Monday, July 4, 2011

Kitchen Cabinets

Part of our big kitchen overhaul for our upstairs tenants was to repaint the kitchen cabinets. I'm a big lover of natural wood, especially when it's beautifully crafted and carefully finished. Unfortunately, neither of these things was true of these cabinets. The very odd arrangement of shelves, doors, and drawers was difficult to make sense of. We asked ourselves over and over through this entire renovation, "What were they thinking?" The doors were pretty much just slabs of wood that had been shellacked within an inch of their lives--hinges and all. It was streaky and drippy and ugly.

The drawer pulls and knobs were even worse--ugly brass-like edges with a wood-like center.

The first thing we did was pull off all the doors and pull out all the drawers. This, of course, took much longer than we expected thanks to the thick layer of varnish over everything. Eric worked at getting the doors down and I worked at getting the hardware off and after a few hours we had a stack of doors, a bunch of drawers, and two zip-locs full of ugly hardware.

The next step was to rough up the finish on the doors so they'd accept primer and paint. This step isn't always necessary but, as I've said a few times already, these really needed it. I didn't completely strip the wood, I just took off the shine:

That step took a couple hours (doing just the front of each door).

Next I used painter's tape to lay out a large plastic drop cloth in the front room and laid out all the cabinet doors. This part is probably the biggest obstacle to taking on this project--it's hard to find the space to lay out cabinet doors so they have a few days to completely dry. I used inexpensive mini rollers to roll a coat of oil-based primer over the front and edges of each door and I brushed primer all over the face frames and sides of the cabinets themselves.

The actual priming and painting went very quickly. It took me about an hour per coat to do all the cabinetry and doors. The disappointing thing was that it all required a coat of primer and three coats of paint to look nice and finished and even. My plan was to use white paint on the cabinets and use the same white paint on the paneled walls in the kitchen and all the trim throughout the house. Thinking ahead to the potential for yearly (or even more frequent) apartment turnovers, I wanted an off-the-shelf shade of white that would be easy to grab quickly and keep around a gallon or two at a time. So I went with Behr's Ultra Pure White in Semi Gloss. I don't exactly recommend it. I made the color decision standing in the middle of Home Depot with a screaming baby while Eric was trying to get a quote on countertops. We were running late and I didn't have time to give the paint color decision my usual agonizingly obsessive treatment. And, for some reason, I thought it was urgent I buy the paint that day. As if I wouldn't be back to Home Depot again for weeks (when, in fact, I think I went three more times before even getting to the paint step). I went to the paint shelf, saw that there were several "off-the-shelf" shades of white, ran to the color chip rack, randomly grabbed a whole bunch of whites trying to figure out what they all were, gave up when I couldn't find them all, thought "It's white, how much can it matter?", and ran back to grab two gallons of the Ultra Pure. Dumb. I know perfectly well that color matters quite a bit.

I put the Ultra Pure White on the cabinets first and after two coats I was in the middle of panicking when Eric wandered up and said, "Oh, I don't really like this shade of white." (This from a guy who rolls his eyes at my enormous collection of paint chip cards). I had a mini-meltdown and considered starting over. Instead, I calmed down a bit, rolled on a third coat and then touched up some of the trim. The shade was virtually identical to what was already on the trim and the color looks much, much better when it isn't under flourescent lights. But it is very bright. And I'm not sure that I shouldn't have gone with High Gloss paint for the cabinet doors. But William walked across a few of the doors after they were dry but before they were installed so I was able to see that the finish was nice and "scrubbable."

The hardware solution I came up with is one of my favorite things about the whole kitchen project. Cabinet hardware is expensive. The least expensive option was knobs from Ikea that I only sort of liked and they would have run me $35 or so. But there were also the hinges to worry about. They were a coppery color and gooped with varnish. I really didn't want to go to the trouble of replacing the hinges and having to fill all the old holes and drill all the new holes for new hardware. Not to mention that buying hinges to match the knobs would have really added to the cost. On a whim I picked up a can of oil-rubbed bronze spray paint:

It was less than $6 so I figured it was totally worth it to see if I could spray paint the old hardware before buying new. The picture makes it look black but the resulting color is very deep brown with just a hint of sheen.

I laid it all outside:

And sprayed a coat on each side (letting them dry in between) and then a third coat to touch it up a bit. There were a couple stray drips here and there but, on the whole, they look like brand new knobs.

I was stunned at the result. I got pretty much new hardware in the exact color I wanted for $6 and was able to reattach it all in the existing holes.

More pictures coming of the kitchen put back together.


Robyn said...

I am so totally impressed, susan!! I could NEVER do DIY stuff like you do. You do such smart, thorough, beautiful work! I love it...but you are totally kiling me with this tease of a kitchen reveal. I want to see more!!

Do your tenants read this blog?

Susan said...

There's more coming, don't worry :) No, the tenants don't read the blog. I might tell them about it at some point but I didn't want them to feel like we're going to all this trouble just for them because it's really an investment in the long-term rentability of the unit.

Anonymous said...

One thing you may want to try before replacing the whole top ,is if it's in an area that you can cut out the burn spot, they make a kitchen countertops cutting board that drops in .There are few types and a few sizes that may work for you.

Emily said...

way to go on spray painting those handles and hinges - woohoo!! SO SMART! We just replaced all of them in our kitchen and it makes such a difference - if we could have spreay painted, we would have, but ours were hopeless. Very cool!