How to turn a vintage dresser into a bathroom vanity

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The main bathroom in our farmhouse is quite small. One of our priorities was to have a tub, so to make room our space turned out to be quite limited for a bathroom vanity. I really like the look of a freestanding vanity, but they are usually very expensive! Like thousands of dollars! I went on a mission to find a more affordable option, but still beautiful and functional.

While scrolling through Facebook Marketplace one day, I came across this vintage 9-drawer dresser. It was in pretty rough shape but the dimensions were literally perfect for the space we were working with in our bathroom. Naturally, I took it home to make my next low-budget DIY project, turning a dresser into a bathroom vanity myself.

Transforming a chest of drawers into a bathroom cabinet: the process

Competence level: Intermediate
Total costs: $259

Breakdown of project costs:

1. Make the necessary repairs

Brooke Waite uses metal furniture scraper and filler to improve the look of the wooden dresser vanity in the backyard

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

First, I knew it needed a little repair work. I moved it to our yard, pulled out the drawers, and started filling in the holes and dents. I had to repair many corners, basically creating a new corner using ProBond Tintable Wood Filler (opens in a new tab).

Brooke Waite wearing a blue t-shirt and protective mask in the backyard tending to a wooden dressing table with furniture stripper and sandpaper

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

2. Remove old stain

This chest of drawers is in veneer which is a bit more particular to work with. For the front of the dresser and the legs I was able to sand down to raw wood. I used a furniture stripper (opens in a new tab) to remove the previous stain using 3M stripping pads (opens in a new tab). It took a lot of time and elbow grease!

3. Sanding

Sanding the entire dresser was the next step. I started with a low grit sandpaper and progressed to a higher grit for a buttery smooth finish.

Brooke Waite wearing a protective mask and white baseball cap in the backyard using a yellow hand sander on a wooden dresser

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

4. Choose the right sink for the vanity

In order to turn a dresser into a vanity, you need to figure out what type of sinks you want to use. You have the option of opting for a vessel-style sink that basically sits on top of the dresser or an undermount option.

Image of a sink on a wooden vanity unit with yellow spirit level and blue tape

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

5. Cut holes for the sink

Regardless of the type of sink, you will need to drill holes in the top of the dresser to run the plumbing. I went with the undermount option. I was able to find two small undermount sinks (opens in a new tab) it would fit and still give us a good amount of counter space! You’ll want to have your sinks handy so you can measure correctly based on the sinks you buy.

Carpentry work in wooden washbasin cabinet to be accommodated for sanitary plumbing

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

6. Map out where the sinks will go

I measured the top of the dresser to find the center, then determined the center of each sink. Per the instructions that came with the sink, I traced the outline of the sink directly onto the top of the dresser and added ½” around the entire perimeter.

A wooden vanity unit with pencil marks to dictate where to cut with a circular saw to fit a double set of undermount sinks.

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

7. Cut out space for sinks

I then used my circular saw to cut off the top of the dresser and tested to make sure the sinks would fit.

Brooke Waite uses a circular saw to cut out the vanity

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

8. Set goals for all dresser drawers

Now that I have two holes in the top of the dresser, I had to decide what to do with the top three dresser drawers. I initially knew that the right and leftmost drawers would be non-functional due to the sinks, but in the middle drawer I was able to create a “mini drawer” by disassembling the drawer and moving each side of the drawer of a few centimeters to take account of the sinks on each side.

The two non-functional drawers I just created a false drawer by screwing the drawer front to the sides of the dresser.

Brooke Waite kneeling on a gray concrete floor to create a faux drawer for the wooden dresser vanity

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

Close up of wooden chest of drawers with brass knob handle decor

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

9. Make room for the p-trap

I also drilled a hole in the back of the dresser for the eventual p-trap and added some nice brass knobs to each drawer.

10. Start coloring

Once I had the dresser functional and prepped for plumbing, I moved on to staining. I found that the plating made the job a little more difficult. I ended up using Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut (opens in a new tab)for the front of the dresser where I was able to sand it with raw wood, and simply Polycrylic (opens in a new tab) for drawer sides and fronts.

I learned that the gel stain gave the veneer an orange color, so I avoided staining those areas. After staining, I covered the entire dresser with two more coats of polycrylic to protect it from any possible water spots.

Brooke Waite treats wood dresser vanity with gel stain and polycrylic treatments

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

11. Fixing the siphon and fittings

That was all the work I could do so far. I hired a plumber to attach a p-trap and fittings to the sink, but before that I had a fabricator come in to measure a quartz stone countertop.

A modern bathroom with beige wall paint decor, herringbone floor decor and prepared space for quartz countertop and sanitary plumbing

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

The manufacturer fixed the sinks under the quartz and drilled holes for the wall-mounted faucets.

A wooden chest of drawers on a herringbone parquet floor in the bathroom

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

Then I had our plumber come in to finish attaching all the fittings to the sinks and installing the faucets.

Close up of dresser vanity in bathroom on Herringbone floor

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

Final result

A modern bathroom with a herringbone floor decor, a vanity unit and a white tub

(Image credit: Brooke Waite)

I ended up saving a few thousand dollars by converting this dresser into a bathroom vanity. I love how it turned out and how unique it looks in our bathroom. I’m not done with this bathroom. I plan to add more characters soon. Stay tuned for these updates!

Complete list of equipment

1. Oribtal sander
2.
Sandpaper
3.
spackle knife
4.
Sealer, I used ProBond Tintable Sealer (opens in a new tab)
5. furniture stripper
6.
Stripping pads
seven. Tape measure
8. Sharpie Marker
9. Circular saw
ten. Drill
11. Hole saw blade
12. Wood glue
13. wood stain
14. Wood sealer (polycrylic)
15. Coloring pads
16.
Cleaning cloths
17.
Gloves

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