Play Vanity

Beginner Projects
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A play vanity that is both adorable and easy to build. Features four cubbies, large top surface.

I went to name this one the "toy vanity" and had to go back and change it.

Because this is the real deal.  Just a little teenier.  Like preschool/toddler sized.  It's sized similar to Pottery Barn Kid's vanity and Kid Kraft's vanity.

As in I want to sit down and get the paint out of my hair, the sawdust off my forehead, and paint my nails with actual nail polish.

But also, these separate pieces can be used as nightstands, or as a desk for little boys.  The pet photos are from a game on American Girl's online site.  If your daughter hasn't been over there, there games and site are amazing, age appropriate, and really make you feel like $100 for a doll is so reasonable  :)  Considering how much you will save by making this vanity, you might just be able to splurge this season on a doll for your precious little girl.  I spent about $20 on this vanity, using some scraps and leftover paint, but mostly new materials.

Make that 4 – 1x12s @ 19 3/4 instead of just two. Dimensions shown above.


Shopping List

2 – 1×12, 8 feet long
24″ of 3 1/4″ base moulding (go to orange, the let you buy just two feet of moulding instead of an entire stick)
24″ of 1x2s
48″ of 1 1/2″ moulding
2″ screws
1 1/4″ screws
1 1/4″ finish nails
1/4″ plywood or beadboard scraps for the back, 2 at least 11 1/2″ wide x 20 1/2″ tall
wood glue, filler, sandpaper and finishing supplies

Cut List

4 - 1x12 @ 10"
2 - 1x12 @ 11 1/2"
4 - 1x12 @ 19 3/4"
2 - 3 1/4" base moulding @ 11 1/2"
1 - 1x12 @ 16 1/2"
1 - 1 1/2" moulding @ 18"
2 - 1 1/2" moulding @ 11 1/2"
2 - 1x2 @ 11 1/2"

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set


Step 1

Here are the dimensions for the “nightstands” perfect for a toddler bed or small bedroom or playroom. You will need to build two of these. This morning, I woke up, made coffee, went out and got some firewood and made fires in the garage and house, answered a few emails, was on a few calls, started building these about 10 am. By the time the Nate Berkus show was over, I was back inside (we’ve got a tv in the garage so I can watch Nate ) to let the wood filler dry, and cleaned house and cooked brunch. Then I went back out and sanded and put a coat of primer on. More cleaning, some more emails, a little work on the other not so fun stuff. Then a coat of paint. A little more work, a few pages of the Alphabet book, and then I could see the sun going down at about 2:00 PM and still slightly wet, hauled the vanity in and photographed it. Grace is almost four now, so she doesn’t need the constant attention of a toddler or baby, but I do pay for not entertaining her by cleaning up later! If you are set up and build fairly often, this is an easy afternoon project that you can finish in plenty of time for wrapping paper.

Step 2


I started by marking the sides where the shelves go on the insides and outsides (so I know where the shelves go and where to screw. Then I predrilled holes and applied glue to the shelves and screwed it together with 2″ screws.

Step 3


The top is so easy, just predrill holes along the sides, and apply glue to the top of the sides and screw down with 2″ screws. Keep your outside edge

Step 4


I cut my backs with a 10″ sliding compound miter saw by first cutting one side, then flipping it over and cutting the other.

Step 5

Step 6

Front Base Trim

Glue and nail it down.

Step 7


Simply predrill holes and screw the 1x2s to the sides of the 1x12s with 2″ screws and glue. Keep top flush.

Step 8

Front Trim

And then nail trim on with glue and 1 1/4″ finish nail

Step 9


Assembly is easy, but have someone give you a hand (Grace held it up while I screwed). It’s best to predrill holes in the 1x2s first, that way it’ll be easy to start your screws. Or just put it together upside down on the floor.


Kristine (not verified)

Wed, 12/01/2010 - 21:18

Love it! Now I know what to make my daughter for her 8th birthday in Feb. Thanks Ana, brilliant as usual!

Beth Owen (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 03:04

Omigosh, I was doing my "Morning Ana" with Coffee, and my son glanced over at this and said "Wow, THAT looks nice!" He's five, and i think that both this AND the workbench from yesterday will soon be his! Just when I thought you couldn't possibly read my mind yet AGAIN...Thank you, Ana! <3

Jen (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 03:38

This is random. I've been totally wanting to build an adult-sized one of these to use as a craft table in my kitchen. Do you think the middle would be sturdy enough to support a sewing machine if I built it bigger? Just using some 1x16s (leftover from an old project) and increasing the dimensions?


heather johnso… (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 05:14

Oh boy. One more thing to add to our list of things to make! Hopefully we will be building the playhouse bed soon...can't wait to share the pics for that. I have all sorts of ideas for the embellishments! Thanks as always for great plans:)

cheryl (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 06:25

My teen-aged , full sized daughter would love this too! Let me know if you size it for grown-ups! Thanks.

Kristen (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 06:32

Awww... Now I wish I had a little one at my house for whom to build this! (Somehow, I don't think my teenagers would appreciate it.)

Mel (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:16

I'm on the same page with you today, mentally. :) I was just thinking how I could fit a vanity into my daughter's room without buying one of those cheap plastic ones.... thanks for another great idea.

Kate (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:17

Hey Ana! I have 2 boys, but sometimes your projects make me want to try for a girl;) This is adorable! I think I'm going to make Clara's Table and the stackable chairs. I asked a question on your comment form for Clara's Table post and was wondering if you could take a look at it. I want to make them soon, but need some info. first. Thanks so much. LOVE your website. Merry Christmas!

Michelle (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 12:39

Ana, all these amazing plans, and I'm NEVER going to get any housework or laundry done! Ha! My daughter will LOVE this!

Monica (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 14:28

This is perfect for my DD! I can't wait to see her face when she comes downstairs Christmas morning. What color white are you using to paint??

Lisa (not verified)

Thu, 12/02/2010 - 15:06

I'm working on drawing up a plan for a bigger version for my 8 yr old. Do you think 28"H X 18"D would work? I'm going to keep it around 40"L to fit the space in her room.

Ana White (not verified)

Sun, 12/05/2010 - 20:46

One thing to be cautious of is not enough room for knees, but you would have about 24" - should be enough. I'm glad you are also scaling the size of the storage towers too to keep everything looking balanced. Should come out great! Ana

Danielle (not verified)

Mon, 12/20/2010 - 20:48

I just built this for my daughter for Christmas and it turn out super cute. I just had to add a couple more of the 1x12 - @19 3/4 to the cut list. Thank you so much for sharing all these plans for free. I just found out about your website about a month ago and I've built 6 items from it. Love it! I now have a new interest in furniture building. Thanks.

Guest (not verified)

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 11:46

Do you finish all of the cut wood before you put it together or once it is all built?