The Kitchen Refresh

The Mr. and I became first-time homeowners in June. Our very first project to tackle was the kitchen. We didn't want to go full-reno so we opted for a major "refresh" instead.

Let me start by saying I am NOT a professional. I am also not super into planning ahead. I am a free-spirited creative and I like to start things before fully understanding all the possible details. This post is more about sharing my real-world, total amateur, don't-really-know-what-I'm-doing experience and process. As a result, please view this as a show-and-tell project and not a strict how-to tutorial. Please feel free to learn from my mistakes and regrets. There are many fantastic tutorials out there so please reference those for your serious inquiries. Try both This Old House and One House Love to get started.

Now that we've cleared that up, here are a couple before shots. You can see how the ugly brown cabinets make the corner of the room feel like a black hole, trying to suck you in to its depths.

It's all so brown! (with previous owner's stuff)

The paint color debate in full-swing and cabinet doors coming down. 

We began by numbering all the doors and drawers before removing them. It turns out they were almost all unique to their location however not all kitchens are the same and this will save braincells when it's time for re-assembly. 

The next step was to remove all the shelf liner paper (super sticky and gross) and then clean the glue off the surface of the wood with Goof-Off. I have no idea what the pros do, but this worked for us. 

Next we hand-sanded all surfaces with sanding blocks. Not too rough a grit because you don't want to gouge the wood. I suppose a liquid de-glosser would have worked just as well to clean the surface of old stain and kitchen grease.

To say prepping and priming was tedious is an understatement. This alone was a two week process. 
Could it be done faster? Yes. Is it worth paying someone else to do? Let's just say I don't want to do it ever again.

We taped off everything we didn't want to get paint on and put plastic drop cloths over the granite counter and appliance tops. Then onto priming where we used a gallon and a quart worth of B-I-N Shellac Base Primer and Sealer Stain Killer based on our contractor's (popcorn ceiling removal) recommendation. I really wanted to make sure we covered that old dark stain as well as possible and to avoid any spots or stains leaking through the final paint layer later on.

After what felt like an eternity spent priming and then deciding what white to use, we moved onto final paint. We went with Valspar's "Pale Bloom" white in a high-gloss interior/exterior paint. I picked that particular color because it had a very slight warm yellow tone to it which worked best with the existing granite and back splash.

After the first coat of paint I realized that all the cracks and nail holes in the wood were showing up. Painting ceased and hole filling began. I used a 5.5 oz tube of DAP white latex, paintable window and door caulk. It worked like a charm with a damp finger to spread the bead and wet rag for clean-up. The rest of the painting went well. We paid special attention to the upper cabinet interiors that flank the sink since those were getting the glass door treatment.


With painting nearing the end it was time to settle on hardware. Our local hardware store is Lowe's and while I found a modern 3" handle shape that I liked, I couldn't find it there in the oil rubbed bronze finish. Thanks to a generous birthday gift from the best mother-in-law in the world, I ended up with exactly the handles and cup pulls that I wanted at 2/3 the price of the Lowe's hardware.

Testing some Lowe's handles out -- modern bar stainless versus "nautical" oil rubbed bronze.

With the base cabinets painted and hardware picked out we turned our focus to the doors and drawers. Arguable the most important part of the paint job since the fronts of these take up the most visible space of the kitchen. We painted the doors flat on the floor (with many a drop cloth to protect them) with a small foam roller. With a couple coats of primer and about 4 coats of paint they looked done. However, if I was to do it all over again I'd probably try to achieve a flatter surface texture, the foam roller gave the surface a little bit of an orange peel texture. It's not horrible by any means but it's not quite flat and "perfect, " if you know what I mean. I put glass panels into the the four upper doors that flank the sink to show off our white and blue dishes. You can read my how to here.

While looking at paint for the kitchen we settled on a lightly blue Valspar paint called Woodlawn Sterling Blue. The chip has a soft, antique blue cast to it and looked really good in the light of the space. BUT once the walls were painted the color looks waaayyyy more blue and less antique and silvery. Another takeaway lesson for you, get a small tester bottle of your chosen paint and paint a large piece of poster board and hang it on the walls of the space BEFORE you buy a full gallon. A little 2x4 inch swatch just wont give you the right impression of the color. I don't hate the result but it's not what I thought it'd be. Now I wonder what a warm and tasty mustard color would look like but the Mister isn't on board so I'm learning to love the blue for now.

So without further ado, I give you the final result with a less than professional camera phone photo at night!

One of these days I out to break out the good camera and style the crap out of this room and get a pin worthy photo of the kitchen. I'll be sure to update when that happens! Until then, here's your before and after. From dark and dingy to light and bright. (Just take my word for it.)

Affiliate notice: Some of the links in the post are affiliate links to products that I used for this project and would recommend to friends and family. If you make a purchase after using these links I will make a small profit which helps me to keep doing these fun projects and sharing my experiences. Thanks for reading and if you have questions, please feel free to ask!