Restoring a Mid-Century Modern Vanity

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As they say, not all furniture pieces are created equal. So, if you’re dreaming about having and restoring a mid-century modern piece, don’t make the mistake of buying any piece you can get your hands on. You don’t want to buy a fixer-upper that’s going to cost a fortune to restore. You also don’t want to invest time and money into something that wasn’t that great to begin with.

Look for hardwood or wood veneer, don’t overlook the chips and scratches and look for any cracks in the legs and “bones” of the piece. Only you will know if you can fix it or not, so think ahead and don’t buy emotionally.

This mid-century modern vanity that I’ll be showing had a price that was too good for me to pass. For 40$, it was a real bargain. But it was really beat and needed a new finish.

Remove the old finish

mid-century modern vanity after sanding

First thing I did after I got it was to remove the old finish with 120/150 grit sandpaper and a lot of elbow grease. It takes patience and a few days if you’re up to it and gives the best results. But there’s always other options if you don’t have too much time for it. You can use a chemical stripper to remove the old finish. Depending on the strength, you might want to repeat the process a few times. Be careful with this and wear rubber gloves when applying. Also, if it’s possible, do this outside, as some strong odors might be bad for you. When removing the gunk, use a plastic putty knife as to not damage the veneer.


mid-century modern vanity after refininshing

After removing the old finish you might find that more than one type of wood was used when building your piece. Different woods stain differently. So before doing the visible portions, try the stain on small, hidden surfaces to be sure you like it.

I used two coats of Minwax red mahogany stain for this step and it really makes the wood glow. I find that using a foam brush gives better results.

After letting it dry proper (and gluing the brass detail) I sprayed on a Minwax semi-gloss to add a nice shine and prevent the brass from tarnishing.

Personalizing your mid-century piece

mid-century modern vanity after brass insert

Don’t be afraid to add a little flair to your piece if you can, but also don’t go overboard. It can easily turn kitschy. Change the handles with something more attractive if possible, for example.

The drawers have a groove in the middle that was perfect for a 1/8th brass rod insert. This detail really makes for a unique mid-century modern piece.

So there you have it. Three days and 70$ later, you can have a really nice mid-century modern piece in your home.

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