Vintage vanity update – before and after

I have always wanted a vanity. Who doesn’t want to sit comfortably as they apply make-up or fix their hair? In my case, it takes about 45 minutes for me to straighten my hair (I have a lot of it). That is a long time to stand on unforgiving tile floor. 

It wasn’t until we moved into our new home that I had space for such a piece of furniture. As soon as we decided the furniture layout for our master bedroom and determined that a vanity would fit, I began to search for one that I liked. It turns out that it isn’t very easy to find an affordable vanity that doesn’t look like it was made for a child. 

Eventually, we found a really cool vintage vanity when we were visiting our favorite salvage store. It wasn’t in the best shape, but we knew that we could make it look amazing with a little bit of paint and upholstery. 

The vanity

The before photo of the vintage vanity from the salvage store
The before photo of the vintage vanity from the salvage store

When we found the vanity it was quite beat up. You could tell from the make-up stains and general wear and tear that it had been well-used. The hinges holding up the mirrored center panel were broken and the legs of both the vanity and the bench had been chewed on by some restless pup. The bench had already been reupholstered (although I’m not sure why someone would choose a green checkered vinyl tablecloth material) and the hardware was unattractive.

Despite all of this, I believed that with Brian’s help I could make it look really nice, so we brought it home.

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Vanity update

The first thing we did was to remove the hardware and the mirror from the vanity. I wasn’t a fan of the original hardware and planned to switch it out anyways. We then cleaned the vanity with a naptha solution to remove the top layer of dirt and oil. 

The next step was to try to remove some of the dents and scratches on the surface of the vanity. We used a damp towel and an iron to try to lift out some of the worst damage. If you aren’t familiar with this technique, I recommend this video tutorial. We also used this technique on the vanity and bench legs. They were pretty badly damaged but this technique worked well and helped to remove or minimize most of the dents and scratches.

Some of the damage on the vanity before the update
Some of the damage on the vanity before the update

There weren’t many remaining dents or imperfections, but I put a bit of wood filler in a few places to even out the surface. I also used wood filler to fill in the existing holes for the drawer knobs and pulls. Once the wood filler had dried, we sanded down the entire piece using 200 grit sandpaper. This is important to do when painting furniture; especially furniture with a glossy finish. It helps the primer to adhere and ultimately leads to a more durable paint job. Finally, we cleaned the piece once more with the naptha solution to wipe away any remaining dust and dirt.

Like several of my other recent projects, we used a paint sprayer for both the primer and the final paint application. This results in a really smooth and consistent finish and you don’t have to worry about brush strokes. We used the Kilz primer because I wanted to be sure to seal in the makeup stains. We then painted the final piece with Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel which is my favorite paint to use on furniture. The color I I used for this piece was SW 7017 Dorian Gray. As I mentioned in my vintage cedar chest update and Arhaus Loft table makeover posts, this paint was recommended by a professional painter, is easy to use, and thus far has proved to be very durable. 

Bench seat update

In order to prepare the bench for painting, we first had to remove the seat. I threw out the green vinyl material as well as the foam padding. Both were in bad shape and the foam was very thin. Using the existing plywood as a template, I cut a piece 3” high density foam for the seat. I used a spray adhesive to attach the foam to the plywood. Please note that it is important to make sure that the spray adhesive you are using is rated for foam. The wrong spray adhesive will actually start to eat through the foam. 

After photo of the vintage vanity and bench
After photo of the vintage vanity and bench

I then cut a piece of batting three inches longer than each side of the plywood (a total of six inches longer and wider than the plywood template). Using a staple gun, I wrapped the batting around the foam, pulled it tight, and then stapled it to the plywood. This helps to smooth out the top of the seat and provides some padding over the edges of the plywood. 

With the batting secured, I cut a piece of material (a remnant from another Blulens project) that was four inches longer on each side (a total of eight inches longer and wider than the plywood template). Using the staple gun again, I carefully stapled the material into place. The first time I tried it, I didn’t pull the material tight enough around the plywood so the material was too loose. I had to remove the staples and try again. The second time around, I asked Brian to pull the material taunt around the plywood so that I could staple it into place. I found it easiest to staple the sides first and then come back to do the corners. I found this YouTube video that helped me to get a nice clean fold on the corners of the seat (fast-forward until about 11:30).

After I finished the upholstery, we just had to reattach the seat to the base with the original screws.

Final touches

The mirrored center panel after the update
The mirrored center panel after the update

Once all of the pieces had been painted and reupholstered, we reattached the hinges and mirror. We then drilled holes and attached the new knobs that I had picked out. Although the knobs I purchased are no longer available, Wayfair offers a similar glass oval knob.

I am very pleased with the final piece. The finish is smooth and the color looks great in our master bedroom. I also like how the mercury glass drawer pulls and the velvet fabric give the vanity a bit of a glam vibe.

Tools used

The tools we used for this project are listed below:

  1. Screwdrivers to remove original hardware
  2. Naptha for cleaning the piece
  3. Iron to steam out dents and scratches
  4. Thin, damp towel used to steam out dents and scratches
  5. Wood filler for any remaining dents or damage
  6. 200 grit sandpaper
  7. Paint sprayer
  8. Kilz stain-blocking primer
  9. Paint (we used Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel)
  10. New knobs (the ones I used are unfortunately out of stock on Wayfair, but here is a link to a similar glass oval knob)
  11. High density foam for bench seat
  12. Spray adhesive
  13. Batting for bench seat
  14. Staple gun 
  15. Material (although the fabric I used was a remnant, here is a link to a similar material)

Thanks for taking the time to read through my post! If you are looking for more furniture restoration projects, you might want to check out my posts on our vintage kitchen buffet and our antique dining room sideboard.

I look forward to using this piece on a regular basis. What do you think about this update? Do you use a vanity to get ready?

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