DIY Creative Cabinet Restoration

Summer is in full-swing and it is not the most ideal time to take on a renovation in our busy kitchen. When we bought our house almost 12 years ago, my stock pine cabinets looked dull, so in order to inject my new home with a little old-world charm, I hired a specialty painter to give them a weathered look. He swathed the cabinets in a canary yellow paint with intentional worn edges. It did give the brand spanking new kitchen much needed character. A decade later, what was once a French country homey kitchen started to look worn. There is no doubt a brand new set of kitchen cabinets would have been preferable, and I most certainly have my designs outlined for a future upgrade, but I needed something less painful this summer.

I began planning by collecting photographs from my favorite shelter magazines of “dream” kitchens. A consistent theme started to develop, as I tore images and added them to a spiral notebook. I now had a growing stack of photographs with crisp white, shiny cabinets and brushed aluminum pulls contrasted against dark wood floors and tile. I am enamored with the many new counter materials offered in the marketplace, and this year alone I specified various stone, marble and manmade materials for client’s counter tops. I even put oversized glass tile backsplash in a kitchen this year. When I looked around my own kitchen, I was thankful my granite counter top, subway tile backsplash and dark wood wide-plank floors are looking better with age, and hold a timeless appeal. We had also wisely invested in quality stainless steel appliances over the years, so it became obvious the cabinets were the culprit. I realized I could get a new look for my kitchen by simply painting these cabinets yet again, but this time in a crisp white.

This was a job for a professional painter, and although I enjoy weekend furniture refurbishing, kitchen cabinets are best when painted with the steady, experienced hand of a professional. I hired painter Jack Davis who has been in business painting interiors and exteriors of Long Island homes for over 40 years. We brainstormed on various finishes and paint brands, and settled upon an eggshell sheen finish in an oil-based paint. I immediately turned to Fine Paints of Europe. Based in Woodstock, Vermont the company has a small town vibe, illustrated by the fact that each time we called to ask questions the company’s professional colorist Emmett Fiore answered the call. As a matter of fact, Emmett provides complimentary color consultations weekdays from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., like a paint hotline. FPE strongly suggests pairing the paint with their brand of paint thinner and primer. The paint is expensive and a single small can costs a hefty $50. I did remember from working with the paint in the past it goes a long way, and in the end we only used two 25 ounce cans of paint to cover my entire set of kitchen cabinets. FPE claims their paint coats dramatically better than other brands because of a better concentration of ground pigment. I had used the paint before when embarking upon do-it-yourself weekend projects. The paint is not easy to handle, and it feels “thick” when applying, making it hard to drag the brush. Once getting used to the consistency and if applied carefully, the dried result is exquisite, and the paint is quite durable as well.

When hiring a painter, I recommend taking references and checking them and their work. Jack is quite methodical, and although he had never worked with FPE before on kitchen cabinets, he agreed it was worth the extra money and effort to use this paint. Jack stripped the cabinets, finely sanded them, and then applied one coat of primer. It was only necessary to apply one coat of paint since it coats quite well. We then stopped into Home Depot and bought a combination of brushed aluminum knobs and pulls to give the cabinets a bit more detail. Once the cabinets were painted and we installed the new hardware, my kitchen felt fresh and ready to take on the rest of summer 2012.

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