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This DIY Vanity To Give Your Bathroom A Facelift

vanity makeover

This blogging thing is really getting to me! In a GOOD way, of course. :-) After over a year of blogging and researching and surfing and pinning, I finally succumbed to the DIY bug and decided to tackle a somewhat significant project in my house. I must have been a bit mental when I saw this tutorial by Monica at Monica Wants It and thought, “That looks easy! I can do that!”

Well, it wasn’t what I would call easy, but I’m sure that’s due more to the fact that I’m a complete DIY newbie. But on the other hand, it really wasn’t hard either, and I’m giddy over how well it turned out!

About two weeks ago, with the help of my daughter Britta, I decided to dive head first into my first ever “grown up” DIY project: refinishing the cabinets in the “boys’ bathroom”. (I figured I’d use their bathroom vanity as the guinea pig project, and if it wasn’t a colossal failure, I would try it in MY bathroom.)

Why A DIY Vanity?

Houzz.com put it perfectly when they said:

“Not only can DIY save you cash at times, but it can help to save the planet through recycling and upcycling. Creating and making things yourself also gives you a sense of pride and defines your personal style – it allows you to stand out from the crowd and decorate a home that is not like everyone else’s.”

Even if you’re not doing a full bathroom renovation, changing anything in your bathroom can get pretty pricey. But changing even one piece can make a huge difference! Not everyone has the budget to buy their favorite bathroom vanity and brand new fixtures. And doing your very own furniture makeovers can be a lot less expensive. Instead of spending $1200 on something, you can spend less than $100 for the supplies and a few hours of your time!

And all things considered, a DIY bathroom vanity is a pretty low-risk project to take on, making it perfect for a newbie like me.

And as fantastic as a store bought bathroom cabinet can be, it’s never perfect. There is always something down the road that makes you think, “I wish this just had…”

vanity makeover

My Bathroom Vanity Makeover

I must send out major props to Monica at Monica Wants It. When I saw her tutorial I was immediately intrigued, because my bathroom cabinets looked eerily similar to the ones in her “before” photos.  I was hopeful I could make them look like her “after” pictures as well! 

Since I am such a neophyte at DIY projects, I pretty much followed her instructions to the letter, but I did end up doing a few things differently. (I assume this is typical because no two projects are alike. Am I right? I’m just guessing here.) :-)

So here are my TIPS for accomplishing this project in your own bathroom! :-)

vanity makeover

Bathroom Hardware

I bought new knobs and drawer pulls for my vanity. Aging hardware can really date your cabinet, so it’s one of the first things you’ll want to replace.

When you are removing the old hardware from the doors and drawer fronts, put everything in a bag or a box and HOLD ONTO IT until the project is finished. I like to go a step further and tape the bag somewhere safe (like inside the bathroom vanity.)

You will obviously need the inside hinges to reattach the doors, but the screws may come in handy too! The screws that came with the new Martha Stewart Collection handles I bought for the drawers turned out to be too short, so it was a very good thing that I kept ALL the original hardware! 

Even if you plan on keeping your hardware, you’re still going to want to take them off to avoid getting paint on them. If you happen to have a drawer pull that isn’t going to budge, carefully apply thin painter’s tape where the hardware meets the drawer face, then use press and seal wrap to cover the rest in a pinch. But it’s better to take it off if you can.

I also recommend removing the slides off of the drawer box and from the inside of the cabinet as well. I think it’s easier, but it’s not an absolute necessity. If you leave them on, just make sure to cover each drawer slide with painter’s tape, otherwise you’ll end up with a gunky drawer that gets stuck all the time!

Just remember, the better you prep and the more careful you are, the better your finished product will turn out.

And if you have a faux drawer like I do, you won’t have to worry about removing it, because it won’t come off anyway!  ;-)

vanity makeover

Fixing Damage

Fixing Damage

With any luck, you won’t need to fix anything. But distressed cabinets won’t always be in vogue, and you should certainly address any structural damage. You can usually buy replacement cabinet doors, but if you want a different style to replace cabinet doors that are beyond repair, a bit of plywood, brads, wood glue, and pocket holes can give your cabinet a modern feel.

vanity makeover


If you are like me and are put off by any project that involves sanding,.don’t let that stop you from trying this!

All store-bought bathroom vanities have a thin protective coat on the wood, which you’ll need to sand for two reasons. First, because you need to expose the porous surface of the wood in order for the stain to be able to soak into the wood. Second, if you are using paint, it will adhere better to a rough and porous surface. The slick surface of the protective layer is too slippery and will cause the paint to peel off over time, especially on cabinet doors that are constantly being touched. We don’t want that!

The sanding component of this project is minimal and using a sanding block is a BIG HELP. I definitely recommend getting one!

vanity makeover

Staining Your Vanity

The tutorial suggests using a men’s athletic sock over a vinyl glove to apply the stain, but I tried this and it just didn’t work for me. I found I much preferred using foam brushes. And to make things easy on yourself, buy several foam brushes in various sizes and just throw them away when they dry out. Foam brushes are super cheap and I hate cleaning brushes. Just make sure you get a lot of them, because they’ll start to fall apart if you use it more than two or three times.

(No one likes an extra trip to the hardware store!)

And speaking of stain, Monica insisted that General Finishes Java Gel Stain is the BEST stain for the job, andI would have to agree! I absolutely LOVE how the color came out in the end. I bought the quart sized can, but you could get by with the 1/2 pint size for a bathroom. I hardly put a dent in the amount of stain in the can, because a little goes a LONG way!

Painting Your Vanity

If you want to paint your vanity, I suggest using a paint sprayer. The comparatively even coat of paint makes it a lot easier to sand in between coats to get a nice, smooth finish that’s free from brush strokes.

Also, while this method is more expensive, I suggest using oil-based spray paint. Like oil-based stain, it will help ensure that your finish will really adhere to the unfinished wood, resulting inless wear and tear from everyday use.

If you are spraying anything (stain, paint, or polyacrylic), cover the vanity mirror with newspaper or butcher paper and secure it with painter’s tape.

Warning: Regardless of the method you choose, make sure you are doing everything you can to ventilate the area and protect yourself from inhaling the fumes. If you can’t work outside, wear a mask, open windows, turn on the bathroom exhaust fan and as many box fans as you have.

vanity makeover

Miss Britta got the project ball rolling by taking off the doors and sanding. Thanks sweetie! :-)

Between Coats

I was very good about following Monica’s suggestion to allow a lot of drying time in between coats. I think this is pretty important in the overall success of this project.

I know we all want everything done yesterday, but I promise that if you rush it, you’ll look back and think, “Dang, I could have done a better job!”

Give your project time to dry hard enough that you can sand in between coats of stain or paint. Not only will sanding get rid of the texture that the brush or sprayer leaves, but also the dust particles and random stuff that landed on the sticky surface.

However, I got a little impatient towards the end of the project and applied 3 coats of the polyacrylic topcoat in pretty close succession with no problems. It dries surprisingly fast! Just make sure each coat is even and not too thick. I highly recommend using Painter’s Pyramids so you don’t have to wait until the first side dries to be able to paint the other side. (This will be a big timesaver!)

vanity makeover

After the first coat…

vanity makeover

After the second coat…looking better!

vanity makeover

You know what they say—the third coat’s the charm!

Top Coat

Before I applied the polyacrylic topcoat, I went over any little areas that the stain hadn’t quite covered entirely and filled it in with a Black Sharpie. (A little trick from the hubster!) If I didn’t know where I’d used the Sharpie, I would never be able to tell.

That’s pretty much it! I hope you will check out Monica’s blog and tutorial. She obviously put a LOT of work into it, and I’m very pleased with the results I was able to achieve by following it.

Before And After Photos

vanity makeover
diy vanity makeover

I almost can’t believe I did that! :-)

More Projects!

I’m so pleased with how it turned out and would recommend this project to anyone! I think it’s a good project for “first timers” like myself.

And truth be told, if you have done it once, you can apply the same techniques and principles over and over again, no matter the project! You could redo that 30-year-old red mahogany dresser that some monster painted over, an IKEA desk that you want to spice up, or even that dining table top that your kids have banged their forks onto one too many times. You can even give yourself a DIY vanity mirror, and install a floating shelf now that the rest of your bathroom is so pretty!

And if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can diy your vanity light so you can put your makeup in a bright and happy environment. Though electricity is a little more intimidating than paint.

A few weeks after I completed the cabinets in the boys’ bathroom, I did indeed do my own bathroom cabinets and was once again thrilled with the result! I’m also pleased to report that two years later, they looked just as good as the day I refinished them! I’m telling you, DIY prep works!

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Homekeeping Tips

  • This turned out beautifully! For anyone that might like to try painting, I recently painted a bathroom vanity and an old bedroom suite from the 1960s that my parents passed to me. I used satin finish latex paint with Floetrol® Latex-Based Paint Additive and a fine white foam roller. The Floetrol slows the dry time of latex so that it has time to level out like oil based paint, and the foam roller applies it in a smooth layer. In Home Depot the foam rollers I used are labeled for cabinets, furniture and smooth surfaces. The expert in the store suggested if the furniture was to be used for kids or in a high traffic area I might want to use Polycrylic to protect the finish, but that if it were going in a secondary bedroom, such as a guest bedroom the paint finish would be hard enough on it’s own. Simply clean the furniture, sand it completely, fill any spots with wood filler, clean again then paint and lightly sand between coats. After doing all that hard work, use Polycrylic and not Polyurethane, because Polycrylic stays clear over time where Polyurethane yellows over time & can change the color of your project. When Mom saw it she actually teared up and said it looked more beautiful than when it was new and asked (jokingly) if she could have it back. Top compliment!

  • I noticed that you put a single pull on the cupboards where there was a handle (with two holes). How did you cover the bottom hole that you no longer needed.

  • Hi! Great tutorial! I am looking forward to using this as a guide to stain my guest bath cabinets.

    I noticed in the before/after pics that the two side doors went from two hole pulls to one hole…What did you use to fill the second hole?


  • They look gorgeous. I have an oak mission style shelving unit and was thinking of painting it black. After seeing your esspresso cabinets, I think that is how I’ll refinish the shelving unit. Thanks for the inspirtation.

  • Love the after. I wanted to redo my bathroom cabinets, but I wanted to paint them white. Would I basically follow everything, but use white paint instead of stain?

  • Your cabinets are beautiful and look rich! I know you are enjoying them. The hard work was well worth it I think.
    We now have painted woodwork throughout our house, a creamy off white on all cabinets, crown molding and baseboards, doors etc. This is a first for us in 50 plus years of owning a home and we love it!
    Thanks for sharing.

  • We refinished our kitchen cabinets but restained them. Your paint job would have been a good option, too. Your last comment was the most important one to me – that your cabinets held up for two years. I have a dresser I need to do.

  • My husband actually followed your directions to the T and it all came together beautifully. I commented about it back then including a link to my blog so you could see our finished project but for some reason my comment was never posted. So anyway, just attempting again to THANK YOU big time for that post.

  • Wow. That looks great. When we recently had our
    main bathroom remodeled our cabinets were slightly darker than your before picture. We had the guys who did ours painted the cabinets white and also put.New handles,and drawer pulls on. They are silver with white
    On the end with the handle.

  • This has also been on my to do list, but it is really scary just thinking about it. I want to do my bathroom and my kitchen cabinets. Your post is very encouraging. Doesn’t look as scary as it looks in my mind! You did a great job!

  • This has been on my to do list for several months now. I’m looking forward to the updated look this will give the bathrooms and was very glad to hear your report that it wears well!

  • Frankly, I like the “before” pictures better ! You did a great job, but my preference is always a lighter wood. I so love the beauty of the wood & in my opinion it shows up so much better when the stain is light!

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