, then, to be the original bathrooms). Cabinets, dressing tables, drawers and chests of drawers were introduced with elaborate woodwork and it was at this point, late in the Victorian era, that what we know as the contemporary bathroom vanity unit was finally realised.
Why are vanity units considered a luxury?
Bathroom furniture has developed in line with fashion over the past 100 years or so and vanity units became simpler over time. The carving of the wood for vanity cabinets became less ornate and more functional and different materials have been used, from wood, acrylic and all kinds of metal to Corian and lacquered MDF. Vanity tops are now made in ceramics, marble, Corian, Silestone and all kinds of other materials – even fossilised wood!
What has not changed, however, is the fact that having a vanity unit in your bathroom elevates your interior design to a new level of luxury. The presence of a beautifully designed, sturdy vanity base beneath your washbasin really does bring a whole new level of quality to the bathroom. Whether you choose a single sink vanity top, double sink vanity top, single drawer, double drawer or a cabinet, a vanity unit has functionality and wow factor in equal measure, making your bathroom a place where you can spend time getting ready with everything to hand and relish every moment of it.