A New Nautical Vanity For Under $35

Vanity refurbished in a nautical theme
Old Vanity
Old Vanity
Vanity refurbished in nautical theme
Vanity refurbished in nautical theme

When my brother enlisted my help to redecorate his master bedroom, I took one look at that black metal and glass desk that his wife used as a vanity and thought, “that needs some help”.

They wanted to do a nautical theme for their room, and having just spent most of their budget on a new bed and chest, there was little money left for the painting, bed linens, window treatments and the many décor pieces needed to turn their room into the sea-loving spectacle of their dreams.

I suggested refurbishing the old vanity, rather than purchasing new. Why?  Because I LOVE saving money and I LOVE taking old things and making them shiny and new again, instead of adding more “garbage” to the landfills.  So, I gathered up my supplies – most I already had from previous projects and some I purchased specifically for this project:

  1. Rust-Oleum Satin Stops Rust Classic Navy Rust Resistant Enamel Spray Paint, from Lowes  $5.37
  2. 16 oz. Matte Decoupage Glue (Mod Podge)
  3. Mod Podge Professional Tool Set
  4. Project Source 2″ Polyester Wall Paint Brush
  5. 3 in. Thick Multipurpose Foam, 72″ x 24″
  6. Solarium Outdoor Fabric-Amid Ships Indigo, 1.5 yd., from Jo-Ann $16.50
  7. Minwax Polycrylic Satin Base 8 fl oz Polyurethane, from Lowes $9.47
  8. 3M 5-Pack 3.67-in W x 9-in L 400-Grit Commercial Wet or Dry Sandpaper
  9. Bostitch 0.375-in Manual Staple Gun

Desk and Stool Preparation
First, I removed the upholstered seat from the frame, which was simply attached with 4 screws.  Then, using a flat-head screwdriver, I removed the staples which were securing the old fabric to the base, which was made of particle board.  After removing the fabric, I discarded the old foam padding which had lost its cushioning a long time ago.  At this point I was left with a single piece of particle board about 12×16 inches in size.

For the desk, I removed the 2 glass panes along with the 8 suction cups used to hold the glass in place on the frame.  I wiped down the metal framework of the desk and stool with windex, to remove all the dirt and grime that had built up over the years.  I also windexed the 2 glass panes to clean them up prior to painting and decoupaging.

Painting and Decoupaging
While it might be difficult to tell in the picture, I spray painted the entire desk and stool with the navy blue paint.  I also spray painted the lower glass pane in navy blue.  Then, using Mod Podge, I attached the nautical fabric to the TOP of the other glass pane.   I debated for a long time whether to mount the fabric to the top of the glass or underneath it.  There were pros and cons to both.  If I mounted it underneath the glass, the fabric would be well protected from make-up (and kiddie) stains.  However, if I mounted it underneath, the top of the vanity would be shiny glass.  While I liked the protection afforded by the under-mount, I did not feel that a shiny glass top was in harmony with the feel of nautical décor.  A nautical design lends itself more to an old-world feel.  Granted, we were doing a contemporary take on “old-world nautical” but still, I felt that a matte fabric look fit the bill better than reflective glass would.  Because I would lose the stain-protection factor by mounting my fabric on the top, I decided to use a polycrylic finish to protect the fabric, but more about that later.

Vanity refurbished in nautical theme
Vanity refurbished in nautical theme

To start, I laid my fabric down, print side up so I could easily see the pattern to decide where I wanted to cut it and then placed the glass pane over it.  When I say “print side” up, I mean the side of the fabric that I want to be seen once the vanity is complete.  Technically, the print on this fabric can be seen from both sides, but one side is the “real” print.  Using my rotary cutter (if you don’t have one, I recommend you get one.  I got one for Christmas and it’s the greatest thing ever!) I cut my fabric as close as possible to the glass pane.  Once I had my fabric piece cut, I turned it over so the print side was facing down, and I sprayed the back side of the fabric with water from a misting bottle.  Now, you don’t want to soak the fabric, you simply want it to be slightly damp.  I did find this a challenge as this was my first time working with an outdoor fabric, which unlike most fabric, is meant to be water resistant.  I found the water beading up in some areas, so I simply wiped those areas with my fingers to disperse the larger beads of water.

Using the paint brush, I applied a layer of mod podge to the top of the glass pane.   To attach the fabric to the glass,  I turned my fabric back over, so that it was print side up.  I then rolled up the fabric like a roll of wrapping paper.  I laid the roll down on the left hand side of the glass pane and proceed to adjust the fabric so the corners of the fabric lay evenly with the corners of the glass.  Then I slowly unrolled the fabric, to the right, across the entire piece of glass.  Using a mod podge roller, I rolled out any air bubbles I saw.  During rolling, I found that sometimes my fabric would slide in the direction I was rolling so I would simply roll in the opposite direction to pull it back.

Once all the air bubbles had been removed and the fabric was well centered on the glass, I allowed about 15 minutes for it to dry.  Then I applied a coat of mod podge to the top of the fabric. I let this dry for a few hours and then I very lightly sanded the entire top of the fabric with 400 grit sandpaper, until I could no longer feel any small bumps or grittiness in the layer of dried mod podge.  Using a damp paper towel I wiped the fabric to remove any dust created by the sandpapering.   At this point, I used a sharp pair of scissors to trim any excess fabric that was sticking over the edge of the glass.

Application of Waterproof Sealant
I then applied a layer of the minwax polycrylic satin base to the top of the fabric using a paint brush.  I let this dry overnight.  I lightly sanded the polycrylic layer with 400 grit sandpaper to remove any small bumps and then wiped away the dust with a damp paper towel.  I added a second layer of polycrylic, let it dry ~12 hours, sanded, wiped and then applied a final third layer of polycrylic, let it dry ~12 hours, sanded and wiped.

The polycrylic is supposed to maintain a crystal clear finish over the years, rather than yellowing like some other sealants.  In addition, it creates a waterproof surface that will allow the “fabric” to be wiped down should a spill ever occur.

Old Vanity
Old Vanity
Vanity refurbished in nautical theme
Vanity refurbished in nautical theme

Upholstering the Vanity Stool
I placed the particle board base (from the stool) on top of a piece of the 3″ thick multi-purpose foam.  Using a marker, I traced around the board to create my outline for cutting the foam.   Then, believe it or not, I used a long serrated bread knife to saw through the thick foam.   I placed my fabric on the table, and then placed the cut foam on the fabric.  Then on top of the foam, I placed the particle board base.  To determine where to cut my fabric, I pulled the sides of the fabric up along the foam and particle board base and added an extra 2 inches to that to allow for stapling of the fabric to the board.  Using a staple gun, I stapled the fabric to the board.  Little Green Notebook has a very nice tutorial on bench upholstering, specifically related to how to do the corners.

What it Cost
I listed every supply/tool I used to refurbish the vanity, and while these items totaled just over $100 my actual cost was much less due to the fact that I already had most of the items left over from previous projects.  I had all the tools (staple gun, mod podge professional tool set and paint brush) and most of the supplies (mod podge glue, 3″ thick foam and sandpaper).  All I really needed to buy for this project was the fabric, the navy blue spray paint and the polycrylic sealant.   The fabric and navy blue spray paint were used almost in entirety for this project, resulting in a cost of $22.  I ended up using almost half of the polycrylic sealant I purchased and about half of my bottle of mod podge glue. So I estimate the total cost of this project to be about $31.

Needless to say, my brother and sister-in-law loved the cost savings in addition to their new nautical vanity!  Stay tuned for more décor DIYsigns from their new nautical themed bedroom!

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