Painting Kitchen Cabinets, Etc.

By Kate Riley March 10, 2010

A few weeks ago you all saw the new color I painted in the refreshed kitchen !  Every morning it’s like a breath of fresh air walking into this space, and I’m so glad  I took the time to add new paint and accessories.  So I thought I’d break down the step-by-step on how I painted the kitchen cabinetry, specifically the island, and wrap up a few other details as well. 

Here’s a quick reminder of the island, Before and After:

island before and after

Here are the steps I followed for refinishing my kitchen cabinetry in oil with a brush technique.   For projects larger than this, consider renting a professional paint sprayer for quicker and smoother application.

The steps I followed for refinishing my kitchen island:

1) Remove all hardware, doors and drawer fronts. 

2) Clean any dirt, grime or grease off the cabinets, then lightly sand them with a sander or sanding pad.  Medium grit (#80 – #120) should work just fine. 

3)  Tape off all of your appliances, and inside of cabinets if necessary, and prep your area for priming and painting. 

ready to prime

4)  I recommend oil based primer on kitchen or bath cabinetry because it has a  bonding agent and a harder finish.  It’s also necessary to use oil based primer if you plan to use oil based paint (see Step 4).  In addition, it also helps to use a conditioning additive like Penetrol to lengthen the time you have to work with your oil based primer and to minimize brush strokes. 

penetrol additive

5)  After your primer is dry, sand any brush strokes that do occur with a medium to fine sanding pad.

6)  Apply two coats of oil based paint.  I chose oil over latex because I believe it’s better to use oil based paint on cabinetry in high traffic areas like kitchens or baths because oil based paint is typically more durable over time.  Note, oil based paints can amber or yellow over the years so if you’re using a shade of cream or white, consider using a water based or latex paint designed for kitchens.  I used semi-gloss for its shine and a surface that’s easy to clean. 

semi gloss bm

Wait the full drying time between coats.  For me, it was 24 hours.  If you don’t want to wait that long, you can use an additive called Japan Dryer to speed up the drying time of your oil based paint. 

Lightly sand between coats with fine grit sanding pad.  Pay careful attention with your second and final coat and concentrate on avoiding drips and minimizing brush strokes.  Many people use a roller to apply the paint, and a brush to fill in the crevices, but I find since you have to go over the roller marks with the brush anyway, why not just dirty up one tool instead of two, especially when working with oil based products.  

kitchen island painted 2

7. You need to clean up any oil based product with mineral spirits or paint thinner.  One thing I like to do with smaller projects using oil based products is buy the 5 for $5 dollars Rubbermaid paintbrushes at Target, then toss them out when I’m done rather than dealing with cleanup.  (I do toss them out with the other toxins that go to the toxic waste disposal site due to the residue on the brushes.)   Clean up any oil based paint off your hands with simple vegetable oil, no need for chemicals!

And now if anyone wants to see a video of me talking about this kitchen project, I put a few clips together.  I cannot guarantee anything special, in fact the quality of the video somehow deteriorated in transmission.  See the video right here.  

Other Kitchen Upgrades:

Now y’all know I’m a big believer in the transformative power of spray paint.  BIG believer.  I was playing around with a vignette for above the mantel and fixated on the idea of a mirror in the kitchen.   I found the mirror and the candlesticks at a discount store and gave them a coat of my best friend, Rustoleum’s ‘Heirloom White’.

mantle before

kitchen mantle mirror

I also found this wire basket on clearance – I liked it in blue and loved the modern shape, but the color was not right for my kitchen. 

basket blue

Rustoleum’s American Accents in ‘Oregano’ to the rescue. 

oregano spray paint 

bowl of apples

I recovered my barstools with some botanical themed fabric, and the breakfast peninsula bench with a soft green tweed.  Did I bother to remove the fabric underneath ?  Nah. 

recover barstools

breakfast spot

I also created this simple no sew valance for the kitchen garden window. 

kitchen valance

It’s a pale mushroom colored silk like fabric with a hint of green and a bit of shimmer.  It was on clearance at Joann’s Fabrics for $5/yard.  For the no sew valance above the window, I followed these steps. 

1) I recycled the 1” x 2” birch strip from the old valance I made last year.  2) I clipped two strips of fabric for the swags.  3) Then I used fusible web to give the edge of the fabric a finished seam.  4) Then I measured my desired length of fabric for the fall in front of the window.

1 to 4

5)  I cut my fabric to the desired drop length (times two) then folded my length of fabric in half then stapled it to the top of the birch.  I wrapped the fabric around the edge, secured with a staple, then covered the staple with the fabric from the top (as shown).  Then I secured the valance to the window with the ‘L’ brackets from the old valance.  6)  I pressed the strips of swag fabric with an iron, then used fusible web to seal the fabric together.  7) I used fabric glue to secure the trim to the swag fabric strips, then finally (8) I used a staple gun to secure the swag strips to the underside of the valance. 

5 to 8

No sewing !

kitchen garden window

So that’s the final post about all the details that went into the transformation !   You can see the original reveal right here, and check out this follow up article with your questions answered. 

Have any of you refinished your bathroom or kitchen cabinets ?  What was your experience ?



  1. Absolutely stunning! Not that the old look was not nice… but I love the transformation! You truly have an eye for decorating.

  2. I love how easy your curtain looks. I love the color. I have been thinking of painting my bathroom cabinets. Now it doesn’t look too hard with all your steps, thanks!

  3. Thank you for this post! I LOVE your kitchen! It has inspired me to start thinking about a renovation of mine! All of my bathroom cabs have been painted white (by a painter) & they used oil-based. Actually, almost all of the trim in my house including 2 huge bookshelves & fireplace have been painted. I love Seed Pearl from Pratt & Lambert-it is a soft white & looks great with everything:)

  4. YOU are Hired! What a fabulous job, it looks gorgeous! Thanks for the mention as well…in my house if I had attempted to do the job myself (we had just purchased the brand new home) I think my husband would have divorced me!! Luckily the builder/cabinet maker paid for the job, but in the future I’d probably still turn to the professionals, some things are just too big of a job for me.

    Your kitchen looks gorgeous, enjoy!! Janell

  5. You did a fabulous job!!

    I am finishing up painting all of my kitchen cabinets. I did not use an oil base paint or primer, so I am a little nervous about it now!! :( Hopefully it will last. I used an antique white on the majority of my cabinets, then one wall I used a black. I will hopefully be all done in the next two weeks! Thanks for sharing your tips and the results.

  6. Thanks for posting on this. I’m finishing up my beadboard backsplash now and want to freshen up my cabinets next. I’ve been using high gloss interior/exterior enamel by Behr. I’m a big believer in primer. I haven’t used oil based before..I guess it’s time for me to branch out. Your kitchen is gorgeous..does it make your coffee taste better? I bet it does!

  7. I resurfaced kitchen cabinets once & swore I’d never do it again. But I used latex. How in the world did you use oil in the winter? You’re amazing.
    I loved your kitchen before, but the white is just so crisp & clean. Great job!

  8. Wow! You are a DIY rockstar! I’ve already got plans to do a headboard of yours, and I might have to pull off a valance now, too!

    One thing, I’ve tried using spray paint before, and it seems to always come out a mess (drips, uneven). Have you done or could you do a tutorial on how to spray paint different surfaces?

    Thanks and great job!

  9. Thank you for the tips on painting cabinets! Your kitchen is even more gorgeous than before! I noticed you did not add the Benjamin Moore paint color to your island post. Is it called Toasted Almond like the rest of your cabinets?

  10. Great job of walking us through step by step. :) The power of spray paint is just amazing. Love the Before and After shots of the mirror and basket…the basket is too cute! :) Thanks for the step by step on the window mistreatment. :)

  11. Hi Kate-
    The after of your island is just gorgeous! The before was really wonderful too but I to am in love with the creamy white paints right now! Your whole kitchen ties together so well! I can appriciatte all your hard work, we just finished our kitchen a few months ago using all of our existing cabinets. It’s such a great feeling to have it done and have a space you love. Enjoy your day

  12. I lived w/an ugly kitchen for 3 years. And two years ago I said that’s it! I re-did it all. I did use a latex, but it was specifically made for kitchens and baths. So far so good. But I would think long and hard about painting cabinets again. It was hard work. I don’t know how many times I asked myself. “What was I thinking” But in the end, you can see just what I was thinking. It was the best thing I could have done for our house. Take a look:!/album.php?aid=2012114&id=1088807471

  13. Can I just tell you how much I LOVE your kitchen?!!!! I am so jealous of that incredible window and those gorgeous countertops! Holy cow, if your kitchen turns up missing I’m probably to blame.

  14. I love that you painted all of your accessories also. I am in the middle of refreshing my kitchen also. It’s funny when you have a paint brush in your hand and a color you love, you just want to paint everything. BEAUTIFUL! I am jealous of your talent lol:)!

  15. I think you did an awesome job! Everything came together beautifully. I’ve never painted my kitchen cabinets, but I plan to someday soon. If I can talk my husband into it, that is.

  16. Just beautiful! I have just painted the walls in my kitchen and am looking for a color for the cabinets. Would you mind sharing what color that is? My walls are SW Baguette, with the ceilings SW Antique White. I think a nice ivory color cabinet would work well.

    Thanks for all of your great ideas!

  17. Kate,
    Your kitchen is so beautiful. I love it! I am dying to paint our kitchen this year. what did you do with any of the sides that were not real wood (if you had any)? In my kitchen, the cabinet door, and framing is maple, but the sides are a laminate. Any tips?

  18. I’m going to be painting my kitchen cabinets this summer so I appreciate the step-by-step. I absolutely adore white/cream kitchens and am looking forward to this in our house.

  19. Guess I need to finish mine now huh? I added bead-board to the plain fronts of my cabinets and did a paint in antique warm white and aging… don’t like to be the only OLD THING in the house! The other day while doing the cutlery drawers, in my eagerness to “just get it done”, I put the bead-board on wrong way around- horizontal not vertical. Off it came and there it sits.
    I am energized anew on seeing your lovely kitchen.

  20. Such a gorgeous and sunny kitchen! I am totally gonna copy that window treatment. I’ve been looking for an idea for above my sliding glass door in my dining room….something thats like a valance and my son can’t tug on. lol. Great job!!!

  21. Thanks for the step by step. I’m painting my kitchen cupboards this spring and am always looking for more tips! I’m excited to get started!

  22. I love the way you focus on the result you want, then use ingenuity and hard yakka to get the result, not just money! (hard yakka= work, in Oz-speak.

  23. Hi Kate! I enjoyed your vlogging tutorial…it was great! I have used oil paint in the past and you are soo right the clean up is a pain! I have been a latex girl forever now…although, you do have me rethinking trying the oil again. :) I love how your kitchen turned out and all the little extra details you did…beautiful!


  24. i am so very, very jealous :P this is gorgeous. i guess i should consider myself lucky that my cabinets are already white. but my kitchen is 8’x8′ :P
    i love the decorative items you have re-done and put to good use. i have to stop looking for just color at thrift shops and think about form + spraypaint :D

  25. Wow – I didn’t realize you’d painted the island, very brave of you! I love the paisley fabric of the valance – so pretty!

  26. I painted the cabinets in a home that we bought in Georgia. It was a home built in the early 90s and I used Kilz & regular paint and they looked great.

    I had hand painted & glazed cabinet built for our home in Florida. Of course, I didn’t do those but they were my favorites so far.

    Your kitchen looks very clean and fresh. Great job.

  27. I don’t think I have ever used oil based paint. Our kitchen cabinets were painted white by the previous owners and I hate them because they always, always look dirty, and they are impossible to clean (except with 409), yet they are high gloss… can I assume this is a latex paint? Would their “cleanability” improve with an oil based paint?

  28. Your kitchen is so bright and beautiful! We painted our cabinets (and counters too!) a couple years ago and I have been thinking about painting them again (I get bored easily)!

  29. Any tutorials on how to get your “before” cabinets? I love them and want them for my “after” kitchen. I have maple cabinets with a honey-colored stain. I really want to glaze them with a chocolate color to emphasize the details. Congrats on the beautiful redo. Your hard work produced gorgeous results.

  30. You did a great job – seriously….. and I’m a painter. Followed all the steps and look at how proud you can be of those results. And it will endure and be easy to clean. My hero…

  31. Your post took me back to last summer when we re-did our cabinets. Oh boy was that a job! Your cabinets look great! Don’t you just love what paint can do…I call it a miracle in a can. :) I wanted to invite you to my weekly blog party for tomorrow…….Treasures and Trinkets Thursday…basically we’re all just linking something we love. :) Hope you have a blessed day!

  32. Kate, you’re amazing. I am ready to run out and get oil based paint (which I’ve never used) and dig out the paint sprayer we bought last year for painting our barn. Wouldn’t Mr. DIY be surprised? haha Thanks so much for sharing your steps for future reference. :)

  33. Your kitchen looks great! Thanks for all the tips. I would love to do my kitchen. I still have the golden oak cabinets in my 80’s kitchen. Love & blessings from NC!

  34. Hello, I’m just new to your blog and I love it! The cabinets looks great and those little tea towel pillows you make are so sweet…I just love them! I’m off to see some more, Deb

  35. As always, great job and thanks for all of the helpful suggestions. It would be a shame for someone to go to all the trouble of painting their cabinets only to have them turn out looking amateur. I’m sure I speak for many when I say thank you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge and your home with us.

  36. The kitchen looks fab!! Amazing what a coat or more of paint can do to bland or nasty coloured pieces. Would you be OK with me blogging about it?

  37. Love everything but the mirror catches my eye because I am redoing my office and am looking for one to paint turquoise and that one would be perfect. Where did you get it?

  38. Thank you for all the wonderful tips, your make-overs and such informative posts! We are in the process of remodeling our kitchen and this information has come in extremely handy.

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  40. Oh the paint tips are so helpful. I wish I checked in sooner. I’m renovating our bedroom, into an all-white heaven of my dreams, and am painting a lot of furniture. I painted latex all my bookshelves only to find out the the water-based varnish that went on top yellowed the white. How disappointing it was after slathering latex for 3 days. Thankfully, my lovely husband, suggested an oil paint. It took only one coat and it looks great. Had I read your posts on time, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.
    Kate, your kitchen island looks professionally painted without the professionals. You’re doing an incredible job. I can’t say the same about my unfortunate bedroom vanity make-over. Not looking what I envisioned. Oh well, there is always time for another oil paint layer later, right?

  41. Kate, Your kitchen is awesome! and your video is also very cute and informative! I need help!!! We just bought our first home and it’s in perfect condition.. not! It screams 1970’s with the laminet green & orange kitchen floors.. and the cabinets are in really good condition, but they are ugly.. would you be willing to lend some design advice?

  42. Love the color of the cabinets…they are a creamy white, but not yellow AT ALL! Do you mind sharing the shade of paint that you chose?

  43. I’m curious as to whether you can see brush strokes on your cabinets. We are considering having ours painted and the painter told us we’d be able to see brush strokes.

  44. So beautiful! What color did you paint your island? I’m painting my cabinets soon and am looking for the right color!

  45. Finally got a settlement date, YEAH !!! July 7th!! I’m ready for the Divine Dump. I love your home so much. Thank you for putting my vision in photos. I have wanted an all white kitchen for sooo long (well more like a creamy kitchen) Anyway, thought I’d tell you about a little trick I’ve been doing for awhile. If your ever interested in making real easy cornise boards, use the light weight, pink foam insulation boards. All you do is cut to size with a hand saw or an old electric carving knife works well to. The side panels can be duct taped or stapled. I’m thinking of using some of that real strong shiny roofers tape or ductwork tape. Then all you do is cover in batting and fabric. Either staple it or use quilters T pins. They are so light weight, You’ll change the fabric with the seasons, I’m sure. So, thanks again Kate. I love your site!! I’m hooked. And I too have the most handy of husbands. He’s been making concrete counter tops. I want them white with white marble chips. I’ll be stopping in with you real soon. God Bless & God Bless America! Cheers.. Scotty

  46. Love all of the ideas. Love the before and after pics. Great job!!!
    We are currently painting our kitchen cabinets white,,,from a very old, dark wood stain. We have been ‘discussing’ whether or not to paint the underneath of the cabinets. I say ‘yes’,,,he says ‘no’. Is it just a preference,,,or requirement?!

  47. I an picking out a vanity color. What color did you put on your island? I could see its BM paint but not the color. Thank you and it is beautiful!

    Layla Lair

  48. I love that simple swag for the kitchen window. I am absolutely going to try that for my kitchen window! Thanks for sharing!! I also really love the way your kitchen turned out. I actually had a professional come and refinish our cabinets since they were old pine ones and I was worried about the coverage, but it turned out better than expected. I recommend oil-based paint as well for the high-traffic cabinetry! Great tips!

  49. Very well done! I love the before and after picture of the mirror in the kitchen. It’s crazy how much of a difference it makes. I’m going to have to use some of this in my kitchen remodeling.

    Another good site I came across recently in my research for my kitchen research was:

    Hopefully its useful for some of yall, too ;)

  50. I love your kitchen! What color or white did you use? I can’t seem to find it any of your posts! Thanks a bunch!

  51. I love your eating area that you have pictured. By chance could you share with me the measurements of it? I have the perfect spot for something like this in my kitchen! It sure would open it up!!

  52. what color is your kitchen island? looks great!!! we’ve tried painting or in the process for the last few months and it’s already chipping.

  53. Hi Kate!
    lov e your cabinets! looks great! i’ve read that you should caulk the crevices/cracks on the cabinets before painting so it looks more professional. Did you do this?

  54. Just discovered your website..Love It.. I am considering redoing my kitchen..Could you tell me exactly what brand and color the kitchen walls are (the picture with your husband painting) as well as the color and brand of the island paint..Thank You.kathie Powell

  55. 1. What did you use on each of the surfaces of the drawers? paint or stain or did you leave them as they were? By each surface of the drawer I mean the insides of the kitchen drawers, the outsides of the drawers and the outside back of the drawer.
    2. Do you consider the humidity levels when you paint? Do you run a dehumidifier when or after you paint? Our house does not have air conditioning and paint seems to take forever to dry.
    Thank you

  56. Kate, I am mesmerized by all you do. I am keeping all your instructions on file. So many of them apply to my needs. It’s just a matter of working them into my busy schedule. Thanks so much for sharing! I look forward to each and everyone of your mailouts and share them with others. I love your recipes as well. You are amazing and so talented.

  57. Kate,
    You kitchen cabinets are just lovely. Please do tell what color you used. It looks exactly like the right white for me.
    Thank you!

  58. First off, I love your kitchen! So bright and airy and the color you chose for you island is Fabulous! I was so incredibly happy to learn that you used the oil based paint on your cabinets! I am going to tackle painting my mothers kitchen cabinets this weekend and I have been researching what people are using and I was finding alot of people using the latex paints. I kept feeling in my gut and based on what I have learned that oil based is what you want to go with for kitchen cabinets. That is what I am going to use – but it is awesome to see that you used it and just how beautifully it turned out and I am so much happier with my decision!

  59. I am going to use your valance idea. I was searching for trendy, classic kitchen valances…. yours are perfect!

  60. The interior of kitchen was quite the painting project. I’m more of an outdoor painter. Used to working in the Olympia WA weather. Which is hard to plan around. But I like these schemes. Thanks for the great Ideas.

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