The ranges available are not so numerous that I can encourage you to be very selective in your purchase. But do aim for fittings which were palpably designed with the bathroom in mind and are not just a hasty adaptation of some firm’s kitchen range (there are several of those about). Amongst other things, they should have the curved edges and corners which are more sympathetic to naked flesh, flush rather than projecting handles wherever possible, inset rather than be projecting lavatory – roll holders, lighting and soap dishes, and a generally smooth and hygienic appearance. There is no reason why the keen handyman should not fit out his own bathroom in this way, or why the more prosperous bathroom owner should not employ a designer and have it built for him. But the cost will be higher and the building works inevitably longer, dirtier and more tedious. Remember too that attractive details such as curved edges are not quite so easy to achieve on a one-off basis. lf your own bathroom is so small as to make the very idea of such elaborate equipage ludicrous, you are more likely to be in the market for a vanity unit.
Horrid though the name may be, and horrid though some of the ready-made units indeed are, the vanity unit- which is basically a wash bowl set into a shelf, supported by a cupboard – can make all the difference between an untidy, uncomfortable little bathroom and a well-appointed and attractive one. There are some decent ready-made bathroom furniture of standard height (about 780 mm) and depth (560 mm), but with usefully varying widths. Some are available wide enough to take two wash bowls rather than one, and all are available in various woods and different-coloured laminated plastics. Tops can be of plastic or wood, with inset bowls and there are also handsome marbled stone surfaces with integral bowls. if the space you have to fill is awkward if your requirements are very specific, or if you simply prefer something quite unique, a vanity unit with the bowl is a relatively easy piece of equipment to build-in, and then all the materials and colours could be exactly to your choice.
You could have a Corian bowl and surface, or a marble or tiled worktops with a coloured acrylic bowl mounted under the surface. You could have both surface and cupboard in wood, with a china or even stainless steel bowl. You are not then tied to the manufacturers’ fairly limited range of materials and colours. Free-standing storage Some of the prettiest bathrooms are not a bit smooth or hygienic – and efficient-looking, but have free-standing furniture rather than the buiIt-in variety just described. This is usually made of wood. Often it is stripped pine or, for a more masculine effect, dark mahogany. Free-standing bathroom furniture is generally chosen by those wanting to get away from the clinical bathroom look (of which more in Chapter 5 on decoration) and generally, though not always, is put into large bathrooms where there is space to accommodate it. Old-fashioned washstands with deep cupboards and tiled tops are particularly appropriate for this purpose, so are chiffoniers which have a mirror and shelves above, a surface in which a wash bowl can be inserted, and storage cupboards below. But any wooden furniture intended for bathroom use should be treated with several coats of matt polyurethane varnish, otherwise, the family slasher (and most families have one) will do it irreparable damage. There is no reason why modern furniture should not be used in the same free-standing way, but it rarely is, except the cane and wicker variety which is perfectly at home in a damp atmosphere.