DIY Kitchen Reno PHASE 1: Base cabinet makeover

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I am going to be starting a HUGE, completely DIY kitchen transformation.  And I’m going to be breaking it up into mini tutorials over a long period of time.   And this is it, phase one.  Phase one for the kitchen… and phase one for me going a little bonkers. (which was the name of my first cat)

I’m painting my base kitchen cabinets.

Dum dum dum!

So I want to point out that this process did make my heart hurt a bit.  I love wood grain.  Yes, I paint over wood often, but it is usually wood that has been heavily “loved”, and cannot be restored easily or cost effectively.  Underneath 99% of my wood furniture you will find big pink ugly patches (I usually use BONDO to patch my wood)  I often chuckle to myself at the thought of the first person painstakingly stripping my painted furniture to discover the “gem” underneath wasn’t painted in vain after all, sucka!)   In contrast, my kitchen cabinets are in excellent condition, in fact, with some cleaning, they would look nearly brand new.  But I couldn’t shake the thought that I wanted them painted.  I have always liked painted cabinets, and the fresh, clean appearance of a solid color.  In the 5 years we’ve been in our house, I would casually bring up the future plan of painting the cabinets, and Ryan would walk away with his head wagging sadly. But he concedes, I am blessed with a man who, as long as I put in a lot of the work, allows me complete freedom and trust when it comes to decorating, and for that I am grateful.

Oh, and he’s also easy on the eyes. Especially in a tuxedo.

I know, right? Grrrr!
I know, right? Grrrr!


So let’s get to it.  There are a lot of tutorials on how to paint cabinets, and there are a lot of good ways to do it.  My approach was based solely on the paint I knew I wanted to use.  Sherwin Williams Pro Classic.  You may think, “girl… what you thinking?  Just some boring paint store brand, why not a specialty paint for such a big important project?”  I assure you, this is no ordinary paint.  It is specifically designed for high traffic areas such as trim and cabinets.  Along with a primer, I have used it on some of my favorite furniture pieces and also on the wall in my banquette.  Here’s the thing about Pro Classic.  It goes on nearly perfect, you can brush it, roll it or spray it very easily and it self-levels, so when you use a good quality brush with it, the brush strokes literally vanish before your eyes.  It dries rock hard as well, and is nearly as durable as an oil finish.  The major drawback is that you need to thoroughly sand and prime your piece first, and in a whole kitchen, well, that’s one big piece.  But it will be well worth it.

Here's the banquette, the color is "Mindful Grey" and boy is it ever.
Here’s the banquette, the color is “Mindful Grey” and boy is it ever.
And who can forget this gorgeous piece in the color "Blushing" it is the only pink that I've liked.
And who can forget this gorgeous piece in the color “Blushing” it is the only pink that I’ve loved (besides my pink blankie, but you don’t want to know any more about that).

A few weeks prior to picking up the paint, I stopped into Sherwin Williams and got a lot of color swatches.  Then I matched them to the existing finishes that I knew I would be keeping, such as my banquette wall and living room wall, my trim, my island countertop, etc.  I also went to the store where I would be buying my countertops and matched them to the sample of the countertop I wanted.  After I had narrowed down several, I went onto Pinterest and typed in the color of the paint and added “kitchen cabinets” to see what other kitchens looked like in the color.  I was between a very deep navy called “Anchor’s Aweigh” and a more traditional charcoal gray called “Iron Ore”.  Because I didn’t want to do anything too trendy and I thought the gray would be more classic, so I chose that.

Then I waited.  What was I waiting for you may ask?  The 40% off sale at Sherwin Williams of course!  And in a few weeks, I believe it was during the Memorial Day holiday, I made a bee line over to Sherwin Williams and got my paint and the best primer they had.

There was just one hiccup.  My precious Pro Classic could not be mixed in that deep of a color.  So what does a girl do?  She asks the professionals.  They recommended a product that was essentially the same thing as Pro Classic called, “Duration” .  I was told it was the contractor’s brand of choice for professional cabinet painting.  So I went with it.  (I also went home and looked up a bunch of reviews to ease my mind as well)

In a very unlike me manner, I didn’t get to working right away.  This was a huge job, and also a very important one, and I wanted to be ready and also finish up some other projects I was currently working on.  In fact, I didn’t get working on the cabinets for over a month after I purchased the paint.  But finally I did, and the thing that got me to take the leap was that my countertops went on sale over the 4th of July.  From what I read, the countertops I had in mind didn’t go on sale very often, so I took the opportunity and got them ordered.  (more on the countertops in my next post)  That lit the fire in my britches that got me moving the cabinets.


And boy, that fire did burn.


So here’s what I did.  I know, finally… the tutorial.

  1. I took off my first two doors and one drawer front. Important: anytime you take off a door, you NEED to label the hinge so that you can put the same hinge back on, yeah, it sounds piddly, but it will save you an enormous about of annoyance later on.  Those hinges have become one with the place they came from, like a marriage.  Where two are joined together, let not man put usunder. It’s in the Bible, so just do it.  I labeled mine TA, BA, TB, BB (top A (as in door A) bottom A, top B, and bottom B, etc.) And then of course you need to remember which door you labeled A, so pick a side of the kitchen to start with and go in order from there.
  2. I got this super fancy and moderately pricey sandpaper that is flexible and way more durable than normal sandpaper, and I stinkin’ sanded.  (which is STILL the worst) Now, you don’t need to remove the existing finish, but you do need to remove the all over sheen from the old topcoat.  This takes around 5-10 minutes for both sides of the door.  Sanding will also get a lot of the grime off too.  Kitchen grime is nasty, this will save you a lot of time cleaning!

    I started with 150 grit and moved up to 220
  3. I thoroughly wiped the dust off the door and cleaned them with a degreasing cleaner.
  4. I hand-painted the primer in a thin but full coverage coat. The primer I used is Sherwin Williams Premium Wall and Wood Primer and I had it tinted gray.
  5. Once that dried, I very lightly took a fine grit sanding sponge and went very quickly over the entire door. It only takes about 30 seconds.  Make sure to remove the dust when you are done.

    Ok, it looks white, but I swear it's a light gray
    Ok, it looks white, but I swear it’s a light gray

For the paint, I made a little spraying station, so that I could hang the doors and do both sides without having to wait for dry time.  I used ½ inch pvc pipe and fittings.

My DIY spraying station, by de-uglied designs
My DIY spraying station
  1. I drilled to very tiny holes in the bottom of each door, and screwed in two small hooks. I hung the door on a wire hanger.

    DIY spraying station by de-uglied designs
    All ready to paint!
  2. Finally the spraying! I used my Critter for the job.  The Critter is a wonderful little paint sprayer that is super easy to use for small job.  You can put your paint in a mason jar and the cleanup is a snap!  (I would recommend a professional HVLP spray gun for larger jobs)
  3. I diluted the paint slightly, adding about 10% water, and gave it a good shake. Then I played with the spray pattern on a piece of cardboard until I got it right. (With the Critter, there is very little to adjust)  And then I went for it, spraying the sides first, and then going back and forth across the door in a sweeping pattern, going a little past the edges and slightly overlapping the previous pass.  I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to see paint go on so perfectly, quickly, and efficiently.img_0227

As you can see, one coat nearly covers it perfectly, but to be safe, I did 3 thin coats on the front of each door/drawer, 2 on the backs.  I very quickly sanded in between each coat and removed the dust.

To paint the drawers, I sprayed them flat, raising them up on two plastic cups and flipped them when dry.


I gave the body of the base cabinets a sanding and cleaning as well, and I painted them by hand as I wasn’t interested in bringing the spraying unit indoors and having to cover everything up.  But like I said, this paint… no brush strokes, so it looks great.  I did three coats on the body as well, and put my first two doors and drawers on.  and BOY did they look pretty!  And a little out of place in my all wood kitchen.


As you can see in my before photo, I already had one section done.
As you can see in my before photo, I already had one section done.

But after a week or two, I started to doubt my choice on sheen.  I had wanted a relatively flat sheen, and so I went with satin, but this satin was more eggshell if you ask me, which is just too flat for a heavy use kitchen.  I wanted desperately to just ignore the situation and move forward, but I couldn’t.  I took the doors back off, and I added a topcoat that would improve the sheen, durability and cleanability of the doors.

Using the same method as with the paint, I sprayed 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic in satin.  (I always use a water-based top coat like Polycrylic if I don’t want the surface to yellow)  I lightly sanded in between, and in a jiffy, those doors were back on and I was feeling good about my decision.


I WISH, it was about mid-August when I realized I needed to hang up my hat on the kitchen and get ready for the Junk Market, so I reluctantly pleaded with my family to please keep me on task, and that I was “DONE! Done with the kitchen until after the show!!” and to please hold me accountable to my little announcement.  They nodded, but also knew, that they wouldn’t be able to stop me if I decided to squeeze in like, I don’t know, 40 hours of tiling or whatever.  (just to give an example of my patience level and inability to control my whims)

Now’s a good time for a disclaimer:  I didn’t do all the prep work.  My 15 year old daughter, who owed me a decent amount of money (that’s ANOTHER story) did a majority of the sanding and priming.  And she did a great job.  When the kitchen is done, we’ll be squared up and she will have learned the valuable lesson of not screwing with mommy’s hard earned money.  

And won’t that kitchen look great!    


So here’s a section of the finished cabinets, And no, I’m still not done with them all, but I’m getting close.  Stay tuned for the next post… the countertops!

DIY cabinet painting.  Primer by Sherwin Williams, Paint: Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams Duration in satin.  Method:  Using my DIY spraying station, I sprayed them with my handy Critter spray gun, only $40!  by de-uglied designs

DIY cabinet painting.  Primer by Sherwin Williams, Paint: Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams Duration in satin.  Method:  Using my DIY spraying station, I sprayed them with my handy Critter spray gun, only $40!  by de-uglied designs

DIY cabinet painting.  Primer by Sherwin Williams, Paint: Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams Duration in satin.  Method:  Using my DIY spraying station, I sprayed them with my handy Critter spray gun, only $40!  by de-uglied designs
Just a little peek of the finished cabinet!


As always, thank you for reading.


  1 comment for “DIY Kitchen Reno PHASE 1: Base cabinet makeover

  1. Vickie Nelson
    October 3, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    amazing- like it!

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