Having wrapped up our backyard improvements for the season, I’ve been sort of putzing around the house aimlessly working on a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Even though it hasn’t been as satisfying as a whole room makeover, I’ve made some meaningful progress on a few things that have sitting on my to-do list forever but perpetually getting bumped for bigger projects.
Today I’m sharing one of those improvements: the new floating jewelry storage I built in the bedroom. The space is due for some bigger updates at some point (but I’m waiting on those until my mom finishes the amazing quilt she’s making for the space so that I can design around that), but I’ve been tackling some smaller projects and this is one of them.
I’ve been using this armoire that my grandmother gave me when I was ten and that I painted white as my first ever DIY project in my mid-twenties:
That’s a super old photo, because about two years ago I built a new mid-century style dresser for the space:
Even though I moved it for the photo, in real life the armoire was actually still sitting right next to the dresser — crammed in front of the radiator — because I didn’t have anywhere else for it.
Like this, but minus the disaster happening on the dresser (this was before I mounted the TV in place of the mirror):
I was only using a few of the drawers in it because awhile ago I purged a bunch of jewelry and toiletries that I never used, so for a long time I’d been thinking that I should build a much smaller storage piece for my jewelry that would also double as a small vanity for a few personal care items that have been cluttering up the top of the dresser (like our industrial supply of lint rollers to fight the ever-losing battle against cat hair on black work pants).
A few weeks ago I finally motivated myself to do it…I took the afternoon off work after my co-worker’s memorial service, and needed a project to occupy my hands and mind so I got this started. It took a few hours of work spread out over a few days (to give the stain and finish time to dry) and is basically just a box (frame) mounted on brackets with a single drawer the pulls out.
For the surfaces that show (the top and sides of the frame, and front of the drawer) I used a project panel that I got from Lowes.
These panels come in a variety of dimensions and are quite handy when you need something wider than 11.75″, since that’s the largest width of the boards you can find at most home improvement stores.
I wanted my vanity to be 12″ deep and 28″ long, so I picked 4″ as the height of the sides since that would allow me to cut the top, two sides, and front all from the same 18″ x 36″ project panel, like so:
I also needed to make a bottom for the frame, as well as a bottom, back, and two sides for the drawer. Since these would be barely seen, I cut them from lower quality plywood that I already had on hand (.5″ thick, which is why the drawer front is 5.25″ wide — that’s the 4″ height of the sides + .75″ for the thickness of the top and .5″ for the thickness of the bottom). The bottom of the frame was the same dimensions as the top (12″ x 28″). I waited to cut the wood for the drawer until I had the frame assembled in order to get the dimensions that would fit snugly inside accounting for the drawer slides.
To assemble the frame, I started by using my kreg jog to drill pocket holes along the inside top edge of the side pieces, which would allow me to attach the sides to the top without any visible screws.
Once I had the pocket holes drilled, I attached the sides to the top.
Next it was time to mount the drawer slides. I used 12″ slides that I bought on Amazon for $14.99 for a pair (affiliate link – read our policies). I used similar slides on the pantry shelves I built, so I was already familiar with how they work. There are three extension components to the slides: the first one mounts to the vanity frame, the second one extends a bit further, and the third one mounts to the drawers.
The third piece detaches so that it can be mounted directly to the drawer, so I removed those from each slide and prepared to mount the remaining pieces on the frame. I decided to put them along the inside bottom edge of each side piece so that it was easy to get them aligned exactly the same on each side, so I lined them up, marked and drilled the holes, and then screwed them in place.
Then it was time to attach the bottom of the frame. I used some clamps to hold it securely in place and then drove a few screws through the bottom and into the side pieces. These screws are on the underside of the vanity, so they’ll never be seen.
That completed my frame. I gave the whole thing a good sanding, then propped it up on a piece of scrap wood and gave it a coat of Minwax “Early American.”
I didn’t bother staining the full inside of the frame as it will never be seen once the drawer is in place. I also sanded and stained the drawer front (which was just a loose piece of wood still).
I knew the drawer needed to be a bit shorter and shallower than the frame, and then the exact width that would allow the third piece of the drawer slides to attach to the sides of the drawer and line up exactly with where the rest of the slides were already mounted inside the frame. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s a cross section of the vanity showing how I figured out the right width for the drawer bottom:
With these calculations done, I quickly cut some plywood to size for the drawer bottom (24.25″ wide x 11″ deep), sides (11″ deep x 3.5″ high), and back (3.5″ high x 25.25″ long). I knew I would be attaching the front of the drawer to the sides and bottom using pocket holes, so I drilled three pocket holes in the inside front edge of the drawer bottom and one on the inside front edge of each side piece to use when the time came.
Then I used star slotted screws to attach the sides to the bottom, and then erroneously attached the back as well. I realized later that I should have waited to do that…I’ll explain more soon.
Then I sanded and gave the whole thing a coat of the same Early American stain. Once it was dry, I attached the drawer slides to the outside of the drawer, mounting them along the side pieces where I knew they would line up with the pieces I’d already mounted inside the frame.
With those in place, I slipped the drawer into the frame, lining up the slides and pushing it into place. It took a little forcing to get the slides into their grooves initially, but then it slid smoothly.
Finally it was time to attach the front of the drawer. I wanted it to line up perfectly with the vanity frame, so I clamped it in place so that it was perfectly aligned along all the edges:
This is when I realized that I’d prematurely attached the back of the drawer, as I planned to go through the back to drill the pocket screws into place to attach the sides and bottom of the drawer to its front. I quickly removed the screws holding the back in place, removed it, and proceeded with my plan. It was a tight fit, but I was able to get my drill through the back of the vanity and drill in the pocket screws so that the front was attached snugly to the drawer.
Next I needed to add a drawer pull. I had a round mirrored pull on hand from the pantry doors that used to be in our hallway, so I mounted one of those in the center of the drawer front.
Finally I applied a coat of Minwax wipe-on poly (my go-to finish after the debacle with the dining room table last year), let it dry overnight, sanded everything down, applied a second coat of poly, and let it dry overnight again. The finish is always very rough after the first coat, so sanding and doing a second coat is key.
The final step was to mount it to the wall in the bedroom. I picked up two simple black brackets from Lowes, which I spaced on the wall so that one of them was in a stud.
Then I just centered the frame on the brackets, put in a few screws from below to hold it in place, and voila!
Oh right, a new vanity does not magically transform the rest of the disaster happening on this side of the room. The main issue is that we’ve never had a good place for our laundry baskets — mine is always crammed awkwardly in my closet, and Sam’s is always just sitting in front of my closet generally being in the way and looking terrible. Then the chest (which is a beautiful piece that a friend made us as a wedding present) has just become a place to pile crap.
In a rare confluence of form and function actually working together, I knew that laundry baskets could actually solve the problem. I found two woven baskets for less than $25 each at Home Goods, which was a steal compared to most of what I was seeing online ($80 – $180 for large woven hampers). I picked out two that complemented one another but weren’t identical, with a priority on getting a rigid one with a lid for Sam so that he can still make a pile when he wants to (good design embraces the realities of how we want to use our space!). We moved the chest upstairs where it works much better in the craft room.
Ahhh, much better.
At Home Goods I also grabbed an acrylic tray to hold my nail polish (I have been a lifelong nail biter, and painting my nails is the only way to channel my fixation with my nails other than biting), and put it on the vanity alongside a striped box Naomi gave me and a box my mom/stepdad found and gave me that I use to corral items we use each morning: deodorant and lint rollers.
Inside, I ported over one of the divided drawers from my old jewelry armoire. I still need to do some more organization, but the new smaller space comfortably holds all my jewelry (I just don’t wear a lot) and a few other items.
It’s a small bedroom that is probably never going to be design magazine-worthy — but now the other wall is much less cramped, we have less furniture in the space overall which makes the room feel more open, and we’ve solved the laundry basket problem. Those are real human being problems and solutions, even if the room isn’t going to show up in Domino.
Eventually I might want to swap out the sunburst mirror for a bigger vanity mirror that’s more functional, but I have the full-length mirror right next to it so it feels like it would be a little weird to have another big mirror on the same wall. We’ll see, it took me three years to get to this point so I’m not rushing into anything.