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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