Painted cabinets - how to get the right look

ideagirl2November 20, 2011

Ok, I like the look of painted cabinets, and after much back and forth (see, e.g., thread below), I think that's probably what we'll go with. But why do the painted samples I see all look less like paint than like... I don't know... like the door was dipped in that quick-hardening sugar coating that Dairy Cream puts on ice cream cones???

Do you know what I mean? It doesn't look like paint... which means the doors don't even look like wood. They might as well be thermofoil or whatever.

Is this down to a particular technique? Is there any way to get a great-looking, durable painted surface that doesn't look like plastic?? Should we paint them ourselves, or would that be insane?

Here is a link that might be useful: Color scheme thread re vintage kitchen tile

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ideagirl ... I so want to paint my kitchen cabinets (just NOT there yet!!); but, I have just recently seen the Anne Sloan Chalk Paint and it looks like it would be great for cabinets.

I did email one company and they said it is ideal for kitchen cabinets. The thing is, you paint (2 coats) and put 3 coats of wax on them for protection. This paint so intrigues me!!

Let us know what you do!!


    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 8:55PM
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I don't know the answer, ideagirl, but I had the same reaction to the painted finishes in the showrooms. Maybe it depends on the manufacturer and the paint quality, but the ones I have seen don't look like traditional painted wood to me either. I suspect the sprayed-on perfect-looking factory finishes are more durable than anything we could do at home, but I am still leaning toward painting my own doors just so I can have that old-timey brushed look. (I am willing to bet, though, that most homebuyers would much rather have a sleek factory job than to see brush marks, if they like paint at all. On a local forum I am on, people have commented that they would NEVER buy a kitchen with painted white cabinets, because they look so cheap. lol!)

I don't remember if you are thinking about IKEA, but when I looked at their doors I did notice one that actually looked like painted wood -- the Ramsjo white. It is more of a whitewash that lets the wood grain show through, so it would not suit everyone's style; but the salesperson in kitchens that day told me that it would be easier to repaint in the future than some of their other finishes.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 9:34PM
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I've heard of people hand-painting over a sprayed finish. That way, you get the supposed durability of the sprayed finish as well as the more "authentic" hand-painted look. The hand painting also makes it easier to touch up dings and scratches later, since you'll already have brush strokes on the cabinets.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 10:41AM
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collins design

I know exactly what you mean!! And then if you google DIY tips for painting cabinets, it seems like everyone is TRYING for that flawless airbrushed look and stressing about brush marks. I don't get it. Maybe it's because I've grown up in old houses, but I want painted woodwork to look like a human being actually painted it! We built our pantry cabs ourselves and I painted them with Ben Moore Aura paint. I rolled and tipped the paint out with a high-quality brush, and I'm very happy with the slight brush marks and hand-made-ness that resulted...

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 1:39PM
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I couldn't agree with you more about the aesthetics of factory applied painted finishes.
And call me insane, because I hand painted my own custom cabinetry to get the look I wanted. I worked with my cabinetmaker who primed and scuff-sanded everything for me. Then, after all the cabinets had been fitted and installed, I gradually painted our kitchen, bit by bit. The Blum hardware we opted for throughout meant I could remove doors and drawer fronts with ease. My cabinetmaker built some of the cupboards so I could easily remove the inset side panels and waited to caulk some seams until I'd finished. My only regret is that I didn't get my cabinetmaker to spray just one coat of the paint over the primer, which would've saved quite a bit of time.
I love that the hand painted finish can be easily touched up, or even changed completely down the road. I used Farrow and Ball paint in their eggshell finish in Slipper Satin and Off-Black. The degree of sheen is beautiful. The look is polished, but handpainted--a big contrast to many of the factory finishes.
I don't have a photo loaded of my black island, but here's one of my upper glass cabinets in F&B slipper satin:

I don't regret the time at all.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 1:50PM
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I also spec'ed Farrow and Ball and used Hardwick White. The cabinetmaker sprayed them, so while they don't have brushmarks, they have a beautiful hand that is unique to F&B. Also extremely durable--when something spills I take the scrubby side of a sponge to it and it cleans up so easily. We were finished in late August and use our kitchen very hard, and so far it's holding up great.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 1:56PM
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Find a cabinet maker than will brush the finish instead of spray it, and use a less glossy finish. A low sheen is more "touchable", but you want to be sure if you decide on a more matte finish that you use "scrubbable' paint or else do a matte clear coating on top.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 2:10PM
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Paint them yourself or have a painter paint them. You are right the cabs that come in colors from companies do have a baked on like finish. We used oil based BM satin impervo, though our cabs are red not white. We also used this paint on all of our woodwork and get a lot of good comments on the paint.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 3:10PM
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Maybe it's because I've grown up in old houses, but I want painted woodwork to look like a human being actually painted it!

I honestly wanted that too. I wanted that "like Grandma's kitchen" feeling, that my own grandmother had in her farmhouse.

I was overwhelmed by how much work it was going to be to get the look I wanted (by work, I mean, my doing the work). So I'm not going to have it in my current remodel. I'm ok with that though. Maybe someday it'll already be in the house I buy. That'll make it easier. :-)


    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 3:38PM
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The Platonic ideal of imperfect: Used pickled maple cabinets from craigslist, cleaned, primed with Kilz, and painted by brush with BM Chantilly Lace.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 4:14PM
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Nicely done honorbiltkit! That's precisely the look I love.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 4:50PM
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I agree with several other posters, a satin finish is a very nice look. Not too shiny, not to dull. Using a primer is alot of extra work but you will be glad you did.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 5:59PM
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I want the hand brushed look too! Here is what I asked my contractor for -- 2 coats sprayed primer / paint and then 1 coat hand brushed. It will be a pain, but we are going to make the extra effort (and pay the extra $) because the look is worth it to me. Turns out, the cabinet-maker doesn't spray paint -- only lacquer. Apparently, they are different and he was concerned that using paint in his lacquer / spray equipment would mess it up. So, we are having the cabinet-maker deliver the cabinets unfinished, then having them painted in place. A painter will spray them twice and then hand brush. It will be extra work for the painter because he will have to tape everything off in the kitchen. Also, we're using the oil-based Impervo eandhl mentioned above, so I expect it will be stinky. I think if I'd known about the lacquer / paint issue with the cabinet-maker, I'd have chosen a different cabinet-maker. Anyway, I hope my cabinets look as nice as honorbiltkit's! Beautiful!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 1:50AM
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Markar, my cabinetmaker had also only used lacquer. I insisted that I wanted the Farrow and Ball and he didn't have any problems with his equipment. For a couple of pieces he ran out of the F&B primer and used his lacquer primer tinted to match before putting on the eggshell topcoats. It turned out just fine. Call him up and nag him some more. :-)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 8:02AM
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Oh wait...just noticed that you are using oil-based paint. That could explain his concern.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 8:24AM
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Ideagirl I love painted cabinets also, I highly recoomend them. In our last house, which was a 1784 Federal style in an historic district, painted cabinets just seemed the most appropriate. We had them made by a local cabinet maker and our painter did a spray on finish using a Benjamin Moore oil base in a cranberry color, at that point we had 3 kids under 5. The finish held up perfectly even with the addition of a 4th child. After about 8 years I decided my house was noisy enough and I needed to quiet down the kitchen color scheme. Even though the room was quite large I felt the cranberry cabinets, the blue and white harlequin painted floor and the cranberry and blue flowered wallpaper though beautiful together were all screaming at me when I entered the kitchen. Our painter at that point hand painted the cabinets cream and the island black and I went with a cream, black and soft apple green color scheme. Once again we used a BM oil paint. The upkeep, even though the color was much lighter remained simple, just a damp cloth wiping any spill.
We are now in the process of a complete kitchen gut job in our new house and my cabinet choice is the only thing I have not been indecisive about, they will be painted. Your description of factory finish paint jobs was perfect. That is why my advice to you is to find a cabinet maker. I have done a lot of cabinet shopping this time around, big box stores, small kitchen design stores and online. What I found was I am getting custom cabinets installed for the same price as Chinese RTA cabinets. A custom cabinet from any of the stores was more than double what I am paying. My last piece of advice if you do go the painted route is to stay away from mitered corners for the door stiles and rails unless you live in Arizona. Humidity will separate those joints and you will be left with a crack, which is very noticeable with the painted finish.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 10:25AM
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I think laquered or sprayed cabinets look wrong in a vintage kitchen. You expect to see a few brush marks and the 'warmth' of hand painted cabinetry. I'd paint my's cheaper and you can control the color, primer used, coats applied, etc. It takes a little time, but it's nice to say you did it yourself :)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 11:34AM
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I love your cabinet with the glass on the front and the sides. and I LOVE your paper towel holder. Fantastic looking!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 11:46AM
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Thank you, Mamadadapaige! Your kitchen was a huge inspiration for us--your cabinets, counter depth windows, your counter (which we thought was soapstone for the longest time). Can't believe we impressed you with our paper towel holder! (sorry to digress, Ideagirl)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 12:52PM
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idealgirl2 - Thanks for the remarks "like the door was dipped in that quick-hardening sugar coating that Dairy Cream puts on ice cream cones???

Do you know what I mean? It doesn't look like paint... which means the doors don't even look like wood. They might as well be thermofoil or whatever."

That was exactly my reaction. Fortunately, today the lowest cabinet quote also had a huge upcharge for painted, giving me an excuse to keep saying, "no, painted wood cabinets don't like wood to me. No, I don't want to let people know they are wood by distressing." I can add, "and they are so much more expensive!" now.

Now I just have to see if I'm comparing apples with apples, or at least see if the Plato apple is anything like the Elmwood apple.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:52PM
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