Painting the Kitchen Cabinets

When we came to check out the duplex, I saw the kitchen cabinets and in my intensive visual scanning for all things on my wish list, they just read as white cabinets. This was a win! I checked it off the mental list and moved along.

But then we arrived with all of our boxes and the crisp white cabinets of my dreams were looking a whole lot dingier than I had remembered. Were the undersides unpainted when we first visited? Was there that much grime by the knobs before? Since when is all the hardware mismatched and oxidizing? WHAT AM I TOUCHING THAT IS STICKY?

Oh, the things you notice when you actually live in a place. Not that better visual stock of the cabinets would have swayed us from renting here, but it does surprise us that even though we’re getting really experienced at checking out properties, there are still things we totally overlook/don’t even think to pay attention to.

But, this was a very easy fix. We bought a 4” roller, a couple of trusty Wooster paintbrushes, and a gallon of white paint in satin finish. My mom came armed with newspaper. The knobs were removed and vehemently thrown away. Then, we painted!

I’ve decided that the actual work of painting really is not hard. You have to pick a paint color and buy supplies and do prep work and (of course) carve out time to actually paint. But once painting starts, it really doesn’t take that long. I am saying this mostly for my future self when I inevitably start to feel like painting is too much work. Just do it!

(Also telling myself to continue to enlist the help of my mom. Much quicker and more fun than doing it alone.)

As a side note, this was my first time painting without painter’s tape. It was very good! I feel like so much care is taken to tape everything that my craftsmanship reserve is near empty by the time I’m ready to actually paint. It was easier, cheaper, and quicker to dive into the painting phase and just be mindful of where the paint was going.

Since we were putting fresh white paint on already white cabinets, we only needed one coat for the cabinet trim and faces. This felt very doable.

Something I noticed a few days into living here was that the paint stopped where I’m guessing the previous vent hood had been. Once I saw it, I couldn’t stop seeing it. This needed a few coats to look inconspicuous. 

And then, since we already had the paint and supplies out and they were solving visual hangups in the kitchen in such a satisfying way, I had to paint the undersides. This prompted three coats of paint, a lot of neck-straining, and some creative/uncomfortable paintbrush angles, but whatever part of my brain had been 100% fixated on and unsettled by the discontinuity of the wood undersides is so happy it’s done.

Let’s admire some before and afters, shall we?? One coat of paint and new hardware and the cabinets are looking unbelievably better! 

Cabinet paint was a high-impact project that has improved the feel of the kitchen SO MUCH. I do not exaggerate when I say that for weeks afterward, we couldn’t stop peeking in the kitchen to admire our handiwork. Even looking at these before/afters has me welling up with pride.

Paint: it makes a big difference!


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