Looking for a way to combine the decadence and beauty of an antique or traditional vanity with the sleek simplicity of a modern design? Contemporary bathroom vanities offer the best of both worlds, combining beautiful hardwood and simplified traditional styles with spunky modern hardware. If you want to give your bathroom a warm, luxurious feel without looking too old fashioned or ornate, this is really the best place to start.
You’d be amazed at how big a difference swapping up your cabinet hardware can make. The woodwork and design of this Dark Brown Vanity is more ornate than that on most contemporary vanities, with lots of beautiful layered paneling and many small antique-esque doors and drawers. But the simple stainless steel bar and button handles stand out like little exclamation marks against the dark wood. Most bathroom vanities in this structural style would opt for antique brass knobs and pulls, but the simple swap to more modern fixtures completely changes the character of the vanity.
The same goes for this Modena Vanity from Sagehill Designs. The vanity is made of solid maple with real cherry wood veneers – a material choice that sets its apart from many modern vanities all by itself. It also undergoes a special aging process designed to emphasize the natural grain of the wood, much like many traditional or antique style vanities. But, the design is very simple, with very little elaboration (save the simple lifting base that gives another little nod to traditional styles), and the drawer pulls are absolutely modern: simple brass bars and unadorned square knobs, which combine to give the overall aesthetic a comfortable, casual feel of modern design with all the warmth and luxury of more traditional decor.
Wood is a major consideration when it comes to contemporary bathroom vanities. Because their structural design is typically fairly minimalistic, the wood grain really becomes the star of the show. This Milltown really stands out from the crowd because of its prominent rustic woodwork. Like many of Sagehill’s vanities, this one is made of solid maple, but finished with a rough-sawed, worn wood with a striking finish. But other than the woodwork, this vanity lacks any ostentation: its refined, simply finished, and surprisingly minimal, with all unadorned lines and simple weathered door pulls. It’s the perfect way to get the rustic beauty of real hardwood in a more modern bathroom.
Contemporary bathroom vanities come in a whole variety of styles, though – some more modern than others, and some a little more traditional. This Dark Walnut Vanity, for example, actually errs a little more toward the modern, stripping away the paneling entirely and leaving a surface that’s simple, seamless, and smooth all over, with those same stunningly eye-catching stainless steel bar handles. But it’s kept from being completely modern by a few things: the beautiful dark wood, and the few curves the vanity does have, rounding the front doors and the bottom edge for the most subtle reference to an older style.
Again, you can see that the hardware is a big player. This Mahogany-Stained Bathroom Vanity from Silkroad Exclusive has almost no hardware at all. The glossy dark finish and beautiful detailed paneling are all antique elegance, but the barely-there pulls, and here also the exposed hinges add a little pop of modernity that makes this vanity one that can fit into a bathroom, rather than one a bathroom has to be designed around. While many period styles have to be painstakingly integrated into your decor – and carefully matched – the simplified hardware takes away some of the stuffiness and gives you permission to break a few rules.
Combining natural wood with bright modern fixtures, contemporary bathroom vanities are all about preserving a little of the formality of classical design while doing away with the stodginess and constraint. Both modern and antique design can feel a little uncomfortable – restrictive, if you will – because in their own ways each one comes with a laundry list of (similar) constraints: make it picture perfect, make it match, and then don’t touch. But with something like this Lutezia Eleganze from Porcher, you get the best of both worlds, without the mandate to keep your bathroom magazine-spread perfect 24/7.
Especially because modern bathroom decor tends to be a little on the chilly side with all that glass, steel, and solid-finish MDF, I personally prefer the natural wood grain of a more contemporary vanity like this Cherry Finished Vanity from Legion. Though in this particular shot it’s pictured in a (rather ill-fittingly) icy looking room, the deep, rosy cherry finish is the perfect way to make any space seem more inviting. Not only does the grain give a point of interest for the eye, but the color itself can help warm the space and make it feel more casual than either a modern or a vintage style bathroom would be.
Contemporary vanities come in a whole variety of shapes, sizes, and wood finishes, s0 no matter what style your bathroom, it shouldn’t be hard to find one to fit. Just keep in mind that it’s the combination of details that really gives the final effect. For example, a dark wood finish can work equally well with a modern and a more classic style if you play up the other elements right. The simple but elegant paneling on this Audrey 72 Inch Vanity from the Wyndham Collection references it’s classical origins…
…But take the same paneling and the same finish, but swap the hardware and add a modern vessel sink like that on this York Vessel Vanity from Hardware Resources, and you’ve suddenly got something that looks a lot more modern. So don’t be afraid to play with different elements, and be aware how small, subtle variations between similar contemporary vanities can make a big difference on their overall style. What do you want from your contemporary vanity? Are you looking to tone down the opulence of antique vanities or warm up a modern bathroom? Something else? Let me know in the comments!