Builder Grade to Floating Vanity

By Kate Riley January 5, 2015

Welcome back to a new year and a brand new week! First I must say “Yay for the return of Downton Abbey!” I’ve ignored all spoilers and enjoyed the beginning of Season 5 last night with a cup of tea as a Sunday evening January tradition!

I thought I’d kick off the year with one of the projects we completed during our holiday stay at the fixer house in Las Vegas. A few months ago I posted about plans for the master bathroom vanity and went back and forth between stain and paint but opted for gray paint for two reasons. 1) I’ve had mixed success staining oak, often it enhances the grain and always requires stripping varnish which is more work. 2) Since natural light comes only from adjacent rooms it made sense to go with a pale paint instead of dark stain in this vanity space.

We began this remodel by repurposing instead of replacing the existing vanity to save money. After removing the old mirror and countertop, we updated by transforming the builder grade cabinet into a floating vanity raised to a 33″ height.

builder grade turned floating vanity

To achieve the look and new height, first we extended the floor tile so that it would continue all the way to the back wall. My Dad helped Matt modify and install the cabinet. They cut off the old base with a jigsaw so only the vanity cabinet remained.

cut off base

Next they hoisted up the vanity so that it sat at a new height of 33″ (with countertop and plywood base it will be 34 ½”) instead of the old 29″ height which felt too low.

hoisted vanity

The guys secured it to the wall with the help of 2x4s. They added “legs” in the corners and 2×4 boards along the back to support the base, making sure there was enough space for the plumbing to clear the bottom of the cabinet base at its raised height. Additional 2x4s helped secure the sides of the vanity cabinet to the wall to the studs.

rear support

2x4 in wall

I had an idea to swap the doors around, as nice as the raised panel cabinet doors were, I thought I’d experiment and swap the door fronts, flipping around the back to expose the Shaker style instead.

reverse doors

I filled in any cracks and the holes from where the old hinges were attached with spackling then sanded it before priming.

spackling primer

I also beveled the edges of the drawer fronts, removing the curved ogee edge with an orbital sander so they were refinished as curved and smooth.

beveled edges

Primer and paint assisted with the disguised reversed doors and sanded drawer fronts, I’m so pleased with the outcome !

shaker style bathroom cabinet door


I followed the same steps for painting as with this bathroom cabinet makeover – priming first with Zinsser’s oil based bonding primer then following up with Benjamin Moore paint in Winter Solstice, a pale grey with a hint of blue. Since the wood is oak in this case, I applied two coats of primer and three coats of paint to help fill in the grain.



To hide the exposed plumbing pipe and 2×4 supports I added a 10″ board beneath the cabinet as a faux rear wall.

original vanity

painted vanity front view

I’m going to change out the exposed hinges in the near future for hidden ones, for now I just painted over the old ones. We pulled out both of the old medicine cabinets and brass ring towel holders and replaced the medicine cabinet on the right of the vanity with a modern beveled edge version, the hole on the left will be framed and patched with sheetrock to make room for a longer towel bar instead, leaving room for art above.

Chrome fixtures, tile, and oval white mirrors will finish off the vanity area.

view of master

We’re going back and forth on replacing the tile in the shower room – it’s basic 4×4 white ceramic tile, old and a bit plain for a master bathroom. I’ll post an update if we go forward with a remodel in there.

My next step is to find the perfect white countertop, my research continues on the best solid surface for the space!

More Bathroom Makeover posts from the past:

furniture feet

painted bathroom cabinets

mosaic tile

Add Furniture Feet to a Bathroom Vanity

How to Paint Bathroom Cabinets

DIY: Mosaic Tile Mirror


  1. This is an amazing transformation! I love the idea to flip around the doors! It really looks like an entirely new set of cabinets! I might have to “steal” that idea! Great idea, can’t wait to see the finished bathroom!

  2. Love this! Great work, theres already such a change with just painting the vanity! Can’t wait to see it all finished! Love that tile going from counter to ceiling that’s really going to stand out and bring a focal point to the room!

    LB Designs

  3. Brilliant idea to flip the doors over – it really looks like a different cabinet!

  4. I think it looks so much better, but doesn’t it need legs or something. Looks strange.

  5. The vanity looks so much better with the doors reversed. I like how clean the lines of the Shaker side are. Great decision to paint and the color is beautiful. Can’t wait to see the gorgeous finished bathroom.

    On another note, after painting a few pieces of oak furniture and not loving the result I tried a grain filler the last time. It can be a tricky product to use but I wanted the finish on that last project to be glass-like and the grain filler really helped.

  6. I am so going to reverse some ugly doors in my kitchen! Super idea! Thanks for this share!

  7. Your posts are so good. You know how to give the perfect amount of details. Like so many people I have the same cabinets as you do. It’s nice to see such a creative way to make then “new”. Fantastic job!

  8. I never even thought about flipping the doors! Great idea and the cabinets look great.

  9. I have oak cabinets (walnut stain) in my kitchen. I am contemplating selling and don’t know what to do, if anything, with the cabinets. They are in ok shape (house new in 1987), but I know they are passe and don’t want to have them become a problem with buyers. On the other hand, my heart isn’t in the work of painting them myself just to turn around and sell, not to mention I don’t know what may or may not be attractive to a buyer color wise. We have other areas that will need professional attention, so I hate to spend money to have them painted. Any thoughts on how high a priority this??? How important is this issue in today’s market?

  10. Kate that looks wonderful. How clever you all are! Happy New Year to all from an extremely hot and wet Brisbane.

  11. Love your ideas and this vanity makeover. Did you also usese oil based paint over the oil primer, or would latex be ok?

    • Hi Adebbie, you can use oil based paint over oil based primer that’s fine but I find the BM enamel (water based) Advance line of paints works extremely well on cabinets.

  12. Since this project is an eventual re – sale, I’d suggest you keep but clean up shower tiles–really really, well. Replace/paint stained grout etc. Investigate pros & cons of glass door (consider shower curtain instead). We did this on last house we sold (in 3 days) and the buyer kept talking about the fabulous showers :-)
    Love the inspired idea to flip cabinet doors!

  13. Great ideas, as always. Question: Do you paint the inside of the cabinet doors as well? In other words, when you open the cabinet, is it all painted inside too, or just the inside of the door, or nothing???

  14. Looks great! I appreciate the simple transformation of a blah item that lots of people probably have in their homes. Way to go!

  15. Hello!

    I never thanked you for this in the past, but we used your idea and transformed our kitchen ‘peninsula’ into an island. We added a butcher block countertop from IKEA and it completely transformed and updated our kitchen and lay out. Thank you. :)

  16. Love what you’re doing with the bathroom! It just dawned on me that I spent New Years’s in Vegas and you did too! I would have loved to have a cup of coffee with you rather than playing slots! Or maybe snuck a hot cocoa out of your new Keurig! And boy, it sure was cold in Vegas too!

  17. Hi Kate! Love watching the transformation! Thanks for taking us along! Have you chosen a color for the walls yet? I think I like the 2nd color on the first swatch (under Paper Whites). Also the 2nd color on the 3rd swatch!

  18. Instead of filling in the recessed wall on the left, what about open shelves? I’ve been thinking about doing that in my bath.

  19. Beautiful transformation! My sister’s NEW kitchen cabinets, came with the doors “flipped”…she said “look how pretty they are inside”…. While I LOVE a higher vanity (I had my hubby raise ours, but with a base), from a practical standpoint, I couldnt do a “floating” one. All it would accomplish in my house would be to provide a home for dust bunnies. And who needs more tile to mop, and at an uncomfortable angle? Maybe a good compromise would be to have a base about halfway back. It would look “floating”, but be easier to clean the tile, and save a few bucks on the tile budget.

  20. I never comment, but I have to say switching the doors around is GENIUS!!! We are planning a phase 1 renovation of our kitchen (painting, new counters, reconfiguring uppers etc) before we do a total gut-job in about 10 years. This one little thing will make all the difference! THANK YOU! xox

  21. While most everyone is impressed with flipping the doors I am more so with turning the vanity into a floating vanity! When we built our house about 10 years ago my son was 4 years old and his Jack and Jill bath has 29″ high sinks. Which is great for a 4 year old but now that he is 15 and 6′ tall and growing it just doesn’t work. Sinks this low should just be outlawed! Ive been wanting to replace the vanities with higher ones like the ones in our master bath (we are a tall family!) But now I don’t have to! We will just raise them! And I have tile saved from when we built to fill in under the vanity after we raise it. This is brilliant! I will gladly take 5 extra seconds to mop a little extra tile for taller vanities! Thank you so much for this idea!

  22. I love this idea but concerned about replacing the hinges on the other side. How did you do that?

  23. I know this is an old post, but I was wondering if the doors close without gaps. I have the same doors in Munich kite hen and would love to flip them. I’m worried about them not closing tightly.
    Super idea.

  24. What a brilliant idea to flip the cabinet doors! I’m going to
    do this on my coffee bar with Annie Sloan’ Chalk Paint in Paris Grey. Love, love , love it!

  25. OMG!!!! flipping the doors !!! I have been dying to find a cheap option to change my kitchen’s cabinet doors to a more trendier look. THANK YOU !

  26. Hi Kate,
    I love what you did with the cabinets! I have been trying to figure out how to update my dated kitchen cabinets without spending a lot of money. I want shaker style, so this is perfect. Will you use these sameness doors and just replace with the hidden hinges? The look I am going for is hidden hinges.
    You are brilliant!

  27. Did you have to use different hinges in order to have the doors reversed? Looking into doing the same just not sure what to do about the hinges

    • Nope, I just reversed them! They are designed for that door so it worked to just reverse them. :)

  28. Beautiful! Nice that you were able to reuse your old wooden cabinets and doors. I wanted to do the same with my kitchen cabinets but was advised against it because I have the hidden circular hinges. I still wonder if it can be done… love the simple inside of my cabinets.

  29. I am wanting to create a built-in wardrobe with stock kitchen cabinets. I have a very tall wall and was wondering if you could think of any reason that I couldn’t take the toe-kick off a cabinet and stack it on a pantry cabinet that has a toe kick to create a taller cabinet?

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