painting cabinets: a follow up

Last week, I had fun showing you our black kitchen cabinets. Many of you wanted to know how to paint cabinets. I have to tell you that I did not paint our cabinets myself for three reasons: I am impatient, I am sloppy, and we had some extra money to hire someone.

I have painted cabinets in a couple of bathrooms. But I’ll leave the real tutorials to those who know a thing or two. Google it if you want the technical. I’m good for a few tips, though.


First and most importantly, buy some black poster board and hot glue it to the cabinets to see what they will look like. Don’t skip this step.


Take the doors off. But leave the cabinets on. Very technical, I am.

Sanding? Eh. Maybe a little. But cleaning them is more important, really.

Use a gray or black primer (if you are painting them a dark color).


When the doors go back on, they may not hang exactly as they used to. Get over it. It’s okay.

Don’t paint the inside of the cabinets. Unless you want to be painting for 17 years straight. Then definitely paint the inside.

Know that some people will still like it better the other way. And some people will tell you that it is not okay to paint cabinets. Learn to be okay with that.

By far, the most repeated comment I received on that post went something like this: I love your cabinets and would love to paint mine, but I’m too afraid.

Uhhh, what? Seriously, girls. It’s time to take back the house, put on our big girl pants and face that fear. Was I afraid? A little. Why? What if I didn’t like it? What if people laughed at me? And what if it was wrong? Besides, there was plenty of opposition.

My father-in-law said not to paint the cabinets.

My realtor man said not to paint the cabinets.

And yes, even the painter said not to paint the cabinets.

But all of these people had two things in common: they were all men and none of them live in my house.

I could have left them the way they were, pleased to know that my realtor, father in law and painter’s wishes were being met. Or. OR? I could do what I wanted to do and love my kitchen. You know what I chose.

If your husband is the man who doesn’t want you to paint the cabinets? Well, I can’t help you there. Lucky I’ve got The Man who thought it was a great idea. But maybe if you find enough before and after photos to show him, he can be convinced.

If you need more inspiration and courage, check out this post written by The Nester. She knows how to face nesting fears head on and shoot them point blank with a hot glue gun.



And due to the fact that Kimba is closing the internet on Friday, I’ll announce the gift card winner on Monday. Or Saturday. I haven’t decided yet.


  1. says

    Good for you Emily!!! I for one LOVE them and think they turned out fantastic!!! I read Nester’s post about being brave and bold with decorating choices a few weeks ago when I was perusing for ideas, and found it to be so empowering! You are right, YOU are living in your lovely home and YOU need to be happy with it…not the painter, or relatives, etc…LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! You go girl, and be happy today! :-)

  2. says

    I love them and applaud you for being brave and doing it!

    One thing I learned while doing our remodel is never take advice on painting from a painter. There is a reason they are painters and not designers. They know how to put it on the wall (or cabinets) that doesn’t mean they know anything else :) I had a painter friend do my living room. The color I chose. And I LOVE it. He hated it. He made gagging sounds as he put it on my walls, really. Hated it so much he talked me into mixing it with white for another room to tone it down. Guess what? I hated it. I made gagging noises every time I walked into my kitchen for 2 years.

    Don’t listen to the painter!!!


  3. says

    I love this post. We’ve talked about painting our cabinets (my husband doesn’t want to, but it’s wayyyyy cheaper than buying new ones!), but I’ve been scared. Plus I couldn’t figure out if it was really okay to NOT paint the inside. I’m glad to hear another person say it IS! :)

  4. says

    Amen! I love that you pointed out that the nay-sayers were all men and do NOT live in your house! Thankfully, you can sit in that gorgeous kitchen of yours and revel in the beauty of your decision!

  5. says

    You crack me up. We are still mulling over our kitchen cabinet color choice. Thanks for the why-didn’t-I-think-of-it poster board idea. Awesome!

    I have spray paint dust on my hands. Bits of wallpaper stuck to my clothing. Can’t walk through the living room because there are so many tile samples (fireplace redo). Haven’t had time to Sharpie my gray hair in a while. Must be a busy week of home improvements! Thanks for the blog posts which keep me motivated.

  6. says

    Awesome advice! I think it looks fab AND thank goodness that my husband lets me be the decider on decor and home projects….I mostly just do and don’t ask for opinions though.

  7. says

    I love this great tutorial! : )

    Seriously, I needed this encouragement, because I so want to paint my cabinets but I’M too afraid. I’m not as much anymore. Thanks!

  8. says

    Well, I love them! We have actually been talking about painting our kitchen cabinets black for a while now. We slowly have been replacing each appliance so that we have a black stove, black refrigerator, and black microwave. We were too cheap to replace the dishwasher, so we just took off the front panel and painted it black. LOL
    Tanks for all your inspiring posts!

  9. rhonda says

    Love the idea of the poster board!

    One more quick question, please….are the cabinets painted with oil or latex? I want to paint my cabinets (I’m a DIYer and time is limited so maybe this summer) and while I love the ease of painting with latex, I am wondering if oil will hold up better…


  10. says

    “they were all men and none of them live in my house”

    HEE HEE! Love the perspective, not in a “non-submitting” sort of way, just a “we women sometimes know what we’re talking about when we’re talking about what we want” sort of way. 😉

    Gorgeous effect. Maybe someday I will own cabinets to paint. I will paint them white. And distress the paint to give them a vintage/cottage feel. Because I love that look so much.

  11. says

    I am not afraid to paint anything–just lazy. A LOT lazier than the Nester claims to be, which we all know is a bunch of hockie–her calling herself lazy. At least I have yet to be convinced anyway.

    How does one get their picture into that little blue square for their comment? Actually, nevermind, the less my mugshot shows up, the better.

  12. says

    I’m so glad you said don’t paint the insides! Here I am wondering if I screwed up by NOT doing that- (ahh) sigh of relief :)

    I’ve had some issues with the paint chipping. We used an awesome primer but we didn’t put anything on top. Any suggestions?

    I love your kitchen and I love that you told the girls to grow a set- good stuff!

    Have a Happy Day!

  13. says

    I love this post. I am actually in the midst of painting my own kitchen cabinets black! This is hilarious and a great motivator to do what you want to your own house! I paint lots of stuff (walls, banisters, shelves, etc….it’s fun and you can always paint over it. In our old house, I painted the kitchen cabinets a bold red much to the dismay of every person I knew. Once done…it was a huge hit and I became “creative” rather then “crazy”. We are selling that house and we have received nothing but positive comments from potential buyers. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. says

    thanks for the lil’ tutorial. I can’t wait to have some cabinets to paint black – I think yours look amazing. I am a designer and I just love that you pointed out the primer as so important – so many people dont think about priming and it really is a needed step.
    great post!

  15. says

    Love it.

    I am not handy At. All.

    But my also-not-handy husband and I painted 12-inch vertical stripes in the nursery of our first son. They looked fabulous. It was seriously so easy. People used to say that to us all the time, how they’d love to but were scared. I would tell them that honestly, if I could do it, my new baby could do it.

    Except for the fumes.


  16. says

    Great encouragement! As much as I love to paint anything that doesn’t run away, even I would be anxious about the kitchen cabinets. But I totally agree! What’s the point of living with cabinets that make you cringe when a few coats of good paint can fix them right up.

    Sure, it’s a big job but even if you’re doing it yourself, just do a bit at a time or dedicate an entire weekend and knock it out.

    I’ve definitely learned my “don’t ask the painter” lesson. Just because someone knows HOW to paint doesn’t mean they know ANYTHING about color. Someday, I’ll share the story of how my kitchen came to look like the inside of a giant pumpkin. But the memory is still way to fresh. It’s only been 6 years.

    I’m off to solve this whole banking crisis. I am feeling very powerful today. You know, cause I can close the internet and all.


  17. says

    Amen sister! I winced everytime I looked at the honey oak cabinets in my old kitchen, but everyone said “No! You can’t paint them…how can you even think about that, etc.” I finally “put my big girl pants on” and painted them cream like I’d ALWAYS wanted and loooooved them. In fact I think they helped update the kitchen and make it that much easier to sell the house. I’m telling you (as you already know) – if you take care of the stuff around the house that REALLY gets on your nerves you will NEVER regret it.

    OK – I’ll step off my soapbox now :).

  18. says

    I LOVE the cabs! I painted ours black in our old house, yes I was nervous at first, I thought everything would look darker. It was just the opposite, we had light counter tops and a light leafy green color on the walls, so the black was a nice contrast. When we sold the house, the cabinets were one of the things the buyer loved! Great Job!

  19. Susan says

    I have to say the pictures of your old kitchen (you hadn’t posted the new kitchen yet) pushed me over the edge and I just painted my kitchen cabinets black about a month ago. I. Love. It!! I had been toying with the idea for a while, but was afraid to do it. Then after I saw your pictures I decided to stop worrying about it and just do it. Wish I had used tinted primer…the white primer and then black paint was a killer, but the results are better than I’d hoped. Now I have to save up my pennies for some new appliances and counters. One step at a time…thanks for (unknowingly) providing the inspiration and kick in the pants I needed.

  20. Sara says

    I am cracking up! I painted my cabinets about a month ago and I taped black garbage bags on mine to see if I would like them black. (It’s a good thing I have a good imagination because it looked a little odd.) I’m still working on the finishing touches, but I LOVE it and I have gotten only positive feedback. I encourage anyone who is thinking about it to GO FOR IT!

  21. says

    Love your cabinets! Quick question-does 5000 seem too high for painting cabinets?I just received that quote and don’t know if is on track or high.

  22. says

    p.s. for me, I live in an apt. where painting cabinets is not an option, BUT I take the doors off, yep, every single time. I display my nice colorful dishes and sometimes but ribbon or something on the edges of the shelves for color and not only do I really like the way it looks AND it’s so much better than staring at ugly cabinets, it also makes it SO much easier to get things out and put them away. :) Kelly

  23. says

    I would like to hereby declare my undying love for you. There are approximately 653 things you said in this post that I’d like to wear on a t-shirt.

  24. says

    Good for you. It us is such an improvement. What is it with straight men and painting wood? I too am blessed with a husband who doesn’t care. Just so he doesn’t have to do it;).

  25. says

    Love your blog!
    I had ugly wooden cabinets. But no mooooooooooooore. I dreaded painting them but I took my time. (I even painted them when the TWINS were about 2 years old. I painted between naps) I took all the doors off, sanded them slightly, wiped them off and painted each one. I rolled them. It took me one week but I did it and I am so GLAD! I painted them a color that looks like melted Hershey chocolate bars. I added hardware too. My kitchen looks rich and warm with the stainless appliances. This is a starter home and I have upgraded its look.
    Don’t be scared. Just take your time.
    -Shannon in Austin

  26. says

    I love this post! And I am very inspired about all the painting ladies here on the internet. Right now I am in negotiations with a friend… trading some of my services for an armoire she is selling. I would have to paint it, though… take it from rustic, brown-stained southwestern to cottage white. I have never painted furniture, but I am excited about this project! Oh, actually I have painted furniture… took some old, free, fake-wood-formica-topped folding tables and sprayed the tops white with plastic paint. Made a world of difference in my craft area! (with mistreatments all around to hide my stuff underneath… long before I ever heard of The Nester or blogs…!) Blessings!

  27. says

    Love “the big girl pants” comment and totally agree! Why are we not more afraid to keep the ugly, dated cabinets in our kitchens?? Mine were a “lovely” pickled look. Gag,the cabinets were first thing we painted, immediatly our kitchen looks 10 years younger!

  28. says

    Emily, thanks!

    House #1 – painted old cabinets from wood to ivory. LOVED them.

    House #2 – oak era. Got new oak. Missed the painted cabs.

    House #3 – painted oak cabinets to ivory. Slightly distressed the edges. LOVED them.

    House #4 – painted the awful old woodsy cabinets mocha with black distressing. LOVED them.

    House #4 b) – gutted the kitchen and got new cabinets. I wanted the antique white but I chickened out, I lost faith in my supplier. Got alder shaker panels. They are nice. But I wish I went to my antique white. I’m giving myself 2 years and then I’m painting them. LOL!! Had I not got the new kitchen, the cabs would have been painted BLACK by yours truely by now.

    Paint – I’ve always used a straight melamine paint, no primer. Tough as nails but abit fiddly to work with, it’s thick and sets up quick and takes a few days to cure hard, but worth it in the end. High density white foam roller was critical for a nice finish.

    The black cabinets are soooo awesome in your home Emily. You have enough lightness throughout the rest of the room to make this work which I’d think would be fairly critical, so you aren’t staring at a black hole. I’ve followed both your house updates and they both suit wonderfully!

    Donna at
    Funky Junk Interiors &
    Our Extreme Home Reno Experience

  29. Jill says

    I just came across your site from the nester. Love it!!! I love you backsplash. I’m currently getting quotes for my backsplash and am hoping you would be willing to share more info with me in regards to your mini subway tile. I love that!!! When I googled it, nothing came up. Please help!

  30. says

    As a professional faux finisher…and my husband is a real estate agent… people ask me ALL THE TIME about whether or not to paint their cabinets. Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses! Both rooms have cabinets. Dated cabinets kill the decor of any room. Paint, paint, paint. Or just stain a different color if you want them to still be “wood” looking.

    I do however wish I had painted all the backs of my cabinet doors in my own house. We always do for clients. However, I was lazy in my own house and now regret it. It just looks more “finished” I think. Blessings!

  31. says

    I love you first suggestion of putting up the black poster board. That will help me decide if I am going black or white. Oh, and I know you did not exactly say it was step, you just implied it, but getting myself a grande starbucks drink will be a must as well.

  32. says

    Your cabinets look fabulous!

    I will second everything you say about painting cabinets. We painted ours cream about a year ago. We had the lovely 1990’s light oak cabinets without hardware. We did not paint the insides – no one’s ever noticed. Some of the drawer fronts did not go back on as tightly as before – it doesn’t bother me a bit and no one’s ever noticed. What people do notice is that they look fabulous. My husband and I did ours together (with 2 small children underfoot) in 4 days. We probably did one or two steps too many (cleaned cabinets, sanded, primed, sanded again, 2 coats of paint), but they look great and they have withstood the rigors of small children crashing into them with toys.

  33. says

    We have the orangey builder-grade cabinets in our house, and we have come THIIISclose to painting them a couple times. We have black appliances, so we were thinking we’d go with a creamy white, but you know what? We’re just wimps about it. Totally thinking of resale. I still think we should. Maybe we’ll revisit it a couple months down the road. One important thing… we’re BOTH too cheap to hire a professional, so my darling husband would be the one taking the doors off, sanding (because he would — that’s what he does), priming, painting, and rehanging the doors. Come to think of it… this could be why he’s reluctant to paint them. Hmmm…

    Have I mentioned how much I adore your style?

  34. says

    I’m painting my island red! Actually, our friend who is a painter, will be painting next week! I have been thinking about it, ever since I saw the December ’08 BH&G’s issue. I must admit I’m a little nervous, but I’m going for it! Do you know anything about glazing? Can’t decide if we want to glaze afterwards. The rest of our cabinets are white / cream colored!

  35. says

    Why is it that men never want to paint cabinets? They always insist on natural wood…. I’d love to have white cabinets it would soooo brighten up my dark kitchen, but would put me at war with Hubby… lol

    The Blue Ridge Gal

  36. says

    Girl, you inspired me. I was so on the fence about painting my bathroom cabinets black. We’re selling in a year, do I dare take that risk, yada, yada, yada. I saw this post, it gave me courage and I started painting this weekend. I *love* them. Love, love them. Thanks for giving me the guts~I’ll let you know when we’re all finished!!

  37. adrienne says

    I painted mine with black paint and I love them but I was thinking about going over them with a brown walnut stain to give them a warmer feel.. Do you think it would work?

  38. says

    A few weeks ago I discovered your blog and have been following along quietly. I felt I should give my opening comment. I dont know exactly what to write except that Ive really loved perusing. Interesting blog. I intend to keep coming back to this site now and again. I have also taken your RSS feed to get any updates.

  39. Carolyn says

    Love your kitchen!

    I too was on the fence about whether to paint my cabinets black. Although normally not afraid of color, this change had me questioning what to do. Anyway, saw your photos (it was the third site I saw and stopped after finding it) and knew I had to paint mine black. Have the same granite as you so that reinforced my decision. Did my walls in a toasted pine nut, which is a yellowish beige and was going to be the original cabinet color. My kitchen actually looks bigger now! Think that is due to painting the ceiling the same color as the walls. Also I cheated and spray painted the doors to speed up the process. After giving them 2 coats of spray (semi-gloss) I used a small roller to even out the color. Everything looks beautiful!

  40. tammy vinnedge says

    we r remodeling our kitchen and have ran out of money to buy the cabinets, so we are reusing the ones that we had in there, they are nasty light stained wood, they are dirty and have grease marks all over them and by the handles were gross, we have decided to PAINT THEM BLACK!!! i am so excited, i wasnt to paint them tonight haha. is there any where i can send you before and after pics of them?

  41. says

    Job well done, and I like the fact that you are going with your gut instinct instead of listening to people around you. I am a builder / designer in London, and way to often people get swayed by something they heard from someone.

    The only thing I would say is that, when you undertake painting bathroom / kitchen units, you may consider removing the bathroom fittings and spray paint instead. Very often you’ll have a better result.

    Nice result though… But hey, you’ve gotta stop, you’ll put everyone out of business with your tips. 😉


  42. Liz says

    I know this is old, but I thought I’d comment. I happened upon this post while (of course) searching for information about painting builder grade cabinets. I’ve found enough blog posts that I am convinced that cabinets CAN be painted and CAN look absolutely fabulous (even if done on one’s own.) Alas, I have the hubby who loves the look of wood. It’s a little frustrating as I have tried and failed to convince him that builder grade oak cabinets are not exactly fine custom-built woodwork which constitutes art. If they WERE custom-built solid wood cabinetry, I wouldn’t want to paint them.

    Fortunately for me I at least have nice square recessed panels rather than ugly arched panels or raised panels, so although they look “country” they don’t look completely 1980s and outdated. And, with some attractive hardware, the right wallcolor, and the right countertop, I have actually managed to make them look quite nice. I guess it helps that I do live in the country and have a large second-story patio door in my kitchen which looks out into the trees, so it all kind of goes. That’s all I can say to people like me who can’t convince their husbands to let them paint. Just do what you can with attractive paint, hardware, and accessories and perhaps a new high-arc faucet and you might be able to live with builder grade. But I love painted cabinets!

  43. ginger says

    Loved your post. Am painting my cabinets this morning…black. I was just having last a last minute chicken out session when I saw your post!! Now I am ready to go. Hey it’s just pain.

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