Suggestions wanted - pickled white nightmare

karynNovember 10, 2012

I'm posting a couple of pics looking for thoughts. We are buying this house but the kitchen need updating. The pickled look is dated. These are formica countertops - ugh!

FOR SURE - going to stainless and granite....probably a dark wood floor of some kind as well.

UNDECIDED - what to do with the cabinets. If I were building I would have done dark cherry to start with - a dark Tuscan look overall... But this house has a massive amount of cabinets - it was new in 1997 and built by a high end builder - so they are of high quality, all wood.

I'm wondering if changing the other things can make these cabinets work as-is, untouched? Painting is not a good idea for us - if they were cheap cabinets, maybe. Stripping, sanding, staining and clear coating would be a major undertaking and possibly very expensive to hire out.

Do you think a rich red/brown flooring and dark granite along with stainless appliances/hood could save this kitchen? Or is it only going to exacerbate the issue?

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My mom put in pickled cabinets with granite and some gorgeous antique crown molding. She loves it, still, but I have often thought it would be a hard color to work around.

Maybe even harder than the dreaded golden oak (that our kitchen is).

I understand that stripping them back to bare wood isn't an option, but have you seen the Rustoleum cabinet transformations? If you like dark cabinets, that might be a solution. It looks like stain (but doesn't require you to strip the cabinets first). It isn't really a stain, but you can still see the grain through it. Some people here have used it with amazing results.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 7:38AM
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We have pickled oak cabinets (here when we bought the house) that we are ripping out in a few weeks, but have lived with for 10 years. I am really not sure I can imagine them with darker flooring and countertop; I have a hard time seeing that work. If we had kept them, we were going to paint them or hire someone to do it - perhaps hiring it out might be an option?

I found a few pictures on Houzz showing more updated treatments of pickled oak:

This one incorporates some darker wood and granite, interesting, and might be a way to paint some, but not all of your cabinets:

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:25AM
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On other thought - painting the wall color would help a lot. They have it painted in a very similar tone to the oak, which adds to the pinky feel of it. Our house was similar - pinkish terra cotta floor tiles, rosey wallpaper and pinkish paint. We put in wood flooring, and painted the walls a light robin's egg blue, and it makes the cabinets read more like a neutral than a pink color.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:28AM
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Here's a link to Houzz where someone asked for such advice. Look at the "Custom Defined" kitchen shown in the comments ( though I am not sure it has pickled cabinets, the tones are certainly similar.

Here is a link that might be useful: pickled cabinet advice

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:33AM
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You're not putting a bandaid on that and calling it updated. It's gonna need some work. Painting things is a ton easier than the work involved in stripping them. At a minimum, paint the cabinets a black, and antique them. That will give them more of the look you want. Then put in a pretty granite with some golds and rusts on top of the black cabinets, and do a medium toned wood floor. Maybe take out a few of the upper cabinet panels and find a stained glass artist to do some panels for you.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:33AM
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are there any drawers in the many base cabs? I'd think of refacing but with no drawers,that leads to new cabs for me.
the uppers would benefit from molding...maybe they could be refaced or painted, and the lower areas replaced.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:46AM
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I think adding a reddish wood floor will bring out the pinkness of the pickled cabinets.
Also, I would advise doing nothing until you live in the space a while. Flooring and granite are expensive items, and if you decide later you want to change the layout of the kitchen you may have to patch flooring and replace countertop.
It looks like kitchen sort of has two islands, one with the sink and then another separating the kitchen from the family room. This is something you may not like after living in the space.
Your new house seems really large and expansive, with lovely high ceilings. I know it is tempting to jump right in and make changes but living in the space a while first will really let you know how your family uses the space.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:06AM
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Just to throw this out there:

Some of the Newest finishes from some custom and semi-custom cabinet makers are cerused or lightened finishes described as "weathered" "pearl" "driftwood" etc. In other words, they are pickled.

If you hate the cabinet finish in isolation, by all means change it. But if you hate it because "pickled is dated" you are actually incorrect. In fact, you are starting out ahead of the curve.

Of course the new finishes, except for pearl, are different than 80s-90s pickling. But with selective removal of certain cabinets, a new floor, countertops and paint and you could have a kitchen that looks very current. Actually, except for another resurgence of black, I think dark finishes--especially in the cherry tones--are at their expiration date, if you are concerned about such things.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:26AM
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Thanks all - some great ideas - keep 'em coming!

I had never heard of the Rustoleum product before - that actually looks perfect if it works as advertised. I'll see if I can search out some before and after samples on here.

Painting the back wall color would be something easy to try and would add some drama.

Black cabinets might be a little too stark for us - but antiquing would help that. A few glass panels is a very good idea!

Some of the lowers have pull outs - so drawers, while nice, are not a must do.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:35AM
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Well, I can give you an idea of what it would look like to change the granite. My mother has the same cabinets, which she likes (not me).



She has SS appliance now, but I don't have a recent picture.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:37AM
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It's a very contemporary interior, you will have to keep that in mind. Putting in a kitchen that is at odds with the contemporary volumes of that room in that house will look out of place, no matter how nice it is as a kitchen on its own.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:43AM
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"My mother has the same cabinets, which she likes (not me)."

Those pics are really helpful - granite and a tile backsplash do make a difference - as well as door hardware. I imagine the SS appliances also help quite a bit.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 12:05PM
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Elraes Miller

I fell across an article about using Briwax to darken cabinets. Try their website and/or run a search. They have a number of colors available. It is primarily beeswax and carnuba. The example seen was impressive.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 12:12PM
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I'd use General Finishes gel stain in Java. Very easy to work with and looks very nice. I tried the Rustoleum Cab Transformations in black, and on my cabinets, it slid right off despite proper surface preparation. The gel stain, however, worked really well. Also, see the blog below.

Here is a link that might be useful: failure Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 12:18PM
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Oh yeah, with a wider shot of that room, there is no way that anything "Tuscan" will ever fit those bones. You can work it to "transitional" with darker cabinetry and a white counter, but shy away from any antiquing or other faux effects. You want to emphasize the clean lines of the space, and the square geometric shapes that already are the strongest statement.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 12:22PM
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I was willing to try a work around until you posted the whole room with living room picture. The cabinet configuration on the range wall just doesnt work. Its not the pickled as much as all the tall rectangles jutting around. I would take the cabinets off the walls. Definatly gel stain the lowers and either use open shelving for the Tuscan feel or have other cabs made for the uppers.
You may find the upper cabs work well in a laundry, BR basement etc Just not going to give you any Tuscan in that configuration as it is now.
I see beams on that sloped ceiling, walls in a natural stucco/plaster and somethin like an unfitted, painted a color cabinetry hiding the fridge.
It's going to be a nice space size and lighting are great.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 2:40PM
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I think you can also whitewash them, which would make them almost white, but with more wood grain. That's what my mom just put in her new kitchen, and she loves it. It definitely took the pink tones out. They read white or light wood, depending on how closely you attend. They definitely don't look faux or antiqued, either. Some of these newer treatments in floors and tiiles and wood have this linear, bleached effect that can read modern or contemporary, which might fit with your house's bones.

I agree with localeater that a reddish floor is going to draw out the latent pink tones in the pickle, which I would personally avoid at all cost.

Painting them is a great option, though, if they are high quality and you like the layout. Too bad you have ruled that out. You could reface them, though, with new doors and panels. I'm even seeing some neat peninsula/islands which are tiled these days.

You can really see the difference between then and now in terms of the current fever over drawers, can't you? If the cabinets have pull outs, though, it can still be a very functional kitchen if you don't want to replace.

I also agree with palimpsest that whatever you do needs to be true to your home. Which looks lovely, by the way, with all of those windows and openness to the beautiful outside.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 2:46PM
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I don't hate pickled cabs per se. I can see why pickled doesn't work in your place and agreed that the different heights look 'toothy'.

How do you feel about open shelves? That wasn't a bad suggestion...

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 5:37PM
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Thanks everyone for great response! The more I look the more I see that whole upper has to go. We were going to put a stainless vent hood in and lose the microwave anyway. Even out the top. fit it to the fridge, put a drop down microwave shelf next to the fridge, some crown moulding on and it will start to look much better. At that point we're also doing matching new doors on the island - and then treat the 2nd island differently - maybe paint or something to make it an accent piece.

The contemporary vibe of the house will also limit the cabinet style as noted. But at least we can get to some kind of richer color.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 6:06PM
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What do you think of these stikwood thingies (Reclaimed wood tiles) for the island.

Here is a link that might be useful: stikwood island

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 6:12PM
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Honestly, I think it looks like she nailed old packing crates or whisky boxes to the back of the island.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 6:52PM
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It has a kind of, oh, what's the phrase... urban something. I think it works in that space.

now then Karyn, that pic with the stikwood island makes me wonder if a soffit above your cabs would be helpful to define the space. Something contemporary. I don't know, just a thought...

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 6:59PM
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Here is a pic loosely showing what I meant about delineation.

This isn't really contemporary (is it?) but that big, soffit-ey molding seems to help the kitchen from feeling 'not attached' to the room? Maybe I'm not describing it accurately, it's just a feeling I get when I see tall, soaring ceilings that dwarf what's in the room.

Contemporary Kitchen design by Charleston Architect Frederick + Frederick Architects

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 7:09PM
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Looking at the view of the space from the living area really changes up the perspective. I love the ceiling line and think it deserves the utmost respect in any plans for that wall.
I am a little worried that a stainless chimney hood might look a little anemic. What about stucco, would go with the contemporary vibe?
Houzz can provide you with lots of ideas on dealing with the cathedral ceiling, here are a few

Traditional Kitchen design by Cincinnati Architect Richard Taylor Architects

Contemporary Kitchen design by Burlington Architect Smith & Vansant Architects PC
Here the chimney works because they defined the space, like Deedles suggested

Contemporary Kitchen design by Portland Design-build Janel Campbell, CKD,CBD,CAPS/Neil Kelly Company

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 7:11PM
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I see what you're saying about defining the space - and there's plenty of headroom for it!

Stickwood = cringe. sorry

Houzz is wonderful to go through ideas but overwhelming....

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:17PM
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Yeah, Houzz can make you want everything in all styles and all colors in your kitchen.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:29PM
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We have a very similar look to yours. Appears your home is in Florida? We had similar floor tile and changed it to 20 x 20 rectified porcelain-contemporary look that appears to be one slab(unless you look pretty closely)

We also had beige formica counters which we changed to a dark granite, added stainless appliances and contemporary cabinet pulls. These made a big difference.

We painted our island white (acutally just finishing up this week) and added some molding to the builders' "box."

One thing I haven't figured out--same as yours--is our high ceiling. It's 18 feet in some places and the cabinets just "float" on the wall.

Can't give you any suggestions on the wall color--or maybe I can--we did a sage green ( but it came out a yellow-green)--don't do that. That's another thing on our "to-do" list--to change out that color.

Sometimes I like our cabinets. I have told my 19 year old daughter (who of course knows everything) and she thinks our kitchen looks nicer than some of her friends that have newer/bigger, etc kitchens.

So maybe if you do the other things the cabinets will work out.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:01PM
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Mick Mick

I had the exact same cabinets. They are now refinished. The contractor added crown, swapped the doors, and sprayed them white.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 11:49AM
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Thanks buddysmom, I'm hopeful as we get into it one piece at a time things might work out - probably the easiest but expensive thing to do is granite. Chances are hopefully 90% those base cabinets won't need to be replaced regardless of what else we do!

We're going to step back and contemplate this one for a while before going forward....paint would be very easy - never blue though! Something to knock down the pink/flesh tone of the cabinets might be nice...not sure what color would accomplish that.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 6:45PM
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Have you played around with the wall color behind the cabinets yet? I'm wondering if something in a cocoa brownish color might work. Since that wall is so lofty, it might help to bring the height down some. Or maybe not, I don't know without looking at it. Perhaps you could upload your pic into something like Sherwin William's paint color visualizer and play with the colors a bit. I hate to see you put a lot of money and effort into something that might be helped by simply swapping out wall paint color.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sherwin Williams Paint color visualizer

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 10:20PM
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Just wanted to pop back and say think you again to all who replied - some very good ideas and don't be upset if I didn't rely directly to your post or say thanks to each one individually.

Some food for thought - now I'll contemplate the next move for a couple of months or so and decide....

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 7:43PM
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Oh, your kitchen is so lovely with those cabinets. I seriously would not change them. But if you take them out, hey, can I have them, please? Mule House does not yet have ANY kitchen cabinets.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 8:02PM
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