Medicine Cabinets - Out?

July 17, 2017

I'm replacing vanities in 2 bathrooms in our new vacation/retirement home and it's dawning on me that once again I may have missed a trend change ;).

I've always had, and used, a medicine cabinet-usually mounted into the wall directly above the bathroom sink, with several shelves inside and a mirrored door that opens to one side. You know, old school trad medicine cabinet.

When we bought this house I noticed there are no cabinets, just flat mirrors mounted above the vanities. And as I have been searching online and now in a store, everything seems to come with or feature flat wall mounted mirrors.

Are medicine cabinets now outdated? If so, where do people put all the stuff I keep in mine like toothbrush/toothpaste/contact solution/baby powder etc? In drawers? Don't people install medicine cabinets any more??

Comments (46)

  • girlnamedgalez8a

    Most new homes in my area don't have them but I had them built into my baths when we had our house built. I could not make it without ours. My son is about to expand his M. bath and looks forward to finally having medicine cabinets.

  • Jmc101

    In this case, I couldn't care less if there was or wasn't a trend change.

    Bathrooms MUST have medicine cabinets. You nailed it---homeowners need a place for bathroom "stuff".

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  • lukkiirish

    I wouldn't necessarily say they are out because I think there is still a need for them, I just don't think that they're as popular because people build in so much storage now and the demand isn't as big.

  • junglegal

    My new home I just purchased does not have them & I miss them! I'm forced to put all our meds, thermometers etc in a hall closet and its a PITA to go and retrieve them when needed. I will be adding them back at some point. Why wouldn't you want to take advantage of space between studs? So many design options for the cabinets too.

  • mayflowers

    I've remodeled one bath and have another to go, so I've looked at thousands of bathrooms on Houzz. Frameless recessed medicine cabinets are still popular. The ones that hang on the wall are not. If you want to use sconces, the door swing could interfere.

    A 60" double sink vanity is a common size and has the least amount of storage for a double, so I'd definitely use a medicine cabinet if that's the size you need.

  • Bunny

    If they're out, it's a stupid trend. :p

    I have a big mirror over my vanity and a medicine cabinet on the side wall. I mean, how else can you see the sides of your hair when styling?

    Some things are fine in a shallow top drawer, but for me, a medicine cabinet will never go out of style.

  • Rita / Bring Back Sophie 4 Real

    I love having a medicine cabinet. I do not like putting all that wet stuff in a drawer or just sitting out on a tray. Fancy, non functioning mirrors are for guests in the powder room.

  • runninginplace

    Thanks for the confirmation that at least I'm not nuts for loving my medicine cabinet LOL.

    The master bath is particularly ridiculous--for some unfathomable reason the PO decided it was a good idea to put a 27" vanity with NO STORAGE whatsoever (not a drawer to be seen) in a space that is almost 60" wide, with a flat mirror above it and not a single storage spot in the entire room.

    Then again, according to the realtor the PO bought it as a vacation property and his wife and teenagers decided pretty quick they didn't like it (direct ocean access in Key Largo, the mind boggles but whatever).

    So I'm guessing Mrs. PO probably never used the bathroom; she sure never stored anything in there. I actually bought a $35 wall mounted cheapie wall cabinet at Home Depot and made my husband put it up as soon as we closed, just so I have a place to put my stuff.

  • tinam61

    We have not had a medicine cabinet in over 20 years. We have a large vanity area with drawers and cabinets for the two of us. We also have a large linen closet in which I keep some extras (like soap, toothpaste, floss, etc.). Flat mirrors (2 - one above each sink). I have drawer organizers in our top drawers and places for things you mentioned. Hair dryer, brushes, etc. in largest drawer. Lotions, bath wash, etc., etc., etc. in my cabinets. Shaving cream, etc. and a caddy of cleaning supplies in hubby's cabinet.

  • tinam61

    I meant to say, if it's something you like - go for it! Can you still find them?

  • patty_cakes42

    I find not having them, I don't miss them. I've found other places for band aids, vitamins, and the calamine lotion. ;)

  • Boopadaboo

    For the first time in my life I have redone a bathroom and I put them in. the horrible hang on the wall kind. the recessed ones I liked were way too much money. I don't know how I ever lived without them and I don't care that they are "out" and I even went with Ikea (I know - horrifying for some :) )

  • LynnNM

    I haven't noticed them in any of our friends' homes lately. As much as I like the looks of the old-fashioned ones, I personally have never wanted them in my houses. Probably because when I was a young single, the ones in my apartments/ rental homes were too small to hold what I thought should go in them. It also creeped me out that most visitors would/will check out what was in them, just out of curiosity's sake. Our previous house didn't have them, and because we had a small kid, I kept my meds on the top shelf of our linen closet. Everything else was either kept on the counters (toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc., or in clear plastic shoe boxes under the sinks. When we designed this house, I had tall wood cabinets built in our main bathrooms to hold anything that would go in a medicine cabinet, plus towels, sheets, toiletries, etc. The meds, sunscreens, Band-Aids, etc. are still housed in clear plastic shoe boxes on the top shelves, though, and the towels and sheets down on the lower shelves. Doesn't Restoration Hardware carry medicine cabs?

  • Fun2BHere

    Our bathroom has storage similar to that described by Tinam61. I don't remember the last time I had a medicine cabinet.

  • Nothing Left to Say

    I wanted recessed ones in our bathrooms at our last house. The GC said no way to do it for the master because it was an exterior wall (old house, tiny bathroom, no way to recess it). The hall bathroom he also said no, because he would have had to completely reframe that wall (I'm sure he would have done it if I had said how much money to get it done, but it wasn't in the project budget). Both vanities had a ton of drawer space and I didn't really miss the medicine cabinets.

    New house--brand new actually. No medicine cabinets. Again the vanities have a fair bit of drawer space so it's not a problem.

    It's not like the medicine cabinets are ventilated or something that makes them better for toothbrush storage.

  • mayflowers

    Some vanities have the top drawer below a 6" panel and that's a pain to have to reach down to for your toothpaste.

  • Fori

    If you don't have a recessed medicine cabinet, how do you dispose of razor blades?

    I bet the new ones lack that feature....

  • suero

    I have two medicine cabinets, one over each sink, with mirrors on the inside of the door (as well as outside). The one on the right opens to the right, the one on the left opens to the left. Great for seeing the back of one's head.

  • palimpsest

    I am putting a medicine cabinet in one bathroom, but it is flush in the wall with an MDF door and it will be painted and papered to match the wall, and it is off to the side not over the sink. I don't keep prescriptions or analgesics in the bathroom anyway, because it affects their shelf life.

    The smaller bathroom does not have room for a medicine cabinet but the vanity has shallow drawers in its place.

    Over the vanities I prefer wall to wall ceiling to backsplash mirror. Also dated.

    I think there is one big reason why you see them less and it is the same reason you do not see recessed toilet tissue holders much anymore either. You have to think about these things during the framing. You can't decide at the end where it all goes. Many things that have to be planned for in advance are dropped, and then they become dated.

  • mojomom

    We are using inset medicine cabinets over each sink in the master for the extra storage. We have two 48" single sink vanities. These are the ones we are using from RH:

    Because they are inset, they will look just like nice mirror.

    Like the English Arts & Crafts aesthetic that inspired it, our medicine cabinet displays elegant simplicity and craftsmanship, with a restrained wood-molding frame wrapped in brass. A hand-antiqued finish reflects the original's vintage patina.



    • Small Wall-Mount Overall: 19"W x 7¼"D x 27"H
    • Small Inset Overall: 19"W x 7¼"D x 27"H
    • Small Inset Recessed Box: 15¼"W x 3¾"D x 23¼"H
    • Large Wall-Mount Overall: 25½"W x 7¼"D x 35½"H
    • Large Inset Overall: 25½"W x 7¼"D x 35½"H
    • Large Inset Recessed Box: 21¾"W x 3¾"D x 31¾"H


    Ours will be the large wrapped in aged nickel, rather than brass in the description.

    This is where they have been framed out. We had to fur out the wall to get the depth needed, but the bonus is that it made my window seat deeper.

  • lizbeth-gardener

    Suero: How clever! I have the same arrangement, but no inside mirrors. I just use a hand mirror for seeing back of head. I love my cabinets.

    Fori: I dispose of razor blades by putting inside a piece of duct tape and then into the trash. No worry about anyone getting cut. I only use disposable blades for craft or home projects. Do people still use disposable blades to shave (rather than disposable razors)?

    Lynn: Just curious: What is to keep visitors from looking in your tall cabinet?

  • kittymoonbeam

    I saw a fun idea of a painting mounted to the front of a medicine cabinet. No one would know. I remember grammas old medicine cabinet with the aspirin and bandaids and antiseptic for scrapes. That was it. I remember it squeaked when it opened and we used to hide gum there and also small tins of mints on the narrow glass shelves.

  • joaniepoanie

    I have a custom medicine cabinet that matches the vanity hanging between the two sinks flanked by mirrors over the sinks. Our hall bath is really small and I put in a recessed cab with mirror over the sink when we remodeled.

  • czarinalex

    When we remodeled the master bath in our main house, we put in 2 recessed medicine chests above each sink. They are by Kohler and are totally mirrored inside. It just looks like 2 mirrors on the wall.

    When we remodeled our beach house, both bathrooms have a full wall to wall mirror above the vanity and a medicine chest on 1 side. My contractor told me that 'everyone' removes the medicine chest, removes the wall to wall and puts stand alone mirrors above each sink. We weren't everyone!

  • Fori

    I was kidding about the razor blades disposal. I don't know of anyone who uses them for shaving, although they are certainly useful to have around.

    I just enjoy the concept of dropping used blades into the wall cavity although I never have...

  • CindyMac

    Have them in both bathrooms. Also have side lights ... no door interference.

    Btw, meds should not be kept in the bathroom. Humidity is not their friend.

  • 3katz4me

    We don't have any medicine cabinets any more since we moved a couple years ago. I never had a very spacious one so I don't really miss having one. We have good drawer and tall cabinet storage now so that actually works better for me. I do like to have some things easily visible at eye level and we have that option so I'm okay with no medicine cabinet.

  • LynnNM

    lizbeth-gardener: to answer your question as to how do I then keep visitors from just perusing our tall bathroom cabinets, well we now have a powder room, where no meds or things like that are kept. It has neither a tall cab or medicine cab. Most of our visitors use that one. The bathroom for stay-over guests does have a tall cab, but I only keep meds and things (Band-Aids, Tylenol, Tums) that they might need in there. I have a specially marked box that I make sure to point out to them when they arrive. Our en suite bathroom is where the main meds, etc. are kept, and is used by only us. Yes, guests can look through my cabinets in the other two bathrooms but they'll only find stacks of folded towels and sheets, extra soap, and that "guest meds box".

  • loonlakelaborcamp

    We have a wall mount medicine cabinet and will be replacing it with another wall mount that has LED lighting in the glass. Having the mirror 4-5 inches closer helps these eyes!

    We store bandaids, sunscreens, teeth related articles, creams, deodorant, etc...in it. Meds are in a kitchen cabinet near the drinking water.

    Frankly, we need all the storage we can get. We only have the one bathroom 5 x 10. Will only have two small drawers in the new vanity. Will have pull out baskets in the door areas.

  • 4kids4us

    Our master bath has the full ceiling to sink mirror plus medicine cabinets on both the adjacent walls. It's the original bathroom from 20 years ago that does need to be updated. However, I *need* the side mirrored medicine cabinet to be able to style the back of my hair!

    My kids' bathroom just has the single mirror above the sink. My girls hate not having the full mirror to see themselves so they always use my bathroom, both to check out their outfits and style their hair! When we redo their bathroom, I'm adding a large mirror like we have in ours.

  • Indigo Rose

    Mojomom, above, showed her lovely medicine cabinets from RH. I have a different one from RH, which I love, love, love. It is fully mirrored, inside and out, lights up upon opening, has adjustable glass shelves, and an outlet. I keep my electric toothbrush plugged in there, and it is so handy directly above the sink.

    Edited to add, this was purchased prior to the change to "membership".

  • mojomom

    Oh, I have seen those Indigo, and they are great! I actually found one of mine at a RH outlet for 33% of regular price (missing one shelf, but that's an easy fix), but had to pay full price for the other. Did do the RH membership for that and ordered a few more things at the same time and probably a few more within the next six months so the membership deal is a savings for us.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    We solved the issue by adding a "tower" on our counter. The bottom is a lift door behind which is an outlet where we plug in our water pik and electric toothbrushes and keep other shared items. Above is for the other small things. Below the tower is a bank of drawers for more shared storage.

  • LynnNM

    What a great, practical and beautiful solution, Annie! I love it!

  • 4kids4us

    Gorgeous vanity, Annie!

  • aprilneverends

    In our house, we

    -put a vintage medicine cabinet on the opposite wall from the mirror in a tiny powder room that doesn't have much storage. it looks very outdated I suppose yet by now I just heard on how cute it is lol (it's oak plus blue stained glass frame..I like that it reflects in the other mirror, and reflects the mirror itself too

    -didn't put any medicine cabinet in the master as we have a roomy vanity there

    -put a long wall medicine cabinet, the longest I could find, in a niche between studs in the very standard size, not blessed with storage guest/kids bathroom, and painted it a wall color(it has no mirror..the doors are paint grade wood). that was the best thing I could do for that bath(the only one we didn't fully gut)-increased storage dramatically

    my moral: don't care whether it's outdated or not. care only about specific bathroom-do I need it there? if yes-what's the best way to make it work, in terms of function and stylistically?

    so I treat every space differently. the only common thing-they all have medicines..LOL. I disperse these thoughout the house..have some in the kitchen, some in the master..could have opened a pharmacy, really

  • tinam61

    That makes perfect sense April. And meds in a tightly closed container within a drawer/closet/medicine cabinet, etc. should not be affected by humidity.

  • arcy_gw

    Yep, I would say they are pretty OUT. We have purchased three homes since 1990 and only the one built post WWII had one. Flat mirrors were in the other two. Homes I have visited in the last 40 years also do not have recessed medicine cabinets. I have often wondered why, where did they go and am I the ONLY person who misses them? When my MIL built a home in '99 she had non recessed mirror/medicine cabinet combos hung. I was TOTALLY confused. Why wouldn't you just RECESS it?? The answer was money and it wasn't done like that anymore. Who decided this contractors or architects? Did it evolve due to design or cost saving measures? Who knows but when you want them and are told "they are extra" you know it is because it is non-standard or OUT. I think they would be handy and can definitely see why once you are used to them they would be missed, but evidently plenty of people are not willing to PAY to have them put in. I can say with all the drawers in modern vanities there is plenty of room for STUFF. Each of my offspring had their own drawer. Much more private and less germ swapping that way--seems to me. From the responses you got perhaps they are on their way back? Lets hope so. Just more proof not EVERYTHING modern is a great idea in the end.

  • mojomom

    I think one reason that you don't often see recessed medicine cabinets more often is the cost. Ours were relatively expensive to start with but that was only the start. Ours are on an outside wall so we also had to fur out the wall to get them to fit and still have plenty of insulation behind them. On an interior wall, you would also need a 6" wall rather than standard. If you are building a custom home for yourself, you may justify the cost if you want them , but spec or semi custom builders don't add them because of the additional costs. I think you don't see them that often is because most newer homes on the market are spec, semi custom or builder grade. Honestly, very few, if any, people won't not buy a home because there are no medicine cabinets so there is no incentive for builders to include them. Just my 2 cents on why you don't see them often.

    Edited to add: other solutions like Annie's are great too, but again you don't see those often in builder homes either because of the costs. The masses stop at "oh, double sinks!"

  • C Schaffner

    We remodeled and put in 2 wall mount large medicine cabinets. Love them. Works really well for us, we don’t care if they are out of style.

  • teaka123

    Adding a master bath to our home now and for me medicine cabinets are a must. We have a large recessed medicine cabinet on order that opens on each side - his & hers. Looking forward to having a place to hold my toothbrush, tweezers, vitamins, etc. without having to move hubby's things around to get to them. Also, do not want personal things in view.

  • Joy Stephens

    The biggest reason they went out is because they look tacky. We are ripping out our bathroom and my husband is dying saying he needs his. I can find other places for my things. Thinking of just doing a wood paneled door for his and not doing mine.... but that may look weird not matching??

  • nosoccermom

    "they look tacky"? Why?

  • Silly Sal

    I just bought a new house and neither bathroom came with a medicine cabinet. I didn't even notice until I went to put away my Nyquil, bandaids and aspirin! I said WTF is this sh___??!! No linen closet either! The builder's just cheap, that's all. My builder didn't even want to put in a garage door! Pretty soon homes will only come with frames!

  • arcy_gw

    I had to turn to cloth cubes on our open shelving for the privacy of such items...PITB FOR SURE.

  • salonva

    We too haven't had medicine cabinets in our homes over the years, but sure did miss them. When we remodeled, it was only an afterthought in our guest bathroom and we used one like this Mirrored MedCabinet and although it's pretty plain, with a nice vanity and lights, it looked great and was so so useful and stored so much I am thinking I will do this in our current house as well.

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