I had a simple request that turned out to be NOT so simple and it warrants a huge post (with a big twist at the end). I wanted a medicine cabinet in our bathroom, BADLY, but I also wanted an arched mirror with pretty tile on top. I have never had a medicine cabinet and yet I’m very messy AND I also hate clutter – I’m a real peach!!! A few years ago I wrote one of our most highly trafficked posts ever – why designers hate medicine cabinets, so this might seem odd to want one so bad. But it’s not that we don’t like the function of a medicine cabinet, we just like beautiful mirror details more. I wanted an arched mirror and that did not exist on the market then. ARCIFORM said they could figure it out. They are real pros at doing custom details so we approved the concept and we’d figure out the execution later. GREAT.
Here was our plan…
We would each have one over our sinks, but it wasn’t my job to really figure out how to make that happen (hello, Jamie). I think the whole thing would have been easy if we were just doing drywall or normal tile, but you see, we ALSO wanted this radiant tile work at the top of the arch – so that it went from a horizontal running bond (stagger) tile on the back wall then following the shape of the curve on the arch. Seemed easy to me!
You get the idea, but we’d made it more complicated with the tile going vertical on the top of the arch. Sure, we’d have to figure out how the tile dies into the cabinet (finished edge? bull nose? wood trim?) and then the carpenter and tile installers would have to work closely together to make sure that it actually worked, but again – it’s not my job (and I don’t say that in a snarky way, I just simply have zero experience or ability to give any guidance or input on it so I put it out of my head). It wasn’t that it wasn’t my responsibility, it was that it would be irresponsible for me to shove my nose into the process.
The Size Of The Arched Mirror…
First, we had to figure out the size of the mirror. Anne had drawn it in at 14″ wide and it looked fine in the renderings at first. Then when we were in the space 14″ wide felt VERY narrow – and not just for storage, but also for seeing yourself. The case for the smaller mirror was that it was a more vintage look and the skinny proportions were unexpected and cool. I definitely could see that case. But the cons for the skinny mirror were my fear of not being able to see enough when I was doing my hair.
So we took a piece of cardboard and drew out three sizes – 14″, 16″, and 18″. ARCIFORM (Adam, Jamie, and Anne) unanimously thought that 18″ would be way too wide. But Brian and I felt very sure that 14″ was too narrow, so we settled on 16″ wide.
Wait, What About the Medicine Cabinet Behind The Mirror?
It’s SUCH a long story but here goes. About a year into the renovation, where money was seemingly blowing out a firehose and we couldn’t find the nozzle to turn it off (because of our choices, of course, and the sheer scope of work), we had a walkthrough with our team and the medicine cabinet situation hadn’t been figured out yet (because it wasn’t a priority timing wise yet). In this meeting, Adam and Jamie told us that troubleshooting the building of it would take a lot of time and since we were paying hourly we all guessed it would be about $3k in their time/labor (not including materials). Brian and I looked at each other and immediately nixed them. We’d either get rectangular readymade cabinets and soldier stack the vertical tile on top (left to right vertical), OR we’d buy arched mirrors with no medicine cabinet. But we would not spend $3k on two arched custom medicine cabinets. Fine. Were my dreams killed a bit? Sure, but I also have a decent perspective and knew it wasn’t anything to cry over.
Then months later I might have been grieving the death of our medicine cabinet design with Anne, and she said “Surely we could figure out how to do it for less”. We came up with the idea to buy a readymade rectangular 14″ medicine cabinet, then take off the mirror front, install it, and retrofit our custom arched mirror on top that we had cut from a glass shop.
But Jamie (expert carpenter) and Adam (project manager/general contractor) both said that while this MIGHT work it was actually much harder to retrofit something than to make it custom. I think the biggest issue for them is needing a trimmed-out frame around the mirror and we had some hinging issues, and if that had to be customized anyway. I showed them all the DIY versions I saw out there (vintage mirrors on hinges in front of recessed shelves) and I don’t remember why these wouldn’t work for us, but I trusted them as they explained that they wouldn’t.
All I know is that Jamie and Adam pulled it off. I came back to the house the next week and saw the beautifully made arched shelf you see here with the hope that this meant I was getting my arched medicine cabinet. Were they charging me? Of course. Do I know how much it ended up being? NOPE! All I know is that I got my arched medicine cabinet and I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
Troubleshooting The Arched Tile Detail
Our tile installer (shout out to Eric and Jeremy of Level Plane) mocked up the arch with leftover brick tile from the shower. They figured there were two different ways to do it – alternate rectangles with extreme triangles OR cut the brick tile to be narrow on one end and form an arch with the narrow ends. I appreciated the mockup of course and it was a swift decision – option B.
The detail in it was so pretty. Subtle for sure but I think that’s mostly from my decision-making (a darker grout would have made it more noticeable. I thought about doing it but I was nervous about the vertical grout lines being too close and more noticeable from the random tile on the back wall so I just called it and moved on.
So thanks to the ARCIFORM team (Jamie!) we got our custom arched medicine cabinets with the prettiest tile detail on top (thanks to Stephyn and Anne for troubleshooting that with us). Of course, you might want to see how it turned out…
Our Arched Medicine Cabinet
Y’all. They are PERFECT. Jamie executed them so well and they look amazing inside and out.
Inside he installed three shelves and then painted out the top wood white just to disappear. As you can see he glued the mirror to a piece of painted plywood so it would be substantial and then used heavy-duty hinges. Then he installed these little brass finger pulls on the bottom (he had to slightly carve out on the bottom of the mirror to fit the pull).
I am so happy with them and while I’m sure it ended up costing a lot in their expert time, it is over now and I’m really really really glad we have them. They house a lot of the stuff that I use every morning and night and would otherwise be on the counter.
Of course, about six months ago I started seeing readymade arched medicine cabinets on the market and laughed OUT LOUD. These larger companies are just getting faster at solving our design meets function problems and so here are a few that I think are awesome (and had they existed 18 months ago we would have definitely opted for them).
I also found some on Amazon. I think a roundup would be super helpful. I think pill-shaped is also cool. Can’t wait to show you everything on Monday! xx
*Pretty Photos by Kaitlin Green