You’re … so vain [about your vanity]

I know, corny title.  The song seemed appropriate though…painting this vanity was purely an action of vanity – with wonderful results.  Our vanity was perfectly functional but was extremely oak sitting next to a walnut-stained oak counter.  But, it fit great in the space and was made of actual wood, so we decided to keep it to save some $$ and test our counter making methods.  Here’s where we left off after tiling and painting the bathroom:

photo 3

See? Even the iPhone refused to take a good picture of it. I assume that all Apple products have good design skills programmed into them and refuse to take pictures of ugly things.

I opted to paint it white for a few reasons:

  1. The blue is the only accent color we need in there
  2. The kitchen cabinets, which are much higher quality than these, are also white.
  3. I already own Ben Moore Advance paint in Decorator White from painting baseboards.  The folks at Young House Love liked this white too.

Ben Moore Advance is a water-based alkyl (very specific word for organic chemistry group of carbon+hydrogen) enamel (in this context, vague word for hard) paint, which means that in dries hard, like nail polish, instead of latex-y like most wall paint.  Centsational Girl uses it for a lot of furniture refinishing, and if it is good enough for her, it is definitely good enough for me.  She has also used it for repainting several vanities.

There are a million tutorials on painting cabinets on the web.  I only read two of them (Centsational Girl and Young House Love), and I’m quite happy with how ours turned out.  Therefore, I believe this method must be quite forgiving!

1.  Unscrew hardware from cabinets.

2.  (Lesson #1) Realize that if you clean and reuse this hardware, which matches all of the stainless steel in the bathroom already, you don’t have to patch or redrill any holes or readjust any springs to get the doors to lay right since they are poorly-made doors.  Clean hardware with keyboard cleaner spray and isopropyl alcohol.  Clean the one drawer track that has 50 years of grit stuck in it the same way.

3.  Take doors and drawers outside and gently sand them with 100grit sandpaper because that it what I had.

4.  Gently sand cabinet, especially areas inside of cabinet that are damaged.  Wipe down with microfiber cloths (or tack cloths, if you have them).

5.  Tape around cabinet edges in bathroom and put paper down on floor.  Set up painting pyramids for doors and drawers.  What an excellent invention – thanks again, CG!

6.  Prime doors and drawers with primer. I used a foam roller for flat surfaces and a $0.77 paintbrush for places the roller couldn’t reach.

Lesson #2:  Most people like Zinsser Cover Stain primer, alcohol-based, but you can’t buy it in or ship to it California so it is probably pretty bad for us.  The BIN can says that it “Sticks to all surfaces” & “Seals knots”, so it sounded like a winner to me.  Plus, we already had it from painting closets!  One complaint is that it dries super fast, even faster if the surface underneath has some varnish on it.  This can leave brush strokes, even with a Purdy brush.  Also, it is pricey, smells strongly and it does not wash out of brushes with water.


I have also used Zinsser 1-2-3 primer, which also sticks to all surfaces, but does not claim to (or appear to) seal knots.  Can anyone else comment on a good alternative furniture primer that is legal in CA??

16f08d03-740f-47ef-9e7b-c5343b7733a8_10007.  Prime cabinet, inside and out with primer before the primer dries on your one-time-use brushes.

8.  Allow everything to dry

9.  With ~200 grit sand paper, lightly sand the primer to remove defects.  I also do not recommend leaving them outside on a covered porch because some crud can get stuck in the paint, but I didn’t have a better option.

10.  Paint cabinets.  For specifics, there are better people to tutor you than me!!  I used the Ben Moore Advance paint with a foam roller on flat surfaces and a purdy brush for corners.  Because I was doing white on white primer, 2 coats was enough.  But, our garage/house door came pre-primed with a beige primer and that took 4 thin coats to cover with the same paint and a foam roller.  This paint is thinner than latex paints.  Resist the urge to do thick coats because that will only end badly with runny paint – the advance is thinner than most latex paints.  I sanded lightly between coats because some small bubbles formed.

Lesson #3: In thin paints or polyacrylics, sometimes shaking them can cause bubbles in the paint leading to bubbles in the finish.  For this reason, stir sticks can be a better option.

11.  I think the key is to make sure you give it plenty of drying time, even days, before putting humpty dumpty back together again.

12. Put humpty dumpty back together.

photo (2)

You will also notice we got a new mirror.  This is just a basic white mirror that I ordered from Home Depot for about $50.  Not a thift store steal, but didn’t break the bank either.  Definitely much better than the original builder’s mirror or the little temporary one I put up:

photo 3

And in case you just joined, here’s the original before shot of the bathroom:


I have one more post coming on the bathroom and tying it all together with some custom shelves.  In the meantime, please comment on the quality of furniture primers that are actually legal in all 50 states!  I am trying to refinish a table and chairs and don’t want to botch the primer.

Want to read more about our guest bathroom?  Check out the links below!

Tiling: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Bathroom countertop and the dud


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