Let's Talk About Kitchens - Video follow up #2

Kitchen cabinets. So many people hate theirs. Replacing cabinets is expensive - even if you do it inexpensively. Painting is an option that can seem overwhelming but, it's not. Really. 

We moved into this house to a totally functional kitchen. The cabinets were in good shape and had been cared for. However, 1987 oak isn't really my favorite. There's something about it that actually makes me feel sad. Weird but there it is. 

So . . . I jumped in with both feet. I'm happy with the results though, as usual, I'm almost ready for a change.  Here's my step-by-step guide to what I did. And, at the end I'll share new things I've learned and different approaches you could take when doing your own cabinets. 




  1. Set up a workspace.  I covered the island and the kitchen table with drop cloths, set up 2x4's for the cabinet doors to sit on while I painted.
  2. Clean inside and outside of your doors withTSP (trisodium phosphate) - Dap is a brand you can find at Home Depot, Lowe's and Walmart.  
  3. Go over doors with a medium/coarse sandpaper. You do not have to sand them down completely - you're' just giving the paint something to hold onto.
  4. Follow steps 2 & 3 for the bases of your cabinets as well. 
  5. Pick a base color. We were on a super-tight budget AND I have a moderately severe paint habit so I just worked with what I had in the house. I used Behr Battleship Gray. I happened to have exterior paint with a satin finish. Paint the cabinets. 
  6. You could do a second coat, cover with two or three layers of Polycrylic and call it good.
  7. Or, you can choose a secondary color - in this case I used Sherwin Williams Eider White, satin finish, interior paint. For this coat, go ahead and be sloppy. You don't want full coverage. 
  8. Once dried, you can choose to add a third color or skip to step 9. I added a haphazard layer of Dixie Belle Vintage Duck Egg chalk paint. 
  9. Finally, working in small sections, I applied Varathane "Worn Navy" stain with a cheap brush and wiped it off as I went. You want variation.  I used an old rag (if you have any old cloth diapers, they are perfect for this) to wipe the stain off. The stain is stinky - open the windows or work outside.  Walk away for a couple of hours and come back and look. If you like it, you're ready to finish. If not, add more stain until it feels right.
  10. When everything is dry, You can coat the doors (front and back) and the bases with 2-3 coats of Polycrylic (NOT polyurethane as that will yellow). OR . . .
  11. As a finishing touch, I used a mixture of half Elmer's Glue (real glue, not school glue) and water (or you could use ModgePodge) to apply pieces of scrapbook paper to the insides of the cabinet doors. Once dried, I went over them lightly with the navy stain - wiping most of it off. Then, seal with Polycrylic. I'm glad I did it - makes me a little happier when I'm putting dishes away! (picture at bottom)
  12. Finally, before you put it all back together again - look at your hardware. It was scary how gross the hinges on our cabinets were. I tried a few methods to get them clean. Finally, I sucked it up and bought new hinges and decided to add knobs to the doors and cup pulls to the drawers. HUGE difference. 

There you have it - ONE way to do your kitchen cabinets. Super cheap (especially if you have a lot of paint on hand) and the results are beautiful if I do say so myself. Not interested in that many steps? There are other ways. Several lines of paint (Fusion and Heirloom Traditions are two) that offer a chalk paint finish without the need for waxing or separate sealing. Google either one or both and look at the galleries. Some of the results are stunning. 

Sadly, I have agreed to NOT paint anything in our house except for furniture for other people for a while. Once Mike forgets about this agreement, I plan to test one of the above two brands in our bathroom.  I'll let you know when I do. Of course, if you're local and you want to be a test case, you can buy the supplies and I'll do the painting. 



cabinet inside.jpg