Second Chance: Dumpster Vanity to Glam Masterpiece with DIY Chalk Paint

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This might be my favorite project to date. I found this vanity out on the curb on trash night in my own neighborhood. I really have no shame.

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As you can see, it was too cool to pass up: unique shape, abundant and tasteful details, spindled legs, and I had been searching for a new desk (ours is a Target POS). The person throwing it out helped me load it into my car… the entire time they made sure I knew all of it’s flaws: broken and missing veneer, one wheel didn’t roll, “musky” smell and so on. I saw these things too. But I also saw potential. I saw solid wood construction, drawers with dovetail joints, insane detail and lots of function. And for $0 I really had nothing to lose. If I redid this and it was a bust then I would be out a few bucks for hardware or something. But then it sat in my garage for a while because other projects took priority and I still had to convince Hubby of the potential this piece had in our home. His rule is that something (furniture or really anything I collect) has to leave before anything new can come in. And he doesn’t hate the junky desk we have as much as I do. Or maybe he hated the dumpster dive vanity more than the junky desk?

I don’t blame him… the before photos are a little scary.

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As you can see, the drawers were in particularly rough shape. After I removed all of the hardware and wiped the entire vanity down with my homemade all purpose cleaner. Twice. Trust me, it was needed. Then I took the broken or cracked veneer off of the drawer fronts. Only 2 of the drawers needed the veneer removed. The other drawers had what I call “stable” pieces of veneer… meaning they weren’t damaged beyond repair and didn’t even begin to peel up when I tugged on them. I removed the veneer by prying a little with a screw driver and a spatula. Everything pretty much popped right off. Wear eye protection when doing this… lots of dust but also the possibilities of small chips of veneer flying into your face. I speak from experience.

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I really didn’t have a plan for this desk besides painting it an off-white or soft gray color. I had been itching to try to make my own chalk paint and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Like I said, I had nothing to lose. From everything I read, chalk paint is easy to work with, requires little to no prep work and easily lends itself to distressing. I found quite a few different variations of the chalk paint “recipes” online. But they all included the same ingredients at varying ratios. I chose the middle-of-the-road recipe.

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Simple Homemade Chalk Paint Recipe: 

Mix 1/3 cup Plaster of Paris with 1/3 cup cool water. Add 1 cup of any interior or exterior paint. Blend until smooth.

I used the remainder of a Sherwin Williams sample mixed with a splash of white trim paint until I had my desired creamy sort of color. Yay for custom paint mixing! At first it doesn’t look like enough paint, but I promise it covers well. I did 2 coats with this batch and still had paint leftover.

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I feel like after a couple coats of paint this looks like a way more expensive, classy piece of furniture. I think it even stood a little taller. But I wasn’t finished. Now began the labor intensive aging and distressing stage. First I “glazed” the carved details, spindles and so on. I just brushed on a dark watered down paint mix and wiped it off until I achieved the look I was going for. Then I was left with the picture below.

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I headed to Home Depot to see what to do for new hardware. Originally I envisioned glass knobs and nickel handles. But Hubby convinced me to keep the existing hardware and spray paint it with “Oil Rubbed Bronze”. He rarely has an opinion on my projects. Well, unless he disapproves. And then he’s very vocal about it. But I went with the ORB spray paint instead of new hardware and Hubby has earned major points for his taste!

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I still wanted to distress it. The piece looked old but not used-for-generations old. I used a sanding block to distress some corners and edges. I used a sanding block to distress some corners and edges. I went over existing imperfections with the sanding block as well. This brought out some of those chips and scratches and really began to add character. And I was falling in love.

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Once I was happy with the distressing and overall look, I put 2 coats of semigloss poly-crylic seal on it to protect it and give it a little shine.

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I had been so excited about this project and posted on Hilda’s Facebook about the process of fixing up this vanity. The pictures were popular and brought on many comments and even offers to buy it! I was surprised, since I had pulled it from the trash that suddenly it was a hit item. I was devastated when I placed our computer on it only to discover that it didn’t fit. And the scale of the vanity/desk was way off in our already snug family room. SADNESS!!!! I racked my brain with other uses but I truly have no other practical use for it. After some thought, I decided selling it was the best option. I had at least 12 hours into this project and a lot of love. I had only purchased the Plaster of Paris, ORB spray paint and poly-crylic ($30 tops).

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I mean, she’s just gorgeous. Like a furniture version of Pretty Woman. Or Cinderella. Luckily, the buyer is a friend of a friend and I know she will love and care for this vanity just as I would. I even painted the sides of the drawers in a soft pink for her which was a fun little touch.

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Projects Elsewhere Part Three: Josie

My sister and I took on a fun extra project and helped transform three rooms for a friend. First we gave Sam a pirate themed room, then Jack got a sweet new baseball themed room. Now we present Josie’s room. Josie is all girl in every way. She loves dress ups, dolls, books, fairy tales, penguins and pink. Her mom, Heather, hoped for more order to her room including all of those dolls and dress ups.

A few before pictures:

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As you can see from the pictures above and below, Josie has tons of dolls, books and toys that needed a little corralling. Susie and I would have to be pretty strategic with how we organized this room. We wanted Josie to be able to reach everything as well as put it all away when she was finished playing. Her room had two soft pinky (and sometimes lavender looking) walls and two beige walls. Heather told us she didn’t love the colors. Josie handed me a handwritten list of things she wanted to see in her new room as well as a list of things she liked and disliked about the current room. She wanted a reading nook, loved her windows curtains, loved her sheets (bright and cheery polkadots!) and she wanted a mirror and place for her dolls and penguins.

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We also had to remove more of those built ins. And see that Luvs Diaper box up there? Josie has long outgrown diapers but she was once the face of Luvs! She told us to get rid of that box… her mom had some framed images from the Luvs days instead.

………………Drum roll please…………..

Susie and I chose a bright mint/jade color for the walls in Josie’s room. We were inspired by her cheery polkadot bedding and made a hot pink accent wall with large bright yellow dots. Here is what we came up with:

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We gave Josie the mirror she wished for. It was a $5 yard sale find that just happened to fit her dresser perfectly. We spray painted it white and attached it with a few screws since the mirror already had the mounting hardware with it.

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We kept Josie’s letters from her old room but gave them a fresh coat of white spray paint and painted the edges to coordinate with the accent wall. Josie had quite a bit of jewelry so we recycled the “J” wall hook from her old room and relocated it to behind her door. This way she could sort of “stash” her jewelry out of sight and it was still close to her closet.

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Josie got her reading nook too! We found this sweet little wooden swivel chair at the same yard sale for $5 and gave it a coat of white spray paint. So fresh! The pink “dot” cushion is from Ikea. Susie organized all of the books and styled up the bookcase with some of Josie’s keepsakes. We tucked the chair in the corner and book case under the window. Ta-da, Reading nook accompished!

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We found white mesh curtains at Ikea. Josie had wanted to keep her pink ones (and we did too!) but once we painted the pink wall, they completely clashed with each other. The white is a little more grown up and will hopefully extend the life of this room into tween years anyway.

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Ah, the pink wall. This is the first stage of the accent wall. I’d have to come back later to do all of the polkadots. But you can see how Susie used the space at the foot of the bed to make a home for the baby doll cribs and accessories. Josie already had the cubbie storage unit so Susie just made sure all of the baskets were pout to good use and we added some of he stuffed animals to the top as well as keeping her hanging stuffed animal storage from before.

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We came back one evening to hang Josie’s 6ft Ikea LACK shelf. We wanted to give her more stuffed animal storage, but its also in a place that she can use the shelf for books or keepsakes in a few years too.

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Stage two of the accent wall: polkadots. I traced a cookie tin (What? It was the perfect size!) and painted two coats of the yellow. The pink is Behr “Hot Gossip” and the yellow is Behr “Cheese puff” both in Satin.

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Another view. I like all of these colors together. They are so happy! I think this room is much more “big girl” than before.

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Here is a better look at the dots with the inspirational sheets.
We moved Josie’s bed under the window to give her more space to play. Before, the bed gave the feeling of cutting the room in half. But now you enter the room and are greeted with more space and easier access to things on both sides of the bed. And its all visible so things should be easy to find too. Our solution for storing the dress ups was to get a couple of under the bed storage containers. We also moved a couple of the larger toys to the basement (like the dress  up vanity). Josie is happy with her room and her mom reports that keeping it clean (and getting the kids to clean up their rooms) is a lot easier than before.

Half Bath Redo (part 1)- Paint

For months I have been plotting revenge on our teeny tiny cave of a half bath. It is the only room in the house I haven’t painted (except the kitchen… more on that another day).

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I’ve been putting this project off for a few reasons. The first is time. I never have a span of time long enough to knock it all out. The second is that choosing a color proved to be a huge hurtle. Hubby pulled the “I don’t care. Surprise me.” card… I was torn over “Zen” green left over from the guest room or the soft “Glass Slipper” left over from the master bedroom. Anything but that brown paper bag color that haunts this entire place. Third issue: this tiny room is riddled with problems. Although it has all new fixtures as well as new tile and vanity, the walls are poorly mudded (result of s speedy/sloppy drywall job by previous owner… like most of his paint jobs around here. If I ever see him in Home Depot so help me…). And with the poorly treated walls comes gapped trim work. It is still only the store primer white- you can see the nails in it and they aren’t flush with the walls. Nobody took the time to paint it. I’ll likely be caulking around the entire baseboard trim, filling the nail holes and painting all the trim soon. Also, This bathroom sits under the ventilation soffit that divides the lower level of the house. The soffit is a foot deep and brings the ceiling to a whopping 7 feet above you. Now you see how tiny this thing is… from side to side AND top to bottom. The last problem and biggest challenge is that the vanity sits a convenient 3.5 inches from its adjoining wall. You can kind of see in the photo below. Just enough room for my hand… but not a roller.

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As for color, I went with the Glass Slipper by Benjamin Moore left over from the master bedroom. It really brightened up the dull walls and feels much fresher and cleaner. Bonus: this project had no cost. There is still quite a bit to do to accessorize but for now I’ve tossed the quote canvas on the main wall and added a basket on the toilet.

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The plant already lived on the top of the tank, but I placed it in a basket, added a box of tissues, some monogrammed hand towels and a roll of toilet paper. You know, just in case. This is the only accessible counter space in the bathroom therefore it is the only place for tissues etc to go. I’ve been playing with the idea of a wall shelf or two above the toilet but the basket is doing the job for now. The vanity and mirror both have minimal storage for soaps and such though.

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Everything feels lighter and brighter. Hubby and I were both pleasantly surprised. Interestingly enough, the lighter color in a satin finish actually disguises the imperfect walls. I think the white of the sink looks cleaner and newer too.

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Amazing what a coat of paint can do. Next: wall art (boy do I have a surprise up my sleeve on that one), potential storage and hospitality items.