Turning a vintage dresser into a bathroom vanity is a fun DIY project that allows you to upcycle an old piece of furniture and give your bathroom a unique, custom look. Vintage dressers make gorgeous vanities because of their charm, history, and sturdy construction.
With some basic tools, supplies, and a bit of elbow grease, you can convert a cast-off dresser into a stunning focal point for your bathroom. The transformation requires creativity and patience, but the end result is well worth the effort. Read on to learn everything you need to know to successfully turn a vintage dresser into a stylish bathroom vanity.
Selecting a Dresser for Conversion
The first step is to find a suitable vintage dresser to convert. Keep the following criteria in mind when selecting a dresser:
Consider the size of your bathroom and measure the intended installation area before shopping for a dresser. Be sure to account for plumbing and the extra space needed for a sink and faucet. Aim for a dresser around 36-42 inches wide; anything larger may overwhelm a small bathroom.
Choose a solid, sturdy dresser free of rot, major damage, or infestations. Minor superficial flaws like worn paint or scratches can be fixed up but be wary of pieces with broken joints or damaged wood.
Opt for a style that fits your bathroom’s overall aesthetic. Look for dressers with legs or a gap underneath to allow for plumbing. Dressers with an existing cutout for a sink are ideal.
Hardwoods like oak, maple, and mahogany or wood composites are best for bathroom use. Avoid very soft woods prone to swelling and dressers made of particleboard or low-quality materials.
Look for dressers with large drawers suitable for storing bathroom toiletries and supplies. Deep, full extension drawers are most functional.
Prepping and Planning Your Dresser Vanity
Once you’ve selected the perfect dresser, it’s time to start planning your vanity conversion. Here are some key steps:
Remove Existing Hardware
Take off all knobs, pulls, hinges, and handles. This allows you to thoroughly clean and sand the dresser. Save any vintage hardware you want to reuse later.
Clean the Dresser
Give the dresser a deep clean inside and out with a degreaser to remove dirt, oil, and grime before painting or staining. Fill in any holes, dents, or gouges with wood filler.
Decide on Drawers
Determine if you want to keep the original drawers or replace some with false fronts to allow space for plumbing. You may need to remove or alter middle drawers.
Choose Sink and Faucet
Pick a vessel, drop-in, or undermount bathroom sink and compatible faucet in the size and style you prefer. Make sure they align with your dresser cutout.
Plan for Plumbing
Consider where existing water supply lines enter the bathroom and how you’ll integrate new plumbing. A professional may need to install drain pipes and supply lines.
Design the Look
Decide on a color scheme, hardware, counter material, and other accents. Sand and prime the dresser before painting, staining, or using other finishes.
Cutting Out Space for the Sink
One of the trickiest parts of converting a dresser to a vanity is cutting out a hole for the sink. Here are some tips for this crucial step:
Take out all drawers from the dresser and set them aside before making any cuts. This provides easier access.
Make a Template
Use cardboard to make a custom template the exact size of your sink. Check that it correctly aligns on your dresser top.
Cut the Opening
Use a jigsaw to cut out the sink opening following your template. Wear goggles and a mask to protect from sawdust. Work slowly and carefully.
Smooth the Edges
Use a file and sandpaper to smooth and round the cut edges so they don’t snag. Vacuum sawdust thoroughly.
Add braces or blocks under the sink opening to reinforce that section and support weight. Check level and make any adjustments.
Preparing the Dresser for Use
Get your converted dresser ready for use as a functioning vanity with these finishing touches:
Seal the Wood
Apply waterproof sealant or varnish to the inside of the vanity. This prevents warping or water damage from splashes. Allow time to cure fully.
With all drawers removed, add drain pipes, supply lines, and p-traps for the sink according to manufacturer instructions.
Add the Sink
Secure your vessel, undermount, or drop-in sink in place per the specifications. Make sure it aligns properly with the faucet.
Install the Faucet
Mount the faucet through the existing holes or drill new holes if needed. Connect supply lines and check for leaks.
Attach Drawers and Hardware
Reattach any original drawers you kept using new hardware if needed. Install drawer pulls and knobs to finish it off.
Caulk and Seal
Apply a thin bead of bathroom-grade caulk around the sink perimeter and let dry fully to prevent water seeping under.
Design Ideas and Decorating Tips
Personalizing your vintage dresser vanity is the fun part! Use these ideas to make it stylish and functional:
Stained or Painted Wood
Choose a rich stain that enhances the wood grain or paint color that complements your decor. Contrasting or bright hues work well.
Use removable wallpaper or contact paper to line the drawers and hide clutter. Try a bold print or texture for interest.
Freshen up the look with new knobs and pulls in brushed brass, glossy nickel, or sleek black. glass, crystal, or ceramic are options too.
Marble or Quartz Countertop
A marble, quartz, or solid surface countertop adds luxury. Select a neutral color or go bold with a dramatic veining pattern.
For a vintage vibe, install a mirrored backsplash behind the sink. This also makes small bathrooms seem larger.
Open Shelving Above
Add a pop of color with neatly organized toiletries and accents on open shelves mounted above the vanity.
Use accent tile on the wall, floor, or countertop to complement the vanity. Mix textures like subway tile, mosaics, or stone.
Finish off your new vanity with stylish yet functional accessories like trays, soap dispensers, jars, and vases.
FAQs About Converting a Dresser to a Vanity
How do I cut plumbing holes in the dresser?
Use a hole saw bit matched to your pipe size to drill openings for supply lines and drainage in the back or bottom. Position carefully to avoid hitting drawer runners or weakening the structure.
What is the best paint for a bathroom vanity?
High-quality latex, acrylic, or enamel paints formulated for bathrooms provide good moisture and scrub resistance on vanities. Oil-based paint works but requires priming first.
Should I varnish or seal my dresser vanity?
Yes, it’s crucial to apply at least 2-3 coats of water-resistant polyurethane or varnish to all interior wood surfaces. This prevents swelling, rotting, and damage from splashes.
How much weight can a converted dresser hold?
Dressers made from solid wood can support the weight of most vessel or drop-in sinks when properly reinforced. Undermount sinks may require added structural supports.
What is the best way to cut out the sink opening?
Use a template and jigsaw for the initial cutout. Take it slowly to stay on track. Finish up with a file and sandpaper for a smooth edge.
How do I attach the sink and plumbing?
Follow manufacturer instructions for sink mounting brackets and drain assembly. Use silicone adhesive caulk and plumber’s putty for a watertight seal around pipes.
Should I keep the original drawer fronts?
You can keep some drawer fronts for a vintage look. Replace others with simple false fronts to allow room for pipes. Just ensure adequate storage remains.
Revamping an old dresser into a unique bathroom vanity is a fulfilling DIY project that adds personal flair and character to any bath space. With some careful planning, creativity, and effort, you can turn a cast-off vintage dresser into a stunning, functional vanity perfect for storing toiletries and displaying decorative accents. The end result will provide you with years of enjoyment and add vintage appeal to your bathroom.