How To Paint Your Own Cabinets

Make sure your house has plenty of ugly cabinets — ones with years of grease stuck to them. This is crucial for steps later on. The more cabinets, the better. Your first apartment in Brooklyn with four cabinets won’t do. 

Once you’ve got the cabinets, pick your color at the paint store. This will be a hard decision. If you have kids, give them lollipops to keep them busy for five minutes because you think that will honestly be enough time to choose. But there are at least twenty shades of light gray. Some with red undertones, some with blue. Spend a half-hour looking at all of them while your kids run amok in the supply aisle. Roll your eyes when your oldest asks you to buy her the purple paint roller, because you half knew she’d ask for something. She always asks,whether it’s a toy at Target, gum at the grocery store, or a purple paint roller at the paint store.

Finally, choose a grey based on the name, because they all look the same and your hypothetical kids are testing your last sliver of patience.

With your paint, brushes, rollers, and drop cloths in tow, head home.

Don’t plan your attack on your cabinets. Only reasonable people do that. Instead, dive right in. 

Remove all the knobs and drawer pulls and set them aside to donate. Brass might make a comeback, but this shade of fake gold will not be in your house. Still, tossing it would be wasteful. Someone else will love it.

Remove all twenty-two of your cabinet doors and all eleven drawers. Lay them in various places throughout the basement and the garage. Don’t buy tripod-stand-things to paint on, because that would make it easier on you. This needs to be the most difficult labor of love you’ve ever attempted.

Sand both sides of all the doors, all drawers and the fronts of the cabinets, then clean them all with wood soap. The cabinets and doors from around the stove will need an extra washing or two. They will be completely caked in grease. If you paint without cleaning, the grease will seep through and turn the paint brown. Then you will have to complete the sand/wash/paint steps all over. This process should be hard, not impossible.

Soak all the hinges in a vinegar and water solution, then scrub them with S.O.S. Pads and let them dry. The hinges are exposed, also made of brass, and purchasing new nickel ones would be the easy and expensive way out. You need to paint those too. Spray paint all sides of all forty-four hinges in batches. Ten at a time. Vinegar will linger on your skin, which somehow reminds you of your favorite drink. 

So, drink wine. Lots of it, because it calms your anxiety about the unfinished project.

Over the next two months, apply six coats of paint to each drawer front, cabinet front, and both sides of each door. Before breakfast, after putting your kids on the bus, after dinner, and before bed. Steal every moment you can to paint. 

Put off hanging with friends, getting out of the house, exercising, and pretty much anything else that brings you joy. Despise the paint, the color you chose, and anything that gets in the way of your mission to finish.

Develop pain in your right hand. Tell yourself it must be arthritis, because you’re approaching thirty-six. Don’t admit that it’s because you are painting all the freaking day.

Eventually you will finish. When you do, stand back and marvel at what you’ve done. All the days, all the paint, aches and bad days have ended. The kitchen looks bigger, cleaner even. It nearly killed you, but damn it’s beautiful.

Be proud. You did it on your own.

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19 thoughts on “How To Paint Your Own Cabinets

  1. I love your humor in this piece! The instructional tone is easy and accessible. I really enjoyed reading this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Myna!! It was fun to write (once I got over the trauma of painting, HA!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this!!
    You have talked me out of any potential cabinet-painting projects.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, I actually loved the end product and felt so proud of myself for finishing. That being said, I’ll never do it again. Lol.


  3. Rowan Beckett Grigsby October 30, 2019 — 4:58 pm

    2) OK, but do I replace the existing, period-to-the-house, cup handles on the built-ins to match the ones on the new cabinet doors which ALMOST match the built-ins, because….


    1. I missed you too!
      As for your comment, the hardware needs to match or it drives me bananas. I still don’t know why we have oil-rubbed bronze everywhere (which I absolutely adore) in my new house except for the kitchen hardware, which is all nickel. I’d replace the nickel if we had the dollars to do it. And cup handles are my favorite!


  4. Jennifer Allen Mierisch October 31, 2019 — 2:43 am

    You had me at “drink wine.” This was very entertaining and I made a mental note never to attempt painting my own cabinets.


  5. Great to have you on the grid, Danielle! Great piece 🙂


    1. It’s been a while, Katie! (like almost a year!) Thank you! I’m hoping to make more regular appearances again soon.


  6. I just loved this. Your humor was spot on. I was sitting at my desk at work when I read this. Big mistake. I am pretty sure my coworkers think there is something wrong with me. I enjoyed the way you wrote the piece. It was like a stream of thoughts. Really great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Allie! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.


  7. Instructions unclear, drunk and covered in paint. This was a fun read and I loved all of the little lists you have hidden in here like, it really adds to the poetry of the piece. Also, I’m gonna say no to ever attempting this kind of project.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading. It was definitely a labor of love. Don’t get me wrong, going from old yucky oak to matte light gray changed my kitchen so much, but never EVER again.


  8. I feel your pain! I haven’t repainted cabinet doors, but I’ve lived through home remodeling. I know that feeling of wanting to plow through. Fun read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Margaret! My husband mentioned that I should paint our island cabinets (which have wainscoting on the backside of them) the other day. It will never happen, and I coulda killed him just for thinking it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s so good to see you on the grids again, Danielle! And ugh, the forced rest/houseboundness (that’s a word now, okay?!) must be so frustrating. Painting anything is a task I find intensely irritating so kudos for doing this intricate unwieldy job with the cabinet. You really nailed the tone of this piece — your ability to laugh at yourself, at your own approach, to be self-deprecating puts the reader immediately at ease and in an empathetic frame of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Asha! As always, I’m so appreciative of your comments.

      I’m no longer couch bound (insert happy gif here)! And I’m hoping that means my writer’s block/enter button fear will let up. Fingers crossed!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oooh hooray for freedom from the couch and I’m keeping all my everything crossed for inspiration to strike you.

        Liked by 1 person

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