The internet is a great and terrible place. With just a little looking, you can find almost anything online, including furniture, but at the same time, there’s so much out there that it can be a little overwhelming. It can also be very tempting to stick with what you know. In fact, big brand names count on you going to their sites first, but if you do you’ll often end up paying as much for brand recognition as the product itself. This is especially true for things like bathroom vanities, where price and quality vary widely from brand to brand, and many high quality, inexpensive items come from brands you might never have heard of.
Just for example, I’d like to take a minute to compare a few bathroom vanities side by side, from a company you’ve probably heard of (Pottery Barn) and one you probably haven’t (Direct Vanity). The vanity above is the Newport console vanity from Pottery Barn. It has a beautiful, simple cottage style with a great open shelf design that’s perfect for an old fashioned, slightly country inspired master bathroom.
This Mission vanity from Direct Vanity is nearly identical. It has a slatted shelf on the bottom rather than a solid one, and is about two inches narrower and just a touch shorter, but otherwise the design is markedly similar. Even the hardware matches, and they include the same Carrara marble vanity tops and porcelain sinks. But you can find this vanity online for almost a thousand dollars less than the one you’d have to buy through Pottery Barn.
Now, it’s easy to assume that the price difference between the two bathroom vanities is entirely a marker of the difference in quality between the two. After all, Pottery Barn is a great company and a well respected brand that makes high quality products. But when buying online, it’s never safe to assume – in fact, it’s crucial to look into the specific details, not just the dimensions, but to really look into what materials bathroom vanities are made of. For example, this Benchwright vanity from Pottery Barn has a very nice mahogany stain, but it’s actually made of MDF panels over a solid wood frame.
MDF is a type of particleboard where small pieces of wood are shaped and fused together with an adhesive. There are pros and cons to using MDF, but by and large it’s considered an inferior material to solid wood, and is definitely less expensive. This Xtraordinary Spa Vanity from Direct Vanity is also made with a solid wood frame (which gives the whole vanity strength and durability), but also has solid wood front panels, doors, and drawers made of solid wood inside and out. Only the side and back panels are made of MDF, which gives the whole piece a more authentic wood appearance, again for less than you’d pay for the vanity from Pottery Barn.
Of course, not all big brand names have one-to-one equivalents or superior alternatives, but if you find a style you really like from a brand name you recognize, it’s worth taking a spin around the internet to see what you can find that looks similar. For example, the Turnleg Vanity below isn’t exactly the spitting image of this Classic Single Console from Pottery Barn. For one, it’s a double vanity instead of a single one, but the two bathroom vanities have a similar look and feel. Once again, though, the vanity from Direct Vanity clocks in at a lower price despite the slightly higher quality of the materials.
All that said, I realize that paying more for a brand name you know isn’t just about paying for the name – it’s about paying for the familiarity. But unless you have a particular brand loyalty – that is, you’ve bought similarly large items from the company in the past and had an unfailingly good experience with them – it’s worth shopping around for your next bathroom vanity. Many smaller companies can offer more personalized customer service throughout the process, and are often more willing (and able) to work with you to get exactly the design or combination of features you want.
But what about you? Do you think it’s worth taking the plunge into the internet to try to find the best deal on new bathroom vanities, or is it worth it to you to pay more to avoid the hunt? Let me know in the comments!