Should we repaint cabinets?

onlygirlsmomDecember 28, 2008

Our house is currently on the market (16mos). We have had 20+ showings but no offers. Several realtors have said that our house is priced right it's just there is a glut of foreclosure homes in our area (we're in MI). We don't HAVE to sell but would like to as we have outgrown this house. We have land that we will build on once this house is sold.

We have decided to replace the old kitchen countertop but are now wondering if we should paint the oak cabinets? I realize that you shouldn't put a bunch of money into a house that you're trying to sell but this is such a crappy market I feel the house needs to look as "move in" condition as possible.

The kitchen/dining room are ceramic tile the living room is oak flooring (similar to the current cabinet color)

Here are a couple of photos:

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You might want to see how they look after you replace the countertop. If you go with a darker counter, you might want to paint the cabinets. Do the backslash too, maybe in a tile. It will really update the room. If you don't do the painting, at least replace the cabinet hardware, and maybe paint the walls. You may want to replace the fridge with a stainless or black one. If you don't sell, you will have a nicely updated kitchen to enjoy!

Let us know what happens.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 1:56PM
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I had also thought that after we replace the counters the cabinets might not look so bad. We will definitely be doing some sort of backsplash (how hard is it to do wall tile? we've done floor tile just never vertical)-the backsplash is currently the same material as the countertop which is a very bland formica. We had replaced out all the other appliances just not the fridge -didn't want to drop the coin on a SS fridge but didn't really think about a black one...may have to do that -it would definitely make the kitchen look more complete.

And, yes, at least I'd get to enjoy the "new" kitchen if the house doesn't sell immediately :)

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:03PM
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Those foreclosures ARE you competition. If you have been on the market for 16 months without selling you are priced too high. Twenty showings is very few in 16 months. Your house is stale, people can see how long it has been on the market and that alone will scare many people away.

Since you don't have to sell, why not pull it off the market for a couple of months so it will be a new and fresh listing in the late winter/spring when you relist.

If possible look at other listings in your area and see what they have done with their kitchens. Some people here will say paint them, some will say not to.

I lean towards painting them, not a stark white but a soft creamy white, but only do it if painted cabinets are popular there and do a good job. A quick and cheaply done paint job will turn people off.

Remove that scallopy wood over the kitchen window and hang a pretty valance there for an updated look and to warm the kitchen up.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:05PM
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Where I live refrigerators don't go with the house. If they do where you live you might want to update the fridge but do stainless, not black.

I agree about replacing the countertop first and then seeing how it would look with the cabinets. If you have tiled a floor you can tile a backsplash. Painting the walls a warm beige might help, too.

If you post more pictures or give a link to your listing people here are good about giving helpful suggestions.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:11PM
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Just a personal opinion but them everyone has them including buyers......
I hate painted wood cabinets. It seems like a cheap way out (not to mention an awful thing to do to wood) as in now I have to strip and restain and urethane vs. the owners sanding, staining and urethaning. Gee thanks a lot.
Obviously some people like painted cabinets - but it's far easier for them to do than the other way around.
Also - oak has too much grain to look right when painted unless you do a whole lot of tedious sanding and filling and sanding prep work.

I suppose it depends on your price point and market. If its a less expensive house maybe someone wouldn't mind painted oak with all the grain showing through like a**. But then they probably wouldn't mind the unpainted cabinets?

If the cabinets look bad after new counters - offer some sort of cabinet allowance.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:38PM
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There is a flourescent light behind that wood thing above the kitchen sink. I could easily remove it but then the valance might look wierd being in front of the light. Maybe we should change out the light as well?

I would say it's probably about 60/40 in terms of appliances staying with homes. We had intended on leaving them all b/c we'd be getting new ones for the new house.

mary-I hear you on painted wood. I will definitely wait until after we have the new countertops in before making the decision. I am finding that oak cabinets aren't really preferred around here but I also know that oak is a PIA to paint b/c of it's grain. Painting them is definitely not my first choice.

happy-the walls are actually a beige -you just can't tell. Our bedroom is a darker brown -maybe I could do that just in the immediate kitchen area to "warm" up the area.

We may take it off the market and give ourselves some time to make some changes and then do a "fresh listing" in the Spring. It doesn't help that we WANT to sell but don't HAVE to so although we're somewhat flexible on sale price we also dont' want to "give it" away.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 3:01PM
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I'd see about choosing a color other than beige to go with the oak cabinets for the walls. Something to make them complement the color vs. a beige that tends to just make them look blah.

I've seen greens and reds look really good against oak cabinets.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 3:51PM
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good point on the paint color. We have red in our bathroom. Although a dark sage green may look better in the kitchen. I'll have to wait til we get the new counter top.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 5:22PM
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What kind of counters are you getting?

BTW I would paint the bulkhead (soffit) to match the walls to make the room appear taller.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 5:49PM
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We'll be getting some sort of laminate - I don't want to spend a lot of $$$ but I don't want it to look cheap. I'm planning on calling around tomorrow to get some prices.

The soffit area is pretty much the entire kitchen -the space between the cabinet and counter is all laminate so I'll have to paint whatever portion the backsplash doesn't cover.

Here's a pic of the "dining" room. I would think I could only paint the far wall (plus the kitchen area) w/ the new paint b/c of the sliding door wall running into the living room w/ no good delineation.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 7:52PM
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Your wood floor is pretty but it looks kind of empty. Is it part of the family room? I think painting the walls a little darker color would look good but I wouldn't do red. And I don't think the color should be too dark, but since your woodwork is dark the walls can be a little darker.

Most staging experts suggest not mixing room uses like putting a computer area in the dining room.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 8:05PM
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I took that picture shortly after the floor was put in -that is our main living space - I just pushed the furniture out of the way to show the floor.

The walls look so white but they're really a light tan. When we painted them we were trying to stay neutral for resale maybe I was too conservative.

I hear you on having the computer desk there but we really have no other option for it. Like I mentioned earlier we have outgrown this house..what do you think -1200sq ft and 5 kids? Thankfully we have the full (albeit unfinished) basement. :) you don't know how much I covet a new house! :)

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 8:32PM
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Well, the floor is really pretty. Maybe the walls look lighter in the pictures, they are probably fine.

Do you think finishing the basement would help sell the house? Is it a walkout basement?

Have you checked Craigs List for a stainless fridge? I just checked mine and there are three stainless refrigerators listed in the past week, two of them are priced at $500 or less. It might be worth a look.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 9:02PM
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You are in Michigan....price is the problem. If you want to sell, price it to move.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 5:47AM
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We are kinda in the same boat as you...don't have to sell our house, but have purchased a lot in another city that we want to build on in the future....but as you, we might have to wait until this housing market regains the prices.

Here is what we did to "up-date" out kitchen a bit. We have pecan stained cherry certainly did not want to paint those....they are beautiful~~~ But it did need a face lift.

If you have laid tile on the floor, you can certainly do this also......we went to Lowes and got 12x12 granite tile ($4.00 a tile), used an epoxy grout in a color to match the granite,so only have 1/8" seam allowance.....sealed them and they look great.....found some oil-rubbed bronze pulls (.94)on the Internet and a ORB faucet on Ebay ($49)...spray painted the brass light fixture a hammered bronze ($6)......and we love our "new kitchen"....and the entire project cost us under $500!!!! if we have to stay, at least, I really am enjoying the new look.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 11:55AM
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Well I wish you the best. I'm from Michigan too though I live in Ohio right now I'm still a Michigander all the way. I know that a lot of new construction and the current fad/trends don't have oak. But while some people have to have what's new - you think they'd be looking at new construction and someone looking at existing might not have too much heartache with oak. I like oak myself. But I'm old enough to have gotten over the whole fad thing an like what I like.
New laminate, maybe new nickel/stainless hardware? and your stainless appliances look pretty updated to me.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 5:26PM
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thanks for the replies!

phoggie-you sound like you're in the same boat! welcome aboard :)

kec- We realize that if we dropped the price another $10-$15k we'd probably sell the house quickly but, again, we don't HAVE to sell right now and we're not willing to dump this house (at this point) Now, if DH gets another job in another state, then that's a different scenario. For now we are considering just taking it off the market and perhaps finishing the basement and waiting it out a few years.

mary-when we update the counters I may update the hardware as well -the current hardware matches the metal of our ceiling fan (although I'm not really of big fan of the fan so I may just switch that out as well)

happy-I have looked on craigslist for a fridge -nothing really under $500. I'll keep my eyes open for one though :)

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 8:54PM
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Unless your cabinets are in bad shape (it doesn't look that way from the photos) I sure would NOT paint them. Everyone certainly has different taste but that would make the house less appealing to me. New counters and perhaps some updated cabinet hardware would be good. I did that recently at my weekend lake place and it made a huge difference. And I never like mismatched appliances but a fridge is easy enough to change.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 1:31PM
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I don't know about painting the cabinets - it is a lot of work. I would like to make one suggestion though. You showed a picture of a sliding glass door with a window next to it. I would like to see wider trim around those. If you could have some trim stained and varnished to match the existing trim and installed around those (and possibly other) windows and/or doors, I think it would really dress them up and make the whold place look a bit more "special." I read an article about Toll Builders where the founder said that early on they found that couple of hundred dollars worth of trim (mouldings) gave buyers a feeling that the house was a higher level of quality.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 3:10PM
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mostone-do you have any photos? are you saying just add onto the existing trim or add entirely new? I'm about ready to repaint the new trim we're gonna lay down in the bathroom so I could pretty easily stain the trim for the doors/windows (we had to stain the end piece by the DW so I have the stain color we'd need) I'm just having trouble picturing it.

gibby-the cabinets really are in pretty good condition and I think I'm going to find some heavy duty soap (suggestions?) to help get all of the grease/grime/buildup off of them. I think i will change out the hardware just want to wait until we get the countertop done.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 7:14PM
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I'll see if I can find any photos to link... Basically what I was thinking was just adding some moulding to the existing trim.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 9:53PM
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If you go to Google Images and search for Window Trim you can see several examples of what I was thinking of and maybe get some ideas.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 8:08AM
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onlygirlsmom: I didn't know oak was out, lol, when I replaced out worn out counters with granite. My house is not for sale but was built in 1985 and due for some updates. In addition to getting an undermount sink I also replaced the hardware at a cost of about 1.49 each piece. (eBay seller). The old hardware had the ceramic centers and I can't believe how much bang I got for my buck with that simple change.

Just so you're sure, my vote is to NOT paint the oak cabinets. If I were in the market that would be a turn off and I'd wonder how much work it would be to remove the paint! I am putting out a link to my kitchen so you can see the hardware; if you'd like a link to the eBay seller for the hardware just let me know. He also had a flat rate of 5.00 for shipping any amount.

Here is a link that might be useful: my 80's updated kitchen

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 9:26AM
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No, do not paint the oak cabinets. This will not sell the house. I am not sure what will, here in our dear Michigan. The house I tried to sell had a three year old kitchen with over 20 custom-made maple cabinets that made people either gasp in joy or look bewildered at how anyone could need so many. No body bought the house, despite the best kitchen in Mt. Clemens.

My point is, houses are not selling. Lowering prices would normally help, but with so many people moving out of the state, so many houses in foreclosure, a price might have to be ridiculously low in order to get attention. THEN, people would wonder what defect you are hiding!

If you are competitively priced already, just sit tight and wait for a buyer, or offer some kind of financing that bypasses banks (land contract) or get someone in the house as a rent-to-own.

Finishing the basement and staying put may be your best bet right now.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 8:09PM
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Question for 'nessie'. What did you do to the garage floor. It looks so nice and clean. I want to list my house in the spring and need to do something with my garage. The floor is full of cracks and oil stains.

Lovely house,


    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 1:57AM
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onlygirlsmom - I cleaned my cabinets with a mild dilultion of Dirtex - it worked great. I had a couple areas that were kind of worn and I was actually able to get a Varathane poly that matched perfectly to touch up. I tried it in an inconspicuous place first to check. Mine might have had a little more wear and tear than yours.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 11:05PM
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nessie-wow! your kitchen is so similar to ours! your stove layout is so much more practical than ours -you get so much more counter space that way! Thanks for the pic!

gibby-thanks! I had never even thought about putting poly on the cabinets -what a great idea!! so much easier than painting! I bet it would make a world of difference w/ the cabinets!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 11:49PM
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I like painted cabinets, but I do feel it's an individual preference. I would take off the wood apron over the sink- it dates it a bit and put a little valance with a tension rod in the window to bring in some color. Changing the hardware would update it as well. Do those before painting and see how it looks. I think changing the paint color would help to. There is already a lot of tan/brown in the room with all the woods. A soft green would be nice. Take your pictures to a sherwin williams or somewhere that has an inhouse decorator to give you an opinion on which paints to choose. They know what people want and they know what the paint looks like in a room as opposed to a sample size.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 12:13PM
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For whatever it's worth, the previous owner of our house painted our cabinets and installed a new granite countertop to sell it----and we're so frustrated she did. (This is largely because she chose poorly on both counts---rose granite on top of pink cabinets, which is a fairly specific taste that's not easily adaptable.) As buyers, we would have preferred a credit for a new countertop, though that doesn't solve the dilemma of how the kitchen shows. If you do go that route, just be sure to choose carefully. Consider that the new owner may promptly repaint the kitchen or reface the cabinets, and pick a counter color that will accommodate that. Changing the hardware is a great quick fix, though.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 2:34AM
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suggest u go to RATE MY SPACE.COM and check out top kitchens that have been painted a creamy white, some were done by homeowner some by pros, one gal did her new home wood cabinets by a pro and it is a stunning kitchen, her scrn name is HPJ185 if u can locate it...the old bugaboo about not painting wood is passe, usually its men who feel this strongly. when u see the before and afters u'll be amazed, the kitchen takes on the look of NEW, u cant get that with oak, especially. good luck on ur sale, just remember prices will be going down even more, i wouldnt wait too long.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 2:49PM
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I would possibly paint, but I would try a few simple updates first.

-spray the hardware black, easily done
-paint a darker color, maybe something like Sherwin Williams whole wheat
-remove the wood valance above the window
-dress up the window with a nice valance
-replace the rug with something more bold

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 6:44PM
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For a moment, I thought I was looking at my own kitchen! My house has been for sale about 3 years (Michigan!). I vote for NOT painting. Unless you do a very nice job, with good quality paint (prefer oil), it won't look any better. It's also a LOT of work. Get some good wood cabinet cleaner and just clean them well. I would change the handles, too. Good luck and hope you sell your house soon (right after I sell mine!LOL) I was going to attach a picture of my kitchen so you can see how much alike they are....but I just don't know how.... sigh

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 8:20PM
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I would only paint ugly pickled cabinets - yours are fine. The countertop/backsplash will do wonders as well as a new light over the sink (maybe a nice halogen pendant). I'd do granite, though - I bet you could get that kitchen done for less than $800 with some common varieties or remnants. The difference in "wow" is much greater than the difference in cost vs. laminate.

I did a backsplash with some stone mosaic, and it was very simple. Just line them up.

You could also texture and paint as well. Its cheap. A tub of drywall mud is like $10, and you just need to spread it around with a trowel. Paint 1st coat with satin, then mix some glaze with a darker tint and rag on to bring out the depth.

A small island/butcher block cart for food prep seems needed.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 3:43PM
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Just a thought--

I painted my cabinets in a small kitchen with probably half as many cabinets as the OP has. I did my research and did it right, plus had the assistance of my spouse during the evolution. The job turned out great, but if I had it to do all over, I would have left it alone.

As a DIY job, it's exhausting. The right paint is expensive, the supplies add an extra 25% to the cost, plus the time, from disassembly to sanding to prepping to paint to clean up was astoundingly significant.

My 2 cents

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 10:01AM
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stinkbone-interesting on the granite -I would do granite in a heartbeat if I could get it for that price -even laminate will probably end up being at least $350 -I'll have to check it out. We don't have all that much counter so maybe we could get some remnant pieces.

we currently have one of those long flourescent bulbs over the sink -would it be hard to change that out to a different fixture? My husband has changed out multiple fixtures in the house just not any flourescent ones.
We'll have to switch out that light if we get rid of the wood piece over the sink (which I'm planning on).

I'm anxious to get started on it but told myself i need to finish a few other small projects before jumping into this one (new counter in laundry, finish floor in bathroom, frame mirrors, etc.)

Would you use a satin poly or a flat poly for the cabinets? or would you all suggest not putting another coat of poly on them at all? It'll be interesting to see how they look once I get the cabinets really clean.

I will also be changing out the hardware to chrome/silver.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 11:45AM
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I changed out a large double florescent in my last kitchen to a track halogen kit. The only issue was the marks left by the outline of the old fixture which can easily be painted. You will probably have a couple holes to patch as well, but there should be a regular junction box under the old light to attach a new fixture. Lights, faucets, and hardware are the easiest DIY improvements. I say just leave the cabinets and focus on the counters/backsplash.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 5:57PM
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onlygirls - when I did the poly (it was stain/poly together) I did it only on the worn cabinets so I used the same gloss as the others - which I think was satin. It wasn't totally flat but not real glossy either so I think that's satin. I'm not sure how much of a miracle it was to find something that matched so closely - it seemed like kind of a miracle to me.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 9:16PM
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I really wouldn't mess with the finish unless there's a lot of wood exposed. There's just too much potential to ruin dated but otherwise decent cabinets. If you've ever used oil soap on them, for example, the new poly might end up gummy. You may end up with streaks, bubbles, sheen differences- and you'll still have dated cabinets at the end.

You could do all new Ikea cabinets with pull outs for under five grand- three if you go with the slab front cabinets (Nexus- they have a birch and an oak).

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 12:20AM
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I had that problem with the Murphy's Oil Soap used on a wood floor. The finish on the floor was old shellac, which I was just going to add a coat to, since it was ok most everywhere, but worn in a few spots. The Murphy's caused an orange-peel effect with the new coat of shellac that I lived with for 14 years, since it did not bother me. I was aware at the time that if I had done a wipe-down with mineral spirits before using shellac, the problem would not have occurred, but since I was limited in resources, both human and monetary, I was stuck. I took my chances and I lived with orange peel floors. My nearsightedness probably kept it from bothering me, LOL.

I believe I remember Gibby3000 saying she tried the finish in an unseen area, first.

One thing about all those HGTV shows is that they make re-doing cabinets look easy. The sanding of the old finish, any surface filling, the sanding between coats, and any finish coats are minimized. It is a HUGE undertaking. I repainted slab doored cabs once. I would not consider doing ones with molding or panels. If you do it wrong, it will eventually peel. Is that how Shabby Chic became popular? Funny, my current cabs that the PO painted do not look chic - just shabby.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 6:25PM
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thanks! I'm going to just remove them and deep clean them and see how they look -they may clean up just fine.

thanks for the heads up on oil soap and gummy poly! I think that's what must have happened to my DH's grandma's rocking chair that has wood on the arm rests -the tops of them feel gummy.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 11:34AM
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I learned that here on the flooring forum- luckily before I used Murphy's on the floor we worked so hard to refinish! I'm not positive, but I also got the impression that the Billy Mays orange something or other will do the same thing.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 3:35AM
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Yes. Repaint the cabinets. It doesn't guarantee you'll sell the home but I think it will help and freshen the place up. I don't know what it is with oak but most people hate oak and view it as very dated. I even heard a TV show claim that people won't buy a house nowadays if the kitchen isn't up to their standards....

Buy decent paint and paint them white. You can also get formica countertops that mimic granite and the kitchen will look great. Oh yeah, update the hardware too (like ORB or silver finish). I just painted my cabinets and I love the results.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 5:25PM
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Personally, I like the wood look and would LOVE your cabinets as they are. We've got this creamy white in our kitchen now and down the road I intend the replace the cabinetry entirely to get something that looks like wood!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 11:41AM
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I lurk around the kitchen forum and the do these threads called "design arounds" where the topic starter picks something that needs to stay in a kitchen remodel, and the replies all, well . . . design around it.

The threads are not trying to help anyone individually. It's all about submitting a design, critiquing others' designs and allowing your own to be critiqued. But it might be helpful for you to look at the colors that people chose for countertops/backsplashes etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Design around oak cabinets

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 12:04PM
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This thread is almost 4 years old. I'm sure that the OP has probably already made a decision.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 1:09PM
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