New Vanity from Thrifted Desk

 One of the projects I referred to in yesterday’s post is the new vanity I made…in August.  I had the idea that I wanted to start back to blogging with this project after my unannounced break, and though I completed it in August, I kept waiting.  The main reason was that I wanted to wait to unveil it after I found just the right chair to go with it…but I had difficulty finding what I wanted at the price I wanted to pay, so I kept delaying.  Sure, I could have posted the vanity as it was and posted the new chair when I found it as a separate post, but I was convinced that I would find one quickly.  Days ticked by…then weeks…then months…and here I am in March returning to the blog…and I’m posting them separately anyway to keep the posts a bit shorter!  Oh well.  Now that you have (entirely too much) boring background information, I’ll get to the exciting stuff.

I found this desk at the Goodwill near my house for $10.50.  I liked the curved edges on the right side and immediately had a vision of it serving as a vanity in our bedroom.  I would’ve loved something more like this or this with more drawers and curvy legs, but I’ve never come across one in person, and I figured that if I ever did, it would cost more than I’d want to pay.  I thought that painting this desk off-white and gold would be classy and mimic the vintage look for much less.  I envisioned an antique mirror and lamps and other various antique items for storage to complete the look.  I wanted to cover the gold sections with some beautiful off-white lace I found at a specialty fabric shop downtown.  I’d received a Groupon for the shop as a gift, so I got the lace for next to nothing.
Thrifted desk before
When I got the desk home, I realized the back of it was water damaged, probably from sitting in someone’s garage for an extended period of time, so it became a bit more complicated than just a paint job.
Ugh…water damage!
So I made my measurements and went to Lowe’s for paint, sandpaper, and a big piece of plywood, which I had them cut down to the right size for me. 

The process of detaching the back of the desk was pretty grueling.  It was attached really securely, and some of the nails were hammered in so far that there was no way I would be able to ply them out with the hammer.  It took an entire morning to rip, saw, pull, tug, and tear the back piece off.  I was pretty exhausted when I finished, but it was a beautiful late summer morning, and I kind of enjoyed the manual labor. 
Hard work
Pays off
I moved on to sanding and painting once the damaged back was off.  After a few coats of gold spray paint, the wood grain was mostly covered.  When the last coat was dry, I taped off all the edges and painted the off-white sections (including the new back) with a latex semigloss.  
Good as gold
The dogs and I went for a walk while the latex paint dried and when we returned, I pulled out the wood glue to finally attach the new back to the desk.   
Glued and ready to attach the new back panel 
I followed the wood glue up with good, old-fashioned hammer and nails to reinforce it. 
Making sure it sticks
Before moving on, I pulled out the drill and estimated where a hole for the surge protector I would use for my hairdryer should go, and drilled.  It wound up with pretty rough edges, so I sanded it down to smooth it out just a bit and painted over its odd shape.  It’s not visible from the front, so I didn’t put much effort into making it very pretty.

Jagged edges before I smoothed them out and painted over them

Next, I needed to cut the lace to fit on the top and shelves.  I used a few brown paper bags (thanks to my husband’s job, which includes catering, we are never short on brown bags) to make templates and cut the lace down to size.  


I was too lazy to go inside for regular scissors so cheated
and used my fabric scissors to cut out the pattern.
It was just this once…
I used Mod Podge to secure the lace to the desktop and shelves and trimmed down the excess with a tiny pair of sewing scissors. 

All dressed up and nowhere to go!
Trimming off the excess
I wish I’d stopped at this point and looked into getting glass cut to cover the top and shelves instead of using polyurethane.  Or maybe backed up a step and tried using the lace as a stencil to spray paint over it (but I figured that if I was going to ruin the lace anyway, I might as well actually attach it to the desk).  Because the next step did not go as planned. 
I used polyurethane to protect the spray painted/lace covered sections to make them easy to clean.  I didn’t really take any photos of the process, but you can see what happened in the close up After photo below.  Instead of going on smoothly and giving the top and shelves a uniform, even finish, the polyurethane picked up the shiny gold spray paint, discoloring it and the lace, creating some weird green-ish spots (kind of like you might see on an old penny), and causing little pockets of wood grain to peek through.  I hoped that once the poly dried, it would look right…but it didn’t.  I wound up using a bit of gold acrylic paint to even out the color the best I could and just moved on.

Ugh…not what I planned

I’m quite happy with the final product, with the exception of the polyurethane-lace mess. It’s pretty and quite functional, and it’s lovely to be able to sit down to get ready in the mornings.

During the process of deconstruction, painting, reconstruction, and polyurethane-ing, which took a few days, I found the perfect pieces to use on my new vanity.  Read the descriptions below the photos for details on where they came from if you want to know…otherwise, just scroll through and glance at the pictures…

The teacups and saucers were antiques of my grandmother’s that had been sitting around on our bar (not where teacups belong!) for about…six months, waiting to find their places in our house.  They’re perfect for holding bobby pins, earrings, rings, pins, necklaces, etc., and they look super pretty, feminine, and old-fashioned while they do it! 
The lamp came from the same antique store for about $12; it’s perfect for holding post earrings in the tray and watch bracelets around the wooden base.  

The mirror came from a yard sale for $1 and was exactly what I wanted (though maybe a bit small).  didn’t even have to pull out the spray paint for this one; it already matched!  I use the corners to hang a few of my favorite necklaces for easy access.
The little heart-shaped Wedgewood covered dish was the perfect green and came from an antique store.  It’s damaged and was glued back together, so I nabbed it for $3.50 (an identical blue one was available for a whopping $65!)!!  But you can’t even see the damage and I don’t need a $65 dish to hold my hair rubber bands!
The tall earring stand came from Hamrick’s a few years ago.  I want to say it started out black.  I spray painted it this champagne color at the time and left it when it moved from my dresser to the new vanity.  It fit perfectly with the look of the rest of the accessories and holds all the earrings that I wear so often (yes, that’s sarcasm).

My bracelets are stacked on an empty glass Coke bottle.

   The dish that holds pins and brooches that I sometimes wear with scarves/pashminas was a wedding gift.  We never used it in the kitchen and works better here.
The pretty floral boxes in the drawer are basic white cardboard jewelry boxes that I covered with fabric and Mod Podge.

The clear tray holds the surge protector, curling irons, and a straightener and keeps all the heated tools off of the vanity itself.  And it hides the ugly hole I drilled in the back for the cord to fit through. 
This old book came from a thrift shop (for 50 cents!) and serves no practical purpose, but a pre-WW II ladies’ etiquette book BELONGS on this vanity. 
The trash can and gold box on the bottom shelf are the color the entire vanity was SUPPOSED to be.  I found them both for a buck or two at a yard sale and painted them to (sort of) match.  Because of what the polyurethane did to the gold spray paint on the desk itself, i decided not to use it on these and preserve the actual gold color.  The result is that fingerprints show up really easily on them (because I always have lotion or hair goop or makeup on my fingers when I’m using them).  I preferred to keep the original color and go for having to wipe them down on occasion.
The trash can is for…you guessed it.  Trash.  
The box hides my hairdryer, rollers, and brush.
And there you have it!  I absolutely love having a vanity and have enjoyed using it over the past six & a half months, and am now happy to have shared it.  I’m also happy to report that it has stayed tidy during that time (my husband and mother may be the only people who fully understand how amazing this is), though the back of the chair winds up serving as a resting place for clothes that haven’t yet made it back into the closet a bit too often. 

Here’s a breakdown of the project:

  • Time:  ~15 hours (including drying time and tearing off the damaged panel)
  • Cost:  ~$25
Check back for my next post later this week, which will tell you about my hunt for the perfect chair to replace the chair from my sewing room that I used up until last week.

Hope it’s a happy Monday!