Transforming Our Kitchen: Step By Step Guide to How We Painted Our Cabinets

Transforming Our Kitchen: Step By Step Guide to How We Painted Our Cabinets

Sometimes I randomly get ideas about something I would like to work on in our house.  Honestly, it is kind of annoying because once I get the idea, I can think of nothing else and will take drastic measures to get it done. If I've mentioned something, it means it is happening in the next few weeks. I think that doing projects at home becomes addictive. The work isn't always fun but the takeaway is pretty much always satisfying and transformative. And, truth be told, George and I work really well together and both enjoy it. You hear about couples that could never work together, that isn't us. I think that we discovered that fact about us on our first camping trip together. We can get a campsite set up and broken down in zero minutes flat. And lucky for George, this meant he was going to be my permanent home project partner in crime.

Our house is a work in progress.  I have the whole house styled but there are things that need to be done. Like our floors. We have nice carpet in the living areas of the house but I'd like hardwoods on the main level and I'd like to replace the kitchen and bathroom floors with some unique "vintagey" tiles. I'd like to install a farmstyle sink in the kitchen and replace the counters with a light-colored stone. If money weren't an object, this would all be done. But alas, budgets and other obligations prevent me from waving my wand and making it all happen immediately. So when I think of a way to make a major transformation at a very low cost - I am on it.

A couple of months ago, the thought crossed my mind that we could really transform our kitchen by painting the cabinets white. Our cabinets were not terrible, in fact, I always kind of liked them. Here they are before the big transformation:

But the thing was that I have always wanted white cabinets. I think I remember suggesting that my mom paint our kitchen cabinets white when I was a little kid. So, I did a lot of research and put the thought at bay for a couple of weeks because we had a lot of other things going on and I saw that it would be a pretty decent undertaking. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I decided that the cabinets needed to be white. Immediately. So I texted George in the middle of the day and asked how he would feel about painting our cabinets that weekend. Poor guy. He is used to this sort of thing now.

So, about two seconds after I got the “thumbs up” from George, I immediately went on Amazon and purchased the cabinet knobs that I had already had my eye on. Our cabinets did not have fixtures prior to this, so I was able to choose anything and wasn't dictated by pre-drilled holes. Before I even started looking though, I had already decided that I wanted crystal knobs for all of the cabinet doors and was thinking we would do bin pulls for the drawers. Ultimately, I selected a 40mm crystal knob for each of the doors. When selecting that size, the largest size available mind you, I think I must have been picturing these knobs on doors, like the kind that you walk through. Admittedly, when we received the knobs, George and I both looked at one another like I might have made the wrong decision here. I was nervous. In fact, as soon as we got a coat of paint onto one of the doors, we immediately staged a knob to see how it looked and as it turns out, we loved them.  These in combination with what I would call “rustic” bin pulls on the drawers is spot on what we were looking for in our kitchen transformation.

That weekend, we painted our cabinets.

First, we removed the cabinet doors from the boxes (the part of the cabinetry attached to the walls and floor). Before we went any further, we put plastic over all the cabinet openings. Doing this saved us a lot of work.  We covered the cabinet openings with plastic and taped in place.  We were able to keep all of our stuff in the cabinets during the entire process by doing this.  After all of the openings were covered with plastic, we cleaned the cabinets with mineral spirits. We wore latex gloves while doing this because Mineral Spirits is the real deal and my hand started going numb when I tried without a glove. 

Next, George drilled the fixture holes and we sanded the cabinets. We sanded the boxes and the removed doors with medium grit sanding blocks followed by fine grit sanding blocks. This was honestly the most tedious part of the process and the most unrewarding. At least when you start painting you feel like you are getting somewhere.

Once that was done, we wiped everything down with a damp rag and it was time to start painting. Prior to beginning any of it, we chose to use Behr Marquee “Snowy Pine” with a satin finish.

Marquee is Behr's most high-end paint, contains primer and guarantees coverage in a single coat. The extra money for such a high-traffic paint job was a no-brainer for us. Having used Behr's medium-level paint (which also contains primer) for all of the rooms in our home, we were confident that we could skip the primer coat on the cabinets. This was the only “rule” that we broke when we painted the cabinets and we made up for it by ultimately using three coats of paint to ensure perfection. Most people will tell you that after sanding, you should apply primer and then two coats of paint. For our money and time, we figured it was better to apply three coats of some of the best paint money can buy (in our book) and that is a one-stop shop. If you've never used it, I must tell you that Marquee is a very thick paint. We could immediately tell that this was worth the little bit of extra money.

Choosing the Color: Like I said, I already knew we were painting the cabinets white but if you haven't ever selected a white paint before, you may not realize that there are many, many options. How can there be so many whites? Easy. All whites contain hues of other colors. This was honestly the easiest paint selection process ever and it went like this: Our entire house, except for our bedroom (which is red – Behr “January Garnet”) exists in the realm of “cool” colors, including our kitchen which is a smoky plum (Behr “Perfect Plum”). So we wanted a white that pulled “cool.” In other words, we didn't want a white that pulled cream, red, beige, yellow, etc.. Incidentally, while I was looking at paintbrushes after only preliminarily skimming a couple sections of white swatches, George selected our cabinet color. He walked over with the swatch for “Snowy Pine” and it was a done deal. I decided not to even look at any additional swatches. “Snowy Pine” is a very clean and crisp white that pulls cool. I can't say for certain that it pulls green (“Pine”) but it is unmistakably white with no hint of color. Done deal. Also, and I'll say this every time that I talk about selecting a paint color, when in doubt, go with a paint name you like. “Snowy Pine” for the white cabinets of the girl that grew up in snow-ridden upstate New York and who loves the woods – thumbs up. As simplistically as I can break this down now, the truth is that the selection of “white” could have turned into a real fiasco had he let me have at it. George knows me so well.

Painting the Cabinets: We purchased foam rollers made for painting cabinetry and when I began painting the boxes, I did not like the application at all. The brush it was. We used angled trim brushes to apply the paint to all parts of the cabinetry. It gave us the most control over the paint. As we painted, we made sure that our brushstrokes followed the grain of the wood. We allowed several hours between each coat of paint.

By day two of our project, we had applied two coats of paint to the boxes and at least one coat of paint to each of the doors. While George was outside painting the cabinet doors, I was inside painting the boxes. Between coats, I went out to help with the doors. Honestly, by mid-day that second day, I was ready to quit. I didn't know if I had anymore in me. George had required when initially discussing the order of operations for the project that we sand in between each coat. He said if we were going to do this, he wanted to do it right. So between all of the prep work and sanding between each coat, the process seemed a bit endless. Add to this that we do not have a proper workshop area, a special little challenge when trying to paint 14 cabinet doors, I was momentarily discouraged. Alas, we marched on. We sanded with a fine grit sandpaper after each coat of paint had dried completely. We sanded very lightly just to ensure that the surface remained extremely smooth. This was an important step and I am glad that George suggested it.

Finally, after we had sanded our last door for the last time, the doors were ready to be hung. We screwed in the cabinet knobs and by 11pm of Day Two, our cabinet doors were re-installed. The drawers were not completed until a few days later. We are very pleased with the finished product. The kitchen feels so bright and clean now. Really, really can't believe how big of a transformation this ended up being.

And in case you forgot what they looked like before...

And after...

My takeaways from our cabinet transformation: This project was completely worth our time and efforts. We are so pleased with how it turned out, we can barely believe it is the same kitchen. We both love it and it was pretty awesome to do this together. I can't tell you how many times we are sitting at home and see the cabinetry from our kitchen's “look-through” and I say “babe, look at that, we did good.”

Patting ourselves on the back aside, this absolutely can not be completed in a weekend, it is impossible. Both of us worked all day for two days in a row and we still had not completed our drawers. As for fixtures, take a chance. I'm glad I decided to go with the fixtures that I first thought of when I pictured our white cabinets. The crystal knobs are unique and I love the way that they add a bit of interest and old charm (especially mixed with our dark bin pills on the drawers) to our newly white backdrop.

This is a totally doable DIY project with major payoff at the finish line. For a larger more open kitchen space, I might consider doing a different color for the uppers and lowers. Selecting a different color for your island is big now (not that any of my design decisions are ever based in trends, seriously, that is true) and makes your island look like a custom piece of furniture. Perhaps if you are considering this project, you might consider trying it out in a limited area (like an island).

Our all-in expenditure for this project was about $180.00. So for less than $200.00 we made a major kitchen update that we could have spent thousands to complete.

Don't tell George but my Overstock cart may or may not already have tiles in it for our kitchen flooring. Shhhhh!

Step-By-Step Process to Paint Kitchen Cabinetry:

1.) Select new fixtures/hardware and paint color. (If you already have fixtures, be mindful of the distance between holes if you have pulls – this will dictate the selection of pulls you should choose from. The alternative in that situation is to use wood putty to fill the holes so that you have a fresh slate. Also, if your hinges show, you will want to update these to match your new fixtures. In our case, our hinges are mounted on the inside of our doors and you do not see them.)
2.) Remove cabinet doors and fixtures/hardware.
3.) Clean all surfaces that will be painted. Paint does not work on grease or residue.
4.) Drill holes for fixtures and sand all surfaces that will be painted with a medium and then fine grit sandpaper and wipe cabinetry down.
5.) Paint (Primer and Two Coats or Three Coats of Behr Marquee or similar quality paint).
6.) Sand with a fine grit sandpaper between each coat of paint. Be sure that you allow adequate time between each coat of paint before sanding.
7.) Install cabinet fixtures/hardware.
8.) Remove plastic from cabinet openings and install freshly painted cabinet doors.
9.) Revel in your hard work.

Don't forget to follow me on Instragram and Pinterest! All of the above photos can be pinned to Pinterest by clicking the red Pinterest button in the top left-hand corner.  See you soon!

Note: This article was not sponsored and all opinions contained herein were unsolicited.

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