How to Detail a Medicine Cabinet

A medicine cabinet is a great way to add some very valuable storage in any bathroom. Typically, they are just a clunky mirrored box that is mounted to the wall and has about 3 to 4 inches of usable shelf space inside. However, if they are detailed with a little more care, medicine cabinets can become great bathroom design elements.

One idea is to mount a mirror that overhangs the edge of the medicine cabinet by at 3/4 of an inch. This will allow you to use the edge of the mirror to open the door, eliminating the need for a pull and making the detail more seamless.

Another option is to combine the main bathroom mirror with the medicine cabinet mirror and make them all flush. The design will feel more integrated and hidden as opposed to a stand alone medicine cabinet.

The one important detail to keep in mind is to make sure the swing of the medicine cabinet door clears the bathroom taps if located by the sink.

Today’s Slides:

  • Mikefilcor

    John Matthew:
    timely topic!
    how much space would you allocate to a 3pc basement bathroom?
    I am trying not to have it look and feel like a shoe box, and just can’t seem to get a layout I am happy with.
    Every layout I do keeps getting bigger and bigger but I don’t want to use up too much space in an already small basement

  • John Brown

    Hi Mike,
    The minimum width of a bathroom should be 5′ in order to accommodate a standard tub and provide sufficient floor space in front of the sink and the toilet. In terms of length, you should allow 2’6″-3′ for the bathtub, another 2’6″-3′ for the toilet clearance and 2′ for the sink. That adds up to around 7′ as a practical minimum.

  • Mikefilcor

    John thanks for your reply.
    I have put the tub/shower at the end wall (5′ wide).
    The challenge I am having in the basement would be dealing with the low headroom situation.
    Along that back wall there would be heat supply and cold air return ducts approx 8-9″ , maybe 3-4 ft wide.
    I have 84″ rough floor height, less tile and ducts I may end up with only 74″ in the shower, is that too low for fixtures? Or would it better to put toilet or sink on that back wall?


  • Louis Pereira

    Hi John | Matthew – This is another worthwhile topic no matter how minor it may seem. 

    One of my favourite details of a medicine cabinet is by architects Messana O’Rorke.  They did something that i wanted to replicate on one of my own projects.  They detailed a light fixture to be flush with the drywall at the inside corner where the medicine cabinet meets the wall.  Thus doubling the lighting and ending up with an almost seamless transition between the light fixture and medicine cabinet.

    I’ve attached an image of their detail and what i did to try and reproduce this same effect on my project.  In my own case i managed to get a full depth (12″) medicine cabinet by using a standard melamine grade, upper wall cabinet faced with a mirror.  Like Matthew’s suggestion the mirror/doors extended below the u/s of the cabinet to function as a ‘pull’

  • Steve in Van

    Great topic! It seems to me that if you’re only storing medicines, then hiding them behind the mirror is fine.

    But IMO, if we’re talking about daily-use toiletries, a good design would provide 1) easy access to our hygiene products, ‘tools’, and appliances 2) as we need them, and 3) use of the mirror 4) AT THE SAME TIME. How frustrating to be moving the mirror constantly during your morning/evening routines.

    What if we applied our interest in kitchen efficiency and ergonomics to the bathroom?

  • John Brown

    Thanks for posting the additional images. As always, helpful and to the point.

  • John Brown

    Good point about convenience. To avoid that conflict I would suggest locating the medicine cabinet in the side wall. That way you can create a double mirror condition as well.