Old Desk Upcycled into a Women’s Vanity

Even a tomboy needs a vanity, right? OK, so I don’t exactly fall in the category of a tomboy but I am definitely not one to spend a lot of time getting ready … for anything really. But for some reason after we bought our house more than a year ago, I haven’t been able to shake the thought of a vanity table. After months of searching (and refusing to buy something that was intended to be used as a vanity), I finally found the perfect one and she is a beauty!

I found this old desk at a yard sale and I had to have it–at 38″ wide it would squeeze right into the window nook in our bedroom. The $23 price tag (after negotiation) on the desk was a bit more than I wanted to spend but after discovering dovetailed drawers and windsor legs, I knew it was worth it.

This is what the desk looked like when I brought it home:

vanityoriginalThe first thing I did was remove 2 supports that had been screwed in below the top of the desk (for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why they were added. The desk is solidly constructed and the supports took away from the clean lines of the desk). After removing the wooden knobs on the drawers, I sanded the entire desk to remove any old varnish and to smooth the surface.

The woman who sold the piece to me explained that the holes on the front of the desk were left by a previous owner who had attached a fabric skirt to the desk (again, why??). I used wood filler to fill the holes–allowing it to dry before sanding and then refilling. It took 3 times because the holes were pretty deep.

Next I took to making the drawers more presentable. While they had dovetail joint construction, it was not done with care. In fact, the work was sloppy. My husband taught me how to improve the look of the drawers. First, I made a mixture of wood glue and dust left from sanding the desk. I used this mixture to bind the dovetail construction more securely. Brian explained that the dust would give the glue a bit of texture and help to fill in the gaps. After that dried, I added wood filler in the remaining gaps. I allowed several days to ensure that everything had completely dried and then power sanded the outside edge of each drawer. This is what the drawers looked like after power sanding:

vanitydrawers1 Once the dovetails were smooth, I used a cloth to remove dust from the inside/outside of the drawers before sealing them. I prefer to use Minwax Polycrylic for this step. I have used many different products and find this to be the best–it is water based so it’s easy to clean up spills and comes right off the paint brush. When applying as a finish, it’s best to apply very thin coats and allow to try completely in between. This is a case where more is not better. You can sand between steps if you like but I generally find this is not necessary.

vanitydrawers3Once the drawers were complete, I began priming the face of the drawers and the entire base of the desk. Once the primer was dry, it was time to start painting. For projects like this, I usually shop the leftover paint at local paint stores. This section is full of quarts and gallons of paint at a steep discount because they were mixed up for a customer who was unhappy for whatever reason. I would suggest visiting a few different stores to see what their prices are. My local ACE Hardware sells discounted quarts for $2 (gallons at this particular store are $5 but other stores sell these for as high as $10/$15 respectively) and I found just what I was looking for to make my vanity pop. The final touch and one that I think is very important, is the hardware. I had some nickel knobs leftover from on old kitchen renovation and I love the way they look. Here’s my vanity in all its glory:

Vanity beach

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *