HomeHome Updates: Tips & IdeasDecorating Ideas and How To'sPainted Wood Cabinets vs. Stained Cabinets: A QUESTIONNAIRE

Painted Wood Cabinets vs. Stained Cabinets: A QUESTIONNAIRE

Posted on October 21, 2023 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.


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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

Aside from perception, there’s often a gender divide regarding 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 encountered 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).



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 care what other people think; well, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog post in the first place.

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As for what makes a wood-infused kitchen look UPdated or OUTdated, it can be a combination of the items listed below – items that park a kitchen in a particular decade (i.e., the ’90s) or style. If you’re happy in the ’90s, 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, this can detract from any other beautiful features they 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, the STYLE of the cabinets (i.e., cathedral top), combined with a slightly overpowering stain or grain, can make them look less than their full potential.

The above can also be more noticeable in a home with updated finishes. 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 directly connecting 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, the slate tile backsplash, narrow door trim, and combined cabinets make the space look 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 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.

I’m not going to say it’s not PRETTY – it’s just toooo much wood, and neither finish is in its full glory.

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 bottom has a far less bossy stain color on the cabinets and floor, whereas the other has some darn strong red-orange hues. So, while the cabinets, flooring, and trims in the last kitchen blend, the overall look is soft, rather than overwhelming.

Remember, this can all be open to perception. I’m here if you want 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 floor) like a mismatched wood partner. Many people update their wood floors without considering their wood cabinets’ undertones, grain, and specific needs – 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 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

BTW, the modern choice for cabinet hardware is to have knobs on the doors, pulls on the drawers

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

As shown in the kitchen below, my clients chose a muted LVP floor, which clashes with the oak cabinets. Also, consider the direction of the grain/pattern in the floor and how STRONG it looks, competing with the smaller grain of the 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

After, painted cabinets let the space breathe a little, whereas before, it felt claustrophobic.

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 to get a read on whether my followers agreed with painting them or wished 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! 

But, before we get started, these two questions could make this whole process more to the point and touch 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.

As it relates to your cabinets, which of the following applies…

a. They’re in GREAT CONDITION; they just need a basic cleaning

b. They’re in GOOD CONDITION but need some stain touch-ups and cleaning

c. They NEED SOME LOVE (refinishing of some sort 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 labor-intensive and expensive if you don’t do it yourself. Don’t get me wrong, painting 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 – you’ll have done all that work for the same 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, no stain color will update them.

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

At the end of the day, if your cabinets 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



After finishing this questionnaire, you’ll have a clearer idea of whether paint or stain is better for your kitchen cabinets. 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 you, your cabinets, AND your home – regardless of what’s trendy.

If we’re talking about what’s trendy in cabinets, and not considering much else, it would be painted cabinets (if you’re not buying new – if you’re buying new, both are in style). However, it’s not always about what’s trendy; it’s about blending smart update ideas with your personal tastes.

Pick the best answer for 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 to do, 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 might also check out 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 it’s the EDGE of them, not the full hinge, screws and all. Also, you’ll want to ensure the 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 on how you answered the previous questions, consider the following…

  • Add an updated backsplash that suits your countertop and general style (subway tile and travertine are popular choices with wood, especially oak – although travertine is just sloooowly coming back in style).
  • Updated hardware and lighting that suit 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 and 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 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.

Beautiful WOOD Kitchen Cabinets Updates: REAL HOMES, REAL BUDGETS! 




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, making some other smart kitchen updates, and keeping those beautiful wood cabinets in 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 (like my hair in the morning)…

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

While some choose to leave their lower cabinets wood and paint the upper cabinets some shade of white, this is TRENDY, won’t last, and only suits the rare kitchen (very rare, and you’ve probably seen the three of them on Pinterest, because they’re the ONLY ONES THAT LOOK GOOD – I wouldn’t if I were you.)

While I’d take down the valance on the window in this next kitchen, the cabinets have some pretty good bones. If they WERE painted white, the hardware would REALLY pop in contrast, creating a busier look (these are fully exposed hinges). Instead, we painted the island Sherwin Williams Night Owl to add 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

I would also think about changing the counter stools to either match the wood of the cabinets OR choose a fully upholstered stool with legs closer to the cabinet stain. Oooo, and if possible (costs add up fast), I’d see if two pendant lights could be installed over the island to create a focal point/intimacy. Okay, I’m done now.



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

  • Do you plan on selling in the near future (i.e., five years or less)? Consider painting them. 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 paint your cabinets darker.)
  • 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’ll devalue 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.
  • Start by painting your island (if you have one) and see if that shifts the energy of your space in a positive direction. If you love it, it could inspire you to keep on paintin’!

Painted Kitchen Cabinets: BEFORE & AFTERS of REAL HOMES! 




If you chose C for the most part, 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

As you now know, many factors can devalue the look of wood, which 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

While this project involved a HUGE facelift, including new door and drawer 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

Want some SERIOUS inspiration? See this project and its listed finishes HERE

These next cabinets CLASHED HARD with the flooring – something HAD to go. Each was pretty (although that orange is DAMN STRONG), 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

HUGE THANKS to my Online Paint Color Consulting clients who send their photos in – I don’t ‘borrow’ from other creator’s sites, and prefer to use images that are my own – REAL HOMES, REAL PEOPLE, REAL BUDGETS! 

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 resale, so we painted the backsplash instead.

This next kitchen is a labor of love for the homeowner. However, that labor of love saved her some SERIOUS money and looks freakin’ gorgeous…

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

A Budget-Friendly Kitchen Remodel: Painted Tile, Marble, & More

Painting kitchen cabinets is HUGELY satisfying. If your kitchen can handle white cabinets, it will INSTANTLY brighten your space. And while the current trend is to paint cabinets in an off-white or light neutral, off-whites are often popular for early 2000s cabinets.


How to Choose the Right White Paint Color for Your Home



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, including a light sanding, TSP or degreaser, and wiping with a tack cloth or clean rag to remove ANY residue). The durability is also questionable; you’ll want to put one or two coats of a quality top coat on your cabinets.
  • Gel Stain does not penetrate the same unless you have bare wood, meaning more product will sit 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 (i.e., 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 the 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.

6 Questions to Ask Before Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets White

Benjamin Moore best medium blue gray paint color, Britannia Blue. White upper cabinets, blue lower cabinets and painted kitchen island, chevron tile backsplash ,white oak, offwhite quartz. Kylie M

So there you have it! Hopefully, these tips and ideas have helped you determine the best choice for you and YOUR kitchen!


REAL HOMES, REAL BUDGETS: Painted Kitchen Cabinet Projects

Beautiful WOOD Kitchen Cabinets Updates: REAL HOMES

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.

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      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.

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      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.

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      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!

  12. “You have too much” really, REALLY needs to be applied to more than just wood! To be honest, I can see the same problem in some of the ‘after’ pics: they just traded an overwhelming amount of wood tones for an overwhelming amount of white/light gray tones. Before long, they’re probably going to be having a lot of the same feelings they had before…

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  13. Thank you for this article. It’s the most balanced consideration of stained versus painted cabinets that I’ve seen. My kitchen has maple cabinets stained in a fairly orange honey color with raised panel doors and flat slab drawers. The wall cabinets go all the way to the ceiling with crown moulding at the top. Counters are a dark gray, almost black, speckled Corian. These are from the early 2000s; the cabinets are in excellent condition, and the counters are very good too, only showing staining in the integrated (white) double kitchen sink. Trim in the house is painted, and I’ve been replacing hollow core slab doors with solid wood shaker doors painted white over time. The floor in the kitchen currently square ceramic tile in a rosy adobe color, which I hate and want to change. My style tends to be modern and minimalist, although I also love the warmth of real wood. I tend to cringe when hear people paint nice wood cabinets, but in my case I find myself considering it because I need to expand my kitchen cabinets onto another wall to build a large pantry area. I’ve also moved my refrigerator to this wall, so it is integral to the flow of the new kitchen functionality. I would prefer the cabinets in this area match the rest of the kitchen for a cohesive look. However, I can’t afford to replace the old cabinets and have been finding it very difficult to find anyone who sells honey maple cabinets these days. I could buy white cabinets, save money, and paint the old cabinets to match, but I really would miss the warmth and natural vibe they give off (this is Colorado, where some rustic charm is good). It’s not impossible to find maple cabinets, so I could buy them and instead of matching the old raised panel doors, I could replace all doors in the whole kitchen with something more modern like a shaker or slab style. That’s actually what I’m leaning towards now if I can find someone selling the same or similar tone base cabinets. What would you do? Would you go white, stay wood stain, change the counters too? The floors will change no matter what, but I can’t resolve the final flooring until the cabinet question is sorted. I’m on a very tight budget. We plan to be here 3-5 years at the most; it’s not a forever home.

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      Ooo, that’s a tough call. Now it’s hard to say without SEEING your home, the flow, and the actual finishes, but if you can’t find an EXACT MATCH, it would be best to paint them, as you won’t want it looking patchwork. And I know, I would miss the warmth of the wood cabinest too. Maybe your countertop (or a new one) can accommodate non-white cabinets for a touch of personality? Or the right white countertop could accommodate a warmer, softer countertop perhaps?? Living in Colorado, I’m thinking that maybe a non-white cabinet in a greige/beige/mushroom tone, or even the right darker green could be interesting!

  14. I love your blog, Kylie! Thank you so much for all you do to help others with their design decisions! I’m in the process of building my dream home. We’re in the homestretch now, so cabinets should be in a couple months from now! I love wood, and my husband likes painted, but I felt that too much of either would be….too much, so we are doing base cabinets, oven cabinet, and fridge cabinet in quarertsawn oak shaker in biscotti stain (medium brown w/ gold undertones), upper cabinets in white, and the large island in a beautiful sage green. I feel this will be a good balance between wood and painted and could be a good option for others who are hesitant to committing to one or the other.

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  15. I would love to find out what stain (and what type of wood) was used on the island that is in the second picture down if that’s possible? It beautiful! I love all your ideas and information!

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