Built-In vs. Freestanding Bathroom Storage: Which Is Better For Your Seattle Bathroom Remodel?

Making the Right Choice for Your Seattle Bathroom

Ever found yourself staring at your cluttered bathroom counter, wishing for more bathroom storage space?

Or perhaps you’ve been flipping through home design magazines, dreaming of that perfect bathroom storage solution?

Maybe you’ve even wondered where to store those extra rolls of toilet paper or how to organize your cosmetics and cleaning products?

In this post, we’ll delve deep into the world of bathroom storage, comparing the pros and cons of built-in and freestanding options.

By the end, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to make the best choice for your Seattle bathroom remodeling project.

What’s the Difference Between Freestanding Bathroom Storage and Built-in Bathroom Storage?

Freestanding Bathroom Storage

Freestanding Bathroom Vanities:

A freestanding vanity

These are standalone pieces that, while they need to be secured to the wall or floor, offer a furniture-like appearance.

This design often mimics the look of dressers or console tables, bringing a touch of elegance to the bathroom.

Of course, like all vanities, freestanding bathroom vanities also require plumbing attachments.

For instance, a homeowner might choose a vintage dresser and retrofit it to accommodate a bathroom sink, blending old-world charm with modern functionality.

Freestanding Bathroom Cabinets:

A freestanding cabinet and shelf unit behind a toilet

These are individual units that can be placed anywhere in the bathroom, offering flexibility in design and placement.

For those who enjoy frequently changing their bathroom layout or who might be renting their home, these cabinets provide the perfect solution.

They don’t need to be attached to the floor or wall unless they are especially narrow and need to be secured to keep from tipping over.

An example might be a tall, slender linen cabinet that provides ample storage without taking up much floor space.

Freestanding Bathroom Shelves:

A freestanding shelving unit in a bathroom

Options include leaning bookshelves, modified ladders, and other innovative designs that can be easily moved or adjusted.

A popular trend is the use of ladder shelves, where towels or decorative items can be hung or placed on each rung, creating a stylish yet functional display.

Discover more creative bathroom designs here.

Built-in Bathroom Storage

Built-in Vanities:

A built-in double-sink vanity is a large bathroom storage solution

These are integrated into the bathroom design, offering a seamless look.

They typically run all the way to the floor (unless it’s a floating vanity) and are noticeably attached to the wall.

Unlike freestanding vanities, built-in vanities are often custom-made to fit the exact dimensions of a bathroom, ensuring every inch of space is utilized efficiently.

Built-in Bathroom Cabinets:

A built-in double-sink vanity is a large bathroom storage solution

These are cabinets built directly into the wall or designed specifically for the bathroom’s layout.

This design ensures that there’s no wasted space behind the cabinet, and it provides a sleek, flush look with the wall.

Homeowners might opt for built-in cabinets to store toiletries, medicines, and other essentials neatly out of sight.

Built-in Bathroom Shelves:

built in storage behind a toilet

These shelves are incorporated into the bathroom’s design, often utilizing spaces between wall studs for added depth and storage.

This design is especially useful in small bathrooms where space is at a premium.

By using the space inside the walls, homeowners can store items without protruding too much into the room’s usable space.

Pros & Cons of Freestanding Bathroom Storage

Stylish interior of modern bathroom


Modern, Furniture-like Appearance:

Freestanding bathroom storage, especially vanities and cabinets, often mimics the design of household furniture.

This can transform a bathroom into a stylish space that feels more like a cozy room than a utilitarian area.

For instance, a freestanding vanity might resemble an antique dresser, adding a touch of vintage charm.

Ideal for Smaller Seattle Bathrooms:

Freestanding units, particularly shelves or ladder-style storage, can make compact bathrooms appear more spacious.

Their design often allows for more visible floor space, creating an illusion of a larger room.

Flexibility in Design and Placement:

Unlike built-in options, freestanding bathroom storage can be easily moved or repositioned.

This is particularly beneficial for those who enjoy refreshing their space periodically or for renters who need non-permanent solutions.

Enhanced Aesthetics:

Freestanding units, especially vanities with elegant designs, can serve as statement pieces, elevating the overall look of the bathroom.

Organized Storage Solutions:

Many freestanding units, such as cabinets or vanities, come with built-in organizers, drawers, or compartments, ensuring toiletries and essentials are neatly stored.

Cost-Effective Choices:

Particularly with freestanding vanities, they often come as a complete set, including the countertop and sometimes even the sink and faucet, offering value for money.

Diverse Styles and Designs:

Given the popularity of freestanding bathroom storage, there’s a vast array of styles, from rustic wooden units to sleek, modern metal shelves, catering to diverse aesthetic preferences.

Easier and Less Costly Installation:

Freestanding units, especially shelves or storage ladders, often require minimal assembly and can be set up without professional help, saving on installation costs.


One of the standout benefits of freestanding bathroom storage is its portability. If you’re relocating, you can take your stylish storage unit with you, ensuring your new bathroom is just as chic.


Potential for Less Storage:

Due to their design, some freestanding units, especially smaller cabinets or shelves, might offer less storage compared to built-in alternatives.

Maintenance of Open Designs:

Open designs, particularly in freestanding vanities or shelves, can accumulate dust or moisture, necessitating more frequent cleaning.

Risk of Unused Space:

Freestanding units might not fit snugly against walls or in corners, leading to potential dead spaces in the bathroom.

Attachment Needs:

Despite the term “freestanding,” vanities still require secure attachment to walls for stability and need to be connected to plumbing.

Assembly or Modifications:

Some freestanding units, especially intricate vanities or cabinets, might come flat-packed, requiring assembly.

Additionally, certain designs might need modifications to fit specific bathroom dimensions or plumbing configurations.

Pros & Cons of Built-In Bathroom Storage

Bathroom with built-in storage.


Perfect for Larger, Traditional Seattle Homes:

Built-in bathroom storage, especially vanities and cabinets, seamlessly integrates into the design of spacious, traditional homes.

For instance, a built-in vanity can span the length of a bathroom wall, offering a grand and timeless appearance.

Maximized Storage Space:

Built-in units, particularly cabinets and vanities, are designed to utilize every inch of available space.

This ensures that homeowners get the most storage capacity possible, which is especially beneficial for families with numerous toiletries and bathroom essentials.

High Customizability:

One of the standout benefits of built-in bathroom storage is its customizability.

Whether it’s a vanity that needs to fit a specific nook or a cabinet designed for a uniquely shaped bathroom, built-in storage can be tailored to meet exact dimensions and requirements.

Efficient Wall-to-Wall Use:

Built-in storage, especially shelves or cabinets, can span from one end of a wall to the other, ensuring no space is wasted.

This is particularly beneficial in bathrooms where maximizing storage is a priority.

Cohesive and Integrated Appearance:

Built-in bathroom storage offers a streamlined look, as it’s designed to be a part of the room’s structure.

This ensures that the bathroom has a harmonious and cohesive aesthetic, with storage units blending seamlessly with the overall design.

Utilization of Hidden Spaces:

Built-in storage, especially shelves or recessed cabinets, can make use of spaces between wall studs or under sinks.

This not only maximizes storage but also ensures that potential dead spaces are put to good use.

For example, a recessed medicine cabinet can be installed between wall studs, providing storage without protruding into the room.


Higher Costs:

Due to the custom nature and integration into the bathroom’s structure, built-in storage solutions, be it vanities or cabinets, can be more expensive than their freestanding counterparts.

You can learn more about the cost of bathroom storage here.

Complex Installation:

Installing built-in bathroom storage, especially vanities or cabinets, often requires professional help.

This can make the installation process not only more time-consuming but also costlier, especially if plumbing or electrical work is involved.

Additional Expenses for Vanities:

While built-in vanities offer a custom look, they often come without countertops, sinks, or faucets.

This means homeowners will need to budget for these components separately, potentially increasing the overall cost of their bathroom remodel.

Considerations Before Replacing Your Vanity

A remodeled bathroom with a vanity for storage

Embarking on a bathroom remodel is an exciting endeavor, but before you take the plunge and replace your vanity, it’s essential to evaluate the potential of your existing setup.

Sometimes, a few tweaks or updates can breathe new life into your bathroom without the need for a significant investment or extensive renovation.

Assess the Current State:

Begin by taking a close look at your current vanity. Is it structurally sound?

If the foundation is still robust, there might be no need to replace it entirely. Instead, focus on cosmetic changes that can modernize its appearance.

Refinishing Options:

One of the most cost-effective ways to revamp an old vanity is by refinishing it.

This could involve sanding down wooden surfaces and applying a fresh coat of paint or stain.

For instance, a dated oak vanity can be transformed with a sleek coat of charcoal gray or navy blue paint, instantly updating its look to fit a more contemporary design style.

Hardware and Fixture Updates:

Sometimes, the smallest changes can make the most significant impact.

Replacing old knobs, handles, or faucets with modern designs can drastically change the look of your vanity.

Opt for trendy finishes like matte black, brushed gold, or chrome to give your vanity a fresh and stylish appearance.

Countertop Considerations:

If the countertop of your vanity is worn out or doesn’t match your desired aesthetic, consider replacing just the top.

Materials like quartz, granite, or even a modern laminate can offer a transformative look without the need to change the entire vanity structure.

Evaluate Storage Needs:

Before deciding on any changes, think about your storage requirements.

If your current vanity meets your storage needs, focus on aesthetic updates.

However, if you find yourself constantly struggling for space, it might be time to consider a more functional replacement.

While the allure of a brand-new vanity is undeniable, sometimes the most sustainable and budget-friendly approach is to work with what you already have.

With a bit of creativity and some strategic updates, your existing vanity can become a centerpiece in your refreshed bathroom.

Freestanding and Built-in Bathroom Storage Ideas for Small Bathrooms

A medicine cabinet with mirrored doors

For those with smaller bathrooms in Seattle, here are some storage ideas:

  • Freestanding ladder shelves: Utilize vertical space without overwhelming the room.

  • Built-in corner shelves: Make use of often-overlooked corner spaces.

  • Floating vanities: Gives the illusion of more floor space, making the bathroom appear larger.

  • Over-the-toilet built-in cabinets: Utilizes space that’s often left empty.

  • Multiple medicine cabinets: Who says you can only have one? Maximize your storage space in a small bathroom with extra medicine cabinets.

Wise Choice Construction: Your Partner in Remodeling

a bathroom remodel done by Wise Choice Construction with a floating vanity

Whether you opt for built-in or freestanding bathroom storage largely depends on your specific needs, space, and aesthetic preferences.

Both options have their merits.

Remember, it’s all about making the most of your space and ensuring your Seattle bathroom is both functional and stylish.

At Wise Choice Construction, we’re here to help bring your bathroom remodeling dreams to life.

Ready to start your next project? You can learn more about the cost of a bathroom remodel in Seattle here.

Fill out our contact form today, or give us a call.

We’re here to make your remodeling journey seamless and rewarding.

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