We’ve always had a medicine cabinet in our family bathroom, but are they going out of style?
Medicine cabinets are not out of style, and apart from being very useful pieces of bathroom furniture, you can now buy a range of attractive designs and colors out of the box to suit your taste. Older medicine cabinets can be refreshed with a simple paint job or repurposed into shelves.
Let’s dive down into the subject of medicine cabinets in more detail, and discover if they really are out of style – or if they still make a useful and great-looking addition to your bathroom…
Do People Still Use Medicine Cabinets? (Why Do I Need One?)
Yes, people still use medicine cabinets. You may have read interior design articles that condemn medicine cabinets as “generic” or “boring”.
However, a medicine cabinet is incredibly useful and with a bit of imagination, can actually enhance your bathroom. We’ll look at how to style your existing medicine cabinet shortly.
So why do you need a medicine cabinet? Well, they’re an easy way of keeping all those bathroom essentials (which may or may not be medical) to hand. Because most designs have a mirror on the door, they also fulfill two functions in one.
Also, the wall-mounted design is ideal for many bathrooms, where space is tight. From its typical position above the basin, the cabinet isn’t getting in the way of anything.
What Can I Use Instead of a Medicine Cabinet? (Alternatives)
There are several alternatives to a medicine cabinet. Some basins are part of a vanity unit, with the sink built in over a cupboard. Like the medicine cabinet, it gives you handily placed storage without taking up extra floor space.
If you’re lucky, you may have a larger bathroom with a walk-in closet, which will give you lots of tidy storage space. You can also get space-saving slimline “tower” units, which may have drawers or shelves with baskets.
If you want to save floor space but prefer not to go for the traditional medicine cabinet, try fixing wall-mounted shelves. You could keep your essentials in pretty boxes or baskets (and have the upscale items on display!).
However, this means you might end up cluttering the area around your basin with everyday items like toothbrushes and paste.
You can buy narrow single shelves that go above basins, which keep your basin essentials tidy and in easy reach. These come in a variety of finishes including glass, which gives you a discreet and contemporary look.
How Can I Update My Medicine Cabinet Without Replacing It?
If your bathroom already has a medicine cabinet, and you find it useful but not beautiful, you can give it a makeover.
Try painting it a different color, or if it has a light, switching it up to something more stylish. Add battery-powered lights inside (make sure they’re OK to use in a bathroom) and line the interior with a lively contact paper.
You can also remove the doors (this works best if you have a recessed cabinet), leaving the shelves exposed. This short film shows you how to convert your recessed medicine cabinet into stylish shelves. Missing the mirrored door? Add a freestanding mirror for a vintage chic look.
Are Medicine Cabinets Standard Size? (Width & Depth)
There isn’t really a standard size of medicine cabinet. A typical recessed (built-in) cabinet starts at around 14 inches in width, and they tend to be a minimum of 20 inches high.
However, if you have a fancy twin basin setup, your medicine cabinet could be as much as 65 inches wide (these tend to be wall-mounted units, like overhead kitchen cupboards).
Medicine cabinets aren’t usually very deep, otherwise we’d all be banging our heads on them when we clean our teeth! A wall-mounted cabinet is often around five or six inches deep. Likewise, recessed ones aren’t too deep either, simply because there isn’t much room to install them inside the wall.
How Do I Remove My Bathroom Medicine Cabinet?
If you have a wall-mounted unit, this task is pretty straightforward. Remove screws, fill holes, sand, and finally, paint over (unless you’re installing a new one, in which case, leave out the cosmetic stuff). But what if you have a recessed medicine cabinet?
Recessed cabinets are generally units that are fitted in between two studs in the wall. They’re not simply holes! So, if you look inside your cabinet, you’ll see the screws holding it into the studs at either side.
Once you’ve unscrewed the cabinet, you’re probably going to be left with a pretty rough gap. You can line it with new wood or moisture-resistant MDF, or even tile the space. This will give you a neat little alcove to use as a shelf or display space.
However, if you want to fill the gap completely, you’ll need to install a piece of drywall over the hole, then finish with plaster and paint. This short film shows you how to remove a recessed medicine cabinet and fill in the gap with drywall.
Where Do Medicine Cabinets Go in The Bathroom?
Medicine cabinets usually go above the basin, which may or may not be a vanity unit as well. This is a good place, as it means your medicines, contact lenses, make-up, dental hygiene kits, hair product and so on are just where you need them – by the sink.
The mirrored door is also an advantage, so you can easily shave, style your hair, or put on your make-up over the sink. It’s a good idea to get kids into the habit of watching while they brush their teeth. Pop them on a little step to raise them up, and they can learn good brushing habits by watching themselves in the mirror.
A third advantage is that some cabinets come with built-in lighting. This is ideal for shaving or make-up, especially if you don’t have natural light in your bathroom or en-suite.
As we mentioned earlier, by putting your cabinet above your sink, you’re not putting any more demands on floor space, which is already pretty limited in many bathrooms.
However, you may not be able to have your medicine cabinet directly above your basin (your vanity unit may be in front of the window, for example).
If you’re having a recessed medicine cabinet installed, it may have to go wherever there is a suitable cavity in between wall studs. Going for a wall-mounted cabinet? Choose a spot where you won’t bang your head on it!
Above the toilet seems to be the second favorite place after the sink, because that’s generally unused space. However, you’ll spend the next few years worrying that your favorite beauty products will end up falling into the pan…
Don’t forget that the main function of a medicine cabinet is to store your most-used bathroom items. If it’s located too far from the basin, it’s not as useful as it should be. Maybe it’s time for a rethink, such as a freestanding tower unit alongside the sink or vanity unit?
How High Should the Medicine Cabinet Be Above the Vanity?
We’ve read some rules that say that the top of your medicine cabinet should be 72” (6 feet) from floor level. However, we think that the best place to put the medicine cabinet is where it suits you, its user, the best.
For example, if you’re 6’2” in height, you don’t want to squat down to see the top of your head in the cabinet mirror. Six feet off the floor isn’t going to work for you, so adjust the cabinet’s location accordingly.
The main measurement is: does it easily clear the faucets on the vanity unit? If it doesn’t, it’s not in a practical place. You also want to center it to your unit or basin as well, of course. You may have splashback tiles behind the vanity, and to keep the job simple, you’ll want to install a wall-mounted cabinet above these.
Choose a unit that suits the space. If you live in a property with high ceilings, a taller medicine cabinet will fill the space better and have more pleasing proportions. A 20-inch-high cabinet will look a little lost in a palatial bathroom.
Despite what some interior design experts say, we’re going to keep our medicine cabinet right where it is.
For a large family of five like ours, a medicine cabinet is an essential piece of bathroom furniture. I’ve lost count of the times me or my wife have reached in there for some lotion or potion for us or the kids.
The only reason I’d consider not having a medicine cabinet is if our bathroom were much smaller – but even then I’d probably just fit a slimline one instead! 🙂