I want to tell you a story about an ugly kitchen. An ugly kitchen in desperate need of a kitchen makeover, but without the price tag.
It’s 1982 and oak custom cabinets are all the rage. During this time, our lovely house is built and our ugly kitchen was born. Here it is in all it’s glory, as photographed by the real estate agent before we moved in:
Ah, the ’80’s. At least the previous owners had the good sense to upgrade the counters to black granite, right? I knew the moment we looked at the house that someday, eventually, I would have to do something about those cabinets before they made me crazy.
That day came, folks. That day came two Fridays ago when I turned to my poor, unsuspecting husband and announced that Project Kitchen Makeover would commence the following morning. He nodded and smiled as he always does when he doesn’t believe I’m going to follow through on something.
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, and boy was Hubs surprised when he came home with breakfast and I was busy emptying the contents of our kitchen into the dining room. I believe his exact words were, “Sh*t. This is really happening.” Yes, dear. It really is.
DIY Kitchen Makeover on the Cheap
Step 1. Prepping. Oh, so much prepping.
So we spent all day Saturday clearing out the kitchen and covering all the counters, appliances, window, etc. with paper, plastic or tape. We had decided to try using a paint sprayer to, hopefully, save us some time and/or back-breaking labor. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I could’ve primed the whole kitchen twice in the time it took us to prep the space for the sprayer. But whatev. You live and learn.
Besides clearing all the countertops and covering the surfaces, I also removed every last item in all my cabinets and drawers because, being the insane perfectionist that I am, I decided to paint not only the front of the cabinets but also the inside of them. Yeah…
We also put paper on the floors and plastic in the doorways to keep the rest of the house from getting painted. Prepping was a lot of work. A LOT.
Step 2. Cleaning.
After we prepped, we scrubbed the cabinets with a TSP substitute (easy to find at any home improvement store). TSP is a heavy duty cleaning agent that gets all the grease and grime off surfaces. And let me tell you, there was a disgusting layer of grease on these cabinets. No wonder they had turned orange over time. Yuck!
At this point, I should mention that some people like to also apply a deglosser to the cabinets after cleaning them. We thought about doing this but eventually decided against it. I should also mention that some people will also take a hand sander and sand the glossy surfaces of cabinets. This is a good idea if your cabinets are still glossy. Ours were kinda not so glossy anymore so we decided to skip this step, too, but only because we knew we were using a (reportedly) very good primer. Honestly, only time will tell if I will live to regret this decision.
After a good scrubbing, we removed all the cabinet doors and drawers and set them up to be painted separately in the garage. Tip: when removing cabinet doors, label each one with a number and put that same number on the opening from which it was removed. That way, when you go to put the doors back you’re not trying to figure out a giant cabinet puzzle. Also, if you’re reusing hardware, like we did, keep each set of hardware with each drawer. Believe me, this will make it easier on you in the end.
Step 3. Priming.
Here’s where the paint sprayer came in. We first tested the sprayer on the doors and drawers in the garage (Hubs did this part). It took a bit of time to get the technique down but once he got the hang of it, it was pretty easy, if not messy and fume-y. Once those were done, Hubs moved inside with his new toy and sprayed the dickens out of the kitchen. I watched from behind the plastic curtain.
That was as far as we got the first day. The next morning I eagerly inspected the spray job in the kitchen and was disappointed to find that it didn’t do that great of a job, especially on the inside of the cabinets. I mean, how can it? It’s pretty big and the cabinet openings aren’t, so there’s only so much bending and contorting a 6’2″ man with a giant sprayer can do. We realized that I was going to have to finish everything in the kitchen by hand, while Garry used the sprayer on the doors and drawers in the garage.
This is the primer we used. It’s stain blocking and adheres to glossy surfaces without sanding (it claims). It’s also low-VOC, which means my kids and I didn’t get high as a kite while using it.
So, we worked as hard and fast as we could while juggling two kids who still demanded to be fed, changed and napped. Don’t they know I’m trying to paint a kitchen? Sheesh.
Step 4. Painting.
After letting the primer dry overnight, we finally got to the painting part. I also did this by hand while Garry sprayed in the garage. My technique for getting a smooth finish is two fold: first I cut in with a Wooster angled brush (the best brush, in my opinion) and then I use a small foam roller to get all the flat spaces. This has worked really well for me, even when I paint furniture.
This is the paint we used. I’ve read a lot of good things about it, especially for painting cabinets. It is more self-leveling than any other latex based paints which means brush strokes don’t show up as bad. I used it to paint the paneling in our breakfast room and it has held up really well. It’s more expensive than other paints, but I think it’s worth every penny. Love this paint.
After I got the first coat of paint on, I had to let it dry for 16 hours (per the instructions…ALWAYS read and follow the instructions on the can). So in the meantime I decided to spray paint all the hardware.
Yup, you read that right. I spray painted all the brass hardware with Rust-Oleum spray paint in oil rubbed bronze (after I primed it with this primer for metals, of course). I figured if I didn’t like the way it turned out, I would just replace all the hinges but I didn’t want to spend all that money if I could help it.
Anyway, the next day after the kids had gone to bed I put the second coat of paint on the cabinets. While that dried I decided to go ahead and paint the wall space in the kitchen to match the walls in the adjoining breakfast room. I painted it my absolute favorite paint color: Silver Sage by Restoration Hardware. It’s such a beautiful and versatile color. Everyone should have it in at least one room of their home. I even painted the inside back of a few of the cabinets that frame the window. My plan is to leave those cabinets open (i.e., not put the doors back on).
At this point, I’m already loving the transformation, but one thing is really bothering me. The backsplash tile is so ugly and now it’s even more pronounced in its ugliness since everything around it is fresh and new and clean. I had planned to just live with it until we could afford to replace it but…I just couldn’t. So I came up with a brilliant (my husband would argue “crazy” is a better term) plan.
Read about the rest of our DIY kitchen makeover in Part 2 here!