Guidance with Kitchen refresh

edb2nJanuary 17, 2014

My wife and I have decided to update our kitchen. It�s currently dark and kind of dreary. We want it to be fresh, bright, and quiet, like so many of the beautiful kitchens we see here.
Our budget is ($5000), which I know is tiny. The house is only 8 years old, and we will be moving in 5-7 years. We are unwilling to go into debt or drain our savings for this project. Fortunately we are pretty accomplished DIYers. Between the two of us we can build, sew, paint, refinish, or install most anything.
I would love for the experienced minds on GW to look over our game plan and selections and let me know if we are making any mistakes, forgetting anything, could do anything better, etc. Our plan is as follows:

  1. No structural or layout changes. Not in the budget.
    2. Cabinets are not high-end, but are well made and in good shape. We are planning to add crown molding, build open shelving beside pantry cabinet, and paint them a creamy off-white. Brushed nickel hardware can probably stay.
    3. Replacing laminate counters with granite, probably Kashmir White or a similar stone whose name escapes me (see picture). Also a SS undermount sink. This will be the biggest chunk of our budget ($2100) and the only thing we won�t DIY. Fortunately we have a nice nickel bridge faucet I put in a few years ago which can stay.
    4. Appliances aren�t luxury models, but are SS and in great shape. They will stay.
    5. Replacing vinyl floor with mahogany wood floors (carried in from the rest of the house).
    6. Backsplash TBD after counters are installed and cabinets painted.
    7. Paint kitchen walls either Perfect Greige or Versatile Gray from SW. I would love input here.
    8. New kitchen table (DW found a beautiful Farmhouse table on Craigslist for $30). Will be refinished or painted TBD. Inheriting 2 very old ladder back chairs from MIL that will also be refinished. Building a banquette under the window.
    9. New light fixture over table.
  2. New window treatments, cushions, artwork, accessories TBD. De-clutter countertops.
    Below is a picture of our current kitchen and a picture of our selections thus far (floor, cabinet paint, counter top, 2 wall paint choices). Your input is much appreciated!

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Oops. Didn't get both pictures on there. Here are our floor, cabinet paint, counters, and walls. Does it work together?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 1:21PM
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Is that granite sample bianco romano? I love your cabinet color so I am of no help on color to paint them but do like the color samples laying on the granite.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 1:29PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Looks like you already have under cabinet lighting? I'd think about doing a light rail at the bottom of the cabinets to finish off the look as well as the crown. I'd do a multi stacked crown to give them more oomph. One trick I've used is to take base molding and use it upside down and then attach a tall crown to it. Gives you height and profile which will work with the more formal profile of the raised panel arched doors that you have.

I already mentioned under cabinet lighting, but the rest of the kitchen doesn't seem to have very good lighting. Only 2 recessed lights? While the light finishes that you have in mind will help, you really need to address the source of the dark kitchen problem which is that there simply isn't enough lighting. I'd plan on installing additional LED recessed lights and retrofitting the two existing to LED also. Yeah, that's more of an expense up front, but it will actually save you money in the long run, and it will also target the heart of the issue.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 1:59PM
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Personally, like Debra, I love your cabinet color...if I were looking to buy a home, it would appeal to me more than a white painted kitchen...but that's just me.

That said, I think the colors look nice. I would probably go with the lighter of the two paint samples since you said that you wanted it to be "fresh and bright"...I think that the darker color will close in the walls a bit more and doesn't really give the fresh bright look you were mentioning wanting. The garnets in the granite sample shown will compliment the mahogany floor, so I think you're doing well there too.

I personally like warm neutrals quite a bit, so I like your color palette idea, but some may say that it's a bit too "quiet"...however, you also said that quiet was another thing you were looking for. And you can always "dress" things up a bit with some splashes of color with accessories if you wish.

I'm excited to see how your DIY project turns out - it sounds like you're going to come up with a lovely updated kitchen. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 2:23PM
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The more I look at your kitchen I agree with Andrea. I think the darker cabinets have rich look. Upgrade the lighting, new hardware and sink, new counter, flooring and paint and your kitchen will look fantastic.

When I see a smaller kitchen with cabinets that were painted white, to me it says "we painted the cabinets white so you wouldn't notice how small this space is". Like when people do dark powder rooms. I love them. Sure you call do everything light to make it look bigger but it will always be a small space. Why not embrace it and make it look rich (as it warm and elegant).

edited for spelling

This post was edited by debrak2008 on Fri, Jan 17, 14 at 14:50

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 2:49PM
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I agree with Holly Springs. The main problem is poor lighting. I would address that first and you might find that is all you need! Especially if you're planning on moving in a relatively short time. Your flooring looks like it is in good condition and I would leave it. I personally think the wood you've chosen is too dark with your cabinets and will definitely make the room seem gloomy. I wouldn't paint the cabinets. It imay look nice for a short term, but just doesn't hold up well when done on site by the typical home-owner. I would hate to have chipped cabinets. If anything, I would replace the sink and the counter only, maybe add a backsplash.
If I were looking to buy your house, I would be fine with it as it is cosmetically. I wouldn't be fine with the lighting.

This post was edited by khinmn92 on Fri, Jan 17, 14 at 15:21

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 3:16PM
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I'm glad for the feedback about the lighting. We had discussed whether we need to address that or not. We actually have 4 can lights; 2 of them didn't show in the picture. They are in one straight line down the center of the kitchen. Should we add another row, or do them over the task areas instead?
That's not something I can do myself, but it might be worth the expense.We love Candice Olson's work on HGTV and have noticed that the lighting is what really makes her rooms.
Unfortunately the floor is not in good condition. It is vinyl (which I hate) and has a huge rip in front of the stove (hence the rug), and a few other small cuts. In addition, the contractor wrote on the subfloor with permanent marker ("sink goes here" etc.) which has come up through the vinyl and won't come off. I'm willing to entertain other floor ideas if you think the wood is too dark, but we have it elsewhere in the house and love it.

I'll discuss not painting the cabinets with DW, but I think she's set on a white kitchen.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 3:36PM
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Also, hollysprings: Thanks for the idea about the cabinet trim. That will be great.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 3:40PM
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I wouldn't touch those cabinets with a DIY paint job. Mainly because of how they'll look in 5-7 years when you go to sell, and because I have a bias against traditional arched door cabinets painted white to look trendy.

The granite looks great with the reddish cabs. Along with new lighting and the gray wall color, it will look much brighter. Which leaves the floor if you go this route. I suspect you wanted to extend the hardwoods and it snowballed from there--the cabs wouldn't look good with mahogany so the cabs need painting. You could replace the vinyl with a lighter gray toned one that works with the granite.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 3:43PM
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Go slow with the changes. Do the lighting FIRST as it will make the biggest difference in the space. That will let you actually see what's there! LOL!

Then decide on the cabinet's fate. After that happens, the floor and counters will fall into place. I wouldn't do the dark floors in the kitchen unless you end up painting the cabinets though. And, depending on the location of the house and it's neighborhood, I might not do the granite at all. Take a look at the surrounding homes and see what they have. If the homes that are selling now have put in granite, that's your answer. If not, then I wouldn't spend the money for it.

If you end up doing the granite, I would do the lowest price group that I could that would give me the look that I wanted. Kashmir White is usually a more premium priced granite than a budget one, so I'd narrow the focus on the lower price range for that to be able to pay for the lighting.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 3:57PM
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I would NOT paint the cabinets. Why not try taking a few down and adding floating shelf or adding glass to some of the uppers and painting just the inside a lighter color. ONce you add better lighting and reflective surfaces (shiny granite, tile backsplash and glass) things will look and feel lighter.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 4:01PM
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I think part of the reason the kitchen feels dark is because the ceiling is insufficiently illuminated. One idea to improve this would be to add undercabinet-style lights to the tops of the cabinets, pointing up, on the same circuit as the existing undercab lights.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 4:11PM
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I never expected people on here to talk me out of doing stuff. I though it would be the opposite! Anyway, why is everyone against painting the cabinets? Is it a bias against white cabinets, or do you think the paint job won't come out well?

My wife is a meticulous painter. Far better than the professionals who have painted things for us in the past (including the ones who built our house). We have painted furniture and built-ins before with high quality oil paint and had very good results. However, I understand those items don't get as much wear and tear as a kitchen.

While we certainly want to keep resale in mind, the main objective is to have a kitchen we don't hate for the next 5-7 years.

The Kashmir White is surprisingly one of the cheaper granites at our local stoneyard. I believe the option in the picture will be about $150 cheaper. Still debating between the two.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 4:11PM
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If both of you like white, bright, and fresh then you should go for that look (I like that look too). I suspect most people are saying "no paint" because they feel it may "look painted and cheap." Do what you love and you will be happy. If you and your wife feel that you can achieve the right look with paint - go for it. Just research cabinet painting first and make sure you follow the multiple steps meticulously. Also consider some glass door cabinets. I think they help to lighten up a space while adding interest as well.
I agree about the lighting, it's a make or break.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 4:24PM
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I think your kitchen is lovely now. However, if you want to freshen it up and paint the cabs and that WILL make you both happy go for it. I would definitely do a creamier white.

You can also consider painting the lowers another color other than white if you choose. Many people here do this and it looks fantastic. I only mention it, bc of your floors and current cabs not melding together. I prefer the look of continuous flooring as in my mind it makes the rooms seem more open and less choppy. Not to offend anyone who likes having different flooring in the kitchen, Just my personal taste.

I do see some of the reasons ppl are saying do not paint. I think one is the arched upper cabs. Sometimes, they do not translate as well into cream or white as they do dark. Plus, your cabs are lovely!

Do what you honestly want. If painting the cabs is what it is, then go for it!

Good luck and keep us posted!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 4:25PM
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The reason I say NO to paint is that your cabinets are beautiful, no bias against white or painted cabinets. While I do have a personal dislike for arched style doors, yours are of a style that I could deal with.

If I was buying your house as is, I would do what is being suggested and be very happy.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 5:21PM
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I agree that your cabinets look really lovely and I would be reluctant to paint them. The granite you've selected seems like it would look fantastic with your cabinets. Your cabinets look rich and beautiful and would have a nice contrast with the granite. I wonder if you could add crown moulding in a matching stain. I agree with atkillery that the arched cabinet style might not translate as well into white or cream, even if painted well.

I absolutely agree that additional lighting would make a big difference. I would look at adding more recessed lighting and maybe a pendant fixture over the sink area. I would possibly even add a semi-flush fixture to bring more light down to wash against the cabinets.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 5:36PM
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Sophie Wheeler

One reason to tread cautiously on painting the cabinets is that with dark cabinets, the partial overlay doors with the arches sorta fade into a general "red wood" background and aren't really individually noticed. With white paint, you will notice both of those details a lot more. That may not matter to you, but those are two things that will make it look more dated come resale. And they are better hidden by the wood.

If you do decide to paint, you may want to also start a fund for when you do go to sell to be able to order inexpensive square paint grade doors to replace the doors with at that time. Of course, by then, the arched doors may be back in style!

Partial overlay arches painted white

Partial overlay square painted white

Full overlay arched painted white

vs. Full overlay square doors

Full overlay (or inset) square doors are what is "current" right now, so just be aware of what a potential buyer would consider current at this moment in time, vs. what you will enjoy and be happy to live with. Not telling you to replace your cabinets at all. I'm just saying that if you do go to sell in 10 years time, the white cabinet craze will likely be over at that time, and you may wish you hadn't painted yours.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 5:44PM
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Okay, I must admit I was devastated when I first read all the responses. Funny how you can be so excited about a project and then a few contrary opinions change your outlook completely! Upon further reflection, y'all raise a lot of good points and food for thought.

So here's where we stand: we will call our electrician first thing Monday and work on the lighting. We are going ahead with the countertops because we LOVE them, and they will look great with our current cabinets or white ones. Honestly, we will probably still paint the cabinets, but we are going to take some time and reevaluate after the lighting and counters are in. I guess it's ultimately about creating a kitchen you are happy with. We've disliked the cabinets since we built the house and wanted a white kitchen for years.

Thanks so much for the help! I will continue lurking here and probably asking for help. Any input on improving the lighting would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 11:16PM
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it seems as though the cabinets get blamed first for making the kitchen dark and dated. making other changes are easy to do first and could possibly do the trick to make the room lighter and brighter. Painting is always an option if you still don't like them after making other changes.
the cabinets are pretty, and they seem to fit the house which is what matters when time to sell down the road.
Good luck, I'm sure your kitchen will be great.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 11:52PM
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edb2n - Gosh, we really don't want to be downers and squash your dreams. If you HATE your cabinets and dream of a white kitchen, then life is too short to wait. But, really, I think that they really are a lovely shade. As noted by several others, the arch is a bit less desirable, but really not a real focus in your cabinets the way they are right now. I truly believe that if you painted them white, you'd see the arch more.

Just definitely be aware that DIY painted cabinets are not going to have the "wearability" of professionally applied paint.

I think that the granite you like will work well with either your current cabinets or if you decide down the road to paint.

I think that better lighting overall will make a big difference. If you are putting down the new floor, that's going to darken things up a bit again, so you may want to explore toe kick lighting to help give a bit of definition. Since your cabinets don't go to the ceiling, perhaps install some lighting above the cabinets as well.

I know that you haven't really started deciding on this yet, but I'd probably keep the backsplash tile pretty light and fairly simple.

And you may even want to consider going a shade lighter than your lighter paint chip color for the walls. Still keep the warmth, but a brighter warmth. Paint can make a lot of difference and your current wall color appears to be a medium dark shade...maybe it's not IRL, but in your photo, it looks that way.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 8:15AM
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When I look at the photo of your kitchen, it has a cozy, warm, nighttime feel to it. But I look out the window and it appears to be sunny outside, broad daylight. Could you provide photos from the opposite end, even with the lights off?

I'm not saying that improved lighting won't make a huge difference. I like how your kitchen looks in the photo, but I understand that if you haven't liked the cabinets in the 8 years you've been in the house, you don't like the cabinets. If you can improve the lighting anyway *before* making any other decisions, that seems to be a prudent approach.

I love how your samples look together, and I agree that the lighter paint (at least) is the way to go. I sure wouldn't get that floor stain if you decide to keep your cabinets as is. Way too dark.

BTW, I have never seen a floor register placed where yours is, in front of the DW?

I like both painted and stained cabs, although I prefer a lighter stain. It looks like your bottom doors and square and you have nice slab drawers. If you paint and find the arches become too prominent, you could replace the doors, not a huge expense.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 9:48AM
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We will not do the mahogany floors unless we paint the cabinets. Probably some kind of light gray tile. We're thinking probably a white subway tile for the backsplash, with maybe some mother of pearl accent. But that's still up in the air.

Linelle, I have no idea why they put the floor register in front of the dishwasher and by the sink. It's the perfect place to constantly spill both crumbs and water down the vent!

Here's a photo from the other end.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 10:45AM
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By the way, as an experiment I got some Christmas lights down out of the attic and threw them up on top of the cabinets just to see what it did. I think it makes a big difference. Maybe to save money I'll just staple the Christmas lights up there and run an extension cord through the cabinets?

Just kidding! We're going to talk to the electrician about adding above cabinet lighting, improving the under cabinet lighting, adding a few can lights to the breakfast nook, and a new fixture over the table.

I have halogen floods in our can lights now (BR 30). Is there another type of bulb that will give better spread? These are a little glarey, and they create a lot of shadows.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:01AM
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edb2n, thanks for the extra photos! It's really a sweet kitchen. The more light, the more the arches on the doors show, so I don't know if I buy the reason that keeping them dark makes them less obvious.

I don't think painting your cabs would be a crime, esp. the pantry.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:09AM
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I really like the lights on top of the cabinets. BS and granite will really change the look. If you're moving in 5 years, I think these minimum changes make sense.

What type of subfloor is under your vinyl? We went from vinyl to porcelain tile and they added a cement board subfloor. That raised the tile above the adjoining hardwood, so we needed an oak transition strip, aka a speed bump. It's the one thing I hate about our remodel and would have extended the hardwood had I known in advance. You can use luxury vinyl tile (LVT) without changing the subfloor. I have Armstrong Alterna in a guest bath. It's crushed limestone with a vinyl wear layer. It's groutable and will give you the look of tile. Fewer choices than ceramic tile, but it's definitely a step up from sheet vinyl.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:28AM
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I have a white kitchen and would always again go for a white kitchen. However, I agree with those who suggest keeping the cabinets as they are, at least for now. I've seen too many painted cabinets that look like "painted" cabinets, especially considering the arches of the uppers.
Love the idea of Kashmir White --- which goes great with the cabinets either as they are in white --- and of adding crown moulding to the cabinets.
I'd probably use a slightly lighter wall paint color.
I'm not sure how you can replace the floor with HW unless you remove the lower cabinets.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:31AM
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To respond to your questions about replacing the halogen floods, I found the following website.
And add me to the group recommending not painting your cabinets. They are a lovely shade, and I agree that painting them would accentuate the arches. I say this as someone who has had cream painted cabinets (but they were slab doors), and currently has a white IKEA kitchen, so it's not that I have a bias against white.
Upgrading your lighting, counters, backsplash and flooring will make a huge difference, plus maybe adding soft-close hardware to your doors and drawers will make them seem new, too.

Here is a link that might be useful: 85 Watt BR30 Light Bulb Replacements

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 12:19PM
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If you already have four recessed lights try putting in the LED inserts first before calling the electrician. They are about 50 percent brighter than the 100 bulb lights that I had originally. In fact, I have to keep them on 2/3 intensity on a dimmer to not get blinded now. That said, from your pictures I believe that I have 6 in the equivalent of your kitchen. Also your lights are not close to your wall cabinets and are probably blocked by your head when you are working at the counter. That would drive me crazy. If you are to add lights the original ones could be moved closer to the fridge and the new ones close to the edge of the countertop. A dimmer is really nice to control the ambiance.
Best wishes.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 1:04PM
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Just my 2cents. I love your color swatches. Very coordinated and very pretty.

I agree with the others that I wouldn't paint those cabinets. I love white cabinets and dream of having them one day, so I understand where you're coming from. But the thing is, your cabinets are so pretty that it'd be a shame to hide them. Cabinets are usually bought white, or are painted to cover subpar or ugly cabinets. The color of your cabs goes perfectly with the sample of granite in your pic.

Also, painting cabinets is a big job. You have to paint the insides, as well (as opposed to refinishing the doors).

I think the mahogany floors would look great even with you keeping your existing dark cabinets. The granite counter (the sample in your pic) breaks up the two large areas of red colored wood.

The grays you picked for the walls coordinate great. However - and this is just a personal preference - I'm not fond of gray in kitchens, except for metal. Gray is a cool color. The color of metal. And your appliances are already gray, as will be your countertop. The gray walls won't add anything, and to me, gray is not a good color for kitchens. I also don't like the idea of a gray floor for the same reasons (unless it would be real gray slate or something along those lines). If you stick with gray walls, then I'd go very light gray or a grayish white, to brighten up the area. Benjamin Moore White Dove is a grayish white, I believe. SW and Behr also have grayish whites.

Love the new lighting!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 3:38PM
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I am reading your post with great interest as I too am trying to "update" my kitchen and I really have no guidance. Lots of great ideas here so far and many opinions.

I am also a fan of NOT painting wood cabinets. I have several posts here and much of the early on advice was suggesting that I paint my cabinets and oak wainscoat but I am not.

Having so many opinions, criticism of what you thought your vision was, can be hard to take but Garden Webbers are invaluable with their expertise and having more eyes is never a bad thing. I am learning so much and know my kitchen update will turn out to be beautiful because of the help here and sure yours will too.

Good luck and can't wait to see the results!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:06AM
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Countertops are in, kitchen table is done, and the banquette is built. We'll be working on the lighting this week. I very much appreciate the advice here, especially the kick in the pants about the lighting. Having said that, we are going to paint the cabinets anyway. We have always intended to paint them. The only white cabinet option we had when we built the house was this horrible plastic stuff. So we picked a stain that we liked well enough until we got around to painting them. The arched doors don't really bother me, but if they do after we paint them we can get new doors for the uppers.

If I post a reveal when it's all done is everybody going to say "You shouldn't have painted the cabinets" or "Those arches sure are ugly"?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 3:28PM
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Hey, did you already get your SS sink? If not, make sure you check out they usually have a pretty good selection of nice SS sinks for a way better price than you were quoting above. I haven't looked for awhile but it would be totally worth a few minutes of your time, unless you've already shelled out. Just thought I'd mention it.

Keep posting as you go along... would love to see the progress pics!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:00PM
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I used Cabinet Coat paint on my cabinets and they look fabulous and the paint is extremely durable. It doesn't crack like oil paint either.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:32PM
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Thanks Deedles. We already got the sink from our granite installer. The $2100 I quoted was for the granite counters, all cut-outs, and the sink. The sink by itself was $200. I just looked real fast, and we could have saved a few dollars on Overstock. Next time I'll know.

Powermuffin: somebody told me you can't tint Cabinet Coat; it has to be pure white. Do you know if that's true? We used BM Advance (which is a hybrid paint) on the kitchen table, and it turned out really great.

I'll post a picture of the breakfast nook soon once we get it all put together

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:45PM
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I think those dark cabinets are lovely, very rich looking and I would probably leave them as is. My old cabinets were dark too, although not as dark as yours. I do understand that you want a change, and want to go lighter and brighter. We did a reface on our cabinets in a light maple finish and are very happy with it. New end panels, veneers on the frames and new doors. It came out great, used Conestoga materials, for 21 cabinets and 5 drawers, the cost was under $4000 and that included all the hinges, end panels, veneers and crown moldings. If you are handy, that is something to consider. Our kitchen is so much brighter now, it made a huge difference. I think white cabinets are beautiful, in fact I am going to paint my bathroom cabinets white. But I think some of the negative opinions are that kitchen cabinets take some abuse, and the issue of chipping is what they were thinking of.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 5:34PM
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