Painting Ugly Kitchen Cabinets: By A Not-Very DIY (or even handy) Kind of Couple

I don’t love to DIY, but I will. When I get an idea, I am like a tornado touching down. I want it done yesterday. No, I want it done the day before. The thought consumes me, and I cannot think of anything else. It can be a Tuesday morning at 5 am in the shower when I decide I need to clean out the drawers in my nightstand and organize them so they’re more functional.

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Normal people might put that on their to-do list and get to it in a few days when their already over-scheduled life calms down a bit, but I’m far from normal. I’m in the shower thinking, “I could skip washing my hair and shaving, and start now. Or maybe I can do those things and get my coffee and drink it in the master while I clean. Will Craig mind too much if I interrupt his last 15 minutes of sleep? I don’t care,” and that’s that.

I’m out of the shower organizing my drawers and nothing can stop me. It doesn’t matter what else I have going on, how little time I have, or how aware I am that I’m literally going to have to rush to get everyone out the door an hour later so I can get this done. I’m obsessed, and nothing can stop me.

It’s a good thing, because I get shit things done. It’s a bad thing, because I make myself insane in the process. Please note I’m not an interior designer, nor do I have quite the “eye” for design. I just know what I like and that’s simple, clean lines, and zero clutter. If you’re looking for something super creative, amazingly beautiful, and designed with a serious eye for beauty, you’re going to want to check out my friend Becky’s blog – dalydigs.com – and follow along as she makes beautiful changes to her own home…she’s got the design eye and more talent than you can imagine! All I’ve got for you is a story about how Pinterest told me I could paint my kitchen cabinets…and I did!

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Dream House in the Making

So here’s a fun story for you. I’ll try to make it short, but we all know by now I’m a wordy little thing, so we’ll call a spade a spade and not pretend this’ll be short at all. Rewind to 2004. The honey and I were engaged for about a year. We were full-time students as well as full-time employees age 20 and 21 at the time. We were getting married in May 2005, and we decided what better time to find ourselves a house.

Of course, in our genius minds, we thought we’d buy a piece of property, build a house, and plan a wedding all at the same time. Because, really, what’s wrong with that? Two of the most stressful things in life at the same time? Bring it on.

Thankfully, we were young and ignorant, and we didn’t know we were supposed to be stressed. I mean, we were. Our house took almost 6 months longer than it was originally scheduled because we had three hurricanes/tropical storms come through in a matter of weeks. There was flood damage, homes were destroyed, people were out of power for days, even weeks. People need permits pulled to reconstruct their half-standing homes, and our new-construction permits were shoved waaaaaaaaay down to the bottom of the pile. Our house was scheduled to be completed around Christmas 2004 and it was actually completed in May 2005 while we were enjoying our honeymoon.

We came home from our honeymoon, moved into our home, and all was perfect. We had 1,200-square feet of simple perfection – to a couple of kids only 21 and 22 at the time – and we loved it. Kids weren’t on our radar, so we had all the space. We traveled a lot, so we weren’t even home. Our house was brand-new, so we didn’t do any DIY or remodeling or any of that. No worries, no problems, life was good.

 

In 2008, we welcomed our oldest daughter, Addison. In 2011, we welcomed our second daughter, Ava. We had enough space for a little family of four, though we knew our time in our sweet house was limited and we’d need something larger as the girls got older. Still, we were in no hurry. Our mortgage was super cheap, we traveled, life was good.

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Welcome to 2013. We decided baby number 3 was the best idea ever. Maybe we’d get a little boy. Maybe we’d get another sweet girl. We’d take either. We didn’t want to bother with moving when I become pregnant right away, but we figured we had all the time. The girls could share a room once the baby arrived at the end of April 2014 and we could take our time building a new house after that.

That was the plan. I’m a planner, so that was our excellent plan. When we went to the doctor on November 4, 2013 to find out the gender and health of baby Carter (we didn’t have a girl name because I’d been so sick and my pregnancy was vastly different from either of the girls so we were certain it was a boy), we found out little Carter was Carter AND Charlotte. Yeah, didn’t see that one coming.

Suddenly everything was different. Our house was too small. My brand-new BMW was too small. I was a few weeks away from moderate bedrest per my doctor’s instructions for all his multiple-makers, and we had a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old at home. One thing was for certain, we couldn’t move at this point. I was too far alone and being told to stay in bed, and we didn’t need that kind of stress.

So, we bought the property next door to our house and began working on plans to build a much, much larger home. Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly easy. We didn’t want a two-story home, but fitting what we wanted on a quarter-acre wasn’t happening with easements and property lines. Stress. Stress. Stress.

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Divine Intervention

I’m a big believer in my faith. God has a reason, a plan, and a season for everything. We said baby, He said twins. We said stress, He said relax, “I got this,” and He did. Just when we began to panic because we couldn’t fit what wanted on our property without sacrificing about 75% of what we really wanted and we couldn’t find even one house with five bedrooms and enough space for our newly huge family, God did the impossible.

You see, the twins decided to make their grand debut a month early, two days before our daughter’s 3rd birthday. They were tiny, in the NICU for a week, and we were struggling to build the house we wanted. That was March 2014. By August 2014, we were so stressed unable to find a house big enough with enough bedrooms or to build our dream house. We weren’t about to build a house that wasn’t what we wanted just to fit it. I mean, our list wasn’t that big…

  • 5 bedrooms
  • At least 3 bathrooms
  • A laundry room
  • A big kitchen with an island
  • A play room
  • An enclosed lanai
  • A big back porch or deck for entertaining
  • Country style home with dormers and shutters and a red front door
  • A big wraparound front porch
  • An office since I work from home
  • At least 3,000- square feet
  • An acre or more
  • A fenced in yard

I mean, come on. Does that seem like a lot to ask for? Apparently, yes. We were at that point it was time to settle when we found a house we liked-ish. It was built by this company that’s big in our area that will remain nameless. When we built our first house, we toured their little area of model homes near us because they were big and decidedly inexpensive. Well, you can see why when you tour the homes. They’re big, yes, but they’re made cheap. They’re also closed off, nothing is upgraded. They actually remind us a lot of mobile homes on the inside.

Anyway, we didn’t love them, but this one was on Rum Street…and we like rum. It had all the bedrooms, the space, and a pool, so we figured it was our sign from God (Really? Did we really think God was sending us to Rum Street?) so we called the realtor and she was super confused saying that the house was not on the market. Turns out, it was sold, but no one updated the listing.

Crushed.

It was impossible. We were going to have to settle. Then the very next day, God said, “Here, faithful servants. I gave you two more babies because I have a plan, and that plan involves making your dreams come true,” and he tossed a brand-new listing into our price-point just when we thought we knew every single house in our price point and size range in the entire county.

Would you believe me if I told you it had Every. Single. Thing. on our list of wants and needs, and it was in our dream neighborhood? You know, the kind of amazing neighborhood you only dream of living in most of your life? Would you believe me if I told you that we’d never seen the house on our search because the price dropped $70,000 into our budget that day? Would you believe it if I told you it was listed for about half of what it was worth?

Divine intervention.

Dreams and DIY

We made our offer that day, we moved in six weeks later, and we’ve been here happily ever after for the past 2.5 years. It’s everything.

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And by everything, I mean it was a damn mess. We have a 1.16 acre corner lot – fenced in – but the previous owners didn’t clear the lot when they had the home built, so you couldn’t see the house from either street. I mean, at all. It was a jungle. Banana spiders. Snakes. Wolf Spiders. Scorpions. You name it. It was a mess. The first thing we did was get a company out here to clear the trees. We kept what we wanted (a beautiful magnolia and a citrus tree were pleasant surprises!) and we gave our kids an amazing yard.

The other unfortunate aspects of this house was that it sat vacant for five years during the foreclosure process. The previous owners – according to the neighbors – took everything from the toilets to the countertops. The bank replaced it all, but they replaced it by taking a trip back to 1975 and picking up the newest, hottest countertops from that year. They put brand-new cabinets in, but then they choose the darkest orangey stain they could find and stained some of the kitchen cabinets once, some twice, and some half once and half twice.

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Nice.

They put brand-new cream carpet in, and they painted the entire house tan – flat tan. That was the next to go. We can’t have flat paint with kids. Or any humans. Or air. I mean, what a mess.

Anyway, do you see how I’ve kept this so short? *wink and laugh*

We had a lot of work to do. We had the brown formica countertops replaced with Grade C Alaskan White Granite (which has received more compliments than anything I’ve ever encountered) and then we had to paint. Lots and lots and lots of brown in this house. Loooooots of brown. I hate brown.

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So that brings me to where I wanted to be about 2,000 words ago. We decided it was time to do some DIY, and the desire hit me last summer like a ton of bricks. We had a free weekend – which NEVER happens – and I woke up one morning like “Let’s paint our kitchen cabinets white. Pinterest told me we can do it,” and that was that.

We painted our cabinets. Pinterest told me it would take a week. It took me one day. I’m telling y’all. When I want something done, it gets done immediately. Immediately. Listen, we moved into this house on a Saturday after closing Friday and we woke up Sunday morning to every single box unpacked, every single picture and piece of artwork hung up, every piece of furniture arranged, and every piece of clothing hung up. We woke up to a house completely done, nothing left to do, and we cooked breakfast. That’s how I roll. I don’t like things undone. I don’t have time for that.

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Anyway, back to the cabinets. Don’t let the many tutorials freak you out. We have more than 40 cabinets and drawers in our kitchen, and it took us Friday night and Saturday, and we went to bed Saturday night with our entire kitchen put back together and all white.

The Process

2 gallons of Sherwin Williams Primer

2 gallons of Sherwin Williams Self-Leveling Paint (we had a color created. The antique white was too yellow-ish for us but white was too white. We had them do a mixture of several colors to turn extra white into a slightly antiqued color based on a photo we showed them. Be sure to ask for paint specifically for cabinets, too)

2 foam rollers

2 synthetic brushes

Towels, tables, and empty boxes

I should also mention we did not sand our cabinets, because they’d been sanded by the bank and never finished so they were already rough. Also, we were kind of lazy. #notevenalittleashamed

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My husband took off all the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. We put a piece of tape with a number on each one, and created a corresponding Ziploc bag with a number for the hardware for that door/drawer so things weren’t confused or lost. He put the doors on boxes, towels, whatever in the garage and primed the back. By the time he was one with all of them, he primed the same side with a second coat. I was in the kitchen priming the actual cabinets.

Two coats of primer took us around 3 hours from start to finish. By the time we finished one coat, the first area we primed was dry and ready for a second coat. Then we flipped everything over and did the same to the other side.

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Now it’s time to paint. We also did two coats. The paint dried SO fast, and we were able to finish it in half the time. The self-leveling paint is amazing, and it is so smooth, perfectly finished, and amazing. We didn’t seal it yet – but we need to. We can’t agree on a sealant, because we’ve read horrible reviews about so many of them changing the color of the paint on the cabinets. It’s been almost a year, though, and so far, so good.

The paint wipes clean, it doesn’t seem to chip or stain. It’s smooth, and it looks flawless. We added new pulls, and we tossed on a backsplash – but we don’t love it, so we’re in the process of looking for a lighter backsplash with which to replace it.

We’ve since done the bathroom cabinets in both downstairs bathrooms, and we’re going to tackle the upstairs bathroom next. It seems like such an overwhelming job, but it’s not. It’s so simple, so easy, and it really just takes guts to get started. Once you do, you won’t be able to stop until it’s done!

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The Finished Product

I’ll admit I am quite bad about taking photos of before items. And by bad, I mean I didn’t. I dug through my phone and found a few old photos from when we first bought our house and moved in of all the dark brown ugliness we had to handle. You’ll see we had some ugly brown bead board surrounding our bar, the shelves around our breakfast nook where just awful, the bathroom cabinets were builder-grade yellow oak, and the kitchen was brown on brown on brown.

Once we were done with our kitchen, we painted every single thing. even the fireplace in one of the living rooms was a yellow-ish oak color. We aren’t keeping it, because we are thinking about having the wall covered in stone, the TV mounted into the stone and a very modern wall-mounted fireplace installed beneath the television with a gorgeous custom mantel installed above. Anyway, I’ve added the before photos I could find to some of the after photos so you can get a glimpse of what we did, how we did it, and just how easy it really was.

I want to hear your DIY stories, so let me know what you’ve done, what you recommend, and whether things were easier or more difficult than you thought they’d be.

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