I don’t know about you, but finding a matching pair of antique or vintage-style nightstands is just as illusive as finding a perfectly fitting pair of jeans! Since these types of nightstands are so hard to come by, I usually make them myself by splitting desks and makeup vanities into 2 pieces. The process is a bit time-consuming, but it’s worth the effort to get beautiful antique and vintage nightstands!
Why Do Desks and Makeup Vanities Make Good Nightstands?
Desks and makeup vanities typically have a LOT of drawers. This gives you lots of storage options, and if you’re lucky, you might find one with a door too!
Most desks and makeup vanities stand anywhere from 27 – 32″ tall. This is ideal nightstand height, especially if you have a thick mattress!
Their profile is usually narrow as well, making it easy to fit a lamp and other accessories on top.
Now that I’ve sold you on the idea of making nightstands from desks and vanities, how exactly is it done?
Separating Desks and Makeup Vanities into Nightstands
The directions for splitting a desk or makeup vanity in half will depend on how your particular piece is constructed. I’ll share a few different scenarios and give you as many tips as I can! Just know that this step may require a bit of creative problem solving on your end.
The Easiest Vanities to Split Apart
The easiest types of piece to split apart are makeup vanities that do not have a top going across them like this one.
Instead, look for those that are held together by a middle section instead of a top. Take this vanity that I bought from Facebook Marketplace for example:
The only part of the piece that’s connecting the left and right sides is right in the middle. I had the owner keep the mirror, as I wasn’t going to use it. Then, I carefully removed all of the nails, screws and supporting pieces of wood to disconnect the two sides from the middle.
Here’s another example of a vanity that would be easy to separate:
How Do You Split A Vanity Apart?
To split a vanity apart to make nightstands, you have to study how the piece is assembled. Look at where the sides connect to the middle. Where do you need to remove screws and nails? Are there large pieces of wood that need to be cut?
Sometimes the process goes really well and everything separates easily, like in this Facebook live video:
All you may need is a screwdriver and a hammer, while other times, you may need to get the reciprocating saw out! It truly depends on how your piece is constructed.
Splitting Desks in Half
Desks are a bit more tricky than vanities because their tops go straight across the piece.
You need to completely remove the top first, and then deconstruct the sides. The tops are usually connected with several wood screws that can easily be removed.
If the top is solid wood, I like to reuse it if possible. That’s what happened with these nightstands. The top is the original desk top that was cut to size and routed to have a consistent edge.
Other times, the top can’t be reused, like this one:
The veneer on this top was badly damaged and the top scallop couldn’t be removed to cut the top to size. To solve the issue, I had a woodworking friend make new tops for me.
They are joined together in the middle with a few pocket screws and attached to the nightstands themselves using the same hardware that held the old top in place.
Here’s another example of new tops on nightstands that came from desks:
In full honesty, putting new tops on nightstands is beyond my skill set. I hire it out to my woodworking friend. If you’re in the same boat as me, try to find a local carpenter who can do this for you. If that’s not an option, try to stick to makeup vanities like this:
It really is the easiest way to go!
Making Repairs After Splitting
Once your desk or vanity is split into two pieces, you’ll most likely need to do some repair work. Take these nightstands that came from a vintage art-deco vanity for example.
They had huge holes in the back where the mirror connected. I had to cut new pieces to fill the holes and fill in the gaps with Bondo. It took some sanding, shaping and wood gluing to get them looking presentable.
Here, you can see where the retro-fitted back butted up against the side.
These nightstands needed some holes to be filled in with Bondo along with smooth sanding on the sides to knock down where the areas where the middle used to attach.
It also needed some gluing back together in spots.
Like I mentioned before, the amount of repairs you’ll need to make depends on how your piece is constructed. When you’re evaluating a desk or vanity to be potential nightstands, take a while to study how it’s put together. If you need to use tools or skills that are beyond your scope of expertise, perhaps consider another piece.
Here are some tutorials that I found on YouTube that have some of the same suggestions I’ve laid out in this blog post.
My Examples of Nightstands from Split Desks and Vanities
To help inspire you, check out these nightstand combinations that I’ve created over the years.
I hope you’re inspired to try your hand at creating your own set of nightstands from a desk or makeup vanity! If you do, share your results with me on social media!