Turning an old dresser into a vanity for your bathroom is a doable DIY project that saves money and creates a unique design statement. Find your vintage dresser and use this photo tutorial to make a one-of-a-kind bathroom vanity - including ideas for adapting drawers so they are still useable.
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I've loved the idea of turning an old dresser into a vanity for a bathroom after seeing them in a Do-It-Yourself magazine many years ago. Not only is it a really distinctive look that isn't a cookie-cutter home store look, if you find an old dresser for a good price, it can be a huge money saver over similar furniture-style bathroom vanities.
In our first home (a city bungalow) there wasn't enough room in either bathrooms for a dresser-vanity, so when it came time to remodel the bathrooms in our ranch-turned-cottage I was thrilled to see there would be enough room in the master bath with the claw foot tub - but just barely.
However, when I started looking around I realized that there were now pre-made vanities you could buy now that look like dressers (seems like others like the look, too!). So I briefly thought about going that route, until I saw that the price tags start around $300 - and climb up from there.
Um, right - back to the original idea - DIY bathroom vanity it is!
Once we found a dresser that would work, including fitting in our space, it was relatively simple to adapt it to hold a sink, pipes, and still contain our bathroom things. In the end we spent about $150 total on the dresser and sink. We already had the paint, stain, and finish for the surface, as well as the faucet. Half the price of ready made for just the look I wanted? Winning!
If you'd like to make a dresser into a bathroom vanity, too, read on for all the supplies, steps, and details you'll need to create your own one-of-a-kind vanity.
DIY Bathroom Vanity Video
We created the video above to share more about the idea with steps and tips to turn any dresser into a vanity. Use the video and the steps below to help guide you in making your own vanity.
How to Make a Dresser into a Vanity
- Dresser in width to fit your space and desired height (Note: we measured many vanities at a home store and there seems to be no standard height like there is for kitchen cabinets. We found everything from 30 inches to 38 inches in height, so our dresser at 32" high is right in there. You can think about making a platform to raise up a dresser if you'd like it higher)
- Sink to fit the inside top measurement of dresser - either a self-rimming sink or vessel sink.
- Faucet for sink. Here's one like ours with white handles.
- Jigsaw to cut out holes.
- Palm sander and sanding paper in variety grit.
- Paint and/or stain. We used Minwax Special Walnut stain for the top and Behr's 'Creamy White' in semi gloss for the painted body.
- Water-based polyurethane sealer. This is the brand we used in a satin finish.
- Synthetic paint brushes.
- Clear caulking sealer.
- Long screws and drill for attaching to wall.
First Things First: Find A Dresser
The first step you'll need to take to turn a dresser into a vanity is to find the dresser. Search thrift stores, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and consignment shops. Measure the area you have for your vanity and look for something to fit those measurements. If you would like to have two sinks look for longer dressers with two sets of drawers or sideboards with two cupboards.
The dresser we ended up with (shown above) was a $79 find from the Salvation Army that I had originally bought to be a nightstand (I thought I needed the storage, but really didn't, so it sat empty). It's measurements are 32" high and 34" wide. You may be able to score something cheaper, but when looking for specific measurements, price isn't always the most important (although $79 for a bathroom vanity is pretty good!).
Our dresser wasn't a fine antique - the slats separating the drawers had been replaced with a lighter color wood and both of the side panels had big cracks in them that needed to be filled. The top also had a major scratch (top left in the picture above) that went all the way to the wood. It needed to be painted and the top refinished. So it was a perfect candidate - in addition to being the exact size we needed to fit between the clawfoot tub and wall!
Once you have your dresser (sideboard, even a table will work!) simply follow the steps below to create your own unique dresser-to-bathroom-vanity.
Steps to Make a Dresser into a Vanity
1. Purchase the sink first, fit to the dresser top measurements. Make sure to measure the true cabinet and not just the top piece of wood - this dresser had an overhang of more than 1 inch, so I measured inside of the dresser top by removing the top drawer to get the measurement for the sink.
We bought the smallest, basic self-rimming sink that we could find for this dresser, similar to the one pictured above. Most of the models were too big, so look at dimensions carefully. We seriously considered a vessel sink like this one, but with the new faucet needed, it would've cost more than double (we'd already added a new faucet).
2. Trace the sink hole. Remove the top drawer, lay the template that came with the sink on the dresser top and trace around it with a Sharpie-like marker.
3. Cut along the lines. Take a deep breath and cut it out with a jigsaw. It's OK, you can do it...
4. Lay the sink in the opening and breath a sigh of relief when the sink fits in the hole.
(Sorry about the lack of photos for these next steps...poor planning):
5. Finish the dresser top. Remove the sink and sand and refinish the top (if needed- alternately, the top can be painted). Paint dresser body and drawers, if needed, at this time too.
6. Coat & protect the dresser top. Using a water-based polyurethane, apply 4 to 5 coats (I like satin finish and have good results with both this brand and this one). Since this top had a short back piece, I made sure the joint between them was covered well so that no water from the sink would get between them.
7. Attach the sink to top. When dry, run a bead of clear caulking (it works much better with wood counters than white) around the rim of the opening (here's what we used). Carefully place the sink right on top, pressing down lightly (you do not need to add caulk around the rim of the bowl after it's in place- that's a sure sign of a do-it-yourself job).
8. Cut opening for plumbing in back. Set the vanity close to its eventual spot in order to measure where the plumbing hits on the back of the cabinet (after many DIY slip-ups, we don't trust only measurements anymore - we use our eyes plus measurements - but this is just us, you don't actually have to have it near its spot). Use a jigsaw to cut a square out of the back piece of wood large enough for all the plumbing to set in. Set the vanity in it's permanent spot.
9. Secure to the wall. For this step, we found the studs and put in a couple screws in so that the vanity is secured and not attached only by the plumbing. Because this dresser had an overhang in the back, we had to add a piece of wood to the back to allow it to touch the wall before screwing in, but not all dressers would need this.
10. Attach the faucet and plumbing. Once the dresser is secure, hook up all the plumbing with no drawers in place. Turn it on to make sure there are no leaks and everything is attached properly.
11. Customize drawers. Each drawer will need to be treated differently:
Top drawer cutout options:
- The drawer can be taken out entirely and made into a false drawer by cutting the front off and gluing it back in place.
- Use a kit that turns sink drawers in cabinets into a flip-out with a narrow plastic holder attached.
- Customize the drawer to fit around the sink and still have storage.
I wanted more storage, so we went with option three: we cut out what was needed to fit around the sink and then added 1x4 wood scraps for new sides to make small sections on each side of the drawer with wood glue and nails in the bottom and back.
These little pockets are perfect for toothbrushes, deodorant, and lotions, so I was really happy with this solution. (Note: if you find a dresser with three drawers on top, it's easiest to lose the center drawer and still have two functional drawers on each side - that would be ideal).
Middle drawer cutout:
This took the most finagling, but basically we (of course you've probably guessed that this part doesn't really involve me...I'm using "we" merely to show my support) made a box to fit around the plumbing. This leaves plenty of space for toiletries. The box was made with scrap lumber, wood glue and small nails.
Bottom drawer cutout:
This was the simplest - we just cut a square cut out of the back of the drawer to fit around the drain pipe. This drawer lost no space at all.
Insert all of your drawers, turn on the water and enjoy your new DIY bathroom vanity.
That's all there is to turning a dresser into a vanity to add a pretty and unique look to your bathroom. I hope you were able to see, too, how this can be done in your own home!
This article has been updated - it was originally published in May 2010.
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I am converting a pretty chest into a vanity with vessel sink, I only use hand soap in a container... less mess.
Sounds lovely - yes to hand soap in a container!
Kim Carnahan says
Thanks for your simple tutorial. We have a 55” long dresser that was my dad’s in high school in the late 50s. It’s made of rock maple but the style and size don’t fit our room but we have a basically useless vanity in our master bath that is the same length. It’s “furniture style” which means we have 2 sinks, no counter space and 2 access doors that are 14” wide by 18” tall in the middle so we can basically reach 2 14”x14” spaces and have tons of wasted or unable to reach spaces. Also because it’s furniture style we have an open shelf that surrounds the bottom, only problem is that with the trim and it being 3” off the floor and a huge center piece to enclose the plumbing we have 2 sides 12”x22” deep and the front is 6” deep x 30” long. So you’ve solved 2 major household problems for me. I will be sure to send before and after pictures. Hopefully others will be inspired too, my husband was for 23 years a master carpenter with a drafting degree before he went to full time cattle business but we built our own house before and I think I just may need his help with the heavy lifting and the detail cuts. Thank you thank you! Oh yeah just going to put in one sink and have lots of counter space now.
Oh, this sounds like a perfect solution! And I'm with you - I'd prefer one sink with more counter space over two sinks! In fact we're making another dresser into a vanity for our new farmhouse that is a bit bigger but I'm still going with one sink. We'll be sharing that one (I painted the top in faux marble) as soon as we get the floor tiled and can install it!
The half bath on my main floor includes the laundry room. The room is in full view from the living room or coming up the stairs, so I wanted something beautiful. And, I didn't want to pay the $600 price tag I was seeing on vanities . But on a visit to the Antique market, I found a bureau the right size. It was painted white with enormous diamonds in primary colours on the front, but, it had some gorgeous details on the front legs. I brought it home and stripped it. I stained it and finished it with oil. Just beautiful! Elegant enough to be seen if the door to the laundry room was left open. The bureau though was too narrow to purchase a ready made sink. But my sister lives in Mexico and she found a hand hammered copper sink inlaid with silver narrow enough to fit in the space. It found room in a suitcase coming back to Canada. I purchased a piece of glass for the bureau top, had holes cut to fit the sink and tap in both the bureau top and the piece of glass and did the plumbing. The width of the bureau allowed me to offset the sink over one of the two top drawers. The lower drawer was adapted to fit the drain, but the bottom drawer needed no adjustments. Now with the toilet tucked back beside the stacked washer/dryer my bureau is proudly displayed. I topped it with an window frame where the glass was replaced with mirrors. I am ever so pleased with the outcome.
Sounds just gorgeous, Wendy! Sounds like you saw a diamond in the rough with that dresser. 🙂
And your solutions are terrific - the glass top will make it easy cleaning for sure.
I have no ABILITY to do anything this grand… but I’d love to see a couple of pictures please.
That's a terrific step by step guide. Thank you and well done on the vanity you made.
I've embarked on the same journey. I'm nervous about cutting the oval shsped hole. But your article is encouraging.
Glad this is helpful! As long as you have the template and a sink that will cover the hole, you are good to go. 🙂
Laticia Morgan says
I have a four dresser drawer and was wondering if I could saw off the bottom two drawers to make it the right height...I would then remove the top all together because I work in a Tile and Granite Shop -- I get everything at cost -- and most of the time they don't charge me for installation and fabrication labor...would this scenario work -- or should i just go to the cookie cutter line and get a vanity without a sink.
If you think you could do that and make it look good (would you add legs to the bottom?) go for it! And I've seen lots of people use marble or granite on dressers - some old dressers even came with them, so it's not too unusual.
I am wondering what are the dimensions on the dresser. I am finding most dressers are 30" tall and standard vanities are 35". Any thoughts? Thanks!!
Hi Kristin! Our dresser is 32" high x 34" wide. We visited a couple home improvement stores and found that there were all heights of vanities - there didn't seem to be a standard like with kitchens. My husband was fine with the height, so we went for it. I've seen people raise old furniture (whether for kitchen islands or vanities) by creating a platform with legs that creates a look of a shelf under the dresser - that might be an option if your family is tall.
We loved your post so much we used your tutorial to complete our own. However I didn't anticipte one issue that we have been struggling with. Our dresser has wheels on the bottom of it as well. However this has made it challenging to attach the dresser to the wall while having the baseboard run behind it. You mentioned in your post that you attached strips of wood to the back of the dresser to attach it to the wall. Did this create a gap between the wall in the dresser's sides and backsplash? If so, how does it look and does anything ever fall back behind the dresser?
We really want to have the back of the dresser completely flush with the wall, but have been unable to do so because of the wheels and baseboard. Any suggestions would be extremely helpful.
Why not just take the wheels off and cut the badbistds only where the vanity is,
I used your tutorial (and a couple of others) to turn an old dresser into a vanity. But I didn't have any help (other than Professor Google) so I had to figure out all the plumbing myself! instagram.com/p/veQnDXTTGt/
Wow, Sarah, that turned out awesome!! Kudos to you for figuring it out so beautifully. 🙂
Thanks! I was nervous about the plumbing and all the cutting (I was SO nervous about cutting the sink hole), but I'm really happy with how it turned out. Your post helped a lot.
So now that it's been in for a few years, are you happy with the wood/poly top, or do you wish you'd gone with some kind of solid-surface in place of it?
I'm looking at doing this also, and am really torn about whether to just put down 27,000 coats of poly on the existing dresser top, or just replace it with some marble-y looking top instead.
How much water damage have you seen so far?
Oh, I'd always opt for a nice wood top - I still love ours! And I didn't put down a ton of coats - just 4. I'm only now thinking I need to do a touch-up, but that's because a jar fell on it and left an imprint of the lid in the wood. 🙁 In both our baths we have wood tops - the main bath that gets more use we installed a sink with a wide rim (a rectangle) so the soap sits right on the sink and I use a saucer for the soap in our bath. In my experience, that's where most of the water happens - when people use the soap, so plan for that and there's not much of an issue.
Did you use polyurethane over top the paint?
Not the painted part of the dresser, Jennifer, just the top part that would come into contact with water. I'd topcoat it whether I painted the top or stained it like I did here, just to protect it from the water. 🙂
What color paint did you use?
I used the same color we used for all the trim in our house, so it would coordinate: Creamy White by Behr.
Oh my goodness, I think you just saved me a fortune! Plus several months of putting off the bathroom re-do to save up the money for a new cabinet. Well, that is, if I can talk Dad into getting out of his recliner and getting out his tools! 🙂 Thanks for the great tutorial.
Wow! That turned out great!
Can I just say how much I like the castors at the bottom of your bathroom vanity!
That's totally one of the reasons I bought the dresser to begin with, Patti-Ann! 🙂
I am having trouble finding a 16 inch sink. I love the looks of these dressers into vanities--I have the dresser, but I am stymied online trying to find the right sink. Any ideas? Please . . . . . 🙂
Hey Gloria! I did a quick search on Amazon, and you're right - they are hard to find. I had that problem, too.
I did find a couple options, though - vessel sinks are made to go on cabinets, so they would work: here's cute full-on vessel style from MR Direct through Amazon (they had great customer service when I bought our kitchen sink from them): http://amzn.to/190oSew
Here's a semi-vessel 16" sink from Kohler: http://amzn.to/13u0Bdh
And here's a 17" sink from Kohler that may work even at an inch bigger, depending on your dresser size: http://amzn.to/190pGQt
Hope that helps! (Oh, and these are my affiliate links, of course)
Your dresser looks so nice. We did this used an old dresser for a vanity. We bought an old farm and had to change the bathroom around. We had a dresser we had owned since the 1960's so we used it for the vanity.
I just love your vanity. Both my wife and I had the same idea, but never told each other until recently. Your post is exactly what we had in mind! In France, we can find sink-cum-countertops in Castorama or Leroy Merlin (our equivalent of B&Q) so I was thinking of buying a cheap second-hand dresser with no top or negotiate the price of a piece of furniture with a damaged top. We shall see what we find! Thanks again for the inspiration.
Livin' In Duckville says
Ooooh!! This is so cool!! There has been this dresser sitting at the Salvation Army for over a month now... It has a matching mirror. Both are painted this fascinating yellow color - like the kind that might make your eyes bleed when you wake up first thing in the morning & see it there. Can't wait to head back with my tape measure! Thanks so much!
Love it. We are in the process of doing this maybe tomorrow. Just one more question...did you have to cut out the back of the dresser for the plumbing?
Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says
Oh dear- I hope I'm not too late! I can't believe it's been almost 2 years since I posted this and you're the first to catch that I forgot to mention cutting out the back for the plumbing! Ugh. I added the step in the post (thanks!) and yes- we cut out a large square that was big enough for all the plumbing to fit in when the cabinet was flush with the wall.
Hope that helps and that yours turns out great!
Jami @An Oregon Cottage says
Lorrie- I do, and thanks for letting me know that this is helpful to you! I hope you find what you're looking for, it sounds like it would be the perfect solution for your house (which sounds fabulous, btw!). 🙂
I don't know if you are still checking this or not - but I just wanted to thank you for the step by step tutorial! My husband and I bought a major 'handyman special' house that we are gutting room by room. The house was built in 1890 and I have been searching for a vanity for the full bath upstairs and have not been able to find anything that 'speaks' to me. The bathroom vanities on the market are either too modern or too expensive for our house. I just LOVE this idea and now I am off to the antique and thrift stores....... 🙂
Thanks for coming by my blog and commenting on my vanity I love yours I think I like this idea better than buying a store bought one - besides its green!