Friday, April 11, 2014

Makeshift Vanity from Custom-built Shelves

Well, it has been a crazy few months and I have neglected the blog. This semester of graduate school has been crazy and we started a new job a few months ago as resident managers of an apartment complex. Well, we will be resident managers when we finally get to move in at the beginning of May. For now, we are off-site on-site managers. I am super excited about this opportunity for all the things I get to learn. For instance, I have now replaced both the wax ring and the tank to bowl gasket on a toilet (with my husband; I wasn't lifting toilets pregnant). I have also installed a new towel rack where an old one had deteriorated the wall using toggle bolts and helped snake a drain. I am also learning a ton about leasing. One day I will actually do the whole thing right the first time.

As we prepare to move, we have now finished up a project that has been a long time in the making. It started back at the end of last summer. Then I got morning sickness and we never finished it. Until now; and boy do they look better than I expected.

Our bathroom has a wall hung sink: there is very little storage and absolutely no counter space (and no outlets, but that is another story). I came up with a brilliant solution for this: build a vanity that fit around the existing sink. I designed it, but we had a few more projects I wanted to get to before this one, so it got put on the back burner. Then something happened that pushed this one up: they were doing some work in the parking lot and had some cast off 2 x 2 boards that we could have for free. Since the main structure of this vanity is 2 x 2s (and cedar fence pickets), we snatched them up and then purchased the other things we would need. I made several changes to the original plan, including making the upper two shelves adjustable, and we got started.

The best laid plans don't always work out. We decided to try to put this together with nails instead of screws because they would be less visible. It didn't work well; we are just making up this woodworking thing as we go. The glue we were using just kept cracking when there was any torque on the joints. We ended up using screws in key places, which worked much better. When I finally save up for my kreg jig I will be in heaven, but, for now, screws it was. We got the shelf parts all put together except for the top, and by this point, we were tired (the nail trouble shooting took a bit out of us), so we just set the shelves in the bathroom. We realized that in my measuring, I forgot to figure the baseboards into the equation and the shelves stuck out past the sink, which was going to require some more modifications. But we didn't want to deal with it then, so there the shelves stayed--for months.

Fast forward to just a couple weeks ago: Our rental contract ends at the end of this month, so we don't have to worry about selling our contract or anything. However, our next-door neighbors, who are looking for a slightly larger apartment due to the impending arrival of their first baby want to move in here. Unfortunately, they have an out of state internship for the summer and, they had to find someone to rent for the summer in order to have the place for the fall. They asked if they could show it to potential renters one day, so I had to get the apartment into showing shape. As I contemplated having all sorts of strangers see my house, the unfinished shelves in the bathroom started to bug me. Thus, for our date night the day before people came, we finished up the shelves.

The left shelf is unfinished and the right has 2 
coats of our watery gray paint.
The project simplified immensely. The sink is wider at the back than the front and the original plan called for cutting boards to fit tightly along the sink, meaning cutting precise angles. We just decided to use a couple planks on the top, figuring it would be less work and the shelves would be able to be used other places when we moved. We also nixed the door, which was mostly for show (and to keep the baby out of the trash can).

To finish the shelf part we used some gray paint we had on hand. I wanted to still see the wood grain, so we skipped priming and watered the paint down. We probably put about 15 parts water to 1 part paint, but it ended up being a little lighter than I wanted, so we did two coats.

The left is unconditioned and the right is conditioned. To
be fair, the giant splotch might be drips of conditioner.
To finish the top, which we left unattached until after finishing, we stained the cedar planks. Now a word about staining cedar fence pickets: they take stain really quickly. We used a dark walnut stain (because we had it on hand) and wiped it off immediately after applying it. I really like what it looks like, but I wouldn't have wanted to go any darker. Also, we used a wood conditioner prior to the staining, but we didn't use it on the bottom side, which you don't see. This provided a nice lesson in the importance of the conditioner if you compared the tops and bottoms like in the picture. I think I fell in love with the look of this stained cedar. We did choose pickets with particularly beautiful grain on purpose, but who knew cheap wood could look that good?

The next day, we just laid the tops on and stuck the shelves in the bathroom. We didn't have time to attach them before people were coming. Still, they looked impressive enough that both our neighbor and the people who are going to live here in the summer expressed interest in keeping them with the apartment. We are selling them for the cost of materials. I am quite happy with this arrangement because I know I can make them much better (especially if I wait until I get my jig)

That night we attached the tops with screws from the bottom. I then put on a couple coats of polyurethane on just the tops. The poly made me love the tops just that much more. I think it heightened the contrast in the grain.

This post featured on Tater Tots and Jello and One More Time Events


  1. This is such a great idea! The apartment we are moving into has a wall hung sink as well, so this will come in handy :]

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Let us know if you want some help building them!

  2. Thank you for sharing at One More Time Events…just stopping by to let you know you have been featured this week! Hope to see you at this weeks party…Hugs, Tammy


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