WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS AT HOME (unless you are very patient, have a lot of spare time, and don’t mind if your kitchen is naked for sevveral weeks.) Painting your kitchen cabinets is not difficult, just INCEDIBLY time consuming!
That’s right! I painted my kitchen cabinets. Although the cabinets are less than ten years old, they have gotten very worn. From a distance, I suppose they still looked okay…
My husband and I decided that we couldn’t live with the cabinets any longer in their current cosmetic state, but that they were in good enough overall condition that we didn’t want to replace them. In addition, I wanted to brighten up our kitchen a bit, and painting the cabinets seemed like a great way to do that.
Getting started on a project like this can seem daunting. It is a big project to undertake and we knew it would be time consuming, tedious and messy. Then I saw a blog post from “Lawyer Trapped in a Designer’s Body” and she made a similar project sound very doable. She didn’t sand her cabinets before she painted them, and 22 months later, she seemed to be very happy with how they held up. She outlined a very straight-forward process and I decided it was time to take the plunge. This designer used General Finishes Milk Paint and I followed her lead.
We sampled many different colors.
I loved the Seagull Gray for the lower cabinets and the Antique White for the uppers.
I started by following the blog procedure on one cabinet door. The first step was to clean the cabinets. I used Lysol wipes with texture and they worked pretty well.
Next, I de-glossed the door with Zissner Paint DeGlosser. This is a smelly job so make sure you use gloves and have a well ventilated area.
After the deglosser has dried (per package directions) it was time to do a little sanding. We found that some of the glaze in the grooves on the cupboard doors and drawers was chipping off. I wanted to make sure we removed any loose glaze before we paint. It is also important to fill and sand any existing knob/drawer pull holes that we wouldn’t be using with the new hardware.
Alas, after doing the prep from the blog I had read, my husband and I decided we would feel more comfortable if everything got a good sanding (200-grit sandpaper on a cordless orbital sander). 🙁 My husband took this part of the project over and I am SO GRATEFUL. It took a long time and is a boring tedious job.
Once all this prep was completed it was time to paint. This took a LOT of trial and error. First I used a foam brush to paint and a chip brush to smooth out any drips. This method left way too many brush strokes and seemed too uneven. After a light sanding with 400-grit sandpaper, I tried rolling the paint on with a foam roller. This worked a little better than the foam brush but the finish was kind of “crackly” like painted drywall. It still wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped. My husband did a little research of his own and he suggested I apply the paint with a foam brush and go over it with a dry (ish) foam roller. Ding Ding Ding! He won the prize! (Gosh, he’s just so darn helpful (and cute)!). This method seemed to work best.
After 3 coats of paint, I applied 3 coats of poly with a foam brush and sanded with 400-grit sandpaper in-between coats.
After we finally agreed upon a method, it was time to really get to work. The first task was to clean out the INSIDE of my kitchen cupboard and drawers. This was important becasue if I was going to be looking at the contents of those cupboards for the next few weeks I needed them to at least be neat. I removed all the cabinet doors hardware and labeled all the hinges. Since I couldn’t take the faces off the drawers, when I was ready to paint these I had to take everything out of the drawers and find a space on my counter to keep it all.
I moved 3 sets of sawhorses to my basement, laid 2 x 4 x 8’s across them and drilled 3 1/2 inch screws up through the bottom of the wood. These screw points gave me 4 very tiny surfaces to rest the cupboard doors on while painting them.
I laid all the cabinet doors out on the 2 x 4s and completed the prep (cleaning, deglossing, filling holes and sanding if necessary).
We also needed to paint the cabinet boxes in the kitchen. We had to temporarily remove our microwave and pull out our range and refrigerator. I taped off the areas I didn’t want to paint, sanded spots that looked like they needed it and then cleaned and sanded and deglossed just as we had with the cabinet faces. Then we painted, and painted and painted again, followed by the 2 – 3 coats of poly.
We chose new hardware from Home Depot. We liked the look of the bar pulls but not the color they had in-stock in the store. I ordered bronze bar pulls and we are really happy with them. The look nice and I love how they are larger than the hardware we previously had. It sounds strange but it is actually so much easier to open and close the doors and drawers with the larger bars. The new hardware was the most expensive part of this project, but they make a big impact.
The existing holes on the drawers needed to be filled and re-drilled, but we were able to use the existing holes in the cabinet doors. I made a template out of scrap wood so I could drill the new holes for the new hardware quickly and accurately. The template took about 30 minutes to make but probably saved me at least a couple hours of time. And, because I used the template, all the hardware is in exactly the same location on each cabinet door.
After adding the new hardware it was FINALLY time to hang the doors back up.
You may notice that my kitchen is minus one cupboard and that the over-the-range microwave is missing. Our kitchen is rather small and I’m hoping that by making a few changes it will seem more open. We removed the microwave and replaced it with an under-cabinet range hood. It gives us more space above the range and is so much quieter than the fan on the microwave. The next step was to find matching tile to fill in space in the backsplash that was left when we removed the microwave. Once we tracked down the tile, it was a quick job to tile the empty space.
The last task in our “newish” kitchen was to put open shelves in the spot where I removed an upper cabinet. This was the one part of the project where my husband and I had a difference of opinion. I have always loved the look of open shelves but he’s not a fan. To compromise, I still painted the cabinet that I removed so that if we ever decided the open shelves weren’t for us, it would be a quick job to put the cabinet back up. But I don’t think that is ever going to happen, because I LOVE the shelves!
After removing the cabinet, I painted the wall to match the rest of the kitchen. Originally I thought I would like corbels to support the shelves. I have corbels in an adjacent room and I thought it would be nice to tie the two rooms together and to give my kitchen some pizazz.
However, I decided that in the small space, corbels would be overwhelming and actually not make my kitchen seem more open. So, floating shelves it is. Floating shelves are an interesting thing. I love the clean look of them and actually have them in 2 of my 3 bathrooms and above my kitchen table (all Pottery Barn purchases and I like them and they work great, but my current self is wondering why I paid so much for them when I could have easily made them!!!??? Now I could, but back then, not so much. But I digress…). The floating shelves for my kitchen would have to be completely different beasts. I need them to support not just random decorative objects, but I need them to be real workhorses. They will hold all my porcelain dishes. So how was I going to make them to be strong enough to support all that weight?
This took a lot of research (thank you Internet!–how on earth did people do DIY 20 years ago??!!??). At first I really liked Shanty2Chic’s design.
I really like the look of these and the ease of building and the inexpensive materials. But I decided that they were too chunky for my space and my consultant (DAD!) thought that if I modified the design to make them smaller they would not be strong enough to hold my dishes. I will definitely bookmark this design to use somewhere elso in the future (above my bed perhaps?!?!).
The look I really like is this…
I needed brackets that would be invisible but would hold up under a lot of weight. I like the metal french cleats that my Pottery Barn floating shelves have, and Home Depot carries the brackets. However, I just wasn’t sure they would hold up. I found many heavy duty options but not that would be invisible behind my shelves and would support an 11″ wide shelf until I stumbled upon an Etsy site. Silicate Studio sells heavy duty invisible metal brackets and has amazing customer reviews. Although the brackets are pricier than I originally thought I would need to spend, the extra money was worth it to know I have shelves that won’t collapse.
After the brackets arrived, I purchased a chunky piece of poplar from a local lumber yard and had them plane and cut the shelves to size. After sanding and staining the shelves, I took them and the brackets to my Dad’s house.
Dad helped me router the backs of the shelves so they would hide the bracket and we used a drill press to make the holes for the pegs on the brackets.
I installed the brackets into wall studs for extra stability and then slid the shelves onto the brackets. They turned out exactly as I had hoped!