I knew as soon as we found this house that I wanted to re-do the kitchen. In my ideal world, I would have knocked down some walls, gutted the entire space and started from scratch. But we just didn’t have the money for that so I took on the one thing that could make a big impact on a tight budget – painting the cabinets.
Here’s our kitchen before we moved in. Orange-ish oak wood cabinets, beige laminate and appliances that are probably older than I am. I started researching the best options for painting a kitchen and kept landing on chalk paint.
A BIG side note here: I ended up re-painting my cabinets after this first go around because I did not like how the chalk paint finish turned out. Keep that in mind before you continue and be sure chalk paint is something you want in your home!
If you haven’t come across it yet, chalk paint is a latex-based paint that has Plaster of Paris added to it which gives it a chalky, matte finish. It is so appealing because it works on furniture or cabinets with minimal prep work including not having to sand or prime them down to the bare wood like most other paints. It does leave some brush strokes and imperfections which are purposeful, adding character and making it super easy to apply.
Two years ago when I started this project, chalk paint wasn’t as readily available as it seems to be today. I had to hunt down a shop that carried Annie Sloan Chalk Paint before I started this project (which was 30+ minutes away). I have seen Home Depot and Lowes starting to carry their own versions. I haven’t tried those out but it could be a great option if you are looking for easy access to this paint.
This was literally the first project in our first home. My mom was in town to help us move in and we tackled this together before anything was unpacked and the cabinets were full of dishes. (thanks mom!) So the prep time was fairly quick. Don’t mind all the mess you see in these photos, we were literally still living out of boxes 🙂 We started by removing all the door and drawer fronts. My kitchen is pretty small and all the cabinets are unique in size so I knew where everything went but it is helpful to number the cabinets so you are putting them back in the right place after painting.
I used Krud Kutter to remove any dirt or oil from the cabinets. This stuff is amazing at getting grease out. While chalk paint says it doesn’t require sanding, I did use a block sander to smooth off the cabinets and bases so they had a nice finish. This kitchen was not kept up very well and you can tell it took a beating. One of the drawers in the island must have had a dual use as a cutting board because it was full of knife marks. I used wood filler to basically MacGyver a new drawer. I also used wood filler to patch any holes, like where the CD PLAYER (yes, an actual device to play CDs) was mounted to one of the cabinets. Solid upgrade for the 90s but today, it had to go.
My dream kitchen always includes some glass or mirror cabinets with a decorative inlay. Since my current kitchen was so small and I was working with the cabinets I had, I decided to convert some of these doors on either side of the kitchen sink into faux-glass cabinet doors.
First, we drilled a hole in the corner of a door with a drill bit where the inlay begins (below). This will allow you a starting point for your saw to fit into and create an open shell of the door.
We didn’t have a jigsaw at this point, but that sure would have made this cut much easier. Instead, we had a reciprocating saw that we put into the hole and followed along the edge of the inlay. This was quite honestly one of our first times using this saw so the cut came out VERY jagged and uneven. (jigsaws are much easier to manage, while reciprocating saws can feel like a jackhammer if you’re not used to them.)
I had a mild panic attack but found a solution for the rough edges I’ll share in a bit! Your doors should look something like this:
Once the cabinets and bases are cleaned, patched and sanded (and maybe cut) it’s time to paint!! I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Pure White. You can see this small can was $38.99. Hubs had to run to the store (you know, the one 30+ minutes away) half way through painting because we needed more paint. This may have been because the sprayer used more paint than I expected or the multiple coats just required 2 cans. In any case, $78 for 2 quarts of paint is pretty steep. Like I said, there are many other chalk paint options out there these days but I suppose the trade off for prep time is cancelled out with the price of this paint.
Cabinet doors and drawers are easiest to paint when they are on a flat surface. I took all of these out to the garage and painted them on the floor. I did use a paint sprayer to speed up this process. Chalk paint is pretty thick, so I diluted the paint with some distilled water so it thinned out and flowed through the sprayer easily. This process was a breeze. I think it took 20 – 30 minutes to paint all the drawers and doors with one coat. Chalk paint dries fairly quickly so I did two coats on one side then flipped them over and did the other side. Be sure you get all the edges and that they are completely dry before flipping them over!
For the bases of the cabinets, we used a paint brush and roller to cover those surfaces. I didn’t want to bring a sprayer into the house because of any potential overspray on the counters, walls or floors. Painting chalk paint with a brush will definitely give you anxiety. If it doesn’t, you’re not doing it right. My first layer looked like this..
Deep breaths. Keep going…by layer two, you will start to feel like you’ve made a good decision 🙂
We did paint inside the few cabinets with the open glass but left the other ones the wood color inside. Then, we added some contact paper on each shelf to provide a quick, easy update and protect the inside surfaces.
Once everything gets a full 2 coats of paint and is fully dried (I waited 24hrs for them to dry), it’s time to start putting the kitchen back together! I added some hardware to the doors and drawers too. These are the pulls I used.
Now, let’s talk about my faux glass cabinets. I picked up some cheap wood trim at the store along with some sheets of acrylic plexiglass. The acrylic sheets are a great alternative to getting glass custom cut to fit a cabinet. It’s super budget friendly and you can cut it yourself either with a glass cutter or a power saw! This project was before I got my amazing miter saw so I used a hand saw and this miter box I picked up for a few bucks. This gadget lets you cut accurate angles so that you can create mitered corners. Definitely not the most efficient way to cut wood, but it got the job done for small projects before I felt comfortable with a power saw. I cut the trim pieces at a 45 degree angle to fit around the jagged edges of the open cabinets we cut earlier.
I used wood glue and small nails to put these pieces into place around the outside of the cabinet door. These will also serve as a lip for the acrylic to sit on from the inside.
See how it gives a nice edge to the ugly cuts? Once these were in place, I painted them to match the cabinets. Then, I used some clear silicone around the inside edge and placed the acrylic into the cabinet from the inside.
UPDATES: After about a year, I started to notice the chalk paint wasn’t holding up well. Some cabinets started turning dingy-white/yellow. This may have been from the oak wood coming from underneath or it just not holding up well to the everyday wear and tear of using them. I also really, really didn’t like the matte, chalky finish. I wanted smooth, shiny cabinets with no wood grain, that were easy to clean. These just weren’t them.
While the chalk paint provided a great option for a quick impact, I eventually switched to Benjamin Moore Advanced paint which has amazing reviews for it’s silky smooth finish and easy-to-clean factors. I guess that’s the life of a DIYer, if you don’t like something it’s no big deal to change it again! Another day, another project. I painted these cabinets again about 18 months after we moved in and am loving the change! Actually, we’ve done quite a bit of updating to the kitchen since this very first home improvement project. So, so many things.
Here’s a sneak peek at our kitchen today. New paint, cabinet doors, backsplash and hardware make it feel so different from that 90s oak kitchen we bought! Stay tuned for more posts about those updates soon!