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Painted Wood Cabinets or Stained Cabinets? A QUESTIONNAIRE

Posted on February 10, 2021 by KylieMawdsley


I love 1990s oak cabinets. Crazy right? I know that 90% of you are cursing your oak, maple, or cherry cabinets from the 90s and early 2000s, while the remaining 10% love them and wouldn’t let a lick of paint go near them! And it’s not that I don’t understand both sides of the story, I do, having oak cabinets in our own home. HOWEVER, not ALL wood cabinets are created equal.


Just because it’s wood, doesn’t mean it’s good.

What does this mean?

It means that just because your cabinets are solid wood, doesn’t mean they actually look good (insert angry husband HERE). 

Best paint colors to update wood cabinets, trim, flooring. Granite look laminate countertop, handpainted diy subway tile backsplash, wood. Ballet White, Kylie M Edesign


While all of this can be open to perception, perception MATTERS if you want to update your home, either for yourself or for resale. On the other hand, if you plan on living in your home forever and ever amen, don’t bother with trends, or don’t care what other people think, well, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog post in the first place.

Aside from perception, I find that there’s often a gender divide when it comes to wood cabinets (or anything wood, really). Based on my experience, more men love to keep their wood cabinets, whereas many women are a bit more inclined to paint them. If I hadn’t come across this literally HUNDREDS OF TIMES in my daily Color Consulting work, I wouldn’t mention it…some men are sensitive about their wood (wink wink).

Wood kitchen island cabinets, red oak floors, pendant lights, Caesarstone Staturio Nuvo white quartz countertop, White Dove walls. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, update ideas blogger

As for what makes a wood-infused kitchen look UPdated or OUTdated, it can be a combination of the items listed below – items that park a kitchen in a particular decade (i.e. the 90s) or style. Hey, if you’re happy in the 90s, then do the Macarena, sponge-paint your walls, and fill your lil’ wood-lined boots. However, if you’re open to a new way of looking at things, keep on reading.


  • If your wood cabinets have a strong STAIN/color on them, this can detract from any other beautiful features your wood cabinets might have.
  • Wood cabinets with a strong GRAIN can overpower a space in their busyness and take away from the beauty of the wood itself.
  • Sometimes it’s the STYLE of the cabinets, combined with a slightly overpowering stain or grain that can make them look less than their full potential.

The above can also be more noticeable in a home where other finishes have been updated. For example, if your home has wood trim, your wood cabinets likely look more at home. However, if the surrounding trim has been painted and the cabinets have the above challenges to consider, they could look outdated.

Wood cabinets need surrounding finishes that visually support them. 

Wood cabinets can also look dated based on the finishes that directly connect to them, such as the backsplash in this next kitchen…

Orange toned oak cabinets, wood trim, red pink toned island oak floor, Putnam Ivory paint colour on walls.

There’s not a SINGLE THING WRONG with these beautiful oak cabinets – I wouldn’t touch them with a lick of paint! However, COMBINED with the slate tile backsplash and narrow door trim, the space looks outdated.

A great update to the above space would be to keep the cabinets just as they are, and replace the backsplash with a soft off-white subway tile – let’s give those cabinets something to play with! I’d also paint out the narrow wood door trim to match the wall color – I’d rather see it disappear.


If you have TOO MUCH wood (ooooh the innuendos) it’s not always a good thing as one can easily dull the beauty of another (if they’re not carefully coordinated).

In this next kitchen, the cabinets are STUNNING, as is the flooring. However, they actually both take away from each other as the flooring blends with the lower cabinets – they aren’t PLAYING with each other – they’re canceling each other out.

Update kitchen with wood cabinets, wood floor, cherry or red, orange stain. Granite countertops, off-white subway tile backsplash, Creamy walls, Alabaster trim.

However, couldn’t the same be said for the previous kitchen? Here it is again for quick reference…

Orange toned oak cabinets, wood trim, red pink toned island oak floor, Putnam Ivory paint colour on walls.

What’s the difference between these two kitchens? STAIN.

The one kitchen has a far less bossy stain color on the cabinets and floor, whereas the other has some darn strong hues in it. So while the kitchen directly above has a bit of blending going on between cabinet and floor, the overall look is soft, rather than overwhelming.

Remember, this can all be open to perception. I’m here if you’re wanting to UPDATE your space; I’m not here to cater to personal preferences – that’s what my Online Paint Color Consulting is for (I mean that kindly – my blog posts are for the ‘average’ homeowner and are geared more towards mass appeal).


Nothing murders a perfectly good wood cabinet (or wood floor) like a mismatched wood partner. Many people update their wood floors without considering the undertones, grain, and specific needs of their wood cabinets – they’re only focused on putting in a more modern-looking floor.

In this kitchen below, there’s nothing wrong with EITHER wood finish, other than the fact that they clash with each other – visually devaluing the whole look…

Dark wood kitchen before cabinets painted with granite (3)

In this particular situation, my client was replacing the flooring with something more muted and wanted to paint the cabinets to coordinate with the new flooring and granite countertops…

Granite countertop, island, greige subway tile backsplash. Benjamin MOore Classic Gray painted wood maple cabinets. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, diy blogger, online paint consultant

While the gray-wash wood floor makes me nervous, the overall look adds to the resale value and updates the space.

Unfortunately, in the process of updating, many people mistakenly choose a more modern wood or wood-look flooring that clashes with their existing wood cabinets. As shown in the kitchen below, my clients chose a muted LVP floor in their kitchen, and it clashes with the oak cabinets. And while they planned on painting the cabinets ANYWAYS, this is a great example of the type of mismatch I see ALL…THE…TIME.

Oak kitchen before being updated (2)

Just for the record – I LOVE THESE OAK CABINETS! But the floor kills them. 

Oak wood painted cabinets, Benjamin Moore White Dove, island Dovetail, taupe carpet. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, split level idea (1)

Benjamin Moore White Dove, island Sherwin Williams Dovetail

And while I’ve advised MANY clients to paint their outdated oak cabinets, there have ALSO been many that I’ve advised to KEEP their oak or wood cabinets.


Let’s chat briefly about what makes for a good wood cabinet…


I might’ve had a conniption if my clients (below) had decided to paint their gorgeous wood cabinets. The connection with the floor is fabulous and they were wise to choose dining furniture that kept the wood palette simple and consistent. MAD LOVE.

Best paint colour for maple, oak cabinets, orange tone. Benjamin Moore November Rain gray paint colour, green undertone. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consultant


I posted this next kitchen on my Instagram, just to get a read on whether my followers agreed with painting them or WISH they’d been left original (it was a pretty close tie)…

Before after painted wood cabinets, Benjamin Moore Navajo White cream color. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, country kitchen

While the hardware is a bit graphic, it’s part of the charm of this home! 

Deciding whether to leave your cabinets stained or to paint them is a HUGE decision. And while this isn’t the holy grail for deciding what to do (you get the final decision), it will help you understand WHY stain or paint could be the best finish for your cabinets AND your home.

But, before we get started, there are two questions that could make this whole process a bit more to the point for you, and touches on the LAST big consideration in your kitchen – STYLE.




c. ARCHED, CURVED OR CATHEDRAL (either just the top edge or both top and bottom)

Cabinet door profiles, ideas to update oak cabinets

TOP LEFT raised panel – TOP RIGHT recessed panel – BOTTOM LEFT double cathedral – BOTTOM RIGHT arched


There can be a big difference between cabinets that are in GREAT shape, those that need a little work, and which direction is BEST when it comes to stain or paint.

My cabinets…

a. are in GREAT CONDITION, they just need a basic cleaning

b. are in GOOD CONDITION, but need some stain touch-ups and cleaning

c. NEED SOME LOVE (refinishing needs to be done on a larger scale)

If your stained cabinets need some TLC, consider the cost/labor of staining vs painting. Also, decide whether the effort to refinish them is worth it if they will still look dated based on the other factors involved (hinge style/flooring/surrounding finishes/etc…).

Restaining cabinets is not just labor-intensive, it’s also expensive if you don’t do it yourself. Don’t get me wrong, paint is labor-intensive and expensive too, but it doesn’t hold a CANDLE to restaining.

And in the end, if your cabinets don’t have the STYLE factors needed to look updated, a fresh coat of stain might not move you ahead at all – you’ll have done all of that work for the same end result – an outdated-looking kitchen.


You’re welcome to do the questionnaire, but you may just want to scroll down to the ‘MOSTLY Cs’ section. That’s right, the above two questions supersede ALL OF THE QUESTIONS BELOW because if you have arched, curved, or cathedral-style cabinet doors, there’s no stain color that will update them.

And sometimes, even paint can only take them so far, but it can be a step in the right direction.

As for condition, if they need to be completely rehabbed ANYWAY, paint is likely the best way forward for an UPDATED MODERN look.

Cherry cabinets with island painted dark gray green, light wood flooring, slate tile backsplash, black granite countertop. Kylie M INteriors Edesign


Pick the answer that best applies to you and your cabinets (even if it’s not bang-on)…


A. totally hidden

B. partially exposed

C. full-exposure (oh, you dirty bird)

2. WHAT COLOR ARE YOUR STAINED CABINETS (referring to general stain color)?

A. kind of a muted ‘brown’ color with a bit of warmth/color, but nothing overpowering

B. a stronger warm tone, but it coordinates with the surrounding space (i.e. flooring/trim/furniture)

C. a strong yellow, orange, red, or pickled (pink) finish


A. we’re going to have to drag you out

B. you don’t know, maybe the next four or five years?

C. no more than one or two years


A. it’s not very updated; it still has outdated wood-stained trims*, doors, and other finishes that could be updated – and you don’t plan on doing them all!

B. it’s somewhat updated, but you still have more do to and you WILL be doing it!

C. it’s pretty updated

*not all wood trims/doors are outdated, but those from the 70s/80s/90s tend to lean that way.


A. they’re well-matched

B. they’re tile or vinyl and coordinate well enough, but aren’t super updated

C. your floors are wood, but in a different stain color than your cabinets, compete with them, OR they are tile/vinyl and aren’t updated and you’re not prepared to change them


A. both are updated in neutral colors

B. one or both of them are a bit dated but you plan on changing them in the future

C. not updated or are a color/non-neutral


A. your cabinet doors aren’t totally plumb and level; there are some gaps that you can’t fix/straighten-up

B. everything is more or less level and straight, only a few spots aren’t 100% (but are fixable)

C. everything is top-notch and level, meaning if the cabinets are painted white, you won’t see a bunch of uneven black gaps between doors/drawers



If you picked mostly A’s, you may want to KEEP your cabinets in their natural wood finish. Just remember, if you have arched, curved, or cathedral-style doors, OR if they need a LOT of prep work, you’ll want to head on down to the ‘C’ section, it’ll be like giving birth to a whole new kitchen – get it?

Based on all of these A’s, you have GREAT bones in place to support wood-stained cabinets; the first bone being the right door style. And while hidden hinges are BEST, exposed hinges are okay, as long as other factors (A’s) are in place.

But this doesn’t mean you get off scot-free. You might still have some serious work to do to update the look of your kitchen. Based in how you answered the previous questions, consider the following:

  • Replace your old countertop with an updated one in a NEUTRAL color.
  • Add an updated backsplash that suits your countertop and general style (subway tile and travertine are popular choices with wood, especially oak).
  • Updated hardware and lighting that suits the style of your home. Finishes should be consistent and coordinated.

The oak cabinets in this next kitchen are STUNNING – moderate stain, moderate grain, hidden hinges, and a simple door profile…

oak cabinets in kitchen with taj roy


My client (above) wanted to paint the cabinets, as well as the newly installed island. While she was open to painting only SOME of the cabinets; leaving some wood, I HAD to tell her how I really felt – THE CABINETS ARE GORGEOUS AS THEY ARE! Of course, the island could be painted, to break up some of the wood-on-wood, but it would hurt my heart to see these oak cabinets covered up entirely.

As for this next kitchen, sure, it would look BRIGHTER and more UPDATED with painted cabinets, but I absolutely love the rich depth of these cabinets and how the updated countertop and backsplash brighten the space instead…

Dark wood cabinets with modern granite or light quartz countertop.


This next one is touch and go.


Update oak wood kitchen cabinets with quartz white countertop, subway tile and painted island. Ideas from Kylie M Interiors Edesign, paint color advice blogger

The STYLE of the cabinets is great, as are the white quartz countertop and backsplash tile. And while the grain is a BIT wild, it’s totally liveable. However, the orange stain on the cabinets is FIGHTING with the red-violet hues in the wood flooring. Is this a dealbreaker? Not at all, it’s still a great kitchen, but to COMPLETELY update this space, one of these stains has to change.

This next kitchen has a modern door profile and while the stain color is a bit bright, it suits the floor and surrounding finishes. COULD you paint them? Sure, but I sure as heck wouldn’t…

Ideas to update oak wood, maple or cherry kitchen cabinets with backsplash, hardware and more. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color advice blogger


How to Update your Wood Kitchen Cabinets WITHOUT Painting Them

The Best Paint Colors to Update Oak & Wood

4 Budget-Friendly Kitchen Update Ideas


STAIN OR PAINT – the choice is yours!

If you picked mostly b’s, your cabinets could be GREAT contenders for stain…OR paint! The big decision will come down to personal preference and the overall appeal of your cabinets based on what you’ve learned so far.

You might also consider meeting your kitchen HALFWAY by painting the island only and maybe making some other smart kitchen updates while keeping those beautiful wood cabinets in all of their glory!

This next kitchen has great bones…

  • cabinet doors with square profiles
  • flooring and cabinets that are well-coordinated
  • stain color that isn’t overwhelming

The ONLY THING is that between the wood cabinets, island and floor, there’s a HECK of a lot of wood, to the point where you lose some of the beauty in the AMOUNT of it – it’s just one big orange-hued blob…

oak kitchen cabinets stained, not painted, before new countertop and backsplash

Painting the ISLAND ONLY was a great solution, offering a bit of contrast to the floor and the main cabinets. Along with a new countertop, backsplash and paint color, the BEAUTY of these solid oak cabinets really shines through…

Golden oak kitchen cabinets with white q

See more of this project and others here

In this next kitchen, while I’d take down the valance on the window, the cabinets have some pretty good bones. If they WERE painted white, the hardware would REALLY pop in contrast, creating a busier look. Instead, we painted the island Sherwin Williams Night Owl, just to add some visual interest and play off the wood…

Oak kitchen cabinets, white and swirly granite quartz countertop, dark green Night Owl (Sherwin) island, Sensible Hue, white linoleum. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Sherwin Williams Night Owl

Now, if you can’t decide whether to keep the stained look or to paint, here are a few things to consider:

  • if you plan on selling in the near future (ie. five years or less) consider painting them, as painted cabinets are almost ALWAYS more appealing to buyers – especially in the younger demographic (the exception would be if you have exposed hinges, that’s always a tough call unless you’re painting your cabinets a darker color)
  • if the cabinets are AWESOME but don’t look so hot with the floor – but you’re not replacing the floor, I’d paint the cabinets a color that DOES work with the floor or you’re devaluing both
  • if the countertop and backsplash are not updated/neutral, but you don’t want to change them, consider painting the cabinets and updating your lighting and hardware to add modern elements to the room and to distract from the more outdated features


How to Choose the Right White Paint Color for your Home

The Best Paint Colors to Go With Oak or Wood Cabinets

How to Pick The Best Paint Color for Your Cabinets

The 4 Best Paint Colors for Kitchen Islands

The Best Gray & Greige Paint Colors for Kitchen Cabinets or Bathroom Vanities




If you chose mostly c’s, it looks like your kitchen is ready for a change – maybe YOU aren’t ready, but your cabinets are. Remember, just because it’s WOOD, doesn’t mean it’s GOOD.

And you know what? Even if your cabinets are GOOD, as shown next, you can still paint them if you want a LIGHTER and BRIGHTER look. Don’t feel bad, they’re still WOOD, they just have a few coats of paint on them…

Dark wood kitchen cabinets before being painted

Cherry kitchen cabinets painted Benjamin Moore Classic Gray, best off-white warm gray paint color. White quartz, Roycroft Pewter painted island, white oak floor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Sherwin Williams Pure White and Peppercorn

And as you now know, there are many factors that can devalue the look of wood, which in turn, can devalue your home. I know, there are oodles of hubbies out there who can’t understand how wood cabinets can be a BAD thing, I mean, they’re SOLID WOOD and you CAN’T PAINT WOOD! But just think…

If you paint them, they’ll still be solid woodthey’ll just look better. 

This next kitchen had a double-whammy (no, not Tim’s favorite Friday night move), but curved doors and a strong red stain. They also weren’t so hot with the orange-hue of the flooring. It didn’t matter HOW MUCH the homeowner may have wanted to keep their wood cabinets (which they didn’t) the ONLY choice was to paint…

kitchen before cherry cabinets

And while this project involved a HUGE facelift, including new door fronts, white was the way to go as the previous look would turn off the majority of buyers…

Benjamin Moore White Dove, painted kitchen cabinets (Baby Fawn), island, dark wood floor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online consulting and diy

See this project and its listed finishes HERE

These next cabinets CLASHED HARD with the flooring – something HAD to go. On their own, each was pretty, but together they were a HOT MESS…

Painted maple, cherry wood kitchen cabinets in Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, Amherst Gray, green granite. Black appliances. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Before and after painted oak, maple cabinets. granite counterop, wood flooring. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting

Before and after, budget friendly kitchen update ideas. Painted oak cabinets in gray and white Benjamin Moore colors. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour advice blog

While I’d love to see a more interesting backsplash in the above kitchen, this was a budget-friendly refresher for the sake of resale, so we painted the backsplash instead!

Before and after, painted maple kitchen wood cabinets. Sherwin Williams gray greige. Island marble. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting

Painting kitchen cabinets is HUGELY satisfying. If you go white or off-white, it will INSTANTLY brighten your space, adding a more updated look to even the most OUTDATED of cabinet styles (which would be cathedral).

This kitchen below had GREAT bones. I loved the color of the stain, the door profile and hidden hardware, but it was SO stinkin’ dark! And while a light countertop/backsplash could’ve jazzed things up, so could some paint…Oak kitchen update ideas. Sherwin Williams Pure White upper and Cyberspace navy blue lower cabinets. Online paint color expert. Painted wood cabinets. Kylie M Interiors Edesign


6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Painting Your Cabinets White

How to Choose the Right White Paint Color for your Home

How to Pick The Best Paint Color for Your Cabinets

The 4 Best Paint Colors for Kitchen Islands

The Best Gray & Greige Paint Colors for Kitchen Cabinets or Bathroom Vanities

Will gel stain work on wood cabinets?

I’ve been asked this MANY times and as an answer, I have a few points for you to consider:

  • Gel stain on wood cabinets is WAY less labor intensive than restaining, but still requires DECENT prep (sand/clean).
  • Unless you have bare wood, it does not penetrate the same, meaning you’ll have more product sitting on the surface. To sand enough so that the stain sinks in, well, that’s a heck of a lot of sanding and it needs to be a CONSISTENT sand job so that you avoid blotchiness where the stain sits/absorbs. The more stain that sits on the surface, the more you risk the ‘painted’ look as you see more of the product and method of application (ie: wipe marks/brush marks) and you also risk it wearing off sooner.
  • You can only go the same color or darker.
  • It can reduce the look of the wood grain. Why? Well, when wood is unfinished, the stain will penetrate the wood, but the grain area doesn’t always take stain as well as the open wood areas. When you break up that sheen and restain a darker color, the open wood area will often take more stain, while the grain doesn’t always darken much more, so they start blending into each other a bit (I hope that makes sense…).
  • It takes a steady hand and can look like a hot mess if you don’t do a great job.

To see some gel stain before and after projects on Pinterest, click here.

If you’re still not 100% sure what to do, sometimes seeing a home SIMILAR to yours can be a great way to settle any nerves…

WOOD KITCHEN CABINETS: oak with arched door style, hidden hinges & travertine tile backsplash

This oak kitchen had an arched door profile, but NO exposed hinges. Sadly, I don’t have a great ‘before’ shot as it was a Realtor’s photo (I’m not allowed to use them, I only use photos from my E-Design clients), but I do have a snippet of another area of the kitchen…

Oak kitchen before being painted, travertine tile and island (5)

Kylie M Interiors Edesign. Oak cathedral style arched cabinets painted Benjamin Moore Cloud White, travertine tile backsplash, beige countertop, navy blue Ocean Floor island.

See this project and a few others here

Notice how they also filled in the bulkhead to give the cabinets a full-height/custom look. And check out the island in the WICKED gorgeous Benjamin Moore Ocean Floor!

The best gray or white paint colours for kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Edesign, online paint color services. Diy home decorating ideas blogger.market

Click HERE or on the above image to see available packages

WOOD KITCHEN CABINETS: oak with arched door, raised panel & STRONG stain color

In this next kitchen, the granite countertop and backsplash were circa the early 2000s, but still doing the job the homeowner wanted them to do (personally, I’m a BIG fan of travertine tile). BUT these finishes didn’t work well with the strong red of the cabinets. We also had that darn arched top to consider which meant it was drinking painting time!

Oak kitchen cabinet update ideas before being painted white with island colour (3)

Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consultant. Painted oak cabinets, Sherwin Williams Panda white with green beige granite countertop, travertine tile backsplash. Kilim

All of a sudden the backsplash and countertop look more updated and the WHOLE space has a new, brighter lease on life!

WOOD KITCHEN CABINETS: oak with square inset (shaker style) door & exposed hinges

You know, the stain color of these cabinets wasn’t bad, but in such a small space, the grain, hinges and hardware were too busy and weighed things down…

Small oak wood kitchen cabinets before being painted. Budget friendly ideas.

Painted oak cabinets. Dark gray paint color on the lowers and white uppers, floating shelves. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consultant

Truth be told, they actually put in new cabinets. However, the IDEA is to show you how a space can go from outdated to updated with the right paint color choices and products! They could have kept the existing cabinets and done the same paint treatment, but you would’ve still seen the hinges and they would have had to fill in the bulkhead.

And again, BIG thanks to my E-design clients who send me their before and after photos – I couldn’t do this without you! Real people…real homes…REAL BUDGETS!

WOOD KITCHEN CABINETS: maple with recessed door style (decorative shaker) & hidden hinges

Looks like this kitchen had great bones, right? Sure, but it didn’t have any energy. There was no contrast or interest and the cabinets clashed with the wood flooring.

Maple cabinets before being painted off-white

Maple wood kitchen cabinets painted Benjamin Moore White Down. Kylie M E-design, online virtual paint consulting. Granite countertop, backsplash, glass cabinets, maple wood flooring

See more of this project here

There are a few things to notice in the above kitchen:

  • the removal of the microwave oven and new range hood
  • the covering up of the dated-looking side of the island

WOOD KITCHEN CABINETS: maple with shaker style door & hidden hinges

Wooooof. This kitchen had great cabinets surrounded by a hot mess of finishes…

maple kitchen before cabinets were painted and new countertop and backsplash

After, it’s like a whole new kitchen…on a budget!

Maple cabinets painted Cloud White, Gray paint colour, quartz, hexagon subway tile cream backsplash and soapstone formica countertops

See the before and after photos of this kitchen here

 The fresh paint color, along with hardware, backsplash and countertop were game-changers for this kitchen, adding to the resale AND emotional value of the home!

6 Questions to Ask Before Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets White

So there you have it! Hopefully, these tips and ideas have helped you figure out what is the best choice for you and YOUR kitchen!


Hardware Ideas to Update Your Wood Cabinets

4 Ideas to Update Oak Cabinets

5 Ideas to Update Oak or Wood Cabinets WITHOUT Paint! 

The Best Paint Colors to Go With Oak or Wood Cabinets

How to Choose the Right White Paint Color for your Home

Need help?

Check out my E-design Color Consulting packages, I’d love to help!

Online paint colour consultant Benjamin Moore Sherwin Williams, Vancouver Island, USA, UK. Interior, exterior, edesign colors. Kylie M Interiors, blogger marketing

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature



  1. This is going to sound a bit unsympathetic to the fact that people are on budgets, but I believe that with the current looks, if you can wait a year and save for new cabinets, it might be worth not painting and replacing. When we moved, we splurged and ripped out oak instead of painting, and put in the bigger cabinets that go to the ceiling. What a difference! I don’t think you will likely get it just by painting. In fact, in your pictures, I was going to say that the picture where they put in a faux cabinet or panel to get the “to the ceiling” look were the best ones in the group b/c it looked modern. But then I saw that you said those were new cabinets, so it reinforced my point. I love your blog for paint colors and I also love younghouselove blog for other reasons, and they swear by IKEA kitchens for a budget. We did not do IKEA but went there after our remodel and I almost wish I had gone there first. Even for a budget, if you save for a bit, it seems like the best idea. Then have Kylie pick your new cabinet color and your wall color! 🙂

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      I know, in the ideal world we’d all get a fabulous new kitchen! But, I also know that saving up for a new kitchen would be a total luxury for some homeowners based on other priorities and budget needs, whereas painting cabinets can be a great way to refresh a space for a fraction. Sure, it won’t look brand new, but that’s okay as it can also give a homeowner a great sense of pride and a fresh new look until they’re ready for a larger investment! And yes, I love Ikea cabinets too, I’ve seen some great kitchens done this way – they’re an awesome way to get a beautiful kitchen on a tighter budget (as long as you have someone handy to install them – Tim tried them in our last home and they were a bugger!).
      Anyway, thanks for your note Tanya!

  2. I think all of the above pictures of the updated kitchens and cabinets look amazing!!! It seems a shame to rip out perfectly good cabinets to purchase new, when paint along with new countertops and other updates can totally transform the space. Great post!

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  3. I had a huge kitchen full of oak cabinets. They were nearly 20 years old but still in terrific shape. I agonized over 2 years about painting them but finally I took the plunge. And the end result looked like new cupboards. It didn’t happen overnight. I did it in sections and it took me 4 months but it was well worth it in the end. I also had new countertops installed. No one believed that i painted those cupboards. Now I’m in another house and these cuboards definitely need to be painted. They’re in such great condition that i won’t replace them. So that’s for sometime very soon in the future.

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    2. I have oak cabinets in good condition and want to paint. Is it ok to paint over wood grain without using filler to hide it.

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        ABSOLUTELY. Some people like to fill the grain, but I don’t mind KNOWING they’re solid wood cabinets! I just wouldn’t use a super high sheen which will OVER expose the grain. Satin finish is much nicer and softer ;).

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      Depends on the layout of your home. Some people take a lower cabinet and have it refit for the microwave or put it in the larger pantry!

  4. Love these ideas! What would you do with raised panel, arches and exposed hinges? I prefer to paint. But, what do you do with the exposed hinges?

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      Ooo, it sounds like I’d be painting those bad boys! Not much you can do about the hinges, but if you choose a medium or darker colour, they can blend in a bit more vs white :).

    2. Oh! I had this situation as well! My cabinets were arched-style with exposed hinges, and they were rock-solid. I painted the uppers SW Pure White and the lower cabinets I gel-stained fairly dark, to better relate to our new ginger-coloured wood flooring. (I was aiming for the lower cabinets to be a couple shades darker than the flooring. I overshot, and they’re quite dark, but they do look nice with the floors now, which the very yellow golden oak stain did not.) I picked oil-rubbed bronze hardware for both the top and bottoms.

      About the hinges: I was able to replace the old brass door hinges with new ones of the same brand (Amerock, in my case). I bought white hinges for the uppers and oil-rubbed bronze hinges for the dark-stained lower cabinet doors. It cost about $60 to buy the new ones. The hinges are *much* more subtle now. The dark hinges on the dark-stained wood almost completely disappear, and the white hinges on the white paint look fine.

      If I paint my bathroom cabinets grey, then I might choose silver or nickel hinges for the camouflage effect.

      I looked into changing the hinges to the hidden style, but it would have been a massive amount of work, far more expense, and what would have been the point? My cupboards still have that arch style, so they’re never going to look current. That’s ok. It’s not the style I would pick, but they’re good quality, they suit the house, and with the paint and gel stain and hardware, I am really happy with how the whole thing looks.

  5. I have raised panel doors in great stained condition, but they are heavily grained. Every painter I’ve spoken to say a that painting won’t be successful because the grain will still show through and ruin the look. I see some of your before pictures show heavy grain but the paint looks beautiful. What’s the trick to getting this perfect finish?

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      Well, some painters will do some SERIOUS prep to eliminate the grain, using filler and then sanding them, but it can be costly for the labour. I’ve done a lot of oak cabinets with a heavier grain and yes, you can see it. But, it’s a matter of weighing off whether you are willing to have that if it means brightening your space or if you don’t love the grain idea and would rather keep them as-is. Using a satin finish instead of a semi-gloss can also help the texture quite down a bit :).

      1. First of all, this is the best site I have found for before and after pics of painting cabinets. Your advice is very helpful, especially the point about why staining arched cabinets wouldn’t produce a good result.. The question I have is on your statement in reference to heavily grained cabinets. You said that the heavy grain will show through but your before and after pics don’t show any grain, unless the pics aren’t close enough to the cabinet to show the grain. Were the pics you have not close enough to show the grain or did you do extra prep work on them as you mentioned in the post in reference to other painters?
        Thank you so much for your expertise,

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          Hi Charlene, thank you! Well, it can depend on the angle of the camera for sure as you’re more likely to see the grain when the light hits the cabinet. Some paints also level a little nicer than others, so I do lean towards a quality paint, just to help out with that a bit and NEVER do a semi or high-gloss finish!

          1. Another question I have about painting cabinets, is do you use a brush, if so what type, quality, etc. or do you use a spray application with the paints you suggested?

  6. I was wondering…. if you have orangish oak floors and maple cabinets that are close in color, not in bad shape, they are flat and have hidden hinges.. and dated granted counter-tops, no backslash (yet)……..and you could only change one based on budget..how do you decide? I am thinking white paint on the cabinets would be really nice, but the granite is circa 2003..I can’t decide between the two..any suggestions or ideas are greatly appreciated..thanks in advance.

    1. Post

      Ooo, that’s tough. I mean, it would depend on the granite, but I DO know that a backsplash can make a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE in a room and is more affordable than both painting cabinet or new granite! Subway tile is a popular choice, I’ve seen many kitchen saved by it!

      But, if I had to choose between painting cabinets and granite?? Ooo, I’d probably go for the countertop…it’s close though. Again, depends on the granite.

  7. The picture of your clients kitchen under the heading ” Wood Cabinets – Details to consider” what is the paint color of the kitchen? Also, what is the tone color of the wood? Love the selection of the light over the beautiful table. Thank you!

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      Hi Pam! I believe that was BM November Rain, a soft gray with green in it – so pretty! As for the wood, that is one of my faves as it has kind of a diluted orange-brown look. While there’s a bit of yellow in there, overall, it’s really nice and muted. I hope that helps with your own space!

  8. What if your cabinet profile is something I can almost *guarantee* you have never seen (definitely not any of the ordinary profiles mentioned here)? It’s quite funky and was very common in our area during the 80’s. You’d probably need to see it to believe it.

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  9. What paint do you recommend for painting cabinets? I’m so ready to do this but afraid that after all the hard work of prep and painting I will be disappointed down the road because I used the wrong products.

    1. Post

      Hi Angela, I’ve had a LOT OF LUCK with Benjamin Moore Advance in the Pearl finish. I’ve painted many pieces/cabinets over the years with MUCH success!

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      Hi JoAnn, in my experience, if they’re prepped well and painted properly and allowed to cure, you should only expect the odd chip over the first few years as things get hit on the edges too hard. We’re 2 years in and have only 2 chips, one of them is where we haul the garbage can out and one is where we load our plates in and always hit them on the edge of the cabinets ;). Generally, if there isn’t a lot of sun on them, stained cabinets hold up longer, but that’s not to say that painted cabinets hold up POORLY :).

  10. Wowee, such good info but I’m still wondering what I should do with my COMPLETELY FLAT Cabinet/Drawer fronts . . . they are slightly more orangey than I’d like but when I redid the counters/backsplash (Nougat colored Caesarstone Quartz counters with light grey subway tile/white grout backsplash) they looked a lot “BETTER”, haha, but now I’m wondering if I should maybe kinda “strip/sand” them down and apply somethin like Minwax’s “Wood Effects” Weathered Grey (kinda sheer) to take some of the “warmth” out but I’ve been against painting them from day one. 🙂 My house was built in 1985 so I don’t expect it to be NEW anytime soon, hahaha. One of the countertop estimate guys was OBSESSED with my cabinets, or maybe he was just trying to suck up, hahaha, but they are probably Walnut, one person guessed. I wish I could send you a before/after and see what you think I could do because I love your designs!! 🙂

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      Hi Blaise! You know, if you aren’t happy with them, I don’t see why you shouldn’t try something new and yes, the gray could cut things back a bit for you. Just make sure to do it first on the interior of a door or a ‘non-important’ door, just in case you don’t love the effect :).

  11. I took your test had had 2 A’s, 2B’s & 2 C’s. I have heavily grained honey oak cabinets, and the same honey trim throughout the house. No back splash, just off white painted walls, and flooring that needs to be replaced. The Spanish Lace ceiling is Antique White, I think. I’m retired and expense is an issue. I am considering just changing out the cheap, gold hardware for Black handles/pulls. The hinges only can be seen via a tiny slit on each side, think they are a copper color. Oh. the cabinet doors are single Cathedral but more arch than what your examples showed. The bottom cabinets have the rectangle/square shaker doors. Any suggesting would be helpful.

    1. Post

      Hey Mike! You know, from the SOUNDS of it, you might be able to keep those cabinets wood, especially since you have warm wood trim for it to tie into (that could be the saving grace). As for new hardware, YES, this can be a great way to shift things, although even though you can only see a slit, I’d be inclined to do the hinges as well. I suppose at some point you could consider a subway tile backsplash that ties in well with your walls and countertop – this can be a great update and even a DIY if you’re so inclined!

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