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Flat mirror versus mirror cabinet?

5 years ago
last modified: 5 years ago

I would say it's about 50/50 for most of the bathroom renovations we do that the client will want a mirror cabinet or they want something decorative and flat. There's a list of pros and cons for both but would love everyone's feedback on what they prefer. I used a couple of a our recent jobs as examples.





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Comments (48)

  • 5 years ago
    Flat decorative mirror for powder room or bathroom most accessible to all and mirror cabinets for usable bathrooms. We have a round mirror downstairs and mirror cabinets in boys’ bathroom and our ensuite upstairs. If only one bathroom, I’d go recessed mirror cabinet - best of both worlds, designed without vertical cabinet door lines in face if possible !
  • 5 years ago
    Mirrored cabinets, every time. Never enough storage in en-suite or bathrooms for make-up, medicines, bathrooms needs including cleaning good, even toilet paper, so it doesn’t get damp!
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  • 5 years ago
    Flat mirror. Mirror cabinets just feel bulk and outdated
  • 5 years ago
    Definitely cabinets in bathrooms and just mirrors in a toilet. In a small room the recessed cabinets assist in making a room not look cluttered but still provide ample additional storage.
  • 5 years ago
    It would depend on personal preference and how much space is available in the bathroom. If you only have room for a pedestal sink, then of course, a mirrored cabinet would be logical. If you have a double sink vanity, then undersink storage would be sufficient with a flat mirror. If you tend to have so much ' stuff' that you need a lot of storage then both would be suitable. I see a lot of bathroom cupboards with lots of stuff that should of been thrown out years ago. The more storage space you have, the more unnecessary things, or out of date things accumulate.
  • 5 years ago

    Love the functionality of the mirror cabinets, and have them in the bathroom and ensuite. Regretting putting one in the powder room - done solely to store toilet paper, but a flat decorative mirror would have looked awesome..

  • 5 years ago
    All depends on the storage. I designed my bathroom with heaps of storage so then I didn’t need the mirror cabinet.
  • 5 years ago
    Recessed mirror cabinets for most bathrooms. I just find it more convenient than under sink storage, though I’d choose to have that too. And power points in the cabinet for the electric toothbrushes so they can be hidden away and don’t clutter up the bench.
  • 5 years ago
    I have seen so few really nice, modern mirror cabinets. But one can buy so many different awesome mirrors. I wonder why?
  • 5 years ago

    from a cleaning perspective and as we are in the process of investigating all things relating to bathrooms. I am going with the flat mirror option because I am tired of having to wipe finger prints off the mirror from people opening and closing the mirror cabinet in our current bathroom. Water and toothpaste/flossing specks don't seem to bother me as much.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    I have to say - "it depends". The layout, design and space in the bathroom itself will dictate whether you can have a cabinet or if only a flat mirror is achievable. A new thing it to suspend slim mirror in front of a window, giving more flexibility to the position of windows and much required (in Queensland, anyway) ventilation, not to mention light.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    It really depends on the other storage in the space. If you are lacking storage options and space, a mirror cabinet could be the best thing for you. If you have enough storage in a larger bathroom, a flat mirror provides you a more decorative and refined design.

  • 5 years ago

    I have a cabinet mirror not recessed. I am happy with that but challenged by lighting. Have windows above so day time is not a problem. Night when it's dark outside the lights in the bathroom are above and behind you so there is a shadow right where you need the most light.

    Does anyone have a suggestion


  • 5 years ago
    I would put a down light in front of the cabinet and just above you when you stand in front of the vanity. You could also put an led strip on the underside of the cabinet to provide some task lighting onto the vanity.
  • 5 years ago

    Will never regret updating our small bathroom with a mirrored cabinet above the vanity. So much extra storage up high and away from grandkids.

  • 5 years ago
    mirrored cabinet recessed in wall. Doesn't look as bulky yet gives the storage.
  • 5 years ago
    Mirror cabinet definitely, I love mine keeps the bathroom looking neat and tidy.
  • 5 years ago
    I have recessed mirrored cupboards in the main bathrooms with power points inside each to connect electric shavers, hair dryer and electric toothbrush. Keeps everything neat and tidy. The powder room, used mostly throughout the daytime, has a lovely wall hung mirror only as extra storage space is not required.
  • 5 years ago

    Recessed mirror cabinet. Our builder said there's no such thing and it can't be done and it's too hard and there'll be plenty of storage under the basin, and it was one of the 'minor' details we didn't bother following up about but I miss the convenience every day.

  • 5 years ago
    Our home was a new build so it was possible to make the necessary structural modifications to accommodate the recessed mirrored cabinets. As you can see from the attached photo, the cabinets only stick out 25mm, enough for finger pull opening underneath and joinery framework. Structurally, our bathroom renovation in our previous home was unable to accommodate the same but we were able to make a lovely feature of the semi-recessed cabinetry instead.
  • 5 years ago

    RE: lighting question. Do not put a downlight above you as it will cast downward shadows over your face. Down lights are not a good solution especially if you are wanting to apply make up. Light up the area with lighting on either side of the mirror if possible so there is an even spread of light over your face and I would seek advice from a lighting retailer as to the most appropriate fittings for your needs.

  • 5 years ago

    After going from a flat mirror to a mirrored cabinet in our bathroom, I’ll sing loud praises for the cabinet. It’s sooo much better. I’m reminded of advantages each time I go into our ensuite which still has a flat mirror. Getting rid of it will be a must when that room gets reno’d.

  • 5 years ago
    Cabinet definitely. Such a great way to get more storage in a small bathroom. Mine is recessed into the wall between the studs.
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Recessed cabinet. When we renovated I insisted on moving the wall studs so we could get two mirrored cabinets (with powerpoint ) in, then had the cabinetmaker make framed (to match the timber veneer vanity) mirrored cabinets to fit, so mirrors just look like flat. Works and looks great. The custom made cabinets weren’t much more than a good quality stock standard cabinets either.

  • 5 years ago

    @qlder. We asked about removing a couple of studs to do the same thing, but were told “no way”. That it would compromise the structure even on a non-load bearing wall. So please tell me more. If I’m armed with more info, maybe we can recess the cabinet when we upgrade our ensuite.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    @Dm Stan - the builders certainly didn't want to do it because it was a bit more mucking about with well-seasoned timber studs (1934 Qlder) but the difference was not wanting rather than not possible. Once I insisted, (I was project managing the 6 month house reno) they just put another stud at top and one at bottom (so therefore more than there was originally so in no way compromising structural integrity). Similarly, they weren't keen on framing out the shower area with my request for a longer than normal niche but again when I challenged them on whether it was possible or impossible they conceded it was possible just more time consuming. I told them it was an extra 1 hour fiddling now versus years of me looking at it knowing that it would remind me that they just couldn't be bothered. I got my long niche.

  • 5 years ago

    Thanks, qlder. I hear you! As novice renovators, we were told many things (not even complex things) couldn’t be done, or could only be done one way (usually with an ugly, outdated outcome). We later found out it was all rubbish, and the BS advice we first received was a direct result of that builder’s laziness and disrespect for his customer‘s goals. It was all about making his life easier, not about what we wanted.


    Thanks again. I’ll know how to handle it if I get told the ensuite cabinet can’t possibly be recessed!

  • 5 years ago

    We are currently building, all our bathrooms will have recessed mirrored cabinets (with built in power points). Whilst we have storage beneath the vanities also, medicines and smaller items are more suited to mirrored cabinets. Storage has to be fit for purpose, storing small items in large drawers or cabinets IMO is a poor use of valuable space.

  • 5 years ago
    We had a non recessed mirror cabinet and the mirror door fell off due to a hinge issue! Plus I’m mindful that every time I bend down to have a good wash of my face it’s butting the cabinet door. Having it recessed is definitely the way to go if you need storage space.
    On The Ball Bathrooms thanked Joey Ng
  • 5 years ago

    No one has mentioned the distance between the mirror and the front edge of the vanity/basin. I've just spent a week visiting a home where a relatively deep vanity (45cm I guess) is backed by a flat mirror attached to the wall. (And I have stayed in hotels with even deeper vanities backed by wall mirrors.) It was an absolute pain in the proverbial having to lean in across that in order to get close enough to the mirror to do things like insert contact lenses or eye drops or apply eye makeup. Double the inconvenience if you're petite and/or short-sighted. At home I have a mirror cabinet installed by the previous owner and I'll do the same when I renovate. It projects 15cm from the wall and makes *using* the mirror practical and it provides useful, shallow storage above waist height. I would only install a wall mirror in a toilet or powder room with a shallow hand basin/vanity.

    On The Ball Bathrooms thanked Yvonne
  • 5 years ago

    In a previous home (c.1930s semi) my bathroom had two narrow windows with the original shallow mirror-faced medicine cabinet recessed between them. Because the bathroom was relatively small, the vanity/basin sat under the left window, the end of the bath under the right window and the floor under the mirror was clear. This was great as there was nothing stopping the user from standing right in front of the mirror and as close as needed. Living there, I realised that one doesn't actually need a mirror above the basin itself – you don't really need a mirror to wash your face or hands or brush your teeth, after all. So that's another solution for those who really dislike the idea of a wall-mounted mirror cabinet (and will have enough storage without it) but who still want a usable mirror: hang the wall mirror above a free section of floor or over a shallow cabinet rather than over the basin and main vanity.

    On The Ball Bathrooms thanked Yvonne
  • 5 years ago

    I would love recessed cabinets in our new build but husband wants flat mirror with demister . Has anyone seen a hybrid of both ?

  • 4 years ago

    qlder34 , We also had issues with what we called a 'nafi' builder. Just about everything was 'far to hard'----we got so frustrated with the builder's attitude we contacted the company, had a meeting only with the company and released the builder from the finishings. It took us some time to finish but we got what we wanted and how we wanted it. 20 years later we are still happy with our home. It pays not to be pushed around because someone is lazy and complacent.

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Lyn / qlder34

    so true

    "Similarly, they weren't keen on framing out the shower area with my request for a longer than normal niche but again when I challenged them on whether it was possible or impossible they conceded it was possible just more time consuming. I told them it was an extra 1 hour fiddling now versus years of me looking at it knowing that it would remind me that they just couldn't be bothered. I got my long niche."


    you have to some push builders with fine detail stuff , i always try to tell them from the outset and make it clear I am willing to pay more. There must be a small subset of people who want a Rolls Royce for a Toyota's price which would annoy builders. That said , i have had some trades not want to do certain things even when I said i am happy to pay more, more for 3 visits , time etc.

    Unless you are working with a designer or architect who has engaged the builder and that builder is used to being given small fiddly jobs, the average joe who project manages renos or builds themselves just has to be a little more assertive - or you will be annoyed at yourself for years as you look at it

  • 4 years ago

    I am personally a big fan of large and spacious flat mirrors, while having lots of storage space beneath. But I have personally been in bathrooms where a mirrored cabinet actually compliments and finishes the overall look. I guess it depends on the style and type of bathroom you are trying to achieve....

  • 4 years ago

    Thank you Karen Livanes for pointing out the problem of finger-prints on mirror cabinets. Hubby insists he MUST have storage above the bench as well as under, so I was considering a mirror cabinet, but not now! I'll go with the option we adopted in our previous home - a slim bench-mounted cupboard at one end of the vanity or between twin basins, with two-pack fijnish painted door and push close/no handles.

    I might add that he NEVER closes the cabinet door, and a slim cupboard door left open is more tolerable than a wider mirror door.

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    To Lorraine, Are you still having problems with bathroom layout? if so I can help you. send me a plan..just a rough mud map is fine and maybe your phone number & I can have a look at it for you. This is my fort'e...getting plans knocked into shape! Cheers Margot

  • 4 years ago

    Thanks Margot. I think I've more or less got it sorted. The only challenge remaining, I think, is finding a way to give it a visual lift. It currently has floor to ceiling tiles in a standard size, square, and a very uninteresting colour with no texture - but in very good order. Very dull!


    I hate grout in showers so I'm thinking maybe some Mr Wetwall panelling or something similar over the tiles in the shower and on the new wall formed by moving the linen cpd, plus on a part wall along the long side of the shower to replace the glass screens that I insist must go (I'm a lazy cleaner and I hate cleaning glass!) Hopefully that would be enough to relieve the dullness of the existing tiles. Then some feature shelving over the new bath tub perhaps. Not yet decided whether to install a freestanding back-to-wall bath or a drop-in, but the latter might provide scope for some more feature tiling or panelling around it.


    I want to open the room directly to the outdoors but the current window opening is only 1200mm wide and the wall is 8 inches of solid concrete - not easy to cut to enlarge the opening - so I'm looking at either a hinged door with window inset into it or a standard size glass swing door with a narrow window beside for ventilation.


    My other challenge is doors for the relocated linen cpd, as the existing mirror doors have got to go! I loathe them. As the cpd will be visible from the living area, it needs stylish doors.




  • 3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Hi I am wanting to have a recessed shaving cabinet in my bathroom but there is a pull out clothes line on the wall behind and the builder said a recessed mirror can’t be done .

    any suggestions please as it is a small bathroom and concerned I may hit my head on the mirror when washing my face I can also source a mirrored Cabinet that has a depth of 14 cm.

  • 3 years ago

    Just out a flat mirror on the wall or a decorative hanging mirror and have your storage under the vanity, on a high cupboard over the bathroom door or other interesting places

  • 3 years ago

    @HU-81904640

    A few things, HU.


    1. Often when a builder says something can’t be done it means they can’t be bothered, it’s too much trouble for them, or they don’t have the skills or imagination to problem solve. How far do the clothlesline fastenings protrude into the cavity? Can the cabinet be semi-recessed? Can the clothesline be relocated?


    2. We spent time going over dimensions with our cabinet maker to make sure no-one would hit their head, short or tall. It‘s 170mm deep and 540mm from the bench top. I’ve included pics so you can visualise the space. (To be honest, the tap on the centre of the sink is the nuisance, not the cabinet).


    3. A shaving cabinet provides much better storage than under bench alone. It’s so convenient, easily accessible, neat and tidy. It eliminates bench clutter and the frustrating need to get on your knees to find something over the back of a deep cupboard. If it’s what you want, don’t let people say you can’t have one. It’ll be truly invaluable in a small space. There’s always a solution.


    All the best with your project.






  • PRO
    3 years ago

    flat mirrors are such a pain to keep clean. i recently washed my hands in a bathroom that had bathroom mirrors where the tap handles were integrated into the mirror and it was an instant SPLASH moment, not fun to clean. of course YMMV and there are a myriad of situations where the flat mirror is superior to the mirrored cabinet. it‘s up to you really.

  • 3 years ago

    How deep is your bench?

  • 3 years ago

    Builder will be right as need structure to mount clothesline to.
    My vanity is 500 deep with an inset sink And cabinet is not recessed. no probs.sit basin as far forward as possible

  • 3 years ago

    Sorry, my bench is 550 deep with cabinet400 back from front of bench.

  • 3 years ago

    Thanks Kate,

    will definitely look into that 😊

  • 3 years ago

    I haven’t purchased a vanity yet.

    so Will take on board your advice 😊