When we first saw this house the kitchen was a major selling point – it is huge, tons of counter and cabinet space, great layout and open to the rest of the living area. I could see myself cooking and entertaining here with ease…
Of course in my mind, I was seeing a much more beautiful version – but the bones and layout were perfect!
I would never have put so much knotty pine in my dream kitchen, the faucets and lighting were not my style, the paint was dreary, the gold, stainless and wooden outlet covers were awful, the granite was jet black, the flooring was damaged, there was a fake red brick area for the ovens, the backsplash was a dark, busy slate with a weird pewter insert of vegetables above the sink that Just. Had. To. Go.
The overall impression was dark and heavy, despite all the light in the room – it had no contrast everything was tonally the same. However with all the things in the house that needed fixing, we only handled the most pressing.
We replaced the faucets and the island lighting as soon as we moved in and I switched out a few of the worst outlet covers since that was an easy fix – goodbye gold! We also tackled the damaged flooring, which I already wrote about here.
But that was it for a couple years. We lived with it – it seemed like such a daunting task. Was I really going to pull out all these perfectly good cabinets? Seemed wasteful – I would be replacing them with identical cabinets in a different finish – the layout was already perfect…. Should I rip out all the granite and put in something lighter? That is an awful lot of granite and do I really want to spend that much when I don’t love the cabinets… The backsplash would be easy – but until I decided what to do about the granite and the cabinets, I shouldn’t touch it. I wanted to rip out the fake red brick and replace with tile – but I was concerned about pulling out the ovens and getting all the edges to line up again since it butted right up to the ceiling molding and the pantry door…. I had a bad case of analysis paralysis!
Then my husband suggested painting the brick – at first I was “no, no, no” – I hate painted brick almost as much as the red brick! But then I thought what if we faux finished each individual brick to look a little more like a travertine subway tile…. My husband’s business is transforming concrete pool decks, driveways and patios, making them look like natural stone or tile so this wasn’t such a huge stretch. I thought what the hell, lets try it and see if it makes the brick something I can live with. I gave him some color reference and a couple pictures of what I wanted and over a couple days, while I was at work, he made it beautiful!
I had been considering painting the cabinets for a while but again was put off by the effort and the fact that our kitchen would de dismantled for a long time so I thought I would hold off and pay someone else to do it – but then we had to replace a couple air conditioning units this year and that pushed the project out a little further into the future. Eric encouraged me to just do it ourselves.
I had researched a couple different paints that simulated oil based cabinet paints hardwearing properties but were actually water based, so much easier clean up and faster drying times. Sherwin Williams was one of them – more expensive but highly rated for this sort of job. Then Eric came across another one from Porter Paints called Breakthrough that is supposed to be extremely durable but in addition to that you don’t need to prime and it dries in 15 minutes between coats!!!
I picked out the three colors I wanted – from my fancy designer fabric that I mentioned before. A off white/linen for the cabinets called Garlic Clove, a soft, light green for the mile of bead board that backed the cabinets facing the living area called White Clover and a mid grey blue for the center island called Aqua Smoke. These are similar to the colors that I have used on the walls and they were reminiscent of some of my favorite painted kitchen inspiration pics from Houzz.
When I came home from work that night, Eric had picked up the paint already (he is such an enabler LOL) So of course I had to try it out and make sure the color was ok. He popped off a cabinet door and I painted the inside.
I looked up “You realize this is the point of no return, right?”
“Let’s do it!”
And so began the next two weeks of long days, late nights and general kitchen destruction.
Basically the process was this:-
Pop off cabinet doors and drawer fronts, remove the hardware. We were lucky ours have hidden hinges so they didn’t need to be removed – we just took off the knobs. You can leave all your stuff in the cupboards Yay! Again, lucky for us the inside of most of our cabinets was already white so we only had to paint the doors and the outside facing edge of the boxes, toe kick etc. We only had one glass fronted cabinet that we had to paint the inside. Depending on how anal you want to be you could paint the insides of all of them but I don’t advise it – it is already a lot of work – why make it harder on yourself?
LABEL EACH DOOR – you need to know which one goes where when you are done. Trust me you will not remember. We used masking tape with numbers written them – one on the door hinge, one on the inside of the corresponding cupboard or drawer
Clean the cabinets with something that removes gease and dirt we used TSP
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! If you have any food splashes or grease it will show up though the painted surface and believe me you do have dirty cabinets.
Then sand very lightly and wipe down one last time before painting. I painted the back of the cabinets first – laying out a long production line along the counters. You could do it in the garage or basement or even outside – but here in Florida it is stupid hot right now and the paint would never dry properly in that humidity.
Three coats on the backs, waiting 15 minutes between coats – if you time it right you can just paint continuously – by the time you finish the last cabinet door, the first one has already dried for 15 minutes. Then leave them for 30 minutes before flipping the over and putting three coats on the front and sides.
If you have ever painted doors before, you will already know that the brush is good for getting in the ridges around the panels but a foam roller is your best friend – the finish is much better – no brushstrokes and streaks left behind. Multiple thin coats are better than heavier coats – you need to avoid drips at the best of times, but with paint that dries in 15 minutes you cannot have drips.
We started on the one area that had no backsplash but we knew that we needed to tackle the tile before going too far – don’t want to scratch up newly painted cabinets during demo. So after we finished the uppers and lowers on the test area and stood back to admire the overall effect, it was time to go tile shopping :)
I picked a sort of subway mosaic with some natural travertine stones, classic subway and lightly crackled, palest hint of green ceramic. I didn’t want something that would feel too dated and that ruled out a lot of the mosaic glass tile that has been so prevalent for so long – I think that look is past it’s prime now, but I also wanted something a little more contemporary than plain subway. I was really happy with this pick from Lowes – just the right modern, yet classic look I was aiming for, wasn’t terribly expensive and looked good with the stained brick and new cabinet color.
Over the course of the week, I had painted the bead board behind the bar height cabinets and was pretty happy with the color choice, the room was looking lighter and brighter by the day. Bead board is a bitch to paint – no getting around it. What worked best for me was to use a brush to get into each little crevice then go over the whole thing with the roller. However those little crevices hold the paint and once gravity takes effect, you get little drips pooling along the baseboard so you have to go back and touch that up as you go. Mind-numbing – just crank up the tunes and zone out!
We spent the whole weekend on the backsplash – it turned it to be more work than we anticipated. Normally you can just chisel off the tile and then retile – however they had tiled directly onto drywall, not cement board and removing the tile took the wall down with it. Sigh…
Friday night we demod the one long wall behind the sink, right down to the studs. Goodbye pewter plate and goodbye sanity! Then Sat morning we tackled the other counters, put up new cement board and tiled like a couple maniacs. It was an long and exhausting weekend but what a huge difference it made? Suddenly the whole kitchen was transformed
My sweet husband grouted all that tile on Monday, when I was working. During the week my guys prepped doors and cabinets and I came home and painted in the evenings. They also installed recycle cans and my awesome rev-a-shelf for my mixer. No more empty bottles and cans sitting on the counter top and I no longer have to break my back lifting that heavy mixer out when I need it LOL
By end of Sat we had finished all the cabinets – it took exactly two cans of Garlic Clove paint. I had decided to keep the old hardware, we just switched out any worn ones from the heavily used kitchen with unworn knobs from the laundry room and guest baths. Now with new light cabinets the dark oil rubbed bronze hardware and black granite looked crisp and awesome – like they were meant to be :)
Sunday, I caulked the backsplash and painted the last of the bead board that butted up to the tile, White Clover . Then we tackled the island – the bad news is it had lots of open alcoves and shelving that had to be painted both inside and out – the good news was the darker paint only took two coats to cover! I love, love the color – Aqua Smoke
Yes it was a marathon effort over two weeks but I now have a brand new kitchen. I am shocked each morning when I get up and see it again. That black granite looks perfect now. The kitchen is light and bright, classic yet contemporary and wonder of wonders cost less than $800. Six hundred of that went on the tile, the rest was four cans of pricy, but so worth it, paint and a couple panels of cement board.
Painting your kitchen cabinets is definitely doable as a DIY project. I am so glad we took the plunge.