Stained Master Vanity {A Tutorial}

I’m so excited to share today’s tutorial with you.  I mentioned yesterday that we are working on our master bath makeover.  We got started last week on the master bath vanity and I’m excited to share the tutorial today.  To get started, I, of course, starting by searching Pinterest to see if I could find any recommendations on stains, time tables, etc. and stumbled across a tutorial on Monica Wants It.  This was a great starting point to start searching around more about stains, techniques, etc.  I read her post and went from there and today I’m sharing my twist on the project with all of you!


  • gel stain {I used Minwax’s gel stain in the Hickory color}
  • old t-shirts
  • orbital sander
  • sand paper
  • foam craft brush
  • high density foam roller
  • painter’s tape {I used Frog Tape}
  • newspaper/dropcloth {something to save your floors!}
  • polyurethane
  • pre-stain wood conditioner
The only item I had to purchase for this project was the stain {about $12}.  Everything else I had on hand so it was a very inexpensive makeover.  Monica recommended using a gel stain and, now having done it myself, completely agree.  I just purchased Minwax brand from Home Depot.  They only offer a few colors in the gel stain but you can completely change the look of the stain by using multiple coats.  I believe the Hickory was the darkest color they offer and I ended up using three coats to get the color you see now.  Before we get started, let me give you a refresher of our bland vanity before:
I started by removing the drawers and sanding them down with my hand sander.  They only need a light sanding so this shouldn’t be time consuming {always wear a mask!}.
Then wipe them down with a damp cloth.
Next, you will add a coat of pre-stain wood conditioner.  We had some of this on hand from our DIY dining table-it just helps the wood soak in the stain a little better and more evenly.  Then I started by wiping on the stain with an old t-shirt.  You will definitely want to wear a latex glove to protect your hands from all that stain.
Here is what it looks like after one coat, for comparison.
After about three minutes, wipe off excess stain with another piece of t-shirt.
This is definitely a whole weekend project because you have to wait 8-10 hours after each coat before you can apply the second coat.  So, after the first coat, let the stain dry and then apply a second.  After my second coat, the stain was still pretty streaky so I decided to add the third coat with a foam roller.  I definitely feel like this was a better route to take.  The stain applied evenly and smoothly.  You may still have a little bit of streaking when wiping them down, but the results for me were much cleaner with the roller.  Here is the difference between the second coat {applied with a t-shirt} and third coat {applied with the roller}.
So I would recommend the foam roller all the way.
Now, a lot of stain projects suggest sanding between coats.  The can of gel stain specifically says to not sand between coats so I followed those directions and had great results.  After you are satisfied with the color, let the stain dry for 24 hours before applying the poly {which will seal all your hard work!}.  Our top drawers on our vanity are faux, which means that I couldn’t take them off. So I prepped the area with newspaper and Frog Tape and rolled on the stain when I did the rest of the vanity.
I also used a small foam craft brush to help get into those creases and crevasses.
Once it was all coated and dried, Mike drilled holes for the new hardware I got at Hobby Lobby and we put them on.  Then reattached the doors and it’s done!  Lots of detailed pics coming your way…
You can really see how the vanity maintained it’s wood look by staining it rather than painting it.  I didn’t sand off all the wood grain because I wanted to still show that it is a wood vanity.  I absolutely love the color and think the hardware adds the perfect touch of vintage that we are going for.  With the granite, new sinks, vintage-style faucets, and mirror frame coming up next, I am getting really anxious to see it all finished!
So, what do you think?  Are you a fan of the stained vanity?
I’ll be linking this up with the Pinterest Challenge at Tenjune, Centsational Girl, Young House Love, and Bower Power!
I’ll be linking this up to Tracie’s Before and After Party!

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  1. Love it!
    The new color definitely ties into your floor really well, too. :)

    I love dark-wood vanities. There’s just something about them that feels so luxurious and modern.

  2. Absolutely beautiful!!! I love how simple and easy you kept the instructions and now I’m motivated to do my own!

  3. I love it! Looks so much better than the original.

  4. I saw this post over on Hometalk and I had to stop by for the step-by-step instructions! What a great project and I really like the dark wood.


  5. It’s beautiful!! I love the darker color.

  6. Angela Jones says:

    Very nice look! I have not heard of the gel stain before and that seems like an easy way without all the work of stripping. And your hardware is really cool! Can’t wait to see more!!

  7. Awesome work, Jessie! (And awesome photos, too!) ;-)

  8. Wow- great job- Thanks for the tips! Shannon

  9. Amazing job, Jessie! Love the color! We have the same type of bathroom vanities in our house. I’ve always wanted to paint them, but now I may consider staining one of them.

  10. Did you color the inside of the of them to?

    • I sanded and stained both sides of the doors, but not the interior cabinet itself. The inside of our cabinets is a light color and was not the same as the original color of the doors so I stained everywhere that was the orangey-oakey color:)

  11. I LOVE it! I’ve been thinking about refinishing a few things, and you just gave me the inspiration. I just showed my hubby how nice it looks so he’ll let me refinish my coffee table. That’s the first project I have planned. ;) Thanks for the inspiration! You must be thrilled with the results. P.S. – I’m pinning this!

  12. Oh my gosh – I am doing Monica’s version right now in my master – so far so good !!! What a great look!
    carol in fl

  13. LOVE the stained cabinets! I was thinking of painting ours, but might reconsider. Ours are the sam oak you started with. I’m going to be jealous when you get new sinks…ours look just like yours and I don’t see any change coming soon. Did you trim the mirror yourselves?

  14. Turned out great!

  15. I have both stained and painted oak cabinets and I agree with you about how much more staining maintains the “wood” look and grain, while making it beautiful.

    I love how yours came out.

  16. Very informative and great photography!! Chantelle

  17. Love this! The stain makes it look like a new vanity for a fraction of the price. You really did a great job on this.

    I would love it if you would share this at the Smart Solutions linky party. You can link up here:

    Have a great day!

  18. Looks great!!! I stained the vanity in our first master bathroom a similar color and loved it, too. I was terrified doing it (what if I mess it up and it looks terrible?!?!?) but it was so worth it. Nice work!

  19. Wow, Jessie! What a beautiful rescue! You did an amazing job and it looks gorgeous and like a brand new $$$$ piece! Love it!

  20. Your vanity looks great! I’d love to do this to our kitchen cabinets, but I’m skeered! :) Maybe some day…

  21. What an amazing transformation! Beautiful!!!

  22. Chantelle H. says:

    You did a fantastic job. I’m in the middle of redoing my bathroom cabinets as well & was wondering if you had any varnish you had to remove on your cabinets before restaining? If so, did it come off by sanding? I am using a stripper on my cabinets and it’s a lot of work! If I could skip that step & just sand I’d be a happy lady :). Thanks for the encouragement by seeing what a difference new stain can make!!

    • Thank you, Chantelle! I didn’t have any to remove…sorry:( You could try to sand a section and see if it does the trick. Good luck!

  23. Looks fantastic! what did you apply the polyurethane with?

  24. I absolutely love this! I want to do this to the kitchen but I have two questions.
    For the poly, what did you use? Also since the the drawers were vanity faux did you just apply the conditioner and stain without sanding them down?
    Thanks :)

  25. Did you have any problems using the Minwax stain? I have read several other tutorials and they all insist I use Generals stain but I can’t find it locally. Do you feel that minwax did the job?

    • I thought it worked great. I would definitely recommend it. It was easy to use and has a great finish.

  26. I’m about to take on a similar project. I thought I would have to paint over the current stain, but you’ve given my hope! The one think that I’m worried about are the grooves/edges on the door panel. Did you have a hard time sanding in there and getting all the old stain off?

    • It’s a little tricky to get in the grooves so I just took my sandpaper and folded it to get into those creases. You don’t have to get every bit off. As long as it is roughed up, the new stain will stick!

  27. Your vanity turned out great and your tutorial showed all the steps so I decided to stain my own bathroom vanity, following your guide!

    This was my first staining project ever – and a lot of work, since mine ended up needing 6 coats of stain (!!!) but it turned into a lovely rich chocolate color in the end. Thanks for showing a noob how it’s done!

  28. Hey Jessie! Love what you did with your vanity! Looking to do the same thing and trying to decide on a gen stain color. In some of the pictures your vanity has a hint of red after the Hickory Minwax gel stain was used. Is that just the picture/lighting or does it have a red/cherry tone to it? I’m trying to find a color that doesn’t have any red in it for my bathroom. Thanks!

  29. Good work

    Next is the Mirror :)

  30. Angela McLaughlin says:

    What is your wall color? Brand?

  31. Jill Bloss says:

    Great idea using a gel stain! I have a vanity that seems to be sort of a white wash paint over wood, which still shows the grain. Do you think I could get this rich, darker wood look using a gel stain without having to sand?

    Thanks, Jessie!


  1. […] snapped this pic when I finished the vanity to send to Mike.  We love […]

  2. […] I love how has the same muted, dull to the new hardware on the vanity. […]

  3. […] bath reveal to share.  So far, I’ve shared how I refinished our bathroom light fixture, stained the vanity and stained the mirror frame to match.  Today’s post is lots of pictures but I have a few […]

  4. […] the vanity.  I will be using leftover gel stain from our master bath […]

  5. […] of experience with painting wood) so I followed the same steps demonstrated by Jessie over at Imperfectly Polished. I think it turned out pretty […]

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