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Ideas for Creating an Upcycled Bathroom Vanity Unit

Written by Sarah Horner-Sigre


Posted on June 04 2021

There is something ever so stylish and fun about a piece of furniture that has been given a personal touch and is totally unique. Whether it is simply adding a new lick of paint, or changing the function of the piece entirely, upcycling is a great way to add value and character to previously unloved pieces in your home.

Vanity units are a wonderful place for bathroom storage and for providing a pretty surface for your bathroom basin to sit on top of. I have found that when it comes to styling a bathroom, upcycling a bathroom vanity is a fun way to create a unique space for your basin, whilst making a statement in your house.

An amazing tranformation by @brickdustbaby of her vanity unit for our Wren basins 
marble topped cabinet
This marble topped cabinet found at Arthur and Ede is perfect for upcycling into a vanity unit

Why choose to upcycle your furniture?

I think we all have that one piece of furniture sitting in our homes that has a small design detail that we don't love. Maybe it's a table that is the wrong colour for the room, or maybe it's a storage chest with mismatched drawers. With upcycling, you can take something that has been unused for a long time and re-design it to make it usable again.

Upcycling can be a great way to give the pieces you love an updated style, or transform furniture from one function into another. Making little changes here and there can help your vanity to fit the style of the space better. It gives your pieces a more personal touch and creates the ideal piece to fit your home.

Let's not forget that DIY can also be fun! It's a great way to save some money by not replacing the unit entirely and do our bit for the planet by making a sustainable choice by recycling to reuse and reduce waste.

As well as saving money and decorating sustainably, upcycling can also bring the old school charm of beautiful vintage or antique furniture into your home. An eclectic mix of old and new is a popular style of decorating. This is especially true if you live in a period home and wish to decorate with furniture in keeping with the style of the building.

upcycled vanity by a Fresh lick furniture

A double upcycled cabinet by A Fresh Lick Furniture 

How should you prepare before upcycling?

There are so many directions you can take when upcycling your bathroom vanity, that it can be difficult to know where to begin. Planning and preparation is key. Take your time to explore all the options before embarking on your DIY journey.

Try to pace yourself as you are upcycling your vanity unit. Slow and steady wins the race! Ensure you are happy with all of the changes you are looking to make, before you even get started. This way you will make less mistakes and are more likely to be completely happy with the outcome.

6 Upcycle ideas for your bathroom vanity

Not sure where to begin with your vanity unity upcycling project? Here are some of my favorite ideas to give you some upcycling inspiration. These are ideas that can be done yourself, with a little preparation and planning. You can also source someone to upcycle your vanity unit for you at The Directory of Upcyclers.

Vintage upcycled double vanity

Upcycled double vanity unit by Directory of Upcyclers member Pearl Redesigns

1. Paint a vanity unit

So simple, yet so effective: all it can take to update a bathroom vanity unit is to add a new lick of paint. If the rustic look is not for you but you love the design of the vanity, painting the unit can create a sleek and modern look.

 Our Evelyn basin on an upcycled vanity unit

Not only can a bold colour create a statement, but it can also protect the unit and cover up old chipped furnishings. I bought this now white console from a clearance shop for just £10. As the vanity was old and the surface was a little scruffy, I decided to paint over the original wood to create the perfect finish. I chose to cover up the original mahogany with a chalk paint and protected it with a clear matte wax, updating the rustic table.

Chalk paint is a really good option and adding wax polish, which comes in different sheen levels, will protect the vanity from damage like chips and stains. A matte finish is best for a more contemporary look. Topped with the bright and colourful Evelyn basin, this bathroom vanity is certainly eye-catching.

Paint does not have to be boring - get creative with your colours! Some of my favorite pieces have been vanities painted dark blue or forest green. You could also paint just the drawers or stencil on a design. Paint can also give old wood a new shiny coat, making a wooden vanity look more modern. It is best to reapply protection in the form of a clear wax every few months for items which are in regular use.

Green bathroom unit
Vintage Vanity by Directory of Upcycling Member Rubar and Scandi

2. Choose a natural wooden finish

Sometimes rather than painting over the vanity, you might find that it is better to enhance the quality of the wood. To keep the integrity of the grain, use a hard wax oil to coat over the surface of the vanity and don’t leave water on the surface for too long as it may over time permeate and stain. For best results, reapply the hard wax oil every few months.

vintage style bathroom unit
Vintage Vanity by Directory of Upcycling Member Julia Clare Interiors

3. Upcycle an old washstand

To create a really quirky bathroom vanity, look for pieces of furniture that were not originally intended for use in the bathroom. For example, old bedroom dressing tables or Victorian washstands with basins propped on top can look especially chic. Home With Ally sources antique furnishings and vintage pieces. This console table below with a marble countertop is perfect for bathroom use.

antique bathroom washstand
 A beautifull marble topped cabinet found at Home with Ally

4. Add a marble or stone top

Switching up the counter top for a different material, such as wood to marble, can be a great way to restyle the unit. However, this can be a little tricky, as you will need to create holes in the top of the vanity to create space for the pipes. 

An upcycled cabinet found at Etsy store Arthur and Ede

Stone or marble tops will need to be taken to a specialist who can cut a hole out for the sink and tap if required. Luckily this is not too expensive, so you can often still save money on upcycling rather than buying a marble vanity outright.

For wood, anyone with a hole saw can do this, just make sure you plan and are following all the necessary safety precautions.

The Lolli basin from The Way We Live London Collection on a vintage desk

5. Convert a vintage desk

This vintage desk was a really unique way to support our Lolli basin. Bought for £10 online, this beautiful art deco desk and the drawers are perfect for bathroom storage. I especially loved how the deep colour of the grain stands out against the blue and white sink. For this project, we had to create a hole for the tap and bottle trap (waste pipe) to pop through and take out a corner of each of the middle drawers - this is a really easy job for a joiner and the end result is stunning!

6. Add different handles, door knobs or taps

If the idea of doing a complete revamp of your vanity unit seems too time consuming, or you are simply already happy with your vanity unit and you only want to give it a small update, try making this small change instead. Add or change the handles on your upcycled vanity to make a subtle change.

antique vanity unit
Upcycled table used as a vanity unit found at Vinterior

The wrong looking handles on a vanity unit can make the counter look cheap or outdated, so this simple swap can really elevate the whole feel of the vanity. Try looking in charity shops for vintage pieces, or on Etsy for custom made handles and taps.

We love to see the creative interior design ideas our customers come up with to support our vanity units and basins. However if you are looking for an already stylish vanity unit to give an update (or have decided that after reading this blog, upcycling is not your thing!), then do take a look at our own sustainably made vanity units from The Way We Live London.



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