Should I paint my cabinets?

ladybuggyAugust 9, 2012

I will be moving into my new home next week, the house is 10 years old. I currently have a creamy white kitchen in my current house, the new house has a stained wood kitchen which looks pretty dark. Although, I like the kitchen as is (will be painting walls and changing backsplash), I can't help but think it might look nicer painted white. Just looking for some opinions?

i also wasn't sure about white kitchen with natural oak floors, however, while looking through some old threads I found shanghaimom's kitchen which I absolutely love. I would love to achieve the same look.

Here is a picture of my new kitchen.

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Another option I was considering was keeping the cabinets dark and have the perimeter cabinets painted white.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:02PM
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Congrats on the new house! It looks great as is to me. But it is your kitchen, It would also look great painted white.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:04PM
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Your new kitchen is rich and beautiful. It is, however, your kitchen. If you want it white, go for it, it will be very pretty. Could you live with it for a while, then decide? Right now, it's different from what you're used to. You may find you like it.

Is the kitchen actually dark, like it needs more light? Could you have more recessed lights put in? The lighting forum recommends 35 lumens /sq/ft. I used to have a cream kitchen, and it was still not bright enough because it didn't have good lighting.

full disclosure: I chose stained cabs. My custom cabmaker also likes stained cabs, and his reason was this. With painted cabs, you are looking at the finish. So any nicks or dirt are on the finish and you see them. With wood cabs, you are looking through the finish at the wood, so you are less likely to notice surface imperfections.

None of that matters, though, if you really want a white kitchen. White kitchens are beautiful, and those particular doors would look nice in white.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:17PM
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One thing you might consider is to paint only the island white to match the trim throughout the house and leave the perimeter cabinets stained. That could tie the kitchen into everything a little better. I am biased to white islands with stained perimeter cabinets because that is what I have in my kitchen. I think it needs some knobs or pulls, maybe they are there and I can't see them in the pictures.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:30PM
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I love the cabs. Yet, it seems a little dark in there to me. Do you plan to paint it a lighter color? I'd paint and change the BS first and then see what you think.

I think the cabs are fabulous and love the way they look now. That top piece is beautiful. This is not a critical comment - but the one thing I notice is there are large expanses of wood without a bunch of drawers, cupboards, etc. I wonder how that would look white? I wonder if it would be too much white with nothing "of interest" to break up the white. With stain there is grain and such to break it up. That may make no difference whatsoever, just something that I wonder about.

Beautiful new house!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:34PM
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I think they are beautiful just as they are... I wouldn't paint them. And I have a white kitchen myself.

I think painting your cabs white would take away a lot of the warmth of the room.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 8:19AM
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No. They are a beautiful, rich wood and paint is....paint. Could you change the island countertop to a lighter color? Do you even have room for barstools at the counter with your dining room right there? Maybe a new island is the answer.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:00AM
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They're dark to you because you're used to white.

I suggest living there for at least 3 months to see how your eyes and mood adjust. Even then, I'd start small and paint the island as suggested first. If you paint the island, I'd also change the countertop to make it a separate piece of furniture.

You have a kitchen people are paying to put in. Isn't it funny?

Full disclosure: I have yet to see a wood kitchen I'd want. However, I think you have a gorgeous kitchen there and hesitate to recommend you go in with a brush before you've even lived there.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:45AM
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I would not paint them for the wood tone is lovely and warm. However, I am tired of white kitchens for they have been prevalent in my area for more than ten years, so, although, they are lighter I find them boring and cold in comparision to wood. Which to my eye is warm and refreshingly different. This is just me, many people are still in love with the look and I have a dark side, I love dark,rich rooms more thant light ones at this time in my life but the Something Gotta Give house is still really
Also Shanghaimom's kitchen, which is lovely, fits her historic home to a tee. I think your transitional home is more fitting for a deep warm tone kitchen.
I would, however, think about changing your lights and wall color to offer a bit more bling and bring in a lighter feel.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Being me, I'd probably paint the whole thing white or a light color.

A nice alternative, though, would be to paint only the refrigerator wall cabinets the same color as the rest of your walls. That would make them stop looming and pushing forward visually and just settle back serenely as part of the house. That would then allow the remaining dark cabinetry to add its richness without being such a large, unbalanced block plopped down in the midst of lighter surroundings.

Nice house, BTW. Congratulations. :)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:13AM
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The wood is indeed beautiful, though I am also one who prefers very light woods, as a general rule; I'd also be inclined to lighten the cabinetry with paint.

I'm with Christine.
Live with them as is for at least 3 months. You need to give yourself time to adjust to the light and colors in your new home before you make major changes. Especially to such high quality wood.

Enjoy the move!!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:34AM
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It is a sin to paint beautiful wood like you have :)

Painted wood usually implies cheaper wood.

Sorry for being blunt but the white painted kitchen rubs me the wrong way...

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Such a lovely kitchen. I would not paint the cabinets. Instead, try painting the walls a lighter color, maybe a soft white of Sherwin WIlliams Compatible Cream - its a gold tone that goes well with red toned woods.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:50AM
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Live with it six months. And add more lighting. 4 can lights and a pendant are not nearly enough lighting for this kitchen, and that's why it seems dark rather than rich and dramatic. If you painted it, it would still be a dark kitchen. It has to do with the lighting more than the color of the cabinets. Fix the lighting. Then live with it for 6 months.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 1:01PM
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I think the wood is beautiful, and while it seems a shame to paint it, the room is dark. I think the advice to live with it for 3-6 months is very wise. Be sure about it first.

Personally I don't think painting the island is going to change anything light wise. The dark looming-ness is happening above the counters. Fixing the lighting is a good idea, but I don't like having to use a lot of lights during the daytime.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 1:25PM
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>>Painted wood usually implies cheaper wood.

In what world?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 2:02PM
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The kitchen is gorgeous the way it is. Were you to decide to paint the wood, you would need to hire experienced painters to prep and spray a high end finish.It's a big job and even then you will never get a white finish as good as a factory finish.
I agree with the others. Live with it for a while before you make a big decision.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 2:04PM
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As you know, it really is such a matter of preference.
For me, the stained wood just wouldn't work at all.
I am a fan of the painted white version.

I would heed some of the suggestions provided tho. It might be smart to start w/the island, BS, and lighting and see how you feel after that.

Good luck!! Please post what you do!!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 2:51PM
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Here's a cut and paste that I periodically post for those considering painting cabinets.


Here is how I would expect a pro to spray paint kitchen cabinets. A brush painted job would differ slightly in that you wouldn't hang the doors to paint. You'd place them on a work table or easel instead. It's time intensive work, and should take 7-14 days to accomplish completely and cost between 3K-7K depending on kitchen size and amount of detail in cabinets.

Remove doors and drawer fronts.
Remove hinges and hardware.
Clean with TSP (tri-sodium phosphate)
Rinse and let dry.
Scrape any loose finish.
Fill any damaged spots or hardware holes that won't be reused.
Sand fill smooth.
Scuff sand the rest.
Tack off dust.
Hang in dust free paint booth with wires through hardware points.
Tack off dust again.
Spray with alkyd based primer.
Scuff sand again.
Tack off dust.
Spray with second coat of primer.
Spray with first finish coat of latex enamel.
Spray with second coat of latex.
If glazing is to occur, that is next.
Spray with conversion varnish.
(If being brush painted, this step is typically skipped.)

Add more molding or decorative details to boxes, filling nail holes and sanding smooth.

Repeat prep process with face frames and exposed cabinet sides using plastic to create a spray booth on site. If interiors are to be done, they are done before face frames and sides. Interiors are difficult, and add both time and expense to the job.

Allow everything to fully cure.
Clean hinges and hardware and clear coat if you're keeping the old hardware.
Install new (or old) hinges and hardware.
Re-install doors and drawers and adjust for proper clearances.

If you are receiving a job without this amount of effort, then you are not receiving a quality professional job.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 3:07PM
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Thanks for the replies. I am definitely planning to paint the walls a lighter colour. I'm thinking SW Antique White or maybe even something less creamy or more white. I will also be changing the light fixtures. The colour is a dark olive green, I think that definitely makes the kitchen feel dark.

I agree, it would be a good idea to wait 3 months before deciding. I absolutely love white kitchens and the brightness of them, however when I saw this house, I really liked the cabinets. They are very good quality, I feel bad having them painted. If we do decide to paint them, I would definitely have them professionally sprayed. Thanks again for all the advice.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 5:35PM
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Is it possible to order stainless steel doors for the fridge? I would do that instead of painting. It seems that if you did that it would lighten things up a little. The wood is beautiful but if seems a little overwhelming on that wall.

I also agree with everyone with it for a while.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 5:49PM
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I have SW Antique White in my kitchen (and most of the rest of the house). I love it. It's light enough, but very rich.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 6:03PM
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Those are some beautiful cabinets! Paint the walls... : )

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 6:14PM
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Be wary of the OTK folks who try to make everything white or cream. Bless their hearts, but not everything fits into that mold. I don't think it's conscious, but if you check a history of their recommendations, somehow they always involve going white, cream, light beige, or something along those lines.

I suggest trusting your initial like of the cabs. Give 'em some time and fuss with the walls. :)

you've got a lovely home.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:31PM
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I love that wood. It's really very nice looking. Maple or cherry?

I think it's the lighting. Those cans look pretty small.

The suggestion of stainless panels for the fridge sounds like a winner. Looks like a lovely home.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:56PM
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Well said, Christine. At the end of your 3 months or so, besides wall color, I like the previous idea of the stainless steel fridge to break up that wall.

Another fix, not cheap, but not as expensive as the full paint job, is a pair or (in your case) a triplet of upper cabinet doors with glass fronts. Again, adding a little more bling. Because even if you paint your kitchen, you're still looking at huge amounts of the same color without a changeup.

I did get a natural red birch kitchen--lighter than yours--but I tried to follow the style of my 70s tri-level. I have come to like the Something's Gotta Give Kitchen, but it was absolutely wrong for my house. So muse on what feels right for your house. Your second picture just seemed so natural to me, like it belonged. But I haven't seen or lived in the whole house.
Finally, if you do get a professional paint job, we have had people post here frustrated with their paint contractors. Green Designs is a pro in the building industry and has been great about helping many people on GW. I'd suggest that you literally take his post and tape it into your contract and make your paint professional initial all GreenDesign's steps and the number of days he specs out. You will save yourself some grief.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 10:19PM
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Holy cherry, batman, that room's woody.

Contrarian that I am, I say paint it any color you want, and do it before you move in so it will be more convenient for you and you don't have to live in a coffin - a beautiful coffin, but a coffin no less. Enjoy your new home!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:01PM
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I think I would keep the cabinets as they are and go with a light countertop on the island. Here's a picture from Houzz.

Contemporary Kitchen design by San Francisco Architect Mahoney Architects & Interiors

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 12:40PM
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