How To Make a Dresser Into a Vanity

How to make Dresser to vanity - An Oregon Cottage

I’ve always admired dressers converted into vanities. In our city bungalow there just wasn’t enough room in either bathrooms for a dresser-vanity, so when it came time to remodel the bathrooms in our current house I was happy to see there would be enough room in the master bath, but just barely.

Although I do confess I did look longingly at some of the wonderful vanities that are available now. Especially the ones that look like…what do you know, dressers. Seems like others have admired the look, too. Except that the price tags on these started around $300 and climbed up from there.

Back to the original idea.

Temporary Vanity2 - An Oregon Cottage
Believe it or not, this was the “temporary” vanity we lived with for 1-1/2 years. It started out simple enough – we were exhausted after spending all our free time in the summer working on both bathroom remodels, I had to go back to teaching in September, and we were trying to get our new garage weather-proofed before the winter set in. We thought we’d get to it in the winter when we’d have a covered garage to work in. But with the rest of the bathroom completely finished, a curious thing that can happen to do-it-yourselfers at one time or another happened to us:

We stopped seeing it.

It just sorta became part of the room. Hard to believe with that lovely pieced together top and golden sink. I think, too, it was because we were going to have to make the vanity and we weren’t sure how long it would take or how hard it would be. But when we finally got around to it a few months ago, we found it wasn’t that hard at all and actually didn’t take too much time – live and learn, sigh.

 

Thrift Store Vanity Before - An Oregon Cottage

This is what we started with: a $79 dresser from the Salvation Army that I had originally bought to be my nightstand. I thought I needed the storage, but really didn’t, so it sat empty. I sure hope you can score something cheaper, but I was looking for specific measurements, and you know how that goes. Plus, have I mentioned how expensive the thrift stores are here? OK, I’ll be quiet about it…

It wasn’t a fine antique, though, and needed to be painted and the top refinished. 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 bottom picture) that went all the way to the wood. So it was a perfect candidate, in addition to being the exact size we needed to fit between the tub and wall.

Here’s how to make a dresser into a vanity for your bathroom:

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 this to get a small enough sink.

We bought the smallest, basic self-rimming sink that we could find for this dresser, similar to the one pictured above (affiliate link). Most of the models were too big. We seriously considered a vessel sink, but with the new faucet needed, it would’ve cost about $250 instead of under $100 (we’d already added a new faucet).

Dresser to Vanity-Cut Out Sink Hole - An Oregon Cottage

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. Take a deep breath and cut it out with a jigsaw. It’s OK, you can do it…

Dresser to Vanity-Set in Sink - An Oregon Cottage

4. Lay the sink in the opening and breath a sigh of relief when the sink fits in the hole.

Dresser to Vanity-Finished Top and Sink - An Oregon Cottage

(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 too.

6. Coat & protect the dresser top. Using a water-based polyurethane (I like satin finish and have good results with both this brand and this one), apply 4 to 5 coats. 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, I don’t trust only measurements anymore- we use our eyes and measurements now- 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. Attach the faucet and plumbing. Hook up all the plumbing with no drawers in place.

10. Customize drawers. Each drawer will need to be treated differently:

Vanity to Dresser Cutout Drawers - An Oregon Cottage

Top drawer options:

  • It can be taken out entirely and made into a false drawer by cutting the front off and gluing it back in place.
  • Or you can get one of those kits that turn sink drawers in kitchen cabinets into a flip-out with a narrow plastic holder attached.
  • The drawer can be customized to fit around the sink and still have storage.

I wanted more storage, so we cut out what was needed to fit the sink, and then added some 2×4 wood scraps for new sides to make small “drawers” on each end of the drawer. These are perfect for toothbrushes, deodorant, and lotions. Of course, if you have enough room for a dresser with three drawers on top, you’d lose the center drawer and still have two functional drawers. That would certainly be the easiest.

Middle drawer:

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.

Bottom drawer:

We merely cut a square cut out of the back to fit around the drain pipe. This drawer lost no space at all.

How to Make a Dresser into a Vanity - An Oregon Cottage

11. Secure to the wall. For this last step, we found the studs and put a couple screws in so that the vanity is secure 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.

And there you have a slightly stripped-down version of how to turn a dresser into a bathroom vanity. What? You were expecting plumbing how-tos? Sorry, that’s way beyond my skills. Brian does that with a little help from his friends (thanks, Dan!) and I stay far, far, away.

Especially because it was my idea.

 

This is linked to:
Show and Tell Wednesday
Make it Yours Day
Power of Paint Wednesdays

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Comments

  1. Oh ya, I hear you about how we tend to ‘not see’ imperfections and ‘unfinished’ projects after a while.

    That vanity turned out wonderful.

  2. I love that – especially the top drawer – what a great idea!

  3. It turned out lovely. Thank you for the tutorial. I have been wanting to do this in one of our bathrooms and now I know how.

  4. Jami this is wonderful! My hubby and I love the look of old dresser vanities and would love to try this someday. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Totally beautiful! And I think if you wanted to, you could’ve replaced the top completely with a piece of granite, of course that might be getting expensive (like the claw foot tube) :) I love how you “shabby chic’d” it. That’s my favorite look.

  6. You did a great job on this! I love the finish :)

  7. This is wonderful! I would love to feature it on my blog if you are interested let me know! ( you should be able to email me from this comment!)

    Thanks

  8. Oh thanks guys! You know how you wonder when you post something if this is anything anyone cares about? I did think that with this, so I’m so glad you found it helpful. I’ll look forward to seeing your transformations in the future. ;-)

    Thanks, Remodelaholic- I’ll be emailing ya!

  9. This is so cute! What a great idea.

  10. I am looking for just the right dresser to do the same thing in my half bath. Thanks so much for going thru the steps. Now I will know what to expect.

  11. Hey! Found your blog through Remodelaholic. Love your vanity dresser sink. Thank you so much for doing a tutorial! That makes it seem alot easier to plan once you see how its done. Good job!

  12. Hi – Visiting from Remodelaholic. This is such a great tutorial, thanks for sharing. It looks fabulous.
    And I totally can sympathize on the expensive thrift store complaint. I’m in the Seattle area and I’ve yet to find a good thrift shop with decent prices. All these thrifty blogs out there talk about $5 furniture discoveries… I’ve yet to see even the most lowly of furniture pieces marked at $5 in this area. Guess we are doomed to pay top dollar for second hand stuff, right?! :)

  13. I’ve never seen this type of vanity before and LOVE it! I so want one in my bathroom now. We’re remodeling our home to, so this is totally doable. Thanks for sharing this!

  14. I hope you don’t mind, I shared this post on my Facebook page.

  15. LOVE IT! Thanks for sharing your great directions too & linkin’ up at the POPP.

  16. jami,
    found you via maryann @ domestically-speaking. love the dresser turned vanity. thanks so much for the tutorial/how to. i have been wanting to do this for several years and it looks like we may get to the main bath remodel this next month. (crossing my fingers) we purchased a clawfoot tub, will use the old wall hung sink from upstairs bathroom…sort of like a vessel sink. thanks for the pointers!
    and yes, thrift stores are getting way too expensive!
    judi ;)
    the1829farmhouse.blogspot.com

  17. I’m going to be looking for your guys’ future posts on your dresser-vanities. :-)

    Anissa- yes, yes- so irritates me how the thrift stores are all trying to be “collectables” now. I mean, I know most of them are charities, but they’d sell a lot more stuff if their prices were decent. I think the west coast (and maybe east?) are pricier- I’ve been to some in the midwest and I was shocked with how low their prices were!

    April- Not at all- thanks for sharing!

    Judi- we actually bought an old wall sink to use as a vessel on this dresser, but it turned out the finish was too far gone so it’s becoming a garden sink. Yours will look great, I’m sure.

  18. Oh Gosh, I love this and will keep this link in my inspiration folder. I’ve been planning to do something like this for our master bath re-do, that is if we ever get around to starting!
    Rose

  19. The wood looks the same as the day we installed it- that polyurathane is amazing stuff! We had wood counters in our kitchen for three years in our other house and I thought they held up well. It’s easy to just give another coat of poly on any areas that need it as well. Thanks for the comment.

  20. Thank you for these great instructions and photos!

    Quick question. How has the wood held up as a vanity counter top? I’ve read other places people recommending using marble as a top because of water splashing, etc. but of course that increases the price.

  21. 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!

  22. 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……. :)

  23. 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!). :-)

  24. Anonymous says:

    Hi Jami,
    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!

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. moonlake says:

    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.

  28. Patti-Ann says:

    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)

  29. Wow! That turned out great!

  30. 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.

  31. Jennifer says:

    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. :)

  32. 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.

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