Painting kitchen cabinets (or, How to go from loving paint to hating paint in just a few days)

I love a good DIY project, but this one almost broke me. Painting the kitchen cabinets was a massive undertaking and one of the most frustrating projects I've done in the condo so far. There is a reason the web is full of pages that will give you tips and instructions for painting your cabinets. It's hard! It takes a ton of prep, a lot of persistence, and patience.

Hiring a professional wasn't an option. Buying or renting a paint sprayer (which renders a great finish without too, too much effort) wasn't an option. I have a very limited space in which to backyard, no garage, and no basement. So, this was a solo effort in my kitchen.

I read many different threads and sites about painting cabinets and arrived at my steps by blending a few of them together. I did not use TSP, which some sites recommend to clean the cabinets. I washed them, sanded them, used a tack cloth to clean them off, then primed, and painted. How funny that I fit that all into one sentence when these steps took three weeks (I worked at night and on the weekends).

The paint I used was Sherwin Williams' ProClassic Enamel (Waterborne) in either a gloss or high gloss finish. It's excellent paint, but you have to put very, very thin layers down and let them dry completely before moving forward. This takes quite some time. Part of me wishes I painted everything with Benjamin Moore's Aura and then added a top coat of polyurethane. Oh well.

I think the result is good, considering the cheapy cabinets with which I started:

Not all hardware is on the cabinets in these pictures

I would love to change the counters, flooring, microwave, and range at some point. For now, I'm happy with how things are progressing.

By the way, I painted the walls light blue, but hated how it looked and went back to white. Any thoughts on that? Does the white look okay or too sterile? When I get around to changing the counters, I'll also install some subway as a backsplash on both sides of the room.


  1. I think white is fine trying to make a small kitchen look as spacious as possible. It's good to start with a clean palate and add color with other items. I tried for a light yellow and it just looks like grimy white.

  2. I can only imagine the process! It really does look fantastic now though - like a whole new kitchen!

    Two suggestions/thoughts:
    (1) Wall paint - what about a nice pale gray? It's hard to tell the color of the counters but it could be nice. Maybe just leave it white until you change the counters?
    (2) Cabinets - when you do the backsplash, maybe think about raising your cabinets to the ceiling (with a molding at the top) and adding a shelf underneath like this Cottage Living kitchen? That would give you so much extra space and make the ceilings feel so much higher!

  3. The countertops are gray laminate right now (ew!) and the open floor plan puts these walls up against the gray-blue walls in the rest of the unit. I think you're right that I need to see new countertops in before making a decision about paint.

    I was going to lift the cabinets like the Cottage Living kitchen (I think half the decor bloggers in the northern hemisphere are obsessed with that kitchen!), but heditated this time around because I am unsure about my ability to maintain clean, open shelves! We'll see!

  4. Hey - I didn't know you had started a blog!!

    Im with inthetweeds on the gray but I think something darker than a pale shade would look more striking with the white. Maybe not every wall though.

  5. Great job! I'd vote for a pale neutral color on the walls - just so that the cabinets can pop a little more - but completely understand waiting on a counter decision!

  6. tcskitten@hotmail.comJanuary 14, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    What about some crown molding at the ceiling? What about using bead-board on the lower third of the walls, painted the shade your cabinets are in? As for counter, what about a granite-like look, iwith shades of black, blue grey, white(like cabinet)? The flooring could be done in an easy to maintain solid piece of linoleum?
    A bright red mat under sink ... and a very large print placed above one of the bead-boarded walls?
    From your counter colours and the ought to be able to come up with a gorgeous shade for the walls.


  7. Crown molding is definitely on the to do list for the entire condo. As beadboard, it's not really my style...I like a more modern look these days.

    The floor is linoleum now and it'll have to go before resale in light of the upgraded floors I'm putting into the rest of the place.

  8. Choosing different types of oak cabinets and discount kitchen cabinets is helpful when you order kitchen cabinets online.

  9. Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow /Hey thanks man!! you are so good. I think this the perfect work.


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