Making an Existing Piece More Usable

Here is a simple way to take a piece of furniture in your home and make it more usable. We’ve also added some design ideas to help modernize something old you already own and make it look new.

vanity before
vanity stain

Step 1: The problem

My brother’s finance has an odd vanity she uses for makeup. It creates a nice looking storage area in her master bedroom but after years of use has become stained and disorganized. The makeup it stores has littered the table top and drawer with cover up and foundation marks and because the finish is not washable the white table is not as clean looking as it once was. She also sets her curling iron on the table in its cradle but because of the heat this has yellowed the white table top. Can we create a heat resistant, washable, vanity with storage from this existing old piece?

vanity burn disorganized

Step 2: The Plan

My brother and I waited until his fiancé left for work and moved the vanity to the outside deck. We did this both to surprise her and also because she might have said no, so we have a very definitive timeline for this project. We need to complete the vanity rehab in one day before his fiancé returns from work. We also need to make sure it looks good or we may be adding to the stress of an already stressed bride-to-be.

We have decided to head to Home Depot to find out if we can get fast drying, heat resistant, washable, white paint to bring the vanity back to new condition and also hopefully keep it looking new for years to come.

We are also going to try to find a fast drying paint to add some color to the piece. There is already some blue in the room so we have brought along a picture frame to match the color of the room to the paint we will use for the inside of the drawer. We will also be looking for some way of camouflaging the base of the drawer so when makeup is spilled there will be an easy way to clean up the mess and hide previous scratches.

Step 3: Supplies

paint contact paper

After a discussion with the paint associate we are a little disappointed. The vanity is a composite wood that won’t sand easily and our best bet to complete this task in one day is a special heat resistant, washable finish, spray paint. Using spray paint to create the details we want will be difficult but we decide to try anyway knowing that my brother will save money on a tux rental if we destroy the vanity and his finance cancels the wedding.

We find a white spray paint for the outside of the vanity and match the blue for the drawer. We buy blue painter’s tape to tape off sections to control the paint spray as we work. We also got a sanding brick to scuff up the surfaces we planned to paint. We find a thick drawer liner that looks like black and white calligraphy. This seems like a good idea. We can cut the liner to fit the drawer and still have most of the roll left to replace the liner if nail polish or a hard to clean substance is spilled in the storage area. It will also add some modern design to the inside of the drawer.

Step 4: Getting Started

The mirror portion of the vanity is in good condition so we remove it and set it aside. We remove the drawer and tape up the metal grooves on the sides of the drawer that allow it to easily side open and closed. We don’t want to get paint on the metal sliding pieces because this will make the drawer stick as it opens and closes.

We lightly score the drawer and table. Scoring is just light sanding of the surfaces we plan to paint. This will allow the paint to stick more easily to the vanity. After sanding clean off the surfaces with a damp paper towel and let dry. Tape up all areas you want to keep from painting and run your thumb along the tape to push out air bubbles. Make sure to use a drop cloth, we did not and there are white lines on the deck to remind us to use one next time. Now you are ready for spray paint.

sanding sanding side wiping top

Step 5: Spray Paint

It might be a good idea to wear gloves; my fingers were blue and white for two days after this project. We started by putting the first coat of white spray paint on the table. You want to choose a day that isn’t windy if you plan to do this outside. If you are painting inside, like a garage, make sure you have a lot of ventilation. Spray from right to left keeping the spray can at least a foot and a half from the surface. Always spray at an angle if you spray straight down at a surface the spray paint will pool or run. You want to spray quickly and smoothly from right to left one side to the other. For your second coat wait until the 1st has dried and spray from a different direction. We started back to front and for the second coat left side right side. This will help give you full coverage with the least amount of paint.

We then did the same with the taped drawer only we switched to blue paint. We left the bottom white because it wouldn’t be visible once it was back in place.

painting drawer

Step 6: Problems with Paint

Somehow we got blue spray paint on the stainless steel knobs connected to the drawer. Remember to remove these or cover very well with tape. Here is an easy fix if you spray a steel knob with spray paint and even fingernail polish removed won’t get it off. We used paint specifically to resist things like fingernail polish remover so we should have known, right?

Use your sanding brick to lightly scar the knobs. Work in a circular pattern so the knobs start to look like brushed nickel; this will also remove the paint. The scratches, if done correctly, look intentional and catch the light.

Step 7: Cutting the Liner

Depending on the thickness of your liner you will want to use either a razor or scissors. Our liner was thick so scissors were needed. Cut the liner slightly larger than your measurements for the base of the drawer, this will allow you to make slight adjustments with the liner sitting in the drawer. Use a pencil to indicate the final trimming cut. Set the liner inside. Our vanity had dividers but most liners are slightly sticky and will sit in place without much effort.

fitting paper finished drawer

Step 8: The Finish

If the paint is dry on all pieces you’ve done. We put the vanity back together minutes before my brother’s fiancé got home. Her vanity was now washable, more heat-resistant, and much more modern than before. Best of all we didn’t destroy the piece so she probably won’t leave my brother at the altar. It looked great, but we made a little bit of a mess in our hurry and dumped the contents of the vanity all over her room. See the finished pictures below. My brother video taped the reveal. Watch the short video here.

open drawer empty finish decorated