Update Kitchen Cabinets To A More Modern Look

The current project is a pretty big kitchen cabinet makeover. Lots of doors and drawers to paint. I spent all week doing one side of the kitchen and this week I will do the other side. Check out the picture.

The cabinets are 20 years old and they structuraly are in perfect condition. That's because they are made from solid mable wood. These are probably the best built cabinets I have ever worked on. Even the sides of the drawers and the bottom and back are a solid 1/2 inch thick mable wood. You just don't see that so much.

The challege is after 20 years is the finish is in pretty bad shape. As you look at the photo the door on the right is what they look like and the door on the left is how I am faux painting them to look. The whitewash or pickled look was popluar 20 years ago but basically nobody uses it today. Along with me faux painting the cabinets a new floor was installed of travertine marble, the backsplash is now tumbled marble and instead of tile counter top there is a granite counter top and new lighting. So a complete make over. I am painting the cabinets to look like a hand rubbed Tuscany look with a color that picks up some the color in the granite counter top.

lots of work on this one. I had to throughly clean the cabinetry with denatured alachol and mineral spirits. I also ended up sanding quite a bit as that was the only way to get it all clean. However, what happens then is you end up sanding down thru the whitewash finish to the raw mable wood in areas. so to counter act that I have to apply a whitewash in those areas to get it back otherwise when I apply the tuscany hand rubbed finish it will not look right at all.

then of course I put 2 coats of a clear coat finish on each surface. I started using a product called diamond elite varathane for this and I absolutely love it. It is easy to work with and has a great 'hand' to it. When I say it has a great 'hand' I mean it feels soooooooooo nice to run your hand over it.


  1. Hi Robert,

    The cabinets are beautiful! I would love to see a picture of the completed kitchen if you have one.

    We are purchasing a neglected home and will renovate the 80's kitchen before we move in. I am planning on getting a painter in to spray the oaky-brown cabinets a lighter color and then I want finish them myself with a distressed look similar to what you have done here. Could you tell me what products you used to get the tuscany hand rubbed finish look?

    Anne - Sugar Land, TX

  2. Anne, sorry no picture of the completed kitchen but it did come out very nice.

    this page here (copy and paste it) http://www.fauxbykathy.com/classes/kitchen_cabinets_classic_furniture_finishes.html
    has several little pictures of what you might consider doing to the cabinets before hire a painter to come in and paint over them.

    you can start with what you have to get these looks. the one on the top right and the one on the bottom left might be something you should consider.

    as for the tuscany had rubbed look I mixed the color but it was like a burnt seinna type of brown. I used an oil paint and thinned it down with a product called penetrol. thinned it way down as a matter of fact. then brushed it on and then rubbed it off with a rag. that way you don't get brush stroke lines and you can take off as much as you want.

    good luck with your project.

  3. By the way, I am currently working a kitchen cabinet project right now. I am going to post some pictures soon but the existing cabinets are just like the light colored one above.

    I am making them a very dark, rich brown. by painting the cabinets instead of replaceing them I am saving the client at least 30,000 dollars. not a bad savings.


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