For hands-on advice from designers and pro DIYers, plus more scrappy before + after transformations, subscribe to Reno. Let your inbox do all the hard work—for now.
Painting kitchen cabinets shouldn’t be an intimidating task—you can always redo it, after all—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one. Between picking the right finish and committing to change, it’s a lot, especially if you’re not DIY-prone. The best reassurance: looking at success stories. So we went through our archives and rounded up six before-and-afters that got it right.
There are neutral rooms that make the case for elevated minimalism and punchier spaces that may just convert even the most color-averse. We even found a rental makeover—yes, temporary homes can still be personal (just be sure to double-check with your landlord before doing anything drastic). These kitchen cabinets are the nudge you need to get started.
Brighter Than Ever
Turning dark cabinets white is no easy feat, but if you’re willing to put in the time, it’s worth it. For her transformation, stylist Lita Lee prepped the surface by going over it with coarse sandpaper (she didn’t want to use a mouse sander because it might create valleys in the MDF doors). Then she primed the fronts with STIX and applied four coats of Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace in a satin finish (each layer takes around 25 hours to dry).
The French Blue
Designer Elizabeth Stamos saved $20,000 to $30,000 by keeping the cherrywood cabinets in her 1980s Chicago townhouse and covering them in Benjamin Moore’s Solitude, a shade inspired by a trip to Paris, where she saw multiple front doors in the blue-gray hue. She faked a bespoke look by adding trim to the top of the cupboards.
Because the kitchen is a high-traffic space, the cupboards have to be scuff- and chip-resistant. After sanding down the cabinets in this Philadelphia kitchen so there was no sheen left, designers Dan and Jenna McRorie swathed them in Behr’s Juniper Ash in the form of an oil-based trim enamel (the urethane in it makes it extra-durable). Another work-around is to use regular wall paint and then apply two coats of water-based polyurethane so they’re super-durable.
Fade Into the Background
You can still save money on revamping your existing cabinets without doing all the work. Designer Natalie Myers had the ones in this dated 2000s kitchen disassembled and sent off to the paint shop to be sprayed and for the old hardware holes to be filled. (Note: She removed most of the uppers and replaced them with white oak open shelves.) The warm neutral allows the new graphic backsplash to shine.
True to One’s Roots
View this post on Instagram
Loved our little feature on @dominomag’s new @reno_notebook ✨ Here’s what we had to say, reposted via Reno Notebook: “Hey Danielle of @dazey_la, why’d you choose to colorblock your kitchen cabinets? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Our Palm Springs home, known as the @Dazey_Desert_House, came with a signature orange entrance and we really took that and ran with it. In our recent renovations, we decided to make every corner of this already special spot even more wow-worthy. As a famous William-Krisel-designed mid-century home, we knew we had to honor the all-original cabinetry, but also add our fun twist! We decided to redo all our flooring with these incredible orange and creme @fireclaytile tiles in a both modern and classic elongated checker. Then we repainted the original pegboard cabinets with @dunnedwards paint in a fun and fitting gradient of warm and bright Palm Springs hues. I swapped out the original chrome faucet for a brass one as well as all of the cabinet knobs. We also switched out the lighting to this statement @hudsonvalleylighting sconce that incorporates both silver and gold. Making these few seemingly small changes transformed this kitchen from dated to DARING!” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Photo by @danidazey of @dazeyden #RenoNotebook
When your cabinets are as cool as Dazey Den founder Danielle Nagel’s pegboard ones, you don’t demolish them. To give them a modern update that fit the rest of her home’s orange theme, she opted for a gradient design on the doors using Dunn-Edwards colors.
When she designed this space for her parents, Jenika Kurtz blended two very different aesthetics: One favored the classics, the other went bolder. She picked matte black painted kitchen cabinets as a compromise. The shade goes with everything but takes plain old wood cupboards up a notch. Play up the sleek vibe with clean-lined hardware. Anything simple and brass will do; the paint is already splashy enough.
This story was originally published on March 9, 2020. It has been updated.
See more ideas for your kitchen:
5 Kitchen Sinks That Put Drab Stainless Steel to Rest
You Don’t Need a Sprawling Kitchen When You Have These Designer Tricks
There’s More to Farmhouse Kitchen Cabinets Than Reclaimed Wood