Gel Staining Bathroom Cabinets for an Instant Makeover
Build | Room Makeovers

Beige Bathroom Makeover with Gel Stain

After moving to our new house, our first-floor bathroom needed a little makeover. It was a tiny powder room with lots of beige – a beige toilet, beige floors, and beige walls. The vanity mirror was simply a small, dated mirror, and the vanity was oak.

Ash was busy building the shed, so I decided to tackle this task entirely on my own.

All I did was apply gel stain to the vanity, buy a coordinating mirror, and change the decor. It just goes to show that a few little changes, like gel staining bathroom cabinets, can make a BIG difference!

How to Gel Stain your Bathroom Vanity

Below are the before and after pictures – you can tell how dated the old oak cabinets look with the hanging mirror. Everything looks so beige and blended.

Gel Staining the Bathroom Vanity Researching My Options

I scoured the internet looking for ways to inexpensively redo cabinets. I worked with regular stain before and furniture paint previously, but neither of these was a good fit. So, I needed another option.

While researching, I found a great tutorial on Monica Wants It, in which she used gel stain to redo her bathroom cabinet. Her cabinet turned out awesome. It looked like a completely new room.

In reading through her steps, I found the gel stain seemed like a simple option. This was mostly because the cabinets did not need to be stripped or heavily sanded.

Testing the Gel Stain

A little worried about ruining our first-floor vanity but determined to give our bathroom a makeover, I decided to start on the inside cabinet door.

If I like the way it turned out, I would continue on. If I didn’t, not too much was lost.

Below is a picture of my test piece and workstation. I worked just outside the garage to get natural light – and perfect ventilation.

Gel Staining Bathroom Cabinets

Loving it, I continued on to do the whole vanity, and months later, the entire kitchen​ (but that’s another blog post)!

In holding the gel-stained cabinet door to the old oak vanity, I was in love!

I made up my mind that the task was simple enough and that the change would be such an improvement.

Gel Staining Bathroom Vanity - Cost-effective and Easy Update

Gel Staining Bathroom Cabinets

The thing that made it so simple is that you don’t need to strip the wood, you just clean it and then lightly sand (giving the gel stain something to stick to).

Make sure you use General Finishes Gel Stain and General Finishes Poly, which are not sold in most stores. I got mine on Amazon (love Amazon prime!). Also, I did a couple of things differently from the tutorial (that I linked to above):

  • I used foam brushes, instead of a sock. It was easier for me to get all the ridges.
  • I used the color “Antique Walnut” a Hershey’s chocolate shade of the General Finishes Gel Stain. Espresso is really common but it would have been too dark for all of that beige.
  • I did four coats of the stain. Three was too streaky for me.
  • Make sure that there is a lot of light where you work, so you can see any potential mistakes or missed spots. You want to be able to fix any drips or missed spots in the moment, rather than later.
  • Gel stain can get messy – make sure you tape off edges that you don’t want painted very well. As for the floor, I like to use brown packaging paper (from Dollar Tree). It’s thick, easy to tape down, and you don’t have any bumps or missed places (like you do when you use an old sheet).
  • Work in a well-ventilated space. Or, wear a ventilation mask if you can. The gel stain has a really strong smell, but the poly didn’t smell at all.

Gel stain definitely takes time, but most of that time is dry time. The actual painting of the vanity was a quick 15 minutes here and there.

Using gel stain on cabinets

​I loved how the cabinet turned out. The beige toilet doesn’t stand out anymore with the contrasting cabinetry.

After gel staining the powder room vanity, we definitely needed a new mirror. Finding the perfect mirror was a little challenging.

I knew the style that I wanted, but the bathroom vanity must have been an odd size. I wanted the mirror to be the same width as the vanity. If the mirror was longer on the left side (the right side met the wall), it looked really off.

Needless to say, it took a lot of searching (and a little more money than I wanted to spend) to find the mirror. Yet, I happily found a perfect-sized one on Overstock.

I then added some fresh decor – seasonal flowers and candles. We finally had a beautiful, updated power room.

Gel staining bathroom cabinets for a fresh look

The total cost for cabinetry materials was less than $80, which seems like a lot. However, I barely touched both the gel stain and polyurethane, and later used these when I gel stained the entire kitchen.

Gel staining bathroom cabinets took me about a week, mostly due to dry time (another week if you do a trial as I did), but I only spent about 3 total hours on it.

And, it was so simple to gel stain the vanity that I didn’t need to enlist Ash’s help at all… well, except to hold the cabinet door while I took a picture 🙂


  1. You make it seem so easy! Can’t wait to try it myself!

    1. It is really easy! Thanks for reading – good luck 🙂

  2. Audra @ Renewed Projects says:

    I just left a comment on your kitchen makeover and asked if you sanded first…should have read this first! I did that, too, before applying the gel stain. I loathe sanding, lol. Love the new look in the bathroom! A little new color can go a long ways!

    1. Eileen @ Just Measuring Up says:

      Hi again Audra 🙂 I loathe sanding too – I always just want to jump right in and stain/paint! I just started using chalk paint on a few pieces of furniture – wonder how that would work with cabinets?? There’s no sanding with chalk paint 🙂 Happy New Year!!

    1. Thanks Fiona! It was such a simple project for a big change 🙂

    1. Thanks so much 🙂 Yes, I love a project that’s easy but yields huge results 🙂

  3. Looks awesome! You make it seem so easy! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Patty! Any project that I can do without Ash’s help is pretty simple 🙂

    1. Thanks, Cristina! We are so happy with the improvement:)

  4. Staining the cabinet dark made such a difference. Great transformation.

    1. Thanks Carol! It was just what the powder room needed 🙂

    1. Thanks, Ginger! We were so happy with the thrifty makeover 🙂

  5. I love the rich, dark color. It came out looking amazing.

    1. Thanks so much, Denise! It was such an easy update 🙂

  6. I love this stuff, used it all over my house for my cabinets 🙂 It’s like getting a brand new vanity right?! Thanks for sharing with us at Family Joy Blog linky party!

    1. Hahah my husband told me I need to calm down with the gel stain. I’ve been eyeing the upstairs vanity for a couple months 🙂 But yes, the gel stain makes it totally brand new 🙂

  7. Wow! You really update the bathroom on a budget too! Thank you for sharing with us this week on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth!

    1. Thanks so much, Jes! We LOVE your link party each week!! Have a great one 🙂

  8. this looks so good! I’ve never worked with gel stain before, but I’ve been kicking around ideas on where to try it. Thanks for sharing for #iDIYedthat.

    1. Thanks Lindsey! It’s so easy to do and completely changes the look 🙂

  9. You did a really great job on this! I like the contrast of the dark gel stain in your powder room.

    1. Thanks Julie! Yes, the contrast is what seemed to make the beige toilet and walls finally work 🙂

  10. Our half bath is in desperate need of a makeover and this is a great idea. Thank you for sharing with us this week at Celebrate Your Story, have a great weekend.

    1. Hi Sandra, It’s really easy to work with and I don’t know a less expensive way to do it 🙂

  11. Sara @ says:

    It looks great! I LOVE the java gel stain because it’s so easy to use and has great coverage. Bathroom looks great! #HomeMattersParty

    1. Thanks so much, Sara! Yes, I’ve heard you can get away with less coats with the java 🙂

  12. Helen at Pleasures of the NW says:

    Thanks for sharing on the Pleasures of the NW’s DIY Party!

  13. I’ve been wanting to try gel stain for a few projects! We just bought a new house and I really want to give it a try on our garage door. I also considered doing the floors, but I don’t know about that one… 🙂

    1. I’m not sure about the floors either – we haven’t done any floor projects yet. Gel stain works so well! It gets a little messy but does a fantastic job:)

  14. Beautiful! I remember your post about using the stain on your kitchen cabinets. Thanks for your recommendations…I may just have a project that needs stain during the current ORC. Thanks so much for sharing again at the #happynowlinkup!

    1. Thanks Leslie! Yes – this was the catalyst to the kitchen! 🙂 The stain works so well! Hope your one room challenge is going well!!

  15. Love how the new dark stain looks! Thanks for sharing at the Friday at the Fire Station link-up!

    1. Thanks Jen! It definitely brought a much-needed change 🙂

  16. General Finishes Gel Stain is one of my favorites and a pleasure to work with, It really makes this little bathroom pop! Great job and thanks for sharing your project at Fridays Furniture Fix!

    1. Thanks Brenda! Mine too – it makes such a difference!:)

    1. Thanks Sharon:) We were so happy with the update. Have a lovely week:)

    1. Thanks so much Kerryanne!! We were happy the gel stain made such a difference that we could leave the beige wall and toilet as it was 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

  17. What a great makeover! Thank you for sharing. You will be one of the features tonight at the Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. The shindig starts at 8:00pm CDT. Hope to see you at the bash! Happy week to you! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

    1. Thanks so much, Kathryn!! We were so excited to see our project featured 🙂

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