I have wanted to convert a mid-century modern dresser or side board into a vanity for a while now, so when the main bathroom at our place needed immediate attention due to a shower ‘malfunction’, I jumped at the chance. Adding a unique or custom piece to any space really adds that extra designers touch, and if you’re skilled in the tools department (or have a good contractor) its relatively easy. Here’s how we did it.
This is the dresser we started with. After searching for a few weeks I found it at a local antiques shop, it was the exact width we needed, and it looked gorgeous! It was also not especially pricey at $350, which I felt better about since we were going to cut it apart. Although the width was perfect, there were a few things that needed to be changed in order for it to work as a vanity:
- the height – the dresser was a touch short to work as a vanity, so we had to add some height
- the plumbing – a dresser obviously doesn’t have an open back to allow the plumbing through, so we’d have to open it up, while still maintaining structural integrity
- the drawers – the sink needed to be located in the center of the vanity, so the top drawers had to be altered to make room
- the depth – we needed it a little deeper to accommodate a sink, and have lots of functional counter space
- the top – there was no way a wood counter would hold up in a family bathroom, so adding a solid surface was a must
We started with the simplest part, which was adding some height. We simply removed the legs, added a 2×4 down the length of the back and front of the vanity, then reattached the legs. The existing legs were attached with 4 prong t-nuts (Ikea often uses this hardware) so it was easiest to duplicate this when reinstalling them. You just drill out the hole where you need it and hammer in the t-nut. Now you have a threaded hole to attach to.
Then we started working on the plumbing and sink. First we located where the sink would sit (center on the vanity) and how we could get the plumbing up to it. It helped that the original sink was centered on the old vanity so we didn’t have to move anything along the wall, we just had to plan around the structure of the dresser.
Matt (husband) is a plumber by trade so this part was a snap. The water supply was right where we needed it to be, it just missed that center post. The water lines on the faucet are flexible so that helps too. The drain was a little more complicated but completely doable. Matt just routed the drain around the post, and up to where the sink would sit. He knows how many twists and turns he can make and still have good drainage, so it was easy. Essentially, for our building code in Ontario, you can have a combined change of direction of 135 degrees between the trap weir and the vent. Here we have a 90 degree fitting routing the drain out of the wall, followed by a 45 degree fitting to angle the drain around that center post.
If this seems complicated, just remember, you can have the vanity ready to go and hire a plumber to get it all hooked up for you! It might mean you have to cut a larger opening in the back if she needs more room, but you can still complete everything else on your own.
The top drawer was possibly going to be lost completely to make way for the sink because it partially drops into the vanity space. Matt thought he would try to save the drawer by rebuilding the drawer box around the drain and the sink bottom.
After taking some measurements we realized we have to make the box a little shorter over all, so it would slide beneath the sink bottom, and take a little chunk out of the back of the drawer box, so it would go around the drain.
We also had to adjust the second drawer slightly so it could pass beneath the drain. I thought I had it on my first go, it passed the drain connection perfectly!…but then got caught up on the second connection behind it.
I marked out where it was getting caught and tried again. TA-DA!
I just took the easy route and used the dremmel to cut out a small section of at the back of the drawer box. It worked really well and only took me about 10 mins!
THE DEPTH AND THE COUNTERTOP
The overall depth of the furniture piece we are using is not quite deep enough for the sink so we had to pick up some extra inches somehow. What we ended up doing was pulling the vanity out from the wall and using some 2×4’s to frame out from the wall. This way we could still attach the furniture to the wall for a solid fit. The countertop was then scribed right to the wall creating a full depth vanity.
The countertop is Corian in ‘glacier white’ and is a solid surface counter. It’s a non-porous so nothing can penetrate down into the material. That means no permanent staining and nowhere for bacteria to hide. Perfect for a bathroom. I find Corian has a softer feel than granite and quartz, which I like, especially for this use. I ordered this top in the standard thickness of 1/2″ with no build up, which means there is no nosing added to make the counter appear thicker. The scale of this vanity really required a thin top, providing the durability we need, but not overwhelming the size of the furniture.
We installed the sink and faucet and volia! A custom vanity!
Using these basic steps you can fairly easily turn a piece of furniture into a bathroom vanity. There are few more things I might add that will keep this process doable for you rebel DIY renovators;
One is to make sure you have your sink and faucet selected, or even on site if you’ve already made the purchases. If not most manufacturers have the specifications for their products available. You’ll need to have the install instructions and the specific measurements.
Two is to try and stick to standard sizes for the vanity. Standard kitchen counter height is 36″. Vanities are usually shorter than this, although they don’t have to be. Anywhere between 32″-36″ in height is functional, although I find closer to 32″ height is a little nicer, especially if you lean in towards the mirror regularly. The standard depth can fluctuate as well, but the major consideration is that your sink is going to fit! Some depths are as shallow as 18″ but I would consider this a space saving measure if the space really requires it. For a decent functional counter depth I would fall between 22″-24″.
And that’s it! It’s really not all that difficult, and with lots of planning ahead BEFORE you cut into your furniture piece, its completely doable. Rebel on, DIY’ers!