How To Paint & Trim Oak Cabinets


Paint & Trim Dated Oak Cabinets

One of the most common decorating challenges I hear about in kitchens is the dated oak cabinetry. My friend Kim has done a spectacular job of tackling this challenge in her own house. With her kind permissions, I’ve put together a step-by-step how to on her process. If you like Kim’s work, please also check out her blog: One Woman’s Cottage Life. There’s more stuff there than anyone could read in a lifetime, and it’s all adorable.

Kitchen Cabinets Before

Kitchen Cabinets After

When Kim bought her house, her kitchen had fine quality cabinetry with face frames and doors in solid oak. They were under 5 years old and in excellent condition. Fortunately for Kim, they also had a traditional raised-panel door, the shape of which was a nice fit for Kim’s history-inspired vision. Kim added moldings, details, hardware and completed a multi-step paint finish that gives the entire kitchen a beautiful, timeworn feel. She also added a distressed island and updated her dining area to a farm-house style. Even through her kitchen and dining area are still under construction, the impact of the new finish on the cabinet doors is clear.

Before you decide to tackle this project, be warned, it is a very labor-intensive, multi-step project. If you don’t have the discipline and dedication to see it through, hire a professional. It’ll still be cheaper than buying all new cabinetry, and it’s nice to recycle if your cabinets are in good condition.

These are the steps that Kim went through to complete her project:

  1. Clean and de-grease all the cabinets, inside and out.

  2. Remove the doors, drawers, shelves and hardware.

  3. Add crown & rope molding at the top of each cabinet.

  4. Add bottom molding (to hide under-counter lighting).

  5. Add beaded board panels to the cabinet sides.

  6. Add decorative moldings to the front of selected drawers.

  7. Sand all the cabinet carcases, shelves, doors and drawer fronts.

  8. Apply two coats of primer.

  9. Apply two coats of cream basecoat (so distressing, will reveal cream).

  10. Apply four coats of red paint.

  11. Lightly distress the drawers and drawer fronts.

  12. Use antiquing glaze on same.

  13. Dry brush same with light green paint.

  14. Wax cabinets, drawer fronts and doors.

  15. Spray paint old brass hinges with Krylon high-adhesion brown paint.

  16. Rehang and install drawers and doors.

  17. Position and install new oiled bronze pulls.

In addition, Kim updated her interior shelves with toile-style wallpaper covered with three coats of poly. The results are beautiful.

If you want to duplicate Kim’s gorgeous colors as well as her process, here’s what she had to say:

  • The red that I used is by Waverly and it’s called “Cherry.”

  • The off-white basecoat was American Tradition Homestead Resort Parlour Taupe.”

  • The glaze was “Raw Umber” translucent color glaze.

  • The green walls in the background are not permanent. We will be using a creamy, off-white wall color.

  • Our trimwork will also be painted white.

As for the final tip, Kim says, “I can’t really recommend waxing, though I did wax mine. It was really hard to get the wax buffed out and to get just the right sheen. I still don’t have the sheen I really wanted but removing wax isn’t easy – so I’m living and learning!”

Since completing her cabinets, Kim has also added a painted brick back-splash and a tongue-and-groove faux beamed ceiling. To see pictures of the latest, check out my post featuring her kitchen remodel.

All the photos and information here are from Kim at One Woman’s Cottage Life, reprinted here with her kind permission.

Love, Angela




10 responses to “How To Paint & Trim Oak Cabinets”

  1. I am just prepping my cabinets to paint a red called “Merlot.” While looking for other red cabinets and researching this whole process, i came upon these pictures and all I can say is “WOW.” This kitchen is absolutely beautiful and I’m actually considering changing my color to Cherry like this one. I love the antique look, but I am not sure I understand steps 12-14, as I have never used a glaze or understand what the wax means. Please help! Thanks so much for the photos. They are absolutely beautiful.

  2. Can’t wait to poke around this blog! I have been advised never to paint my oak cabinets because they are “coming back in style…” I NEEDED to see this project! – because the whole idea of living in oak for the rest of my days was SO depressing!

  3. Dianne Turney Avatar
    Dianne Turney

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. I have been contemplating painting my tired oak kitchen cabinets for the last several years and adding some moldings, etc. I am an antique lover so its a huge step to paint over natural wood, but seeing your work enboldens me to give it a try. Have you ever tried making a solid cabinet door into one with glass or chicken wire? I’d like to try that on a few. I’m also thinking of adding corbels and “furniture-style feet”. I think, the hardest part will be taking enough time do all steps thoroughly.Thanks again!

  4. The color is unusual – and great!I think I may have the challenge of a houseful of oak cabinets – 15 years old. A few have already been painted, it appears.I love the antiqueing you did and the ceiling treatment.New cupboards can look beautiful, but are often too masculine for my tastes. Also, too dark in a place like the NW – with winter skies.Great work!

  5. Wow…. The pictures are beautiful. Actually i have a very large kitchen in my new house. So i did not know how to decorate it. These ideas are really good. I bet my kitchen will look absolutely amazing after i finish decorating it.

  6. Love your cabinets do you have more pictures of your kitchen you could send me….as I am thinking of repainting my cabinets and I love that color.

  7. Grant Neat Avatar
    Grant Neat

    I like this design..

  8. Love the cabinets…just wondering what level of sheen is the paint you used? flat, semi-gloss,…???

  9. I like what you guys tend to be up too. Such clever workand reporting! Keep up the very good works guhys I’ve included you guysto our blogroll.

    1. Thank you, Amelie! ~Angela~

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