That Pesky Medicine Cabinet

Two years ago when we were planning out the back bathroom Chris and I decided we would very much like to install a recessed medicine cabinet. In the main bathroom we just have a mirror on the wall because we've got plenty of storage (with a small wall cabinet over the toilet and a standing cabinet in the corner) and I always feel like medicine cabinets that stick out from the wall feel so incredibly bulky. Because the only storage so far in the back bathroom are our cubbies, we thought a medicine cabinet was very necessary. So I wrote about the one we had selected two years ago from HD on this mood board post

But when Chris read that post the next day he sent me an email letting me know he totally forgot that we wanted a recessed cabinet and we'd need to get it really soon in order to accommodate the installation for it (because it's recessed we'll have to adjust the framing on that wall a bit). I said I'd hop on the task and drove to HD that day to pick it up (this was Monday). Ummmm, they didn't have it, but, we did see it at HD two years ago, so really I can't blame them at all for not having it anymore. After running several more errands I came home and looked it up online and tried to buy it off the website. No dice. So then I looked to see if any near by stores had it: not one store within 50 miles (that's 30 total stores by the way) carried it. Well, that sucks.

HD had a couple recessed choices in their store, but none of them had any detail trim that made them look at all vintage (which is what we liked about the above cabinet) and so I didn't like any of the ones they had. I was relegated to buy something on the internet instead of in store. I wasn't a super big fan of this, but what are you going to do?

I googled and found many recessed medicine cabinets, but you know what, they are expensive as shit!

The one above from Pottery Barn (found here) oh, you know, just $249. Gah!

I liked this one on Amazon (found here)

Medicine Cabinet in Espresso

But it only came in that super dark color - nearly black - and I was really gunning for white (or a milk chocolate brown stain like the one from Pottery Barn).

There was another from Amazon that looked pretty decent (found here)

ZENITH PRODUCTS #MC10WW White Amer Medium Cabinet
But the reviews weren't great and the ones that I read that came from people who sounded like they knew what they were doing said it was basically a piece of shit.

I found another on Amazon that looked pretty snazzy (found here)

But it's "currently unavailable." Damnit!

And of course Pottery Barn kept disappointing me with their pretty but expensive things

Found here, again for $249.

Sigh. It seemed as if the recessed cabinet was out of our reach. I just couldn't stomach paying that much for a 6 sq. ft. cabinet that hung on the wall. With a $250 price tag that's $40+ per sq. ft. of storage and that just seems ridiculous to me.

I thought about getting a regular medicine cabinet. But again, they just feel so bulky to me and as I was scrolling through some they just made me snarl, so I figured that wasn't a good idea. Plus, with our bathroom so small I felt like a cabinet jutting out from the wall would make it feel even smaller.

And then, I thought of it: let's build one! If Chris will let us that is :) Frankly, it seemed not too difficult to build, and hey, if we can build this

Why they hell can't we build a medicine cabinet?

So I googled around to see if it was in fact as easy to build as I thought. I may be the one in this partnership who makes us bite off a little more than we can chew :) And with baby coming and 5ft. of the wall to tile I didn't want to turn Chris into a stress ball. But as I googled and read the plans, it seemed pretty straight forward.

I waited until Chris came home. I told him that HD didn't have the cabinet anymore (and neither did any store from Sacramento to San Jose), and that as I was looking online they were just a little pricey. So um..."You want us to build one?" Chris guessed it before I even said it. I looked at him sheepishly. I said if it was too much trouble that was totally fine, we could just get a mirror and figure out other storage - no big deal. But Chris said, no he thought we could do it, the most difficult thing would probably just be the mirror - how would it be trimmed out, attached to the door, etc. I agreed and said the first thing I would do was find a suitable mirror for us, and then draw up the plans and we'll build away! It never takes us too long till we decide to build something else :)


Heather said...

Grrr, I feel you on this one. Medicine cabinets are outrageously pricey. I tried to find one for that hole I have in my bathroom wall and decided I couldn't afford it. I think the one my parents bought cost more than my college education.

meryl rose said...

Yeah, it's so ridiculous! I just don't get it. I'll make sure to keep a good tab on how much we spend building ours to compare the cost. It just seems so crazy how pricey they are. Grrr is right. Damnit.

Bunny @ 86n It said...

Yea, $40/sf for a medicine cabinet is ridic!

Love how Chris knew you wanted to build one. ;)

meryl rose said...

I know, that made me laugh :) He knows me too well :)

Sharon @ Laurelhurst Craftsman said...

I think I have that HD medicine cabinet sitting down in my basement--seriously. I bought it for our early renovation attempts from HD and we installed it. Then it got removed a few months later for our major remodel. I don't know how we'd get it to you though... =)

Alex - Old Town Home said...

Yes, Yes, build it!

I had to chime in here because we ran into a very similar situation. When we renovated our tiny guest bathroom, we knew what we wanted from a stylistic standpoint, but the size was the issue. Our small bathroom with a normal sized medicine cabinet would have looked foolish. So we ended up building two, one for above the small pedestal sink and one behind the toilet.

Here's the one behind the toilet http://www.oldtownhome.com/2012/4/17/Toolbox-Tuesday-Plaster-Buttons-to-Fix-Your-Crumbling-Ceiling/ (bottom of post).

You can see the one above the sink in the "after" photo here http://www.oldtownhome.com/2012/1/17/Nine-Years-and-Counting-Happy-House-iversary/#guestbath

It is actually so much easier than you might think. We've not blogged about it yet, as it was BB ("before blog"), but I can explain how we did it rather quickly. It's actually a 3 step build.

1. Build the box that goes in the wall. Quick and simple. Wood sides and plywood back. Use a jig to drill adjustable shelf holes. We made our shelves fixed, and I wish we handn't. Once the box is built, put it in the wall.

2. Build the face frame and nail it to the box in the wall, then trim out the top of the cabinet with some crown detail.

3. Build and assemble the door based on the size you created with the cabinet, than install using non-mortise hinges.

For the door behind the toilet, we just used a raised panel for the panel. For the medicine cabinet with the mirror, we built the rail and stiles in the same way as the other door, but rather than using a raised panel, we used a piece of mirror and a 1/4" piece of plywood sandwiched together (liquid nails) and then inserted it into the slot like we had done for the panel on the other door.

Now we have completely custom and matching medicine cabinets that work with the scale of the room, and the whole thing probably cost about $50-$60 for both of them. They made out of poplar for the majority, some stock Lowes pine trim, and the panel is MDF. Good luck, can't wait to see how it turns out.

meryl rose said...

That is so funny Sharon! I just bought a mirror for $13 at Target, so we have officially started our building list :)

Thanks Alex! We will definitely be checking out your blog and instructions! I'm excited someone else has built one and said it's not too hard :)