Transform a Wood Vanity with White Paint
Before I get into this, I need to share the latest thing that is making me laugh over and over and over again. Here’s a link to Pedro Martinez answering the question, “What rhymes with ‘yummy’?” It’s 10 seconds long. You’re welcome. 🙂
Way back in January, I colluded with The Hubster’s mom and little sister to sneak his big sister’s childhood vanity to our house for some TLC. Virginia helped us move it, of course:
You can see it has gorgeous bones. His sister has been musing about wanting to take it and update it for a long time, but she wasn’t ever quite sure how to go about it, so we decided to surprise her for her birthday—in August. That’s right. I started to get my ducks in a row for this project in January. At least I can say I learned one lesson through all my DIY adventures: all projects take vastly longer than I think they will. 🙂 Unfortunately, that still leaves today’s lessons… which I am still working on learning:
- Lesson 1: Prime with the right color primer.
- Lesson 2: Foam rollers aren’t the best for water-based paint … but they’ll work.
- Lesson 3: Paint can seal up thin cracks.
(Hello, organizing theme for today’s blog post! Thanks, Christine at Bottle Tree Consulting, for the writing tip!)
I got it all taken apart and prepped…
…and promptly did nothing for 4 months. Finally when the nice weather hit in April, I got to business. I don’t get to sand factory finishes off that often, so it was pretty satisfying to get this thing down to bare wood.
Then another month went by before I primed it. I used the only spray primer I had on hand, a can of gray primer by Rustoleum. I figured, what the heck, it’s primer. It’ll do the job, right? Oh, just you wait.
Finally, in May, I started painting. I used Americana Decor Satin Enamels in Pure White. (Walmart has it for 8 bucks!) I used this stuff in a light teal on the vanity in the upstairs bathroom, and it is pretty durable, so I felt pretty comfortable with it.
For every coat, I started with the vanity upside down so I could have good, well-lit access to the legs to get all around them, and worked my way up, finishing with the vanity surface.
To get a smooth, no-brush-stroke texture, I followed up the paint brush application with a foam roller. I thought I was being a smarty-pants, but again, just you wait.
Proud of my smarty-pant self, I went back down for coat number 2 the next night. I fully expected that coat number 2 would start to significantly cover the gray primer that was showing through the first coat of paint. I refused to let my heart sink until I went back down to start on coat number 3. When even that didn’t dramatically cover the primer, I realized how foolish I’d been to use gray primer. Time for Lesson #1!
Ahem. Lesson #1. Don’t use whatever primer you have laying around. Just follow the old rule for primer: if you plan to paint something white or a light color, use white primer; if you plan to paint something a dark color, use gray primer. Sigh. I knew this, and yet I still didn’t do it. It’s like knowledge versus comprehension. At least this failure put me past “knowledge” and into “comprehension.” You can bet I won’t make that mistake again.
To solve the issue, I simply kept on painting. Very technical solution. Since the foam roller brush thinned the paint out, I did a few coats without following the brush strokes up with the roller. That seemed to help thicken things up. I did start to get nervous about running out of my one little container of paint, but I got lucky. Finally, one night I went down to check it out and I realized, with just about a half-inch of paint remaining, that it didn’t need any more coats.
But let me back up here for a second. Check out the bubbles the roller brush made:
After the first coat of paint, the foam roller brush started to get problematic. Instead of just smoothing out the paint, it started to leave LOTS of bubbles as it rolled. Some quick Googling revealed Lesson #2: apparently foam brushes aren’t the best with water-based paint; I should have been using a “nap” roller (feels like a thick carpet). Happily, when I went back down to check on it, the bubbles were a non-issue; they had dissipated during the drying process. I’m not saying you should bank on this for your own projects, but it worked out for me this time. (Come on, I need a win here!)
So I finally finished all my coats of paint and made a last minute decision not to put a coat of poly on the vanity. I had wanted to, since its surface would be a high-use area, but there was a voice in my head telling me not to do it. (Maybe I am learning, after all!) I had done some quick preliminary research for a poly that wound’t yellow at all, and had purchased MinWax PolyCrylic at the start of the project. But I happened to Google around more and found a lot of people complaining that it yellowed immediately, so I scrapped the idea of putting poly on altogether. Overall I am very happy with my choice to use a durable enamel paint. I will be sure to update you in a few months to see how the finish is holding up without poly!
The final step was the hardware. I knew I couldn’t take the hardware off of the drawer to paint it because the hardware is attached to the drawer-front only, which is a nicer quality piece of wood glued to the box that makes the drawer. So, my grand plan, which as usual wasn’t as grand as I thought it would be, was to paint the wood white around the intricate shaped hardware, and go in afterward and wiggle some painters tape underneath the hardware when it came time to paint that. It would be so easy! Not. Out came the painters tape and up came Lesson #3. When I went to wiggle the painters tape between the hardware and the drawer-front and realized I’d forgotten Lesson #3: Paint makes a seal between very thin cracks.
My heart sank as I realized this was just going to have to be very slow, very tedious work. I picked up some CraftSmart “gilding leaf” in silver (this is a similar product by a different brand) and some cheap brushes, and got to hand-painting the drawer hardware. It actually wasn’t bad at all. It went quick and staying on the raised surface of the hardware was not as hard as I thought it would be, even along those curvy edges.
After a few coats, the hardware, too, was ready!
And we finally arrive at one thing I can’t give you a good lesson for, but I really need one! Does anyone have any mirror-taping tips? This is something I consistently struggle with. My standard approach is to wiggle the tape / paper between the mirror and the frame, but taking the tape off at the end is a nightmare. Little pieces get stuck underneath that just remain there forever. I have to use an Xacto knife to loosen the paint that has dried between the frame and the protective covering, and I just can’t get a nice, crisp edge. It might be one of those things only I notice, but still, I’d love to know how to do this so it doesn’t look all wonky. Also, refer to Lesson #2. 😳
But, as with all projects that you’d swear are totally disaster-bound, there’s a happy ending. When I put the whole unit back together, I was so happy with the result. I can’t wait to give it to The Hubster’s sister! I had been so worried the gray primer would show through and the finish would show lots of brush strokes, but it doesn’t. Here’s the final vanity: