Choosing The Perfect Transitional Bathroom Vanity: Why The Cabinet Doors Matter

The most important defining characteristic of a bathroom vanity’s style is the type and style of the cabinet doors. Especially when it comes to vanities that are very cabinet-like, the cabinet doors are most of what you see. That means they have a huge impact on the final look and feel of the design. With both traditional and contemporary designs, it’s pretty straightforward what you should look for: doors that are very ornate or doors that are very simple, respectively. But things get muddied a little when it comes to a transitional style. Transitional design is all about balancing old and new – contemporary and traditional; it takes a little extra effort to find a look that fits comfortably in between. 

The Easy Option: Shaker Style Cabinets

Shaker style cabinet doors are far and away the most popular option for a transitional vanity. After all, they’re a fairly obvious, logical choice for an in-between design. Technically speaking, shaker style furniture is very traditional (it’s hundreds of years old!). But it stands out among other antique-inspired designs for its simplicity. French, Italian, and British antiques feature lots of ornate woodwork, but American Shaker furnishings are have a much simpler, more rustic design. All those straight lines, sharp angles, and simple shapes are much more in line with a modern aesthetic. That said, they still carry that subtly old fashioned feel, which  makes them the ideal hybrid for a transitional bathroom.

(Or Other Flat Panel Cabinet Doors)

Though they have their own distinct characteristics, shaker style cabinet doors fall under the broader category of flat panel doors. A flat panel door is exactly what it sounds like: a simple rectangular frame around the edge of the door with a flat piece (or panel) of wood in the center. More ornate cabinet doors will have inside panels with raised detailing or shaped carvings. The very simplest ones have a panel with no frame (usually called a flush or slab style cabinet). Flat panel doors mark the midpoint between the two, which makes them the best choice for a transitional bathroom.

Dress Up or Down With Delicate Details

Shaker cabinets are the most iconic and common type of flat panel cabinet doors, but there are lots of ways to fine tune the look. Changing thickness of the frame, adding or removing cross-bars or raised ridges, or sneaking in or skimping on other detail work can all give your vanity a slightly different feel. You also want to pay attention to the vanity’s legs or feet. Traditional shaker style cabinets will have simple square peg shaped legs (or none at all). Transitional vanities will often alter the base style by incorporating simplified versions of more ornate traditional furniture legs. These are generally implied shapes rather than actual tooled feet, but add flair that makes the look feel more customized.

Get Eclectic With Unconventional Cabinet Styles

Keep in mind, though, that not all cabinet doors have to be perfectly square. In fact, one good way to get a transitional look that skews a bit more to the traditional side is to abandon the conventional cabinet design entirely. One typical alternative is to replace the single large, open cabinet with wide drawers. The result? A vanity that looks more like a chest or dresser. This layout hearkens back to French bombe chests, which are a staple of antique bathrooms. Polished wood will feel more posh and sophisticated, while a slightly rustic, weathered wood finish will tone down the traditional feel just enough to keep it feeling casual, or even a little homey or rustic.

Balance A More Modern Look With Natural Wood

Conversely, if you want a transitional look with a more contemporary feel, flush or slab style cabinet doors and drawer fronts is the way to go. The vanity will have a sleeker, more streamlined feel, and the lack of ornamentation will give it a clean, modern edge. But rather than opting for a glossy painted or laminate finish as you would for a contemporary space, you want to stick with natural hardwood, preferably with a prominent grain. Using a traditional material will help counterbalance the modern feel of a very minimalist design, and add warmth to your space.

Cabinet Doors For An Open Shelf Vanity

Open shelf style vanities are very popular right now, especially in transitional style bathrooms. The legs and empty space on the bottom half of these vanities are more strongly emphasized in the design, but even though the cabinet is much smaller, you still need to consider its style. Drawer style cabinet fronts can give an otherwise very modern vanity a washstand-like appearance. But even on a very small vanity, there are a lot of possibilities. Two small cabinet doors, a single larger one, four smaller drawers, and so on each result in a fairly dramatically different final look.

So when you’re shopping for a new transitional vanity, make sure to pay attention to the seemingly small details. They make a bigger difference than you might think!