Bathroom Cabinetry: Coming Out of the Water Closet

Years ago, we performed a year-long survey at Popular Woodworking to find out what sort of projects appealed to our readers. We were interested in what furniture styles they liked, but we were also interested in what furniture forms (tables, bookshelves etc.) that they most liked to build.

So in every issue we asked the readers to rate which projects they liked. After a year of data, we were shocked at some of the results.

Here was the wildest finding: Our readers really liked and needed plans for over-the-potty cabinets.

It’s easy to turn your nose up at this pedestrian form of furniture. Heck there’s never been a woodworking book titled “Best Dang Potty-Cabinet Plans” or a juried exhibition of studio furniture makers titled “Fine Cabinetry in the Can: Poetry and Motion.”

But maybe there should be.

One of the first projects I was ever really excited about personally was a potty cabinet. I thought it was a million-dollar idea when I came up with it. It’s a simple but fine-looking wall cabinet with delicate rails and stiles. The real cool thing about it is that the bottom of the cabinet dispenses washrags like a tissue box. And the interior guts of the cabinet are clever – the washrags never come spilling out when you open the door. And it has a cool handmade wooden hinge.

My co-workers still mock that cabinet (which is why it’s never been published), though my wife and kids use it every day. I know I still have the router pattern for the opening in the bottom of the cabinet (that took some doing to figure out). And now that I’m editor….

In any case, last week I finished up a new bathroom cabinet for our master bathroom. This was the last piece of built-in furniture I’d planned on building for our home’s addition, which was a project we started on seven years ago.

Because this project was for me, I was free to design it without worrying about co-workers or readers. So I could add details I liked, such as the divided lights in the door, which are just slightly recessed from the face of the door. And I could snitch details from other projects of mine without looking like a Johnny one-note – the top cap of the cabinet is stolen directly from my tool cabinet at work.

I built the cabinet using offcuts from the shop at work. The best part of the project was finding perfectly quartersawn stock lurking in the knottiest and nastiest board in the shop.

For my family, the best part of the project was that I designed it to hold six (six!) rolls of toilet paper, plus toiletries.

Here’s a TP design tip: Design your cabinet around the 5” dimension. A 5” x 5” x 5” space will do a good job of holding a decent-size roll (no promises on the super-jumbo-mondo rolls of paper).

If you’re interested in a simple construction drawing, you can download a pdf below.

Master_Bath_Cabinet.pdf (15.26 KB)

Maybe there is actually a book on this somewhere. Let me first see what Moxon says about potty cabinets….

— Christopher Schwarz

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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4 Responses to Bathroom Cabinetry: Coming Out of the Water Closet

  1. David Pearce says:

    A bathroom cabinet was the first thing we needed when we bought our house 11 years ago. Out of all the home improvement projects, that thing was so high on the list, if I’d done anything else in the meantime I probably would’ve paid dearly.

    Back then, I wouldn’t even had attempted to build it myself. We were fortunate that our cabinets were still being manufactured and we’re of decent quality, so a match was found, purchased, and hung in all it’s glory above the porcelin throne.

    Oddly enough, we’ve added another one in the downstairs half bath after a remodel, but never one in the second full bath. Maybe because it’s the one the kids use, as to why it never was high on the list, but just the other day, I noticed how messy the innards of that sink cabinet have become.

    I have a feeling, I’ll need these plans soon.

  2. Regis says:

    For once the "Wives Against Schwarz" are please. At least mine is. She saw this plan last night and now wants one. Thanks Chris. ;)
    And hey, where are the details on the washrag dispenser? Now I am courious.

  3. that’s nice , clean, simple and effective

  4. Chris F. says:

    I was already looking at Megan’s "chimney cupboard" from PopWood to go in our master bath…a variation on this might complement it nicely.

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