Timeless bathroom vanity design for bathrooms built in midcentury and later

Do you want a relatively timeless bathroom vanity design? I did. So, in two of my bathrooms with vanities, I chose bathroom vanities like the one above. The door and drawer style is called: 3/4 overlay, slab doors, radius edge. This style has been around since at least the middle of the 20th Century. It’s not “trendy”, but it won’t go out of style either.

A particular reason that I like these 3/4 overlay doors is that they are very forgiving if they are “off” a tad.  The vanity is by Cabico, and it’s in an MDF painted white at the factory.

A vanity designed “full overlay” doors and drawers — like the one in Rebecca’s beautiful bathroom remodel, above —  are also really really nice — and also will give you more interior drawer space. However, if your doors or drawers get off kilter just a bit… well… they will look off kilter.

All that said: My original vanities were 3/4 overlay, so when I went to replace them, I just went with the design that was there. The vanities has been in place now for nearly 15 years, and they both looks as good as the day they were installed. Countertop –laminate from Wilsonart now discontinued; sink — from Kohler now discontinued; tile — from Maple Leaf now discontinued; floor — Chloe from American Olean, widely available; faucet — Mississippi from Strom Plumbing in chrome (I *think*), available from a variety of retailers; cabinet pulls in polished nickel from Mac the Antique Plumber — grout on floor tile — an off-white, don’t do it! Use gray!

  1. Michelle says:

    Hi! I would like to replace the doors on my mid-century kitchen cabinets. These 3/4 overlay, slab doors, radius edge sound perfect! Does anyone know a source where I can purchase cabinet doors like these? Or do I need to find a carpenter to make them?
    Thanks so much!

  2. Mary Elizabeth says:

    The other style of cabinet drawers is inset–the front of the drawer sets into the face frame rather than overlay it. In DH’s and my experience, this is the most difficult drawer to build–and to keep true over time. Even changes in seasonal humidity can screw them up. We are constantly adjusting the drawer units we built in our bedroom and have sworn all future projects will be overlay drawer fronts.

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Yes, inset drawers also constrain the space available… Most space = full overlay, I think…

  3. KStacey says:

    My 1960 Ranch cabinets/drawers (kitchen and bathrooms) are all 3/4 overlay like this, with a little extra scalloped trim. From my experience with disassembling, stripping and painting them, I believe they were built to fit on-site. (but it’s possibly my expectations are off for pre-manufactured goods 57 years ago) Love seeing the Wilsonart marbled laminates here, have a houseful in different colors, and they ROCK my pink kitchen!

  4. Debbie in Portland says:

    My dad built houses in the 50’s and 60’s, and the 3/4 overlay is the style he always built, complete with boomerang handles. Everything was hand-built on-site. I was probably in my 40’s before I realized that you could walk into to Home Depot or somewhere and buy ready-made cabinets—that was just a totally foreign concept to a carpenter’s daughter!

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Yup: I needed to replace the existing cabinets, which were hand-built in place — and to do so, I just copied their design!

  5. ineffablespace says:

    I am using another option in my bathrooms, and probably my kitchen when I get to it.

    3/8″ partial overlay or 3/8″ partial inset. It’s like yours except that the 3/4″ door or drawer face has a 3/8″ square notch routed out of the back edges and the remaining 3/8″ full width of the face has a radius on it.

    So half of the drawer or door face is inset into the frame, and the other half overlaps the face of the frame. It’s similar to your but slightly more streamlined in appearance. ( The faces of the doors/drawers appear thinner).

    This used to be standard carpentry and where I grew up almost every site-built cabinet basically looked like this, but now it is a custom thing pretty much. Some custom cabinet lines offer it, but I don’t think any semi custom cabinet companies offer it.

    1. Carol says:

      Pam is right, don’t use white grout. I have a different reason though. I used 2 inch, non skid, matte tiles in white for the guest bath and used white grout. It looks like icing on a wedding cake. Since this is the guest bath and gets almost no traffic it still looks like icing after 17 years. It looks “strangely weird” when I first walk into the bathroom. Ineffablespace is right, what was standard, inexpensive cabinets back in the day are now hard to find. I do remember seeing at Lowe’s, 10 or so years ago, those cabinets unfinished and assembled in the store. They were a bargain. I don’t know if Lowe’s still carries them or not. It may have been regional. (Tennessee)

      1. Mary Elizabeth says:

        Ditto and ditto on not using white grout. Gray for white tile stays clean looking longer and also makes the white or light-colored tile “pop.”

  6. Carolyn says:

    So were these manufactured or hand-made? I’ve been in quite a few homes over the years and I thought this was the ONLY choice back then except for changing the laminate.
    What I adore about the old/originals is that when you opened the drawer, the drawer was about the size of the front piece. The thickness of the front piece approached 1″ while the sides and bottom was closer to a half inch and dove-tailed together. Oh, the volume the drawers held! Like 1 1/2 shoeboxes.
    My new vanity looks like it would hold the same volume but everything is 3/4+” and the inside of the drawer’s wall is only halfway up and set in 2″ on either side.
    Needless to say, I am not happy.
    So, if there is a company that manufactures a vanity that is USABLE, I’d sure like to know about it. Or plans somewhere.

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