Bungalow Kitchen Reno: Painting Cabinets

So here's a free lesson: you say to yourself, "Hey, why don't we paint the cabinets? That should only take a few hours!" You would, however, be totally wrong. TOTES wrong.

Early into our kitchen reno, which I warned in the "before" post unfolded in a very If You Give a Mouse a Cookie fashion (in that this little mouse kept adding "quick projects" along the way), I decided that the buttercream cabinets had to go. Even though the addition of butcher block countertops and a new sink to match the stainless appliances helped the overall look dramatically, the cabinets were still in need of some love to reflect the design we wanted. The kitchen cabinets are a simple shaker style and were installed by the previous owner, so they were in great shape and just needed some superficial help. However, knowing that they were relatively new, we wanted to do the paint job right and not just throw gobs of a new color on top. (If you've owned an older house that shows the tell-tale signs of many, many differing opinions about the right color for any given surface, you feel me on this.)

I have painted more walls than I can count, having started my interior design hobby at an early age. (Blue walls with puffy white clouds painted on them at 13-years-old? Nailed it. Loved them dearly for one whole year, which is like a decade for a teenager. Also, matching valances. Because...valances. #ChildOfThe80s) But cabinets? Horse of a different color. I consulted the experts (i.e. Pinterest search for "paint cabinets"), and decided on a pretty straightforward method: remove, sand, paint. 
As a reminder, buttercream.

We use Benjamin Moore paint for everything*, and I love that they offer paint and primer in one. Not only is their color selection fantastic, but you can get the job done in fewer coats with better coverage and greater longevity than I've seen with others. That being said, I'd recommend opting for primer if you're not using a quality paint to ensure it lasts, especially if your kitchen gets as much play as ours does. We also took the recommendation of our local Ben Moore expert* an opted for their pearl finish, which was the most matte we could go without sacrificing durability.

The most tedious aspect of this job for us was removing all the hardware, as well as the glass inlay in some of the upper cabinets. We drew out a grid on a piece of paper and marked spaces for all the hardware, including: hanging side, location, and top or bottom bracket (the latter was added when I hit a few whammies from not doing that with the first round of cabinets). 

Quick Tip: if I did this again, I'd soak the hardware in paint thinner to remove the previous color that had made its way onto the brackets and handles. By the time I circled back on reassembly, I was battling the screw-its and just put them on as is.

A tub of Clorox wipes came in handy to wipe down every surface and remove any gunk before sanding. (If you skip this step, the gunk can muck up the sander and make a hot mess. Simple, quick job that makes your life easier. Trust.) We used the mouse sander again with 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface a bit and ensure good adhesion, as well as smooth out some drip marks from the previous job. (We used 180 grit for areas that had more wear or more prominent drip marks. For older cabinets with a lot of wear, you might need a medium grit for the job, and finish with 220.) We vacuumed up the shavings and busted out our trusty tack cloth to finish the job. (Side note: tack cloths may be the worst feeling on bare hands in the world. Just awful, man.)

We recycled the packing materials from the butcher block once again (adopting the plastic wrap as drop cloths and the long cardboard boxes as sanding and paint surfaces--one for each, of course), which was clutch because we ended up having to do a lot of the work inside due to weather. (In case you haven't heard, Texas is in need of an ark. I can help sand it...) At least the paint was water-based for this step (unlike the epically stinky stain and Waterlox), so that helped tremendously.
Benjamin Moore's October Mist

Picking the colors was not easy. Well, that's half true. I had found some really beautiful source images, and the color Piegon by Farrow and Ball kept coming up over and over again. However, at $100 a gallon, this cheapskate just couldn't take the plunge. After a quick internet search, I found a Benjamin Moore dupe and confidently bought a gallon of October Mist in pearl finish, which is the perfect gray-green that we wanted. I loved the look of lighter uppers with contrasting lower cabinets, and after sharing some inspiration pics with M, we decided on a clean white for the uppers (Chantilly Lace, if you please). Picking the white was the hard part. White is not white, always. Got some help from the good men at Ben Moore to tackle this one too, and we were happy with the choice. (There's a point at which you just have to pick one and move forward, so don't overthink it too much. But at the very least, put the paint samples up in the space and consider how they look together in all the various lights through the day. Then, just go with it.)

Quick Tip: Pinterest and online images are always a big component of any home project that we do, as it's important to me that M be equally on board with the vision (since it's his home too), so this is a key step that I recommend y'all take to keep the project a shared one.

We patiently painted the backs of the cabinets first (the side that faces in when closed) with two coats (to ensure we had nice coverage, especially with the white over the buttercream color, the bleed through of which would make the cabinets look old and grungy), and then flipped and finished the fronts with two coats. The inlays were painted first with a small natural brush, while the faces were done with a small roller (we used rollers that were indicated for--you guessed it--cabinets). We rested drawers against covered surfaces to dry, and they were actually really quick to do since they essentially only had one side (that mattered).

Meanwhile, we gently sanded the cabinet boxes and taped off nearby surfaces (especially our spanky new countertops) before painting the boxes as well. I debated pulling everything out of the shelves before sanding, but I was beat at this point (since this "quick project" was already dragging into a week, squeezed in between all the other life) so I just pushed crap back and mentally made a note to rinse out any dishes and pots before using them. (We survived, y'all. Little sawdust never hurt anyone. Ok, that's probably not true...)

Once everything dried to the recommended duration, we reattached the hardware and returned the cabinets and drawers to where they belonged. 

Quick tip: If I did this project again, I'd probably deal with an exposed kitchen for another 24 hours to let the paint cure even longer. We did experience some sticking when first opening and closing the cabinets and drawers, but that had very little impact to the paint job. They're fine now, but worth another day of kitchen chaos to let it really cure well.

Beat down of a task? Yup. But I'd do it again for the outcome. In a heartbeat. They instantly made the kitchen look so much cleaner and fresh, and seeing the results really helped encourage us to plow through a few more days/weeks of renovation to get to the big finish. We're nearly there...

*This post is not sponsored by Benjamin Moore, by the way. I like what I like, so I'm sharing.

Other posts in the kitchen reno series:

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