How to Know If an Open Bathroom Vanity Is for You

Ask yourself these 9 questions to learn whether you'd be happy with a vanity with open, or no, shelves

By Becky Harris  / Courtesy of

Are you open to an open vanity? Before we get started on the topic, let me tell you that after researching all the ways to make them work, I definitely am not. Or at least not until after I get some intense sessions of life coaching. Every time I try to shut the vanity door beneath my sink, I have to try to do it as quickly as possible, because a heating pad, cosmetic bag, hair dryer, washcloths and a bunch of other stuff are all doing their best to escape to the floor. Inevitably, some cord or another is hanging out and I just live with that, because if I try to open the door and shove it back in, more stuff will fall out. It’s the best I can do. 

However, if, as you are reading this, you’re thinking, “Phew, at least my vanity isn’t as bad as hers,” you may be a good candidate for an open vanity. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider it.

First of all, you might be asking why anyone would even choose to go open. Well, forgoing a closed cabinet can make a small bathroom feel much larger by lending a more open feel. An open vanity sits lightly atop the floor. It also offers different design opportunities — for example, by repurposing an antique piece and styling the shelves. Now on to the issues you’ll want to keep in mind.

1. Does the view of the P-trap bother you? If the answer is yes, then an open vanity is not for you.

However, if you like the way exposed ductwork and plumbing look in industrial-style lofts, a glimpse of a P-trap is probably something you’d like. Keep in mind the finish of the exposed pipe, though. This is something we don’t give a second thought to with a closed vanity because we never see it.

In this bathroom, the P-trap became another design opportunity. The copper finish matches the faucets and adds a warm accent.

2. Is the vanity in the bathroom you primarily use? If yes, you’ll have more of a struggle to find space for all your everyday things. If no, you’ve got a chance to give your guests a lovely openness in their bath. All you need to store are fresh towels, extra TP and some soap.

3. Do you prefer ultra-soft toilet paper and hate to dust? The ultra-soft stuff can quickly cover every surface of your bathroom in little linty pieces, and they show up more on dark wood than on tile.

4. Do you still need storage for smaller toiletries? That’s OK, you can find open vanities with drawers along the top, like this one, good for corralling toothbrushes, face creams and the like.

5. Are you a fan of baskets? Then you’ll love the way you can show them off in an open vanity. Baskets are a great way to wrangle towels, hair appliances, toilet paper and other bathroom necessities in an attractive way. The baskets also add interesting texture to the bath — their natural fibers are a nice contrast to the gloss of all that tile.

6. Is Martha Stewart your towel-folding idol? Miss all the T-shirt folding you used to do at your old job at the Gap? Then you have the photo-stylist skills to keep your towels neatly folded in pretty piles on the shelves of an open vanity.

7. Speaking of photo stylists, are you a person who likes to transfer things like soaps and bath crystals into lovely glass jars? Do you collect interesting antique containers? Then an open vanity will be a good place for you to show off your passion for styling your home. 

By the way, if the thought of having to do this, or that whole neatly-folded-towel thing makes you shudder, that’s OK. Like me, you just know that an open vanity is not for you.

8. Do you have ample storage within reach? Then you can go open under the sink. Here an adjacent linen closet offers plenty of storage on shelves and in drawers, leaving the underside of the vanity free to be clear of clutter.

Likewise, if everything you’ll need while standing at the sink can be stored in medicine cabinets, you can do without a closed vanity. If you’re remodeling, talk to your contractor to make sure there’s ample room in the wall for recessing.

This bureau-style cabinet in between the sinks offers plenty of storage. It also helps that there’s extended counter space flanking the sinks for spreading things out while getting ready.

9. Did you try going open and it didn’t work out? It’s OK! Consider adding a charming old-fashioned skirt to cover up the jumble.

Your turn: Are you ready for an open vanity, or will you keep things behind closed doors thank you very much? Have you tried one out at any point? What tips would you give someone going transparent with their vanity? Please let us know in the Comments. I have a feeling this could be a lively discussion.

One request: Let’s not get caught up on dust — that always makes for a boring conversation.