Turn a Dresser into a Vanity

There are so many beautiful options for bathroom vanities these days it can be a hard decision to make. While on the hunt for a vanity for my small half bath, everything that caught my eye didn’t fit in my budget. I had no idea bathroom vanities were so expensive! But there is a great solution that just requires a little bit of elbow grease. Use a dresser!
  ​Once I discover all of my pin-worthy vanities were are not an option my natural instinct is to turn to craigslist. However, the only bathroom vanities on craigslist are old, outdated ones people have torn out during their renovations, not exactly helpful when you’re trying to update your home. This is when it helps to have a creative eye for what something could become. Within a few minutes of searching craigslist for dressers I found “the one.”
 It’s ugly and brown and needs a face lift but it has potential and is (almost) the perfect size. One thing I was running into while searching for a vanity was that typical vanities come in standard sizes but they were all a tiny bit too small or too big, I’m looking for the baby bear of the vanity world and just wasn’t finding it. Dressers come in all different sizes making it likely that you will come across something that will fit your awkward space. Also, dressers are a little more narrow that traditional vanities so in my tiny bathroom even those few inches make a huge difference.
You can see in the pictures above, between the toilet and the counter how much space was added by having a more narrow cabinet and toilet tank. 
Picking out the vanity was the easy part, the next step takes a little more effort. There are a million and one posts on how to turn a dresser into a vanity or simply how to paint your current vanity. A few of them claim “paint without any prep.” This is a lie... Especially not on something you will use every day. If you don’t want to be painting your vanity again any time soon I suggest taking your time to prep it properly. Let’s take a deeper look into prep.

There really aren’t a whole lot of step to it. Sand, Prime, and Paint.

You will need to sand your dresser very well. The goal is to get off the shiny coating and allow the primer to stick to the wood, which will make it last longer. You can use a paint stripper for this but I don’t think that’s always necessary. Invest in a palm sander and it will make your life so much easier ( I have this one ) and if your dresser has a lot of small detail you might want to looking something smaller or even a Dremel to get into tiny crevasses. I try to keep this in mind when picking a piece to refinish, the more detail the more time it’s going to take to prep.
Primer is key to getting the finish you want and getting it to last. I always use a high quality primer before I paint anything. It really is a crucial step that a lot of people leave out. Yes, you will get your project done faster if you just dive into painting but your finish won’t last as long and might peel. Plus, primer is cheaper than paint so I would rather do three coats of primer and one coat of paint versus no primer and three coats of paint. You can even get your primer tinted if you chose a really dark color.

Always remember: Take the Time to Prime.
Now come the fun part: Paint!

This is when the real transformation takes place. I don’t have a “go-to” paint brand that I use but for this project I used Olympic ONE from Lowe’s. This formula is supposed to dry harder and be ideal for cabinets (Side note: I’ve had this paint on my kitchen cabinets for a year now with no chips). It’s cheap and covers with minimal coats, can’t beat that.

I don’t know the name of the color I used but it’s a soft cool grey tone. When picking paint for the vanity I had already picked the wall color, surprise surprise another shade of grey. I used the same paint chip card as the wall color and simply picked a darker shade than the wall color.

Something that I overlooked while shopping for paint and tile was the specific colors in the floor tile. The tiles are grey but a warm beige grey while the wall/vanity is a cool grey with a blue/purple undertone. It’s not really noticeable and I don’t many people would see it if I didn’t point it out but I wish I had matched them a little better. I doubt that it will ever bother me enough to want to change it though.
Now the outside is done its time to spend a little time on the inside. I think this is the most intimidating part of this process but it’s easier than you might think.

First I picked my sink. One thing to think about is the overall size of your sink. Since dressers are typically less deep than vanities you will need to keep that in mind while sink shopping.

A few to remember when deciding on a sink style and ease of installation:
  • A vessel sink is the easiest style to add to your dresser, it involves only a small hole for the drain pipe rather than a big hole for the sink to sit in. But they also take up more counter space and more visual space to if you’re working with a small room with minimal counters I would not suggest this one.
  • I went with an inset rimmed sink. It offered more counter space with a relatively easy installation. The rim of the sink will cover any imperfections in your cutting job. And I found mine for $10 at the salvage yard!
  • Lastly an under-mount sink is a beautiful option but not for the novice jig sawer. The cut edge where you install the sink will be visible and I know I would never be happy with my cutting job so this was out of the question for this DIYer. Also, I knew I would be using the top of the dresser as the counter and having the cut edge of wood exposed in the sink area make me nervous, even though it would be painted and sealed.

 Cutting the sink hole:
Step one: find the center of your dresser.

Step Two: lay your sink upside down and trace the outline, move the sink and draw your cut line according to the lip of the sink. It should be about 1-2 inches inside the line you drew from the sink.

Step Three: drill a pilot hole somewhere inside the future sink hole.

Step four: insert jig saw blade into pilot hole and cut out the hole for the sink.

Step five: test fit the sink. You may have to make a few adjustments, remember you can always cut more but you can’t put it back once it’s gone.
The next step is to retrofit the drawers to accommodate the sink and pipes. This is something to keep in mind when picking a dresser. One thing that makes this process easier is having the drawer slides down the bottom, middle of the drawer rather than on the sides. This allows you to cut into the side of the drawers without having to move the slides. I liked this dresser because of the small drawers down the center. I ended up cutting the drawer front off the top three center drawers and simply screwing them into place. This gave me room for the sink and pipes and still left me with 9 drawers for storage while keeping the look of the dresser intact.

The top two drawers on the sides were a little different story. The sink is a little bit wider than that center drawer section and the top drawers hit it when I tried to slide them into place. First, I measured how wide the sink stuck into the drawer space. Then I grabbed my saw. I used my jig saw to cut a few inch strip from the side of my drawer, while keeping the front and center slide intact. I had some leftover trim boards that I cut to size and tacked in place to make the new side to the drawer. The whole process took just a few minutes. I also could have simple cut off the drawer fronts and screwed them into place just like the center ones, but I didn’t want to give up that much drawer space. That is still a large drawer even efter the side was cut out.


The dresser was just half an inch shorter than the room is wide so I was left with a small gap on both sides. I think it would have looked just fine had I left it but I wanted it to look built-in so I added a small piece of trim to each side to cover the gap. You can see in the picture above it is still white but I painted it the same color as the dresser and you would never even know. You could do this with any size trim so even if a cabinet is an inch or two short don’t count it out.
I also added trim along the top to create that bathroom vanity look as well as to cover the gap but I go more into detail about that in my post on the countertops here .
That’s really all. This is a simple project that most homeowners could tackle on their own. With a few simple tools and some patience you can turn that old dresser into the perfect bathroom vanity.  

Have you turned a piece of furniture into a vanity? Tell me about it below!



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