Kitchen Cabinets Are DONE!

Ahhh! It’s done, it’s done! It’s — okay, it’s not actually DONE, but it’s close enough that I can post photos and do a little happy dance. I still have to caulk a few seams and then touch them up with a tiny paint brush, and when Rob gets here, I need him to pull the fridge out so I can paint in its little cubby. But other than that — done! Brace yourself for a long post.

Rob and I sometimes imagine what we would change about this house if we won the lottery, and the kitchen has always been fairly high on would-be-nice list. Then I started to think about how I’d lay the kitchen out differently, and I had to admit that it was actually pretty functional the way it was. And there were a few issues with the cabinets, but they were fairly decent quality — the color was just completely not to our taste. So I wound up thinking that the kitchen would be pretty amazing if I just painted the cabinets. A big undertaking with a baby in the house, but (obviously) not impossible. I think if I could have just dedicated myself 100% to the project, it would have taken a solid week (with some down time for drying paint). As it was, it took… a lot longer than that.

I’ve painted a lot of stuff, and I kind of enjoy painting, but the thought of all the prep work involved in painting the cabinets really got me down. Luckily, that was (mostly) stuff I could do while M played nearby, so I removed the doors here and there and got the cabinet boxes taped off when I had the time. I was prepared to paint inside the cupboards, by the way, but I when I started to look closely at them, I realized they were pressed board with a birch-look paper coating. The outsides are oak veneer (the doors are solid oak), so I figured they wouldn’t look any worse with a mismatched inside + outside than they already did. (And the light ‘birch’ color actually wound up looking quite nice with the painted outsides.)

So over the course of a few days, I managed to prep the cabinet boxes after M went to bed at night — I scrubbed them with deglosser and did a little puttying where necessary and then sanding. I didn’t sand everything (just where I’d puttied), and it was hard to tell if the deglosser really did anything, but there was and has been zero bleed-through of the original stain/poly, so whatever I did seems to have worked. After a few more days, I primed and painted everything. Rob and I had started talking about painting the cabinets in mid-April, and by mid-May the kitchen looked like this:

Not bad! Just, you know, no doors on anything. And that’s the way it stayed for… um… almost two and a half months? I kind of got used to being able to grab things and put away dishes without having to open a door first. But I’ve learned that I absolutely don’t want open shelf storage — that look (even if I were more organized) just isn’t for me.

Prepping the doors took a long time. My mom VERY helpfully scrubbed them all down for me, and then I used the deglosser and had to putty the cracks between the faces and edge pieces of all the white doors (eighteen of them — twelve on the bottom, but I figured the gaps wouldn’t show with the dark paint, and they don’t, luckily). Then I had to sand that putty, which was one of my least favorite steps. I know a lot of people caulk cracks like that, but I couldn’t get it as smooth as I wanted, and the stuff I had wasn’t meant to be sanded. Finally, I brought all the prepped doors out to our barn, and that’s where they sat for a long time.

I was really daunted by the paint sprayer we’d got for the doors. Not so much the spraying part, but the clean-up. What I like about using a roller is that you can wrap everything in plastic while you wait for a coat to dry. I didn’t want the paint sprayer to clog up, so I knew I’d have to clean it between coats. Which meant I’d lose almost an entire nap time to painting and cleaning for each coat. It didn’t really take that long, in the end. It was maybe forty minutes to do a coat on the uppers + cleaning, and just twenty minutes for the lower cabinet doors.

Maybe this is a good time to mention that I used Glidden Duo, a paint and primer in one. But I still primed everything with Zinsser 1-2-3. The white for the uppers (Lamb) was much thicker than the darker bottom color (Anvil). That was nice when I was using a little foam roller for the cabinet boxes, but I had a heck of a time getting the sprayer settings to work with the white paint. I finished those by the end of July, right before we went to Madison. So they were nicely cured when we got back, and I was happy to hang them up again. The dark paint for the lower doors sprayed on like a dream and covered them completely in just two coats. I let them dry for a few days and finished hanging them this morning.

And after all that work? I am so, SO, so-so-so happy with the way everything looks! The kitchen is just as I imagined it. The only thing that isn’t is that you can see the wood grain texture under the paint, and I’ve wound up loving that — it makes them feel much higher end than smooth, laminated board. It’s amazing how much more I love the unchanged elements of the kitchen now. I had been feeling like maybe we made the wrong choice with the Corian counters, but they look fantastic with the new colors. The slate behind the stove also matches well. And the maple floors really shine now that they aren’t competing with the reddish wood of the cabinets. The only thing left to do (besides the aforementioned caulking and touching up) is to trim out the tops of the cabinets. I’m guessing we’ll probably just put some crown molding up there, but I love the idea of having a little extra storage like this.

Other little bits to mention include switching the old drawer pulls for bin pulls (we reused the ‘old’ — 2012 — door pulls, though). I took down the decorative shelf that used to be to the right of the window, since I knew it would look a bit old fashioned even painted white. I hung up a couple photos of M instead. I also painted that window, since it would have look strange to have stained oak in the middle of all that painted wood. Both Rob and I love white trim, so it’s hard to resist replacing/painting more of it right now. Rob installed under-cabinet lights on both side of the oven (I turned them on for the photos!), and he did a great job with them. Oh, and I have to mention that roll-up door of the appliance garage (in the corner). I painted that thing with a teeny brush, slat by slat. Inside every groove. It was the very first thing I did because I knew it would be a pain in my butt, but it’s holding up well so far.

Anyway, kitchen cupboards = done. (Nearly done. Mostly done. Done enough.) Totally worth it! It really feels like having a whole new kitchen. To end with, here are three photos from the same angle. The first is from January 2012, when we did our initial walk-through. The second is from June 2012, after the new counters had gone in (the cabinets were the only original element in the kitchen by that point). And then the last photo is from today. Hooray!

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8 Responses to Kitchen Cabinets Are DONE!

  1. Amazing! Your work is fantastic – that is one beautiful kitchen! You SHOULD be proud – what an accomplishment!

    Wishing you a happy week – you deserve a break!

    Barbara Diae

  2. Ann says:

    Wow–that looks INCREDIBLE, Anna. Hooray!

  3. Jess says:

    Ooh, love it! It’s so bright and clean! Well worth all the work, I’d say.

  4. Lora says:

    Looks so awesome!! Did you mention what kind of deglosser you used? I want to repaint the interior of our pop-up camper and am having trouble getting the motivation to do it because I know how big of a project it is going to be.

    • Anna says:

      It’s Klean Strip — the only thing Home Depot had that specifically said ‘deglosser’ on it. Like I say, it’s hard to know what the deglosser really did, or whether the lack of bleed-through was just down to the primer and paint I used. It was nice that it wasn’t TOO fume-y, though, and I’m sure it helped clean things. Does the pop-up have a lot of real wood/veneer inside? Good luck with the painting!

      • Lora says:

        Not a ton, but enough that it is a large project. I think the idea of taking everything apart to prep it is the most daunting. That and we keep planning trips, so we need it to be intact to use it. I think if I could get a long weekend, uninterrupted, I could pound it out pretty quickly.

  5. Kara says:

    Wow! Great job. What a difference the paint makes. It looks terrific!

  6. Shannon says:

    Wow! What an amazing transformation – looks like a whole new space. I love the colors.

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