Need help on a kitchen update with oak cabinets...

GrisWorldAugust 1, 2014

Hi, I'm new to this, but I was hoping to get some suggestions/advice on how to "update" my golden oak kitchen with pinkish formica countertops on a fairly modest budget. We bought the house a year ago but haven't done much with it since then. Our pre-existing floors are amber-colored polished travertine tiles, and they are a bit orangey looking. Replacing the existing cabinets is not an affordable option for us. Neither is changing the travertine floor tiles (although in a perfect world I could do both!)

We plan to change countertops to granite? Or Quartz? Replace the sink and faucet. Plan to change the cabinet/drawer hardware. Just not sure what will look good with the "busy" pattern of the oak grain cabinets and the "busy" pattern of the dark amber (orangey) floor tiles.

We thought perhaps a dark colored granite or quartz countertop would look good along the wall (incl the buffet area, which is to the side of the wall oven). And a nice lighter granite for the kitchen island.

For the backsplash we want something understated & simple...Like tumbled stone.

For the sink we were considering either a stainless steel single basin undermount farmhouse sink...Or a single basin dark Silgranit sink.

For the hardware, we like the look of the ORB or black cup pulls.

We are also considering adding a larger crown moulding to the top of the oak cabinets, and perhaps replace the small vent hood.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks! :)

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I'm no interior designer but I would either paint the cabinets a shade of white or gel stain them darker. Adding crown molding will also change the look. I think if you change the color of your cabinets it will tone down the orange in the floors, unless your trying to bring out the orange.

Hope that helps some.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 10:18AM
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There was a great thread a while back about designing with golden oak. It was a design challenge kind of thread. Does anyone recall?

Friends of nice just painted their cabs black, did stainless hardware, new lights, granite and a taupe paint - looks awesome.

If I were you, I would use the floor (since you are keeoing it) as the starting point and try to look at picks with similiar toned flooring and see what you like. is the best place to look at dazzling kitchens.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 10:25AM
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I found it - Design Around that - Golden Oak

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 10:27AM
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IF you are going to keep the floors, I would paint the cabinets a nice creamy white in a heartbeat. ORB hardware would be great.

Some of the nicest DIY kitchen makeovers I have seen on here are painted oak cabinets.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 10:32AM
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I agree with others. I would paint the cabinets a cream color in the same undertone as the floors. Since you have busy floors, you might want a simple backsplash and granite so the room doesn't look really busy, unless you like the super busy look. Then by all means, go for it. In my neck of the woods, Houston Texas, quartz is a lot more pricey than granite. We can get a cheaper granite here for $20-$25 sq ft. installed. The quartz runs $50 plus installed. I think 2 different granites would look nice as long as they have the same undertone.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:15AM
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Nice floor, simple cabinet style. Part of the problem is that the cabinets and floor are extremely similar in color.

Because changing the floor is out of the question, you need to get the cabinets a darker brown or lighter (paint).

Cleaning them and using General Finishes Gel Stain is easy and CHEAP ... the Brown Mahogany or Antique Walnut might work, and you can always mix in some Java to deepen the color.

Painting them is not so easy ... but dust and household habits permitting, removing a couple of doors and painting the inside of the cabinets a strong accent could look good. Or line them with wallpaper.

A mix of darker stain on the perimeter and paint on the island could look good, and minimizes the work. :)

Creamy countertops, in the same tone as the floor but picking up the extreme lightest shades from it. Given the floor, I wouldn't do any dramatic countertops - a nice meek creamy small fleck or almost invisible veining.

Same with backsplash ... go simple subway or a mosaic that picks up the floor colors.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:39AM
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i agree with lazygardens that painting oak cabs is not easy. i did it in my upstairs guest bath and 2 coats of primer plus 3 coats if paint later, it came out fine but not perfect. you have a lot of cabinets so it would be time consuming. what if you don't try to downplay the golden in the oak? i really like the color with the floor and i normally am a golden oak hater. it looks nice in your kitchen, imo. i would say on a modest budget, granite will work better than quartz. a dark granite could give a nice contrast to the yellow is always classic but steel gray is cheaper and very pretty too. some people on this site have some gorgeous verde butterfly and other variations on uba tuba which could totally work in your kitchen. also if you go dark, the orb accents will be really pretty.
good luck! btw, love the floor! it looks like the cool funky cork that is becoming trendy.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 12:28PM
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I count about 30 doors alone. How much of your life do you want consumed painting or staining them? They are a little yellow but the grain is minimal, so they're not too bad. My feeling is that if the floor is orange and that won't change, does it really make much difference if the cabs are a little yellow?

If you want to change the cabs, I would have them stained a medium brown. I would avoid creamy paint as cream usually reads yellow, and I'd also avoid black, dark brown, and dark green in cabinets colors and counters as it will add to the autumn/Halloween feel of the room. I would pick a counter that will work with either the natural oak, a darker stained oak, or a painted cabinet, so you'd have some flexibility for change in the future. I think a light color with some subtle caramel veins would be a good choice, and I'd look at granite first. By using some caramel, you're not ignoring the floor.

I'd also think about removing the cabs in the dining area. I like how they elongate the kitchen, but I'd hate to put several hundred dollars worth of counter on cabs I don't like when that money could go to a buffet server.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 1:46PM
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Is this sort of the look you're after?

I'm not sure if it 'goes' with your floors, but it seems achievable in your space if you stain your cabs. I don't know how easy/hard it is to stain cabs...You could also do a light counter, I think.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 2:53PM
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I looked through the thread dilly_ny mentioned about designing around oak, and I saw a lot of interesting ways to make the golden oak cabinets look more current. My main concern is working around the pre-existing flooring the previous owners installed. It probably wouldn't be such a problem if we could afford to either replace the cabinets...Or replace the flooring...But, alas, neither of those scenarios will fit within our budget. At this point, based on home values in our area, we have to be careful not to spend too much on our refresh because we really wouldn't get any of it back when the time comes to sell.

Here is another view of the amber travertine floor tiles. There are a lot of different colors including cream/caramel/brown, but when viewing the floor from a distance, the general overall color appears more orange than anything else.

I like the suggestions given to change the cabinets to a creamy white, but when I discussed with DH he admitted he's not too keen on the idea of white cabinets. He wasn't opposed to a darker cabinet though. DH and I have no DIY skills (unfortunately), so I'd have no clue how to do it properly. Will the oak grain show through if the cabinets are painted? And if so, will that look weird? If we opted to stain cabinets darker as opposed to painting them, how would we go about doing that when the cabinet boxes are mdf/veneer and only the cabinet and drawer fronts solid wood? We could possibly look into having the cabinet color changed by a professional...Has anyone else done that? Is it fairly expensive to have a professional change the cabinet color? I'm assuming it is a labor intensive project.

I'd also be okay with keeping the golden oak cabinet color if I could find a counter and backsplash that would work with both the color of the cabinets as well as the floor.

Does anyone know the names of particular granite colors that might work?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 5:08PM
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Hydragea - That is a beautiful kitchen. I do like the color of the cabinets...kind of a reddish brown. That might look okay with our floors. I'm wondering now though if we darkened our cabinets and did a dark countertop...Would that make our kitchen look a little too dark? Perhaps the darker cabinets with a lighter granite would work.

Is light granite hard to take care of? Does it stain easily? What kind of maintenance does granite need?

Our travertine floors are very high maintenance (especially with 4 kids and a German Shepherd in the house). They need to be polished already but when we called local companies for price quotes on that we were given estimates around $2,500-$3,500 based on the square footage...And we were advised the floors would require re-polishing every 18 months!! Holy cow!! Not exactly the best floor for a family on a budget...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 5:19PM
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Hake0723 has a thread posted today called Need help with back splash She has Colonial Cream--cream with caramel splotches and some blue-gray areas. Should go great with your floors and oak, stained, or painted cabs. But if the floor is so impractical and looks bad, maybe that's where your budget goes for this phase of the remodel.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 5:55PM
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Honestly, I would not paint the cabinets. It's a lot of work and always will look like painted oak cabinets unless you spend even more time to fill in the grain. Gel staining is less time consuming and easier to achieve a decent looking results. However, I have to say that I like your cabinets. Probably just beef up the crown molding and get new counters, hardware, and backsplash.

Below see update oak kitchen. They actually have even pinker countertops.

Here is a link that might be useful: update oak kitchen

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 7:26PM
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I agree with nosoccermom - I'd leave your cabinets in their current finish & just add crown molding. For counters I'd go with a mid- to dark-gray quartz, something without much movement since your floors have a lot of it. Really not a bad looking kitchen, IMO, and I bet a few smallish changes will make a huge difference.

You can always paint or stain the cabinets later if you're still not satisfied, but I'd try other, easier changes first.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 8:22PM
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I, too, like your cabs. you have a big beautiful kitchen. Yes, you could paint,stain or gel your cabs but why not explore, at least for a while, how to love your pretty oak cabs. Does your kitchen function reasonably well? all that space is a dream to me.

I am not thinking you are unappreciative at all but I sincerely like your kitchen. Just another voice.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 8:32PM
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On Houzz, I saw quite a lot of variations of granite tagged "Colonial Cream". One even looked just like River White. I think Colonial Cream could work if you found a very light and quiet slab.

The basic white colors of quartz can often be found at a very reasonable price (do you live near an Ikea or Home Depot? They put it on sale).

I was thinking, in terms of keeping the floor and cabinets as is, of a nearly white, very quiet counter -- it would have to be a warm white, but with very little yellow or orange because there is already so much of that in the space. Also you want to stay away from mauve tones for counter and walls,

I did like the example picture above; if you used the dark soapstone-ish counter you could lighten up the room with white-ish walls instead of more dark tile.

Crown molding would be good, and maybe a little trim around the windows?

I remember my mother periodically stripping, waxing and buffing the slate in our entry hall, but I can't remember how often she did it (50 years ago!).

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 8:38PM
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may_flowers - I really like the Colonial Gold granite from Hake0723's thread. I think you're right...It would go with the floor and cabinets. Hopefully we can find that granite locally so we can bring a sample home to see how it looks matched up with our cabinets & floor. DH and I talked about replacing the travertine floor tiles...Not because they aren't lovely (because they truly are) - but mostly because of the high maintenance & cost of maintenance. However, we have almost 3000 sq ft of it installed in our house and even if we could find something to replace it with at a reasonable price (say $3/sq ft on the low end), it would cost us $10,000 with tax and that's before factoring in demo of the old floor and install of the new floor. We really don't have the budget to spend $20,000 on the floor when we still need to update the kitchen counters and ultimately the 2-1/2 bathrooms. Not to mention, we would never recoup the investment when the time comes to sell based on local home prices in our area.

nosoccermom - I love the look of the oak cabinets in the pics you posted...The larger crown really changes the look of the builder's basic oak! Wow!!

ardcp & may_flowers & bowbat & nosoccermom & westsider40 - I'm so glad to hear that from your perspective the oak in my kitchen isn't too bad. It would be so much easier if we did embrace the oak. The cabinets are in fantastic condition. For now, I think we'll look at changes we can make that embrace the cabinets and floor as they are (with the exception of adding new crown to the cabinets...I think the larger crown really improves the look of the oak).

westsider40 - You make a good point...Our kitchen functions very well, and there is a good amount of space. We are a family of 8 (although the 2 oldest kids have left the nest), and when the whole family gathers in the kitchen it never feels cramped.

Ultimately, we're looking at what updates we can make on a budget that we can enjoy while we live here, and will also help us sell when the time comes. In about 7-8 years we will have an empty nest and hope to sell at that point and downsize...Perhaps to a 55+ community.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:11PM
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raee - We do live near a Home Depot and Lowe's. We have an Ikea about 25 miles away. I think there are a few other places within a 10-15 mile distance that we could also look at for countertop samples. I think we'll try to get multiple samples (both light and dark) just to see what speaks to us most. The online pics of the Colonial cream/gold are truly lovely. I didn't realize that Ikea sold quartz or granite countertops ...Ikea is a bit of a drive for us, but is another option if we can't find what we're looking for closer to home. I might look on Houzz to see what other people have done to update countertops while keeping the golden oak cabinets.

Since we have only just begun to consider our options, every suggestion seems like a gift! :)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:32PM
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I think your oak cabinets and floor are beautiful. If you take your time, bring home lots of samples of granite and backsplash tiles to find a combination that doesn't fight with the floor, you could have a stunning transformation.

Good luck and can't wait to see how this turns out.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 8:15AM
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hello iam from asia. and this is my kitchent. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: An Vien TV - The best TV

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 8:20AM
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If we opted to stain cabinets darker as opposed to painting them, how would we go about doing that when the cabinet boxes are mdf/veneer and only the cabinet and drawer fronts solid wood?

You only have to stain the visible parts. Paint the interiors with the paint meant for melamine to freshen them up.

With the gel stain, it's an easy process ... Don't panic at the number of doors, jut do a few at a time, one logical section at a time.

Test on the inside of a cabinet door - you might have matching cabinets in a laundry room to use as tests.

1 - Remove doors and hardware (Label the doors so you know where each one goes)

2 - clean doors and cabinet front with soap and water (not an oily soap) to get off water soluble dirt

3 - scrub gently with fine steel wool and mineral spirits to get off hand grunge

IMPORTANT: you need to have the surface CLEAN!!!! Don't skimp the cleaning steps.

4 - Wipe the stain on in thin layers to get the desired color (I have found that it works better than the method of applying too much and trying to wipe it off to the desired color)

5 - Let it dry

6 - Wipe on the clear topcoat (General Finishes gel finish)

7 - Let it dry

8 - reinstall the doors and hardware

REPEAT with the next section.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:23AM
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I have oak cabs and wanted to try my hand at painting and gel staining before taking on the kitchen. The gel stain was def easier (see pic for my java bathroom cabs). The texture of the grain shows through on both methods, but I like that look. The most important part is the prep. I thought I could get away w/just sanding for the gel stain. No luck since there was some peeling. Maybe my doors were like super polyurethaned or something. I suggest stripping doors w/citristip & sanding first if yours are shiny. In the end I was so tired that I decided to get new cabs for the kitchen. Lol.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:47AM
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And I should mention that the sides of these cabinets are almost like just a photo of wood grain glued on there. The took the stain better than the wood & only needed light sanding.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:50AM
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Not too long ago, I was at IKEA where a young couple was drooling over the Rockhammar and Lixtorp oak cabinets.

Another option could be to insert glass in some of the upper cabinets.

As your kitchen is now, I'd probably go with a darker countertop; however,if you want to keep the option open of gel staining the current oak a bit darker and/or keep the kitchen light, I'd vote for a lighter counter. In my neck of the woods, busy granite is definitely out, quartz is in. Also check out IKEA for countertops. At least at mine, they can get you any kind of material, not just what's on display.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 10:29AM
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I actually gel stained with General Finishes without sanding, just scuffing it a bit. Worked like a charm. I also stained the fake plastic side of my cabinets. Obviously there was no grain to show through.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 11:32AM
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Does anyone else want to beat their head against the wall while rehashing this SAME TOPIC that is getting the same (smart) responses and the last 100 times someone asked about their oak cabinets?

No one has yet, so I will suggest a search on oak or golden oak to see the millions of suggestions, ideas, and techniques people have used.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 1:47PM
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Each oak kitchen is different with different challenges. Each person posting the topic had unique cicumstances and appreciates the help I think.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 2:11PM
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"Does anyone else want to beat their head against the wall while rehashing this SAME TOPIC that is getting the same (smart) responses and the last 100 times someone asked about their oak cabinets?"

No, because everybody's kitchen is unique to them.....

Ha, does this also apply to the millionth reveal of, yet another, white shaker kitchen? And what kind of crackle subway tile? Or hardwood in the kitchen? Or accent tile? marble counters?...

On the other hand, maybe we should have a FAQ and FPP (Frequently posted post) section because we all know that the GW search section sucks. (Here's one FPP: Google "key word" and gardenweb.)

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 2:16PM
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I don't think the post is a rehash because the floor is unique. However, the responses are fairly typical--paint.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 3:43PM
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Well, I mean, there aren't that many options:
Don't do anything
Rip out

But then, the point I tried to make with the FAQ/FPP is that most of the questions at one level or another are about the same issue, and we could eliminate 80% of the posts.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 4:08PM
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If you and your hubby aren't DIYers and you have a large, busy family life, gel-staining your cabs may be more of a challenge than you anticipate. Sweat equity is a great way to improve one's home with little money but even a project billed as easy may not be easy for people who don't DIY. Hubby and I are DIYers but even so, every project takes us longer than we think it will. If you decide to take this on, get sample doors and test your technique first before tackling your kitchen.

Love nosoccermom's idea of replacing a few door panels with glass.

Have you considered quartz counters? I think Ceasarstone Pebble (medium gray) or Raven (charcoal) would look good (I see gray in your tiles but it could be how it looks on my monitor and not the case IRL).

Caesarstone Raven up close

Contemporary Kitchen by San Francisco General Contractors Mascheroni Construction

Caesarstone Raven with oak cabinets

Eclectic Kitchen by West Linn Interior Designers & Decorators Julia Williams, ASID

Caesarstone Pebble up close

Traditional Bathroom

Caesarstone Concrete (very similar to Pebble) on IKEA Adel Medium Brown, which has has reddish/orange undertones.

Modern Kitchen by Rockwall Design-Build Firms Modern Craft Construction, LLC

It sounds as though the floor's maintenance is primarily focused on trying to keep the polished look. Instead of polishing the floors, can they remove the sheen - hone them - and seal them? Wear and tear should be less noticeable on a non-shiny surface. Honed surfaces are generally more prone to staining than polished but since the tiles aren't uniform in nature, stains will probably blend in.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 4:27PM
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Everybody who is handy around the house was not handy at one point, and they learned by doing. I think this would be a great place to learn those skills that you havenâÂÂt yet. You have great cabinets -- the form of them is wonderful -- but the sea of yellow created by the gold of the oak combined with the gold of the floor is too much. You are blessed with dh that is not a wood worshipper and is willing to paint -- explore some grays (use google images and search for gray painted cabinets), theyâÂÂd look great with that floor and would really give an updated look to the kitchen. If you put new granite on the oak, youâÂÂll still have granite in a sea of yellow/gold, and it will still dominate the color scheme in the kitchen. As I planned this budget reno - I would definitely plan to prime and paint the oak - there is no greater bang for your buck (or your time). Google for directions on step-by-step painting oak -- youâÂÂll find lots of help. And, no, you do not have fill the grain of the oak, people paint it all the time without doing that.

Also, if you really want your floors polished, IâÂÂm about guarantee there is a rent-all type place that will rent you a polisher for a day for fifty bucks (or so). And the generosity of the do it yourself community is amazing -- you can find detailed youtube videos on anything you want to learn to do -- look up the polishing and youâÂÂll likely find 100 videos taking you step by step through the process.

ItâÂÂs very satisfying when youâÂÂre on a budget to see what you can accomplish. ItâÂÂs addictive, too -- youâÂÂll probably find that even when you can afford to have someone else do something for you, you wonâÂÂt.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 7:04PM
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