How We Transformed Our Ugly Kitchen Cabinets Into Gorgeous Custom Cabinets for Only $294


My job is to offer you advice; preferably advice regarding things that will make your life easier, more enjoyable and far less expensive. I like to think I’m pretty good at it, and I like to think that I’m good at balancing my own love of the expensive with an additional love of saving money. Actually, I excel at that. However, the one thing I’m not so good at is anything of the DIY variety. I’d rather pay someone else to come into my home and DI-themselves since my husband and I are not proficient in that manner. That’s why, when we bought our dream home almost two years ago, we hired out for every project we took on from re-placing the counters and clearing the lawn to landscaping.

However, my sweet husband is DYING to do something that puts our own personal stamp on this house. So, in our infinite wisdom, we decided to take on the most difficult DIY project known to mankind this weekend even though I was positive we should just have someone else do it – we painted our kitchen cabinets.

Let me give you a quick backstory: Our house was built a decade ago, but it sat vacant for five years after it was foreclosed. The previous owners took everything – and I mean everything – including the kitchen sink. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. So the bank replaced everything from the paint to the shelves to the cabinets in all three bathrooms and the kitchen to the floors to the fireplace. Unfortunately, they hired a blind person to approve the final product. We have a huge bar that seats 12 and wraps around half our kitchen, a big island and a lot of cabinets and drawers (43 of them, to be precise). Whomever ‘redid’ this place put in custom cabinets that were unpainted and unstained and then stained them. Some with two coats of stain, some with only one coat of stain. They then threw dark brown very bowel movement-like plastic countertops on top of everything (and the ones on the upper part of the big bar were different than the countertops in the rest of the kitchen).

They then painted the wainscoting around the bottom of the bar a dark, ugly brown. We have beautiful, brand new stainless steel appliances but the rest of the kitchen made us cry tears of sadness. So, we fixed it. We replaced the counters with a beautiful granite (called Alaskan White, if you’re interested). If you’re looking for great options for granite countertops, here’s a great place to get started. We also exchanged our double sink for a large single basin sink, upgraded our faucet to a gorgeous tall one with in bronze with a lovely distressed copper on the edges and we then starred at our cabinets for a while.

White. They needed to be white. The rest of our house is very country chic with its wraparound porch, massive deck and big windows and glass doors. We’d already painted the wainscoting along the bottom of the breakfast bar area a lovely shade of antique white, and we decided that would be perfect in the kitchen. Do we hire, or do we do it ourselves?

We went back and forth and I ultimately gave into my husband; we will do it ourselves. I was scared. Nervous. Terrified, even. The cabinets are a nice shaker-style, they were just horribly colored and poorly done. We had my mother-in-law take all four kids for a weekend of fun at her house, and we set to work – me sick and dying of misery but determined – over the weekend.

Best. Decision. Ever.

It took 29 hours, a lot of patience and pretty much the expense of my back and my knees, but we are done and our kitchen looks amazing. It is finally the high-end, upscale kitchen of our dreams – and we are tackling both our downstairs bathroom cabinets next (because the bank chose to replace them with that gross builder’s grade yellow oak and it’s not flattering).

The process was surprisingly simple – we didn’t even have to sand since whomever put the cabinets in already did that and never sealed the cabinets. It took two coats of Sherwin Williams primer on each side and two coats of Sherwin Williams Antique White paint, new bronze hardware with distressed copper edging and the entire weekend, but we are done. With great brushes and foam rollers, we knocked it out of the park. If we didn’t have to wait so long for each coat of primer and paint to dry, we could have had it done in 10-12 hours.

If you’re in the market to re-do your own cabinets, let me just tell you that you do not have to be a professional. Just take a little advice. You may also consider purchasing ready to install cabinets from kitchen cabinet refinishing services that will match your kitchen’s design.

  1. Use painters tape and a permanent marker to label the inside of each individual cabinet and the inside of each cabinet door the same number, and then add a plastic bag with the hardware and the same corresponding number. It helps you put everything back in the right place the first time.
  2. Prime twice because it pretty much covers everything itself and you have no worries.
  3. Get a high-grade paint (Sherwin Williams does a monthly sale where it’s all 50% off and our $80 cans of paint were only $40 a can) that self-levels.
  4. Use an angled synthetic brush
  5. Use a small foam roller
  6. Wash the cabinets lightly with soap and water, and then dry them completely
  7. Give everything time to dry
  8. Be patient

We spent weeks going over blogs, how-to pieces and taking advice from everyone in Lowes, Home Depot and Sherwin Williams before we decided on this route. We thought it would be so much more difficult, but my take-away is that people love to make things more complicated than they need to be. Good luck; you’re going to save yourself thousands doing this – and the result is nothing short of amazing.


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