Beach House DIY: Painting Kitchen Cabinets

This summer I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks at the family beach house on Fripp Island, SC.  We bought the house fully furnished almost 3 years ago and have slowly tackled some of the smaller projects.  You can see all of the before pictures here, a post on outdoor curtains here, a mirror painting project here, a bedroom transformation here, and a painting failure of the other bedroom here.  I’ve wanted to paint the kitchen cabinets since the very beginning but we put it off because it sounded like a lot of work.  Turns out, it IS a lot of work!  It made a huge difference though and I’m so glad we finally did it.  Here are a few photos of what the kitchen looked like when we bought it:

One thing we did a few years ago was knock down the tiny kitchen peninsula/bar thing that was so narrow that it was not functional at all (you can see it behind the couch at the right of the kitchen).  You could hardly fit a full sized plate on it, and if you had more than one person in the kitchen the person at the stove would get blocked in.  My uncle is a contractor so when he installed the bamboo floors he also took down the bar.  We replaced it with a kitchen island from IKEA.  We are obsessed with this piece because it provides so much work space, a place for two bar stools, storage down below, and the flow of the kitchen is much more functional now.  Plus it’s only $399 which is a great price for such a sturdy, functional piece.  Here is what the kitchen looked like right before we painted the cabinets (after doing a few projects over the past 3 years):

Replacing the green formica counter tops is next on the list, but they will have to wait for another day once we save up money and decide what we’d like to replace them with.  (Contemplating quartz, butcher block or cement.)  I saw this DIY on Young House Love where they cemented over laminate countertops and it looks like a cheap and relatively painless option, so we may go that route.  

Painting the cabinets took 2 days for my mom and me to work on, and here is the step by step process that we used:

1.  Remove all knobs/hardware.  

2.  Clean everything really well.  We used 409 Multi-Surface Cleanser and a whole lot of elbow grease.  You want to make sure all the kitchen grime and dust is gone.    

3.  Remove all of the cabinet doors and drawers.  We kept the hinges on the doors because they were on the inside and we only painted the sides and front of the doors.

4.  Sand everything with course grit sand paper (we used 60 grit).  This removes the top layer on your cabinets and roughs it up.  My mom sanded all of the doors and drawers outside and I sanded all of the cabinets in the kitchen.

5.  Next, sand everything with fine grit sand paper (220 grit works well).  You want it to be nice and smooth because you’ll be painting soon!

6.  Wipe everything down with tack cloth.  These will make your hands sticky but they remove all the little particles and work like a charm!  This was my first time using them and they’re awesome and I’ll use them on all my sanding/painting projects in the future.

7.  Time to paint!  I didn’t want to prime and always have a difficult time choosing what kind of paint to use because there are way too many options.  I am more comfortable with spray paint but obviously couldn’t use that in a kitchen.  I settled on Sherwin Williams Infinity Interior Satin paint in Pure White.  We used small rollers and trays for pretty much everything but used an angled brush on hard to reach corners and the edges.  I had hoped that a quart would be enough for our small kitchen but it was not.  We had to go back out and buy another quart to finish up the last few doors.

Here is the technique that we used, which may sound weird but it made sense for our situation (no place to let 37 doors and drawers fully dry plus a curious toddler on the loose).  While I painted the cabinets on the wall in the kitchen my mom painted the exterior sides of the doors that had the hinges on them (the side that would be impossible to paint well if the doors were hanging).  Once we let the paint dry for about 4 hours we applied another coat to these same surfaces.  Once they were dry we attached the doors to the cabinets and put the drawers back in.  Next, we painted the top, bottom and remaining side that had yet to be painted, as well as the front of all of the doors and drawers.  We kept everything open so that things wouldn’t stick together.  After the first coat dried for about 4 hours we applied a second coat.  

8.  After the paint dried we attached all of the new knobs.  The previous knobs were shiny brass (the kind popular in the mid 1990s when the house was built) but the top layer had worn off and they looked really bad.  Our new refrigerator is stainless steel (we had to replace the old one because the water line to the ice maker leaked and damaged our wall and floor…which is why the floors are now hardwood rather than carpet/tile) so we decided to continue with that color scheme.  We chose the second cheapest knobs they sold at Lowe’s (the cost adds up when you have nearly 40 knobs to replace) and even though they are simple they look a million times better.

It’s amazing what a little paint can do, isn’t it?  

The robe I’m wearing in these photos is a delivery/nursing robe from Pinkblush Maternity and I’ve worn it all pregnancy and plan on bringing it to the hospital with me when I go into labor.  It’s really comfy and I love all the different patterns they offer.  If you’re looking for a cute lightweight robe or any stylish (yet affordable) maternity clothing then be sure to check out Pinkblush Maternity!


robe: c/o Pinkblush Maternity | bar stools (similar cheaper ones here) | island (similar one with hidden storage here) | silver vase (similar) | glass turquoise bowl (similar here and here) | colorful string lights | driftwood garland (similar) | pineapple jars (mine were a DIY you can see here but these are similar) | sea fans (similar

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Katie Vail
Katie Vail

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Leave a comment

  1. Anonymous
    August 14, 2017 / 6:47 pm

    Your cabinets look amazing! I redid mine using a Rustoleum kit and have to say I like yours better. I may redo mine in the future, but I'm not in a hurry because of how much work it was.

    I didn't want to pay for new countertops, so I painted and sealed them with a kit from Giani granite. It has good reviews and I was impressed with how nice they came out. They actually look like granite! The kits are very forgiving and user-friendly. No idea if that's something you might want to try, but you have a great eye for color so I'm sure you'd do a great job.

  2. August 16, 2017 / 11:51 pm

    Oh my gosh, I love how it turned out!!!!!

  3. August 16, 2017 / 11:57 pm

    Thank you so much! I'm with you, it was a lot of work! It makes such a difference though. And thank you for the countertop recommendation! I don't know if granite is the look we want to go for. I'm obsessed with the white quartz that has more of a marble look, but it's so expensive! And kits make me nervous! We bought a rustoleum kit a few years ago and never used it because we were afraid of messing it up and then the dry time was like 3 days. It's so hard to decide what to do!

  4. August 16, 2017 / 11:57 pm

    Thank you Jen! We are so happy with how they turned out!

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