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Upcycled cabinet into bathroom vanity

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A large varnished cabinet was stripped, sanded and bleached before being repurposed as a bathroom vanity with new quartz stone top and dual basins. This was the winner of best upcycling project in our 2023 search for Australia's best D.I.Y. projects.



The project


For the last two years, we have been renovating our home and we have just finished the first room. This bathroom will be shared by our three kids so, I wanted to add a larger vanity, this was proving expensive so I decided to get creative. After searching for some time on Marketplace, I finally found the piece I was looking for.


It was the size and structure I wanted but aesthetically it wasn’t hitting the mark. I had to figure out what to do with the counter as wood in a bathroom with three kids, 5 and under would be disastrous.


Tools and materials


Tools used in the project:


Materials used in the project:






Step 1 - Cleaning


Using warm water and dish soap, wash down the cabinet, removing any dirt and impurities.




Step 2 - Sanding


For a more even finish, taking the wood raw, I would suggest giving your wood a fine sanding. I used Grit 220, a fine sanding pad. If you’re happy with the finish, you can hand sand if you’d prefer not to use a sander.




Step 3 - Bleach


I poured some household bleach into a container and using a Chux cloth I wiped down the cabinet and drawers like you would a stain. Once it’s completely dry you can see the impact of the bleach, to get the look I desired I repeated this step.




Tip: Don’t do the inside of the drawers. I did and couldn’t get a nice even finish so I ended up staining the inside a darker brown.






Step 4 - Lightly sand the cabinet




Step 5 - Make any repairs


Our cabinet had been handmade and some of the drawers were sticking. We noticed the carpenters had filled between the structure of the desk and once we removed these, the cabinet was able to sit square.


We also removed one of the back legs; the one against the wall that wouldn’t be seen and nailed it to the front of the cabinet in the middle. We replaced the back leg with some Pine we had left over from another job.


Step 6 - Remove the counter


After some inspection, we noticed the counter was screwed on. We removed the screws and then ran a blade between the counter and cabinet to remove any glue.


Step 7 - Add countertop


We found an amazing piece of piece of white quartz engineered stone benchtop (exactly what I was looking for) on Marketplace. We cut it down using a grinder, keeping it wet during the cut. Then we measured out our plumbing holes and made four incisions on both sides of the stone and made the final cut. As this was something we had never done before, we opted for surface-mounted sinks in case we weren’t able to get a neat line. It also meant we didn’t have to build the cabinet up. 


We left the stone at its original width as we were worried about it cracking, meaning that the counter went from 540mm to 620mm. This worked out wonderfully, as the plumbing had been installed from the floor, so it left a void behind the cabinet for the pipes, saving us from losing several drawers. So it wasn’t wasted space. We added some Pine at the end of the cabinet by the toilet to create a hidden shelf.


We added a frame at the back of the cabinet to help with the weight.




Step 8 - Install sinks 


We decided to install the sinks longways. This meant they were more practical with the deeper counter and it left more useable space between the sinks.


Step 9 - Staining


I love the colour of the vanity but it needed a finishing touch to even out the finish and add a waterproofing finish. I decided to use Liming White by Feast Watson and applied three layers, waiting at least two hours between coats.


Step 10 - Add handles


I didn’t like the handles that came with the cabinet, so decided to replace them.


For the top drawers, I bought some basic black mushroom handles from Bunnings and painted them using Dulux Metalshield Primer and Dulux Metalshield Hammered Bronze.


I made the bottom pulls using a piece of dowel and copper plumbing tees. I painted the plumbing tees with Dulux Metalshield Primer and Dulux Metalshield Hammered Bronze. 


I cut the dowel for the middle bar, the ends and the middle to connect to the cabinet and secured them using hard as nails. I stained the dowel using Feast Watson Liming White applying three coats.


Here's a video of how it was done.



I wasn't sure how it was all going to come together but I'm delighted with the colour and finish, it's exactly what I had envisaged. I really had no idea what direction to take with this one. It was a lot of trial and error but we got there in the end and I couldn't be happier. 


Before and after


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