Below is a real “dear laurel” letter from a reader who’s struggling to find an affordable, chic medicine cabinet.
Love your rolodex! It’s been so helpful with my remodel.
I wanted to comment on your Restoration Hardware post, but it seems appropriate here too.
Converting a chest is a wonderful alternative for an overpriced vanity from RH. However, I am about to cave and buy one of their expensive medicine cabinets. I can’t find anything else that has a similar look for less money.
Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!
Okay, I bet y’all think I’m lying because the first word out of her mouth was “Love Your Rolodex!”
I always tell you guys when it’s a fictitious reader. This one is real. Thanks Victoria for the great suggestion!
Alright, she needs a medicine cabinet and she doesn’t want to spend 800 bucks give or take.
Can’t say I blame her for that.
I did take a look at the Restoration Hardware medicine cabinets.
And, I think that most of them look quite nice.
However, yes, they are over-priced. We’ve been through this before. ;]
But, quite frankly, I’d rather just put in a cheap builder’s grade like below at Home Depot.
16 in. W x 26 in. H Frameless Stainless Steel Recessed Mount Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
And then replace the door with a cool mirror or piece of art.
In fact, Lowes did this video to show how they replaced the cheap mirror with a piece of artwork.
So, when it’s all installed it just looks like a piece of art hanging on the wall, not a medicine cabinet.
You could also do it with a mirror as long as the frame was wood. I think. I’m not 100% sure. Construction isn’t my thing.
I just crack the whip. ;]
Has anyone done anything like that? I have seen it before and it’s such a clever idea.
At any rate, there are tons of great medicine cabinets out there.
Medicine cabinets UNDER $400.00 and most that I found are well under that. A few slightly more, but they are very nice.
But sure; there are also some mega expensive medicine cabinets.
This is the way I look at it. A medicine cabinet with a mirror over a vanity or sink is just one part of a bathroom or powder room.
We did do a good discussion about storage ideas of small bathrooms in this post.
Some of my favorite bathrooms have integrated storage. Integrated into the architecture of the room. Or, I guess, we could say, BUILT-IN.
Here, let me show you what I mean by that.
The first three images are by JAS Design Build. They have a TON of gorgeous bathrooms on their site, so please check them out. And if you are curious, they are in the Seattle area.
Perfect for a kid’s bathroom. But, it could be any bathroom.
Fabulous built in storage and design in this bathroom. See the medicine cabinet above the sink?
And a wonderful solution for a small powder room.
And then there’s the queen of the bathroom, Jessica Helgerson.
Actually, what am I saying? Everything she does is amazing!
See what I mean?
But, this is only the warm-up.
Feast your eyes on this jewel box!
She sure did not phone this one in. Nosiree! This is a brilliant design!
And the space, itself, SUCKS! Look how narrow it is? But, she subtly used every trick there is to widen it and you don’t even notice it until you break your shin on the toilet. Oh well. Not her fault.
I have a fantasy that each of those mirrors opens up to reveal storage behind it. That would be more than just cause for the contractor to commit murder, I would think. Right?
Actually, there probably are some building contractors out there, who would enjoy such an insane challenge.
But Jessica also does the type of medicine cabinet that is not integrated. Well, at least not into the mill work.
In this case, the very simple medicine cabinet works perfectly with the console sink and impressive sconces. Although, I am not sure if that is a medicine cabinet or just a mirror. But there are medicine cabinets like this one.
For another beautiful Jessica Helgerson room, click here.
Love this little bathroom vignette by Erin Hedrick Design -I don’t know if there’s a medicine cabinet behind that mirror or not, but there could be. The wallpaper is by Galbraith and Paul.
See more gorgeous Galbraith and Paul here.
and here. (although, I think this is probably the most lame blog post on here. But oh well. You can have a good laugh, if you’re bored.)
Those of you who own the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection may recognize the Galbraith and Paul pattern. I did it in a few of the palette boards in a different colorway.
This fresh lovely bathroom is by Amy Corley. And actually, this is the Resto Rivet medicine cabinet. But before you get too excited, the brass finish is discontinued. It does come in two other finishes, however.
But, there are less costly alternatives to this one, in any case.
So, where ARE the inexpensive but gorgeous medicine cabinets?
Well, there are a ton on Wayfair. They are the most prolific with over 1,500 listings.
But, hands down, my favorite is good ol’ Pottery Barn.
Yes! PB is my favorite source for inexpensive but, chic, stylish medicine cabinets.
Here, I’ll show you.
Pottery Barn Astor Recessed medicine cabinet – wallpaper Hygge and West Emily Isabella Otomi.
Yes, that’s a medicine cabinet! You will be able to find it also below in the widget of 12 of my favorites.
photo Alyssa Rosenheck – design Nicole Davis
I’m not sure if this is the PB Vintage Recessed medicine cabinet or not. But, if not, it’s very close.
This one is definitely the Vintage medicine cabinet from Pottery Barn
I also love the PB Hotel recessed medicine cabinet. It’s been a long-time favorite.
And below is a widget I made including some you’ve seen and some other medicine cabinets, as well.
Please click on the individual images for more information.
I hope this helps Victoria and others with some ideas for a bathroom medicine cabinet and other bathroom storage solutions.
Here are some more bathroom posts that you might enjoy reading.
Here’s How To Get The Cool High-End Bathroom for a lot less
A Disturbing Bathroom Renovation Trend To Avoid
Bathroom Art Ideas You’re Gonna Love
21 Interesting Bathroom ideas for bathroom people
Best No-Fail Gray Paint Colors For Bathrooms
Oh, Laurel. I have a tale of medicine cabinet woe. For the recent remodel of our 1916 bathroom, medicine cabinets were a storage must-have since we were losing a linen closet. I searched and searched online and decided on the PB Vintage Recessed Medicine Cabinets. They are soo lovely in person, and were to be the perfect elegant touch to coordinate with my wallpaper and other design elements. My tale of woe begins here: After our contractors had built the new wall and boxes within the studs, I realized I had mistakenly ordered the small size rather than the large. Idiot. My contractors had to reframe while I re-ordered the large size. When it arrived, the medicine cabinets didn’t fit in the box framed out for them because the dimensions listed on the PB website were off quite a bit. (The dimensions on the installation instructions that came in the shipping package were correct, interestingly.) So the contractors reframed again. But guess what? The stupid doors of the medicine cabinets don’t open even 90 degrees, even against a flat wall. The way it’s designed, the hinges are set in from the edge of the mirror, which means the edge of the mirror hits the wall before the door can even open all the way. It would maybe be livable except that I had planned to tile up the wall to about 1/3 the height of the medicine cabinet, and cap it with a chair rail. With the (very flat) field tiles behind the mirror, the door could only open maybe 40 degrees. And my chair rail tile made it open only about 15 degrees. Remember this was all discovered after reframing twice already because we hadn’t taken the tape off the doors and actually opened them until then. I did a new search, and ordered the RH Framed Medicine Cabinet to avoid the door opening issues we faced previously. The major issue this time was that the profile of my chair rail stuck out too much against the frame. I didn’t want to lower the height of the tile to below the medicine cabinet because it wouldn’t be the right scale with our 10′ ceilings and would run into our window frames anyway. So … instead of butting the chair rail into the sides of the medicine cabinet frame as planned, we ended up running the chair rail up the sides and across the top of the medicine cabinet. I was ticked at first that my design plan was ruined, but it actually turned out really great. I’ll be taking photos of the finished space soon and will send some your way. These are the kinds of things a designer might have known if she/he had worked with medicine cabinets before. We built custom medicine cabinets at our old house, but they had their own wood frames (Craftsman style) and we didn’t tile the wall, so we hadn’t run in to these issues the last time. Live and learn.
Oh, my, I saw that you had referred to a looooooong comment, but somehow missed it. Sorry.
Renovations are no joke. We just started our third one in two years in our 1916 house. There’s always a new “adventure” to be had!
May the force be with you! 😀
Hollie (you can see my comment is similar), I feel you!! We had such a similar experience (minus ordering the wrong one, haha! :)), and I even spent months (months) on the phone hassling PB customer service to get some of the cost back of having to re-do things because their measurements were wrong wrong wrong (and each of the 4 cabs was slightly different, of course!).
For anyone still getting these lovely cabs, we just set them out of the recess everrrrr so slightly so that the doors open all the way back (bc yes the mirror frame, silver part, is not where the hinge is). This worked, even with our subway tile backsplash.
Ha! I watched that Lowe’s tutorial, too, about 6 months ago when I had a client create hidden storage in a kids’ bathroom. We covered it with some art from Jorey Hurley.
I just remembered that you mentioned me on your blog and I forgot to comment. I know it sounds lame, but it was Saturday and that’s a rough day. I guess it’s not too late. hang on. haha
Back when we renovated our bathroom there wasn’t a Wayfair or other popular online shopping sites. I had a choice of Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware.
But I lucked out & found a guy on Etsy that made them. It was much more affordable. And I was able to support a small business. Win win!
That’s great. I did find some as well on Etsy that are affordable, and they are nice, but felt that the frames where a little clunkier than I would prefer. Although, I’m sure that he could make them more refined, if asked. But, in the end, the ones I found, didn’t make the cut. However, since this sounds like a while ago, it’s probably not the same vendor.
I have been looking for that PB vintage recessed medicine cabinet my whole life!!!! (kidding but barely lol.) Thank you so so much for finally getting us together. Now to keep saving my pennies for that hall bathroom remodel…
I hope that the two of you share many happy years together! ;]
Julie, see my (long) comment which will give you a heads up about some issues I ran into with the PB Vintage Recessed Medicine Cabinet. It’s gorgeous, but posed problems for us and we had to choose something else.
We purchased a recessed brushed nickel finish with beaded frame detail from Pegasus. I see they are available thru Amazon, Home Depot and Wayfair for under 200.00. What I also really liked about it was you could mount it to open left or right by flipping it. The interior glass shelves were designed to install either way. Very happy with the results!
Sounds terrific Merrie!
We renovated the master bath in our previous house in 2008 and bought RH medicine cabinets — I don’t think they were as expensive then. I really wanted an outlet in each one so husband and I could re-charge our electric toothbrushes without having them out on the counter. My contractor cut a hole in a bottom corner of the side of each and the electrician wired an outlet in each one. It was great, and then about 2 years later RH came out with an option with an outlet inside it, for beaucoup $$!
Thanks so much Laurel — when we re-do the bathroom in our current house, I will not overpay. I’ve learned so much from your blog and will get to use the information eventually!
I remember well the days when RH had a similar price-point as Pottery Barn and the like. The first time I recall having a “what’s going on” moment was probably about ten years ago with a couple of nightstands a client wanted. They were $2,400 each and it took me quite by surprise.
Gracious Home carries/used to carry (on the West Side), a brand of medicine cabinets with many options for trim. Unfortunately I don’t rememeber the name but they would fit the bill here. Something else struck me when looking at these pix: the child’s bathroom had an outlet on the backsplash which clearly favors right handed-ness. I think a couple of posts about custom design or even furniture layouts for lefties would be very interesting – and helpful. Thanks as always for your blog.
There are certain topics that I can’t cover because a large percent of the readers won’t be interested. That isn’t to say that they aren’t worthwhile. But, even so, I’m not sure that I would design a room layout differently for a left-handed client. I have had a few and the only thing that ever came up was which side to put the cord for the shades.
Laurel, I have never run across those Jessica Helgerson bathrooms on Pinterest. They are unbelievably gorgeous and some of my favorites EVER. Your selection of cabinets is fantastic! When I purchased my first ever vanity cabinet last year I was amazed at how many affordable options were available after having to shell out more than I wanted for the pretty Kohler toilet and bathroom hardware. I ended up getting the Kohler Archer cabinet for about $100. It is similar to some of your selections but petite. It looks lovely nestled into the wall rather than mounted on top. Some cabinets can go either way so it’s important to make sure the contractor understands what you want.
So glad that you enjoyed the photos and had not seen them before!
I think the PB hotel mirror may be a bad photoshop. Different angle on the mirror photo that was pasted to a straight on picture of a wall. The same wall backdrop they use for a lot of pictures.
haha! yes, you are probably right. They must’ve learned that trick from me. (but not really). I’ll answer your other comment later. I’m just in a bit of a rush at the moment.
Another timely post. I too have a couple Pottery Barn medicine chests in the garage waiting install. Thank you for the reminder Cathlin. I’ll need to tell the contractor about 10 times, women aren’t listed to. It isn’t just husbands. Our contractor was showing me how the frig builtin would go and said 28 inches for the depth. I said it needs to be deeper because I found the deepest one I could find and we need 35 inches (including venting). Oh boy. This set him off but good. Sigh. Such delicate egos. I got a lecture about how “that’s why you hired me. I’ve done this a hundred times. They all measure the same”. To this day he has not admitted he was wrong. I waited for the cabinet guy to draw it up incorrectly (after he requested the frig info and I sent it to him), then I corrected his drawing. Sigh. And this is one of the better contractors in this town. We have waited 7 months for him 🙁 On a positive note, I picked a Laurel approved mirror, yay. I’m learning. I am having it framed all up like a photograph similar to some you posted, Laurel. I am also copying that fabulous tall white linen closet (bath) with the black ring pulls. Your site is my go to for examples, that’s for sure. Haha, o.k. I copied your bed too 🙂
Eyes rolling. The ego needs to be left in his truck. Seriously. It’s not a contest, but some people just can’t take one hint of criticism.
25 years ago we were adding a bath to our 1785 Georgian. Too narrow for a vanity so a medicine cabinet was imperative. We had the contractor install shelves between the studs, purchased an oversized gilt frame from a local framer. Contractor installed mirror in the frame with a piano hinge along one side. We liked it so well we did the same treatment in the other two bathrooms. The contractor liked it well enough to recommend the idea to clients in
Oh… I love that! Are you still in the same house?
I’ll take all of those bathrooms, please. And oh that teal color on the vanity. I am the biggest fan of built-ins, molding trimwork, and wainscoting. Can’t get enough of any of them.
I would take all of these bathrooms too! And agree with the rest too!
Can you buy Just a new door for a medicine cabinet? -or what kind of mirror do i buy that is strong enough and has the correct area to screw the attachment arm to? This has been plaguing me for years so I do nothing! Help! Thank you soooo much!!
I am not sure of the answer for your specific cabinet. It depends on the hinge system. I would speak either with a contractor, (someone who builds, more than just cracks the whip) or the manufacturer
Such a wonderful post! I pinned almost every photo. Thank you!
Thank you too!
Hello Laurel, Not all bathrooms need a medicine cabinet. When I was young and my mother was remodeling the house, she eliminated the medicine cabinet from the downstairs powder room by removing it and installing a much larger mirror directly on the wall (I would have placed some “surprise” in the cavity of the old cabinet for future renovators, but I doubt my mother did this). Anyway, there was also a small shelved closet in the room for miscellaneous items.
In Taiwan, it is too hot and humid to have a medicine cabinet–I just arrange necessary things on a nearby shelf outside.
I love the idea of putting a surprise in the wall. A gold bar would be a thoughtful gift. ;]
And while I’m on the subject, I think there should be an annual holiday, “Happy Wife Day”. And on that day a guy will tear out a wall, even if its’ load bearing. Or put a medicine cabinet in square and cut the darned stud if it’s in the way. And three days later it’s Happy Husband Day. We buy him all the beer he can drink. And he can happily brag about the gigantic enormous “length” that he had to Sister in. Or tell us for hours what a nerve-wracking and tense job that was to make that medicine cabinet work.And, as in life, no “Happy Wife”, no “Happy Husband”.
I just ran this concept by DH and he said, “NO!! It’s not on The List!” And he said, “No one will know about The List, though.” And I said, “Honey, they ALL know about The LIST”
And is it me, or is the PB Hotel mirror 3″ off center to the left?
So today DH and I were laying out an area rug after having the entire room’s carpet cleaned (yes, W-T-W but if you had 15′ ceilings you’d want sound absorbents too) and I said it was an inch off center.He said, “Really?” (you know, in that flat tone of voice that says only a woman would care) and I said “All women care, only a guy would ask that.” He measured, proclaimed it 1 1/2 inch and we adjusted the rug. It also drives him nuts when I eyeball where a picture or mirror should go and drive the nail. When he measures that nail, I’m within 1/4″.
So I think the PB medicine chest was a guy saying, “It has to fit in the studs”, and some woman is still massaging her chest where it aches.
With the dark blue wall? It looks centered to me.
Nice job on a difficult subject! After going 3 rounds with my DH with his requested medicine cabinet I bailed and bought him a vanity with more drawers. And a very nice mirror. And he’s happy, because he got to return 3 very expensive medicine cabinets. And if I were a blogger this would fall into the “Thirty Day Bathroom Makeover That Took Six Months for 3x the Budget” category.
Oh wow! That’s a long one, for sure!
Ha yay! We have the vintage recessed cabinet from PB for our bathrooms 🤷🏻♀️🙌🏻 Definitely make sure to have them onsite and measured before they cut the space for them. The numbers on the site are approximate and there was quite a bit of variation between each cabinet. File under #contractorheadaches 😄
Good advice Cathlin. That goes under the same category as assuming that all of the windows are the same size. They usually aren’t.
I found that to be true also, Cathlin. The dimensions for the large on the PB website were wrong, but the dimensions listed in the instructions that came in the package were correct. (It resulted in some reframing for us because we were in a hurry and could not wait for them to arrive.)