Second Time Around: new life to tired cabinets

I’m not fanatical about the environment. I don’t come unhinged at the site of a plastic straw or a single use bag, but at the same time, I try to do my part to limit unnecessary waste. That might sound rich coming from someone who is a serial renovator, but it’s true nonetheless.

Factory Finish – nearly indestructable. No. 1

So I am guessing you are wondering what qualifies when it comes to assessing whether it stays or goes? Having good bones is essential to passing that test. I am always going to struggle with getting rid of something that is perfectly good, just because I don’t happen to like aesthetically speaking. When the bones are bad to begin with, you don’t have much of a fighting chance with me. I am unsympathetic as I load you into the landfill.

No. 2 began their life in mahogany. Re-imagined in Benjamin Moore’s Dior Gray.

I got to thinking about kitchens this past weekend. Long weekends that hint of summer beg for a BBQ in the back yard. One can’t help but be in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets in the quest for a pretty platter or the perfect stemware in which to pour ones pale pink rose. All that opening and closing of cabinet doors brought me back to the hundreds of cabinets I have owned and sold in the kitchens that I been on my journey’s path. The first was so old it could have been in a museum. The cabinets were metal, had been painted many times over, and clipped in place to close. Ba Bye. They were replaced by a traditional white painted cabinet. Factory finished – which means they weren’t likely to chip or peel or look unsightly unless you ran a child’s bike into them. That kitchen was too small to have a child or a bike, in addition to me, so that wasn’t going to happen.

No. 2 Painted off-site in a spray room. Note – no brush strokes.

My next kitchen presented a test. It had been newly renovated. The cabinets were solid wood construction, stained to look like mahogany. They were a simple Shaker style that I quite liked, but the color – no – simply no. This was the first time I embarked on changing my existing cabinet color by painting them. They really were in excellent condition and cabinets are super expensive, so replacing them was out of the question. Now I had my builder take all the door fronts off, remove all the hardware, carefully cover and tape all the surfaces and surrounding area, and then spray the base and hanging cabinets in place. This was done after giving all the base wood a light sanding. The door fronts were taken to an auto shop and sprayed in the paint room (dust free and nail hard). It’s really difficult to sand and clean surfaces, in situ, but if you are going to attempt this on your own, you must ensure all the surface are wiped with a damp cloth to remove any particulate matter. Trust me on this one, it does in fact matter.

Painted in Benjamin Moore’s Thundercloud Gray.

No. 3’s kitchen was perfection, but No. 4 – that kitchen got the same treatment as No.2, perhaps I was influenced by the fact that they were the same unoriginal faux mahogany stain – yuck. I painted these, though this time the door fronts did not leave the site, and the quality wasn’t as good as the first time around. Not my previous warning. The color however was on trend and fabulous.

No. 4. Benjamin Moore. Palladian Blue.

This latest renovation I think even an environmentalist would have forgiven me for throwing out. They were plastic coated MDF. That violates every possible rule of good taste and sustainability, made worse for the fact that their proximity to the stove resulted in the edges melting and curling up at the edges. Just thinking about it again makes gives me the shivers.

No rose while you’re painting!

If you are going to attempt to paint the cabinets on your own – I admire your DIYourselfery, but please remember the following steps:

  • strip and stand doors and base if they have been previously stained, varnished and/or painted before,
  • apply a wood knot and resin blocking primer
  • between coats allow surface to fully dry
  • apply a primer coat and/or two coats of your chosen color allowing a minimum of four hours drying time between coats. Note that different climates and weather conditions will impact drying time.

I am all about giving second life to beautifully made things, and while I promise I am not casting any aspersions on your ability to make your cabinets beautiful in the most important way – which is of course – to your own eye, it is not an easy task. Take your time, do lots of research beforehand, and maybe even conduct a test run on something a tad less precious first. Good luck!

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