…kitchen time series: painting cabinets

I have painted an entire kitchen full of cabinets with interior paint from Home Depot using paint like Behr or Benjamin Moore. Dear Husband and I bought our first home 13 years ago and did a TON of renovations. It was a home built in the 1950s and we needed desperately to update it. Oh, and we had to do it ourselves with a limited budget. Since then we have built 2 homes from the ground up so we kinda know what we are talking about.


The deal with paint is that it is instant gratification! There’s not much in this world that can claim that and for a person like me with not patience whatsoever, it’s perfect.

I get it that it’s super scary because there are usually alot of cabinets in a kitchen and in a row! But, I look at painting furniture like this: if you hate walking into the room and seeing the piece/cabinets, if they make you feel depressed, if they give you anxiety and pull down your mood, if you are frustrated that your kitchen will never look pretty and you have no place to renovate or move, if you feel stuck with dull, old, dated. Dated is the worst one. Then let me convince you here & now that YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. Yes, I guess I might, maybe, warn my husband/partner/roommate that it was coming. Maybe.

1. The Look. What look are you going for? Start by looking at magazine pictures & Pinterest & Houzz. Do you like white/light/airy? Do you like cozy and a bit darker? Do you like more contemporary? If you don’t know what you want to do then do white. You will never be disappointed with a white. Promise.


1. Color. Pick a color that is not crazy bold. Just don’t do it. Unless you are a super famous modern interior designer, red will not look good. Purple and pink are also bad choices. They are pretty in the can, but not for a space where you cook you scrabbled eggs in the morning. I’m okay with the grey family. I’m good with the beige and browns. I’m great with the white family. If you want to try a Benjamin Moore color, check out the wall color posts I did because I think any of those colors could look great.


2. Paint. You can use a Benjamin Moore or interior paint found at your hardware store or you could Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  If you buy paint from your hardware store be sure to tell them that it is for a kitchen. They will advise you on the finish. I have a dear friend that painted her kitchen cabinets in Annie Sloan Coco and they came out beautifully! They used 2 coats, no wax and the color was rich and warm. If you have wood stained cabinets and you want to lighten your space and use ASCP, I’d consider Pure White or Old White.


3. Clean. Clean your cabinets thoroughly. I just used soap and water and a soft rag. Just make sure all the dust and any dirt particles are wiped down. You don’t want these sticking to your paint. Yuck!

3 1/2. So, DH would probably insist that you take off your cabinet doors to paint. For me, I’d totally cut this part out and paint on the hinges. Probably that patience thing I was talking about. I’ll leave it up to you.

4. Sand. Yes, you really should lightly sand your cabinets down if you are using an interior paint. Just take you 3M block and a light sandpaper and do a once over. If using ASCP the beauty is that you don’t have to!

5. Tape. I hate taping anything and have designated DH as the taper in the family. But, you must. Tape off where the cabinets meet the wall and basically where you don’t want the paint to go. Make sure it’s straight and take your time. It will be worth it in the end. Yes, this is tedious, but please do a good job because if you have bubbles in it and it’s not flat then you will see these areas when you pull the tape off for the big reveal. Use blue painters tape or Frog tape.


5. Remove handles. You can do this with a screw driver. Easy. Put them in a baggy. We will talk about replacing these to help update your space.

6. Cracks & Indiscrepaencies. If you have cracks in your cabinets or weird holes or something, use your wood filler. Slap it in there with a putty knife and smooth down. Let it dry, sand and then it’s ready to be painted. If there are small scratches don’t even worry about these or at least I wouldn’t.


7. Test. Please test your color and make sure you like it. Do this in a spot inside a cabinet where no one will be able to see. Do a few samples if you are trying to decide.

8. How. Use a good, small brush that will not shed. You want to be able to control your paint when you apply. You also want to get into the corners easily. You can start with the doors first, but I would recommend doing the interior of the cabinets as well because you may not want to see the ugly interior brown in there where your dishes will go. You want the space to appear new & fresh. Obviously if you use an interior paint like a Benjamin Moore , you paint and you are done. Yeah!


If you use ASCP you may want to use the waxing process and sanding if you want the distressed look. THIS WILL BE JUST LIKE YOU ARE DOING A DRESSER OR CONSOLE. I would start with the exterior and be sure to really buff in the clear wax. If it were me, I’d consider leaving the interior un-waxed. You need to play and see what works for you. I must put a caveat in here to say that if you have some type of shiny poly or stain on your cabinets AND THEY ARE NOT WOOD, the ASCP may not adhere. You will know this immediately because it will almost “sponge” off. Meaning, it won’t stay and look like it is bubbling off and look like a sponge. If it happens to you, you know what I’m talking about. If this is the case you will want to use an interior paint from your hardware store. This may happen if your cabinets are not wood. Don’t be discouraged. (I will talk more about this in weeks to come.)

Other things to consider:

If your kitchen is small, one way to open it up is to take off a few of the cabinet door over the counter. This will give the appearance that you have glass doors. It will make the kitchen feel more open and airy. We did this in our first home and then stacked each shelf with white dishes and clear glasses. This is not a space to put your Frosted Flakes! Use these cabinets for some white dishes or glassware.


If you think you are going to want to use a single knob and you previously have a handle, you will see that you now have 2 holes where you took off the hardware. You will need to fill one of these holes with wood filler. It’s so easy. Just putty the filler in, let dry and sand. Paint as you do the entire cabinet. You will then only have the one hole left and you can now put your new knob on. Get it?


I get that this is alot of information, but you can do this. Once you get your first door painted you will begin to see the transformation. Once again, if you hate your kitchen cabinets and they are dark and depressing then what do you have to lose?

NOTE: If it were me, I would use my ASCP Old White, distress a bit and clear wax. Done. (Of course the Duck Egg Blue-ish color above is really tempting!

Images via Pinterest.