We Are Now The Proud Owners of a Custom Walnut Vanity

Back when I came up with these new bathroom layouts 4 years ago I knew we would have an odd amount of extra space. In the main bathroom the shower/tub combo wasn’t changing size and toilets are all roughly the same size. So we could make an extra long vanity (though it wasn’t quite long enough for a double sink) or add some vertical storage next to the vanity or the shower. I opted to keep the toilet in the nook next to the shower and have some tall storage next to the vanity because I was over having the toilet two feet away from where I brush my teeth. Having some tall vertical storage next to the vanity just made sense because that is where you would use it most.

We already had an existing linen closet which is nice but in an odd spot right behind the door to the bathroom. You can only open it when that door is closed or you’re playing bumper doors. So consequently it doesn’t get used that often and we store everyday items elsewhere. It is our only linen closet in the whole house though so I didn’t want to remove it. Adding the vertical storage cabinet solved the dilemma of where to put everyday bathroom items and we can use the linen closet for less used items. You can never have too much storage in a bathroom right?

In my design I kept the tall storage cabinet to a width that would allow us to use a standard sized 36” wide vanity. But after seeing that was the current size of the vanity we decided having a little extra width would be nice especially since two people will be using this sink. So we upped the width to 3.5’ bringing the vertical storage down to 18” wide which seemed like a nice size. Not too small but not so big you lose stuff in it. Having decided on the sizes we didn’t look at the plans again for a year or two.

To contrast the very white space I wanted dark cabinetry. You can see my design board here. I really like the look of the Restoration Hardware vanity but we needed more drawers, a different size, and a lower price tag.

Cut to the middle of demo when it was order time and I was ordering fixtures and materials like a mad woman. Looking again at the vanity and cabinet sizes we had set our minds to I found it wasn’t easy to find a matching vanity and tower to fit the space. What would work the best was semi-custom cabinets from kitchen suppliers. But the prices really added up and the quality of the cabinets was just OK. So we went to plan B (which was secretly Flannel Man’s plan A all along) and had the cabinets custom made by Flannel Man’s co-worker.

His co-worker has a cabinetry business on the side out of his house. Someday he hopes to build a big shop and possibly even make cabinets full time. So far he has the land bought from his father in-law and some plans worked up. He was able to build the vanity and tall storage cabinet for much less than the semi-custom kitchen cabinets and they would be a better construction made with solid walnut not veneer. I was sold!


I’m going to start posting pictures of the finished product here now because I have a lot of pictures and it breaks up the story better. Drumroll please…

He was able to give us a great deal on the black walnut lumber because it was cut from his and his father in-law’s land (they own 30 acres and 60 acres respectively just outside of town) and dried in a barn on the property for the last 10 years. Talk about being local! Because it was custom I got to design every inch of the vanity and cabinet. Flannel Man thought I was just being difficult with the details I wanted but if we’re buying custom cabinets I want to make them…well custom. For example one of the things I really wanted was a flush inset style door or basically no overlay (the front of the door is flush with the face frame). To me that style makes a piece feel instantly older and it fits with the craftsman feel we want. As one cabinet maker put it that style is “right at home with the shaker and mission style cabinets.” It takes more time and costs a little more but it takes a lot of skill to do well which is what that style highlights.

Of course I also wanted shaker style doors, drawers, and side panels. And for the furniture feel that I’m liking right now the base of the cabinet has feet that are flush with the face frame instead of a recessed toe kick. We will have him put a recessed toe kick behind the feet though (currently not there) so that I don’t have to try to clean up under there but we haven’t decided if we are going to use matching stained walnut or go with a white painted piece that blends in with the floor tile better.

Either way we’re tiling completely under both cabinets so they could be changed out in the future if need be without redoing the floor. The way we see it the tile is more permanent than the cabinets so we want to make it work in other possible configurations in the future.

The cabinets were made with stain grade birch plywood and then every part of the cabinet you see (the doors, drawer fronts, and side panels) were made with solid walnut. A simple clear coat on top was the perfect finish to show off the beautiful grain of the wood.

Just for fun the cabinet maker kept a piece of slug he found in the lumber where we could see it inside a drawer. Knowing our hobbies he thought we would enjoy it.

We didn’t need the cabinets yet (heck we just put in the subfloor) but he was done making them and he didn’t want his kids to ding them in the basement. So for now they are sitting in the out of the way space where the fireplace used to be in our basement.

I had the vanity made an inch deeper than a standard vanity so there is a little more room behind the sink to clean.

To make the transition between the granite top on the vanity and the tall storage cabinet easier I had the carpenter make the tall cabinet an inch and a half deeper. That way the overhang butts up to storage cabinet without having an exposed corner that would need to be shaped and cut.

The drawers in the cabinet I wanted to be extra tall for all of those tall items that normally fit anywhere else. That keeps them from being stuffed horizontally in a drawer or crammed under the sink never to be seen again. For the first drawer I wanted a big cut away so that it can act like an extension of the countertop (it’s just a few inches shorter than the counter will be). This is where I want to store items used everyday like contact solution and makeup so they don’t clutter up the counter as much. Easily accessible and easily hidden!

The top of the tall cabinet has fully adjustable and removable shelves. Someday I want to replace the panel on this door for a stained glass panel to give it even more vintage flair.

Tucked away back there are the side panels for both the vanity and tall cabinet the later of which has a small exposed edge the whole way of the cabinet.

And what everyone is probably wondering we paid $1500 for both of these cabinets. That is the same price the big box stores wanted for their veneered particle board cabinets full of formaldehyde! The higher quality plywood cabinets from the kitchen cabinet stores were far more. We’re very happy with the results and can’t wait to be able to use the vanity and storage cabinet!

So what do you think?


9 Responses to “We Are Now The Proud Owners of a Custom Walnut Vanity”

  1. 1 Kristy December 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Those are beautiful! We just started looking for our vanities (I know we’re a little behind!). I’m amazed at how much they want for low quality cabinets. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a reasonable custom solution near us…

  2. 2 meryl December 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    OMG!!!!!!!! Those look AWESOMELY BEAUTIFUL! They are so gorgeous and how exciting both that they’re totally custom so you could get in everything you wanted and that you got to use a local craftsman. Totally awesome.

    Also, kudos on tiling underneath the cabinets and doing the whole floor. I’m always disappointed when people don’t do that, then maybe 20 years down the line a future owner might want to move things around and they find missing areas of tile, booo.

    Can’t wait to see more progress!

  3. 3 Kyle December 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    They are beautiful, and what an amazing job he did. I admire the fact that the materials are much nicer and more durable, and how the grain is matched in all of the door panels, so that they line up vertically.

    Can’t wait to see them in place!

  4. 4 Carrie @ Hazardous Design December 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Omg. Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. You must be thrilled with the way they turned out.

  5. 5 Mel December 26, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Well, I guess they’ll do, ……….. you can always go to Ikea and get something else later if you deside. NOT! you can not go to Ikea for any reason.

    Very nice work all around. I particularly like what you did with the drawer with no side. Never seen that before. Hand-made is always better to me.
    Robin, you paid attention to every detail. Outstanding.

  6. 6 cheryl March 4, 2012 at 5:08 am

    only found your blog today – having fun going through old posts. just had to comment here – LOVE the walnut cabinets. we have a custom made walnut dining table – love love love watnut.
    these will look super in your new bathroom – I have no doubt.
    cheryl xox.

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This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
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