Furniture-Style Bath Vanities and Countertop Overhang

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Have a question and looking for feedback from industry peers? This month, Kitchen & Bath Design News listens in on dialogue between industry professionals as excerpted from the KitchenBathPros.com online Design Discussion Forum, a free online forum open to all kitchen and bath industry professionals.

Furniture-Style Bath Vanities

I have a two part question: First, what percentage of end-users do you think are coming into the showrooms looking for furniture-style vanities?

Second, how do the bathroom designers and showroom salespeople feel about the way furniture- style vanities are currently being sold in the market?

— FD Rob

RESPONSE 1

In my market, which is Los Angeles, the demand [for these furniture-style vanities] is low.

I would say it’s probably less than 2%. When it is requested, the most common request is for a mission-style, Arts and Crafts, free-standing vanity.

We also see more people looking for the ‘Zen’-type of free-standing bath vanities with glass tops.

— Remodeling Gal

RESPONSE 2

The last five vanities I’ve done for various bathroom projects have been more of a furniture style, and I’m designing a furniture-style vanity (heavy-legged, arched and tapered end gables), with double, stainless steel, vessel sinks and a concrete counter for one project, and separate ‘armoire’-style linen cabinet for the next one.

— rdon

RESPONSE 3

I think most consumers aren’t yet aware of how many different possibilities are available with this style of product. We started our own line of free-standing units for a few reasons, one of which is ease of installation, but mostly to set us apart from the competition [and to offer] something special.

A few weeks ago, we started dragging the things outside onto the sidewalk in front of the store on Saturdays and you would be surprised at the traffic they drew – we had people in the store, and actual traffic jams with rubberneckers. So, yes, I think as more people become aware of the possibilities, you’ll see a growing market.

— Douglas

RESPONSE 4

We put in two displays of free-standing “furniture style” vanities thinking they were cool and unique. We get lots of ooohs and ahhhhs… but for some reason, no one seems to buy them.

We’ve put “for sale” signs on the two we have and one is already sold. One was an antique reproduction, somewhat ornate, with matching mirror, in a reddish, cherry stain. The other was a contemporary-shaker design in a funky, textured, seafoam green color with a black top.

— Kompy

RESPONSE 5

I find the furniture-style vanities to be quite interesting [design-wise], but the demand for them isn’t great.

However, the opportunity to really showcase your fabrication skill is there. In fact, we have one furniture-style vanity downstairs which is finished.

— Bell1

Countertop Overhang

QUESTION

We usually do 12" to 13" overhangs on our bar tops , but [for one project I am working on] the client wanted more knee space. In doing a 15" overhang on a raised bar, the top would wind up being about 21". Is that too big?

— Veronika

RESPONSE 1

I recommend a maximum of 12" overhang on countertops. Any more than that will result in breakage. We use a 2'x6' wall, then a 12" overhang.

— ootb

RESPONSE 2

Do you feel that way even if the overhang is supported by corbels, legs, etc.? Because the NKBA recommends the following overhangs:

  • 30" high, 19" knee space (overhang).
  • 36" high, 15" knee space.
  • 42" high, 12" knee space.

Do you ever go over a 12" overhang? I kind of wonder about the NKBA’s guidelines because a 15" overhang would leave the countertop at approximately 40", which is not that common, and 44" for 19" overhang.

It just seems kind of odd to me, so I would leave it at about 12" overhang just for simplicity, using a standard 36"-wide island top.

When customers question whether a 12" overhang is enough, I often let them know that it’s very typical, and if they look at other homes, that’s probably what the average overhang measures.

— Tinkerbell

RESPONSE 3

This is just my recommendation: Allow at least 70% of the bar top to be supported by the pony (knee) wall.

For anything beyond that, though, I would recommend using corbels.

— Randy

RESPONSE 4

From the fabrication end, our rule of thumb is that the overhang should be no greater than half the distance of the cabinet depth without use of a bracer or support piece. Beyond that, we always suggest corbels or some support unit, and make sure they’re in place prior to template.

— Bell1

Refrigerator Issue

QUESTION

My customer had a desire to create a recessed look, but had a 33" deep refrigerator which the husband bought on a whim just before they decided to redo the kitchen. They couldn’t cut into the wall behind the fridge because that was the bathroom they had just completed. So my solution was to build out the wall behind the cabinets on either side of the refrigerator.

This killed 9", but the kitchen is large enough where it had what the customer desired. The customers and the contractor were satisfied with the design and happily paid the designer’s fee. I was confident that it was the right solution, as well, so I felt no need to involve the manager.

Well, the manager asked to see it and thought it was a terrible solution because of the loss of 9". Being a relatively new designer, I didn’t stand my ground. Her solution was to just box around the refrigerator. To me, that doesn’t solve the issue, it just dresses up a sore thumb.

The customers are going to want to order this kitchen the way they saw it. I don’t want to sneak behind the manager’s back. I don’t know what to do. Any ideas for how to handle this situation?

— staib18

RESPONSE 1

I’m with you on trying to recess the refrigerator. How about a compromise: Could you build out the wall, say, 3-1/2" (stud width) to the bottom of uppers and use 15" uppers? Sometimes I have been able to gain 2" by framing on the flat (1-1/2") behind refrigerator. I don’t know if this is possible in your case, since the bath wall might have plumbing, etc. But, if so, the refrigerator would only have to be boxed out 3-1/2", without wasting too much space.

— Gary

RESPONSE 2

I’ve done exactly what you planned, only we lost 6" instead of 9". There was room to lose and it looked fine.

As far as the depth being 33", is that to the case or the face of the door? If it’s 33" to the door but 30" to the case, I think 30"- depth cabinets would look good. Of course you should double-check your specs because I have no idea what refrigerator you’re using. Good luck to you.

— Dean

RESPONSE 3

I don’t like your manager’s idea. Your design is better. I just question the 33" depth. It seems like that is the dimension including the door.

The only change I would make would be to design it so that the thickness of the door stands proud of the cabinets.

When I started out, the biggest mistake I ever made was not to trust my instincts.

— KB Design1

RESPONSE 4

You should also be aware that some manufacturers require a minimum clearance space around and behind the appliance for air flow. And if you are talking inches, and flushing out the fridge, as the previous post said, most of the “listed” depths will include the handle.

However, you will also need to consider the plug-in. Assuming you put the electrical box behind the fridge, the plug will stick out an inch or two so you won’t be able to push the refrigerator all the way back. My refrigerator is also in a little alcove in my kitchen and it has been kind of acting funny lately, so I was browsing around this weekend just to see what’s available.

— Tinkerbell

Cabinet Height

QUESTION

Is there a rule of thumb pertaining to the use of 42" cabinets versus 36" cabinets with 8' ceilings? When would the use of 42" cabinets be overpowering versus 36" cabinets with a 6" crown molding?

— Vegashomes

RESPONSE 1

One disadvantage to using 42" cabinets with an 8' ceiling is that there is no space for a decorative crown.

In addition, in most cases, tall cabinets will benefit from a proportional crown.

— designerjoe

RESPONSE 2

You are asking for big trouble by using 42" uppers in a room with 8' ceilings. I always use 36" uppers with three-piece moulding to ceiling. I also have one manufacturer that has 39" uppers, and I use solid stock and crown.

Ceilings will not be level and, therefore, will be hard to trim out. [In my experience] it also does not look professional.

— ootb

RESPONSE 3

I’ve always thought it odd that a 39" isn’t offered as a standard wall cabinet. A 36" with a monster crown of 6" build up in a small kitchen, and is out of scale, in my opinion. A 42" wall cabinet with a sorry-looking little 3/4" crown can leave a lot to be desired, too.

Here are two options:

  1. If the budget allows for it, decrease the height of the wall 42" cabinet to allow for a proportional-size crown.
  2. Use a 42" cabinet that has a standard overlay door or a use a full-overlay door that has at least 1-3/16" top reveal. Drop the cabinet another inch. This gives you more room for a simple small crown molding.

— KB Design1

RESPONSE 4

I also prefer the 39" variety. Some cabinet lines are making this size standard now. Yay! However, I don’t mind the 6" crown at the top of the 36" cabinet, if cost is a factor.

— Kompy

Fabricator Qualifications

QUESTION

From the perspective of the cabinet dealer, what are you looking for in a fabricator? Which qualities are most important?

The reason I ask is because our company plans on getting back on the road to solicit new contacts: cabinet dealers, architects and builders. But I think the approach my company is using needs some work.

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

— Bell1

RESPONSE 1

Number one on my priority list is service, service, service! If a company makes a great product, but is hard to deal with, or ignores me when there’s a problem, I won’t deal with that company.

There are so many companies making really good cabinetry out there nowadays that the best way to set yourself apart is to offer incredible contact and service to your dealers.

— Design Diva

RESPONSE 2

My top priorities would be service, quotes in a timely manner, and an industry discount deeper than what a client off the street receives. (This is a pet peeve left over from a former fabricator.) It’s also important for them to confirm fabrication dates and show up on time, and call if they don’t. Finally, a smile always helps.

— KellyM

RESPONSE 3

The best way to hire professionals is to look at how they dress and present themselves to you and the customer.

Always look inside of a truck of a carpenter and see if it is organized and clean. What it looks like inside the truck is what you will get on the job, in my experience.

— ootb

Oven Height

QUESTION

I have a client who is in the finishing phases of the installation. The countertop was just installed, but the client is upset at how the appliance stack worked for her tall oven cabinet. She is complaining that the oven is too low for her to cook on it.

I haven’t been there to see how the appliances were installed yet, but the total opening height is 60" with the bottom drawer removed, and there is a 10-1/2" warming drawer on the bottom and a microwave with a trim kit on top.

Is there any way that I can bump up the height of the oven without having to move the electrical for each appliance on the wall behind?

This is my first appliance stack in a single-oven cabinet, and I wonder if this is a common problem with the appliance stack? Would it be advisable to get rid of the trim kit for the microwave – and instead order some batten molding to hide seams and cuts– and then try and gain another 2-3/4" in height for the oven that way?

— island_animator

RESPONSE 1

This sounds like some of my homeowners.

I would suggest you raise the oven to the acceptable height, order two shorter doors for the cabinet cavity above, and order a valance or something to fill the voids at the top and at the bottom between the warming drawer and the oven – or put it below the warming drawer if you’re raising that up with the ovens.

You may have to cannibalize the cabinet and raise up the ‘floor’ of the upper cabinet area... either cut it out and raise it, or just put a whole new bottom in it.

Of course none of this guarantees that you don’t have to move electrical – it depends on how much you need to move it, as well as on the manufacturer-recommended electrical requirements. Moving the electrical a little shouldn’t be that big of a deal anyway – provided your electrician built in a little slack. Then again, I guess brain surgery’s easy, too, if you know what you’re doing!

— cc leland

RESPONSE 2

If you’re moving the oven up, just remember that the microwave might wind up being too high! Remember, standard height for a microwave is no more than 48" AFF.

— Design Diva

Manufacturer Leads

QUESTION

What do you do with the manufacturer leads that your cabinet companies send or e-mail to you? Do you find that these are qualified leads? What percentage of these leads actually become sales for you?

In the past I’ve send the leads an e-mail, if an e-mail address is given, but we have never been a company that would [blindly] call a person on the phone. I don’t like telemarketers calling me, and I feel uncomfortable doing this.

Is this a mistake? Would my [leads-to-sales ratio] improve if I made some cold calls to these people?

— Kompy

RESPONSE 1

My experience with manufacturer leads has averaged less than 3% of our total sales. Nonetheless, we still send out a “thank you for your inquiry” letter from our company with a supplementary brochure from the manufacturer.

The response from one customer said she was very impressed with our prompt follow-up. But did she buy? No.

We did experiment with calling customers as a follow-up to our letter. We stopped doing this, because we realized no one wants to be called at home.

In this day and age, we are barraged with various forms of communications on our cell phones, BlackBerries, e-mail, faxes, etc.

So, in general, I prefer to keep everything simple. I just send thank you letters or e-mails to those people who find us through the manufacturer, and in general will leave it at that [unless they ask for more information].

— KB Design1

RESPONSE 2

I’ll first send an e-mail with a link to our Web site, and if there is no e-mail address on the lead form, I will call and ask if this is a “good time,” which people usually appreciate.

I will engage them as long as they are willing to engage me, especially if the conversation is going somewhere. If I sense they are rushed, on the other hand, I’ll just say, “Take a look at our Web site,” and then I will give them the link.

I think being sensitive to whether you’ve caught them a good time brings the most positive feedback, but they can also scribble down a Web site if they are rushed. And, most often, they will scribble it down [and may follow up with you after looking at your Web site].

You can’t expect the timing to be good [when you call out of the blue like that, so] expecting that it might not be a good time [and giving them the option to choose a better time] is the most courteous way to handle these calls, in my opinion. And then you just go from there.

—Susanckd

RESPONSE 3

I would never [cold] call a lead that came from a manufacturer. We will [respond to these leads by] mailing a company brochure, but that is pretty much it.

—ootb

Editor’s Note: Material for Pro to Pro has been excerpted from the online Designer Discussion Forum at the KitchenBathPros.com Web site under an exclusive agreement with Kitchen & Bath Design News.

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