The Interminable Kitchen Facelift

There are a lot of houses with terrible kitchens. This is what I learned when Soren and I began house hunting last year. Some of them are just dated, but many more are dirty, dark and cramped. One house we perused online boasted a kitchen that was 8 ft x 6 ft. I’m not kidding. So when we first looked at our house a year ago, the kitchen was one of the selling points. Sure the cabinets were sort of crappy, and some of the doors had pulls shaped like forks and spoons (dear god, why!), but the room was spacious and bright. “It’s a good place to start,” I thought.


Back then I had big dreams. “Oh, I’ll just gut this kitchen,” I said to myself (and drunkenly to the neighbors at our housewarming party).  HGTV makes it look so easy. You just rip out the cabinets, pull up the tile, and start over! Voila! Brand new kitchen. I dreamt of marble countertops and brass faucets. Of white enamel cast iron sinks. Of huge islands with bar stools.

Once we moved in, I realized several things. 1. Kitchens are flipping expensive, even if you do use Ikea cabinets. 2. We are not as handy as I thought we were. 3. House projects take five times longer than anticipated. So, with my renovation dreams in shambles, I settled for a kitchen facelift.

Work began just a month or two after we moved in. There was a stupid looking cabinet sitting all by its lonesome, awkwardly blocking a door. You can see it in the listing photo below along with one of the hideous fork pulls.


So we ripped that sucker out. Bam! Took us all of 30 minutes. High fives all around. And then we realized that underneath that cabinet was a missing chunk of wall, a missing piece of tile, and a heating vent that had been duct taped closed. Sigh.


We needed more storage anyway, so we bought a giant hutch off Craigslist and strategically placed it in front of this eyesore. To fully hide the hole, we had to press the hutch up against the door trim, which looked sort of awkward. So we replaced awkwardness with . . . more awkwardness. And then our facelift pretty much stalled.


But in August we got serious again. We took off the upper cabinet doors and, with some help from my parents, began painting them with the Critter Spray 1

Jenny of Little Green Notebook has nothing but good things to say about this device. I followed her instructions, adding 5 ounces of distilled water per gallon (about 4 tsp per pint) to thin the paint out a little. And it worked like a charm, mostly. I did have a little trouble keeping the sheen consistent. I can see shinier streaks and duller streaks running across my doors. Maybe it was the paint (Benjamin Moore Advance in satin). More likely it was user error.

If you decide to spray paint your own cabinets, I have two tips for you: 1. Buy these plastic triangles to set your doors on. They are awesome. And 2. don’t underestimate the value of prep work. Oh how I wish I’d done more sanding before I painted them. And more wiping off dust/dirt between coats. And I probably should have primed the doors.

Here’s another pro tip: Don’t be a dumbass. Make a decision about your hardware BEFORE you paint the doors. I did not do this. The little fork and spoon pulls measured 3″ center to center. That’s a fairly standard size, so I just figured I would get new pulls to fit the holes. But here’s what I didn’t consider: Not all of the cabinet doors had fork and spoon pulls. Some had little nickel squiggles. And the squiggles, I later realized, happen to be a different size. And since I had to fill some of the holes anyway, why not scrap the idea of pulls and use knobs instead? Wheee!

So after the upper cabinet doors were fully painted I WENT BACK AND FILLED ALL THE HOLES, SANDED, AND REPAINTED THE DOORS. Then we had to drill NEW holes for the knobs. I have one rule: My life must be difficult.

The doors look . . . ok. I’m not sure how other people manage to make old hardware holes disappear, but you can still see mine. Not ideal. But this is just a temporary solution until I get my new kitchen anyway. And I refuse to entertain painting the doors a third time. There’s masochism and then there’s insanity.

The cabinets might not look perfect, but they look vastly better than they did. Here’s one thing that makes me particularly happy: The door fronts had been painted several times, and each time the painters managed to slop paint all over the unpainted backs of the doors. To cover this mess I painted the backs too. It’s the little things, people.

Sloppy painting wasn’t the only questionable decision the previous owners made. They also chose to paint the cabinet doors a different color than the cabinet boxes. And the ceiling looked as if it had been touched up with 50 (different) shades of white.

DSC_0016 DSC_0020

The lighting was awful too — boob lights overhead and this monstrosity, which seems to be a bathroom vanity light, over the sink. 

The new kitchen is two tone too, but in a good way. I went with white on the top, gray on the bottom. That color scheme is super trendy these days, but I also happen to love it. So no apologies.

After photos to come soon. The finish line is in sight!

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Filed under design, DIY

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