Antique Washstand Turned Bedside Table

One of my favorite things to do is to repurpose & refinish old furniture. To take historic pieces from the past and find updated uses for them in the present. My Antique Washstand turned bedside table is a great example.

The final product finished and set next to the bed as a bedside table. Antique white oak solid wood washstand having been stripped, scraped, and sanded down to it's original finish. On top is a lavender plant and above it is a hanging lamp and a water color painting.

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If you love antique furniture and everything vintage be sure to check out my dear friend Dusty’s blog Linen and Wildflowers. Because of our deep affection for all things old and similar aesthetics, I know you will love her latest post 5 Tips for Using a China Cabinet.

A Free Washstand Started the Obsession

This project actually started when my Aunt and Uncle gifted me an antique washstand they no longer needed. It is a beautiful piece of antique furniture, solid oak, and in really good condition. The problem is it’s extremely short at only 24″ tall.

It could also potentially make a great end table if my living room was large enough.

Smiling little girl standing in front of a bed and a bedside table that was once a washstand.
My toddler is quite proud to pose for a photo in front of the antique washstand turned bedside table.

However, the best use I could come up with for it is actually side tables in my bedroom. The minute I put it on my side of the bed I realized it was a perfect size. Additionally, it has plenty of storage.

I knew I wanted to find a match to make a pair for the other side of the bed. This proved to be quite a challenge to find a similar shape and size for under $100 in my area.

But then I happened upon this unfortunate piece on Facebook Marketplace for only $80. It looks intimidating, I agree with you now. But I always think something is going to be easier than it actually turns out to be.

The Antique Washstand from Facebook Marketplace

When this solid wood piece of furniture came up on my Facebook Marketplace in my area I jumped on it. It was listed for over $100, but because it was so ugly I figured there weren’t a lot of bites.

The before shot of the antique washstand that I purchased from facebook marketplace. It is covered in brown paint and magazine cut outs that were mod podged to the drawers, door, top and sides of the piece.

So, I asked if they’d take less. It’s always something you can choose to do if you feel like it’s just slightly too much. They happily accepted $80 for it, which I happily gave.

Overall it is in good shape. And even though it didn’t have a traditional appearance and it had seen better days. I have learned cosmetic issues are usually the easiest thing to fix from the many furniture pieces I have refinished in the past. It is just a lot of work.

Some of the issues this old wash stand had were

  • Brown distressed paint & heavy topcoat.
  • Original hardware glued to the top (the last remaining original drawer pull).
  • Magazine cutouts mod-podged to the top, sides, drawers, and door.
  • A partially broken front leg (looks like maybe insect damage).
  • Missing original hardware on the rest of the entire piece (drawer pulls & door knob).
  • They also typically have a lovely curved piece of wood connected to the top back which is there as a back splash. This was missing that piece because I think it originally had the frame for a towel rack attached.

Even with these issues, I knew this was the perfect ugly duckling to go from antique washstand turned bedside table.

If you love posts like this where antiques get refinished and a new lease on life you might enjoy this post How to Repair and Refinish a Thrifted Chair.

Watch this on Youtube:

The Tools & Supplies You Need to Refinish An Antique Washstand Turned Bedside Table

The tools and supplies you need to complete a project similar to mine are actually just a few simple things. The best news is that none of these are expensive materials so it’s a very inexpensive project if you feel inclined.


The tools I used in this project were


The supplies I used in this project were

Step One – Scraping the Top Embellishments Off

The first step in this antique washstand turned bedside table was to scrape the top smooth. I had to get the top embellishments and the one original drawer pull they glued on the top off.

These really didn’t want to come off, but thank goodness I had my metal scraper and a small hammer. I used my scraper like a chisel, but don’t use an actual chisel because that would surely dig into the wood.

A couple of good whacks and they came free. The rest of the residue came off using my brand new multi-tool scraper. This tool made this process so much easier. Especially the detail attachment where I can get into small spaces to scrap paint out and corners.

Top embellishments have been scraped off the top of the wash stand.

Step Two – First & Second Coat of Citristrip

The second step in this antique washstand turned bedside table was to use my paintbrush and Citristrip and put my first coat of paint stripper over the entire piece.

The first coat of stripper took off most of the old finish, but not the glued paper. The images were a beast to get off. Honestly, I had to use my new scraping tool to scrape them off even after the second coat of stripper.

Step Three – Scraping Paint Out of Details

This new tool was a lifesaver. In fact, I’m not sure how I did this kind of work before I discovered it.

I follow an Instagram page called Victorian by the Bay. Gina is restoring her Victorian home and refinishing trim work and all the doors with their Eastlake carving. She showed me this scraper and attachment set and I’m forever grateful.

But at this point in the process of my antique washstand turned bedside table I got really excited. I could finally see the beautiful oak grain and the original color of the wood.

The top still had a fair-sized patch of dark paint that was hidden under the paper that was glued. I scraped at it until it was gone. I was careful not to put too much pressure on the scraper. You don’t want to gouge the wood.

Then I used the sharpest tip to get into all the corners and detail work of the piece until there wasn’t a scrap of dark finish left.

Step Four – Sanding for the Finish

The fourth step was the most exciting because this is when the true wood starts to shine. The wooden frame gets cleaned up and you start to see your hard work pay off.

To be honest, once I got to this part of the process I just wanted it to be done. So the photos from this part were nonexistent. However, they would just be a photo of me holding my orbital sander for an hour.

But I do go into full detail and show the entire process in the video.

I did not have 80 grit sandpaper, I was out, it would have been such a quicker process if I had had that to start. Because of that, I had to use a lot of 120 grit discs, which felt really wasteful on my part.

A lot of times with old furniture you have to be careful of sanding due to veneer. This being solid wood, however, I didn’t have to worry about that.

A close up shot of the white oak antique washstand turned bedside table. The door has a lot of small details that needed to have the paint scraped out of it.
The door has those three detail carvings that had to have the paint scraped out with the multi scraping tool.

The Drawers & Door

I took all three drawers out to scrape and sand them. When I refinish pieces with drawers I always sand all the way around the drawer. If it was having problems with sliding drawers it wouldn’t after a good sanding.

The door was also taken off to sand and scrape. This was a much harder process due to the original screws being flat head screws. They’re my nemesis. But since they were original when the door was done, I made sure to replace them.

Step Five – First & Second Coat of Top-Coat

Before you get to the fifth step of adding your top coat you actually want to give the entire piece a really good cleaning. I vacuum, dust, and wipe off all the surfaces with a dry rag so I eliminate all loose debris.

The top of the washstand shows some staining and damage that was hidden previously underneath the dark brown paint. It was likely the reason they opted to paint in the first place. But the damage doesn't take away from the beautiful white oak beauty.
When the paint was off you could see some old staining and water damage. This was probably why it was painted to start. But the damage does not take away from the beauty of the white oak at all. In fact, it adds character.

The great thing about polyacrylic is it dries extremely quickly. The bad thing about polyacrylic is it dries extremely quickly. Yes, it’s a pro and a con. You have to work with it fairly quickly when you’re applying it.

Work in one small area at a time and try not to overlap from one to the next. Seeing if you’ve achieved good coverage can be difficult to see. Therefore I tend to look at the areas sideways and look for a sheen.

If I was honest I would say using a small roller may be faster, but you’ll still need a brush for the details.

Read the directions on the Polycrylic can. After your first layer dries (dries within an hour) let it sit for a couple more hours. Then take a 120 grit sandpaper disc and do a light scuff sand. Wipe it down so there’s no dust

Step Six – Adding Hardware & The Final Product

Overall this project took me about two full days to complete. It was a lot of mess and a lot of arm exercise. But overall I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Though I’m almost regretting having not stained it to match the second one.

Now to make them match I’d have to refinish the other one, which is perfectly fine as is. Oh, the dilemma!

Antique washstand turned bedside table. The white oak is now completely showcased with a clear polycrylic satin sheen. It sits beautifully next to my bed. Above it is a watercolor hanging on the wall and a bedside lamp. Also a little copper pot full of lavender.

The Hardware

Since the original hardware was missing from this piece I had to replace it. I scoured my collection because I like to keep old hardware when I find it. I had two perfect drawer pulls which I put on the small drawers.

The rest of the knobs for the top drawer came from Hobby Lobby and they’ll work fine until I can find two more matching drawer pulls.

A close up picture of the antique hardware I used on the drawers. The original hardware for this washstand was missing when I got it, but I had a few in my stash. The knobs fit perfectly until I can find similar pulls for the top drawer. White oak antique washstand.

Adding Moisturizer to the Wood

I was out, so this hasn’t been done yet for my piece. However, it is a great idea to always moisturize the wood on the inside of your drawers. It gets very dry and can become brittle after so many years. This piece is likely 100 years old, so it is quite dry.

Howard’s Feed n Wax is the ideal product for this. Simply grab a rag and apply it thoroughly. Wipe off any excess and let it soak in for a beautiful finish.

The Final Product

This antique washstand turned bedside table is exactly what I needed for my bedroom. I’m so happy I was gifted the first one and realized the best use for it. This was one of my most fun projects, it was so rewarding.

Beautiful little girl in a summer dress stands in front of an antique washstand. She is opening the door on the white oak washstand. On the wall above her is a water color painting, a hanging bedside lamp, and baskets. The washstand is a bedside table.
My toddler has found a new favorite thing to do. She loves to open all kinds of doors and drawers.

A Short History of Antique Washstands

Much like their kitchen counterpart, the Hoosier cabinet, antique washstands filled a void in homes until the 20th century though while Hoosier cabinets were the answer to a lack of cabinetry in the kitchen, washstands were the longtime solution for homes that lacked indoor plumbing.

“Everything You Need to know About the Beautiful, Functional, Washstands of the Past” – Dusty Old Thing

Antique washstands were the bathroom of the past. I don’t think it’s well-known fact that many homes from the Victorian Era did not actually have bathrooms or water closets. This is because there was no indoor plumbing.

Until the 1840s, indoor plumbing only existed in rich people’s homes. Bathrooms didn’t start being a part of home designs until after that. Therefore they were all add-ons later which is why you may find weird bathrooms in old homes from the 18th century.


Inquiring minds might like this little bit of extra information. Here are some answers to questions you may ask.

Until the late 1800s, there was no indoor plumbing. So, to clean yourself you would use a bowl and pitcher as a wash basin. Therefore, they lived in your bedroom with the bowl and water pitcher on top.

It isn’t rare to see an antique washstand with a marble top (white marble), which would help to make them water-resistant. But also typically it had a “mirror stand” type of attachment that was actually a towel bar.

To pair with your antique wash stand you would have also had a chamber pot. Many times people find these old pieces and think they’re cool until they find out what they actually were used for. Chamber pots are historic toilets.

Washstands date back to the 16th century. They were the most widespread during the 19th century, or the 1800s and early 1900s. Therefore they were used for the better part of four hundred years. Which is quite impressive if you think about it.

Originally, a sink was nothing more than a basin. Most homes in the early 1700s came with a washstand. This washbasin acted as the bathroom sink. A washstand was a simple fixture consisting of a large bowl and a small table. Often a pitcher was placed next to the deep bowl or inside of it for storage.

You can still find these bowl & pitcher sets in flea markets and antique stores.

According to SF Gate, they went out of favor by the 1930s when I presume indoor plumbing started to become a staple in homes built. (And we’re all very grateful for that invention). At that point, vessel sinks started to become prevalent in a room dedicated to cleaning yourself (the bathroom or water closet as they were referred to originally).

Thanks for stopping by!


Meet the Author

Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→


  1. I love the transformation and what a great deal yoi got. I can’t believe how amazing it looks after your restored it. It looks perfect by your very too!

    1. Thank you! I know, I’m still really pleased with the deal. And I can’t stop looking at it next to my bed. It gives me another good reason to keep my room clean haha!

  2. This turned out to be so beautiful. I love the transformation and the light color of the wood. It looks great in your home and I always think projects are going to be easier than they are too.

    1. Thank you so much. It’s so crazy how one little piece can really change the way an entire space feels. That side of the bed is so much more enticing to sit on now! haha

  3. What a gorgeous piece! You did an amazing job. My mom had one of these when we were growing up, so I love them. I never thought of using it as a nightstand though. Will have to keep that in mind!

    1. Every one of them I find is so unique even if just in a small way. I love them all, I’m so glad I was able to find a use for them in my home. Thank you for your kind words!

  4. Wow… You’ve inspired me! I’m definitely looking for a piece on FB marketplace I can redo now!

  5. What an amazing transformation! I am in awe of people who see the possibilities like that!

  6. I have a white oak washstand in my garage, waiting to be similarly transformed. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. So beautiful! You got me inspired to start finding old pieces and transforming them. Thank you for sharing!

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