Cabinets: Wood or painted in a tiny kitchen?
May 5, 2014 5:30 PM   Subscribe

I need some help planning the kitchen remodel in my 1925 bungalow. Trying to keep the budget in the $10000 to 15000 range. I am fortunate that underneath the very worn vinyl floors is maple hardwood that is original to the house. The plan is to hopefully restore that. But do I keep the cabinets in their (rather dated) oak state or should I paint the cabinets?

Kitchen in its current state can be seen: right side, left side, pantry, and entryways. The kitchen is very small, just 10 feet by 10 feet (don't laugh too hard city dwellers, by the standards of single family homes in the Upper Midwest, it is pretty tiny). The cabinets were replaced by previous owners in November 1991 and are in good shape. The doors even seem to be real wood.

I have consulted with a contractor, and to keep costs down I will be keeping the upper cabinets and just doing some rearranging of the base cabinets. Mainly putting in a dishwasher to the right side of the stove and replacing the cabinet to the right of the fridge with a bunch of drawers. As stated above, I can either get the base cabinets done to match the upper ones as they currently are, or get them in just about any Benjamin Moore paint color.

On one hand, leaving the cabinets as oak and adding some handles would be simpler and cheaper. I also like the warmth of the natural wood. On the other, refinishing the maple floors may put too much wood in a tiny kitchen. Painted seems to be more in line with the era of my house, and I like the results of this retro renovation. But I have also heard of mixed results when it comes to painting cabinets, and would the 1990s era arches look strange even with the paint?

So what would you guys put in my little kitchen? Any experiences with painting cabinets? Ideas, pictures, everything but telling me to knock out walls will be welcome. Thanks.
posted by weathergal to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the oak + maple floors would be too much. Would you consider painting the cabinet bases and leaving the upper doors off (painting the lower cabinet doors), or would the open shelving make you feel more cramped?
posted by peachfuzz at 5:37 PM on May 5, 2014

Or even pulling the uppers out and just installing shelving, maybe. I've been loving this lately - I especially like the fourth picture down in this collection
posted by peachfuzz at 5:40 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: I sanded and painted the cabinets in my 1920's era condo. Really brightened up the small kitchen, I was pleased with the results, and never had issues with chipping or peeling paint. 10/10, would paint again.
posted by storminator7 at 6:00 PM on May 5, 2014

How sturdy are the cabinets and are they in great shape? I' wondering if your builder could remove parts of the upper doors and insert (plexi)glass? One heads-up about painting oak - it has a very heavy grain that you'd have to fill, or enjoy the look of the grain through paint.
posted by theora55 at 6:04 PM on May 5, 2014

Have you talked to multiple contractors? In a similar sized kitchen, we were able to put in brand new (non-rta, which would have been a lot less if the sizes worked out) highly customized solid wood cabinets, sink, granite counter tops, and SS appliances for the lower end of your budget. I am not in an area of the country with cheap construction. We didn't redo floors, but I can't imagine that costs $5k.

Many people think oak and the arched upper cabinets are very "90s" so if you plan on selling, potential buyers may consider it a drawback. Check the pre assembled section of Home Depot if you need any matching cabinets, the medium oak looks like it would be a very close, if not exact match. One of the problems with painting oak is that the grain is very dimensional and can look weird when painted.

The folks on the kitchen forums of Garden Web (a great resource for inspiration and advice) really like Scherrs if you'd be interested in just keeping the boxes and replacing the doors. Painting just the cabinet face frames and buying new doors might be a good compromise.
posted by Gable Oak at 6:28 PM on May 5, 2014

I have dark wood cabinets and a wood floor in my re-done tiny kitchen in a 1900 Arts & Crafts house. I like the look. I did use a lot of glass fronted cabinets and like theora55's idea about adding some glass. Personally I wouldn't do open shelving especially in a small kitchen because it will just mean greasy dishes and canned goods as well as looking cluttered. Can't speak to painted cabinets in terms of how well they hold up. Could look bright but would need to be really heavy duty stuff to take being cleaned as often as needed.
posted by leslies at 6:28 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Do you need all those cabinets? The sheer amount of (upper) cabinets combined with the oak and reddish wall pain just makes for a heavy, darkish look.
This is personal preference of course, I prefer the white "after" look over the oak cabinets in this DIY kitchen makeover. So I would paint all the cabinets and remove some upper ones. Keep the oak look if you like it, you can always paint after the floors are done and you know for certain if maple & oak clash.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:56 PM on May 5, 2014

Response by poster: Ah knew I forgot to add something. I am really not fond of the open cabinets/open shelves look. I need to hid my clutter behind doors! Although I am considering some glass doors instead for at least some of the cabinets . Thanks for the ideas guys, keep them coming.
posted by weathergal at 7:06 PM on May 5, 2014

Since those cabinets are not original, and not any kind of premium wood, I would go ahead and paint them, probably white to lighten the whole place up.
posted by beagle at 7:31 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Those cabinets look very 90s in color and shape. Painting will look dated eventually, but that might be another decade or so. I was recently house shopping, and cabinets like yours went in the "must replace immediately" category, painted cabinets mostly went into "I can live with it at least for for now," depending on color and condition. (Everyone's taste is different, but that was something I was using to decide on bid prices, for what that's worth -- cabinets aren't cheap, so it made a big difference on some potential houses.)

Open shelves look pretty in photos but places I've been in with them have looked mostly jumbled and cluttered -- it takes a special kind of person to keep things coordinated and organized all the time. Glass, especially frosted or translucent, seems like a decent compromise, though I've never had to live with it so I'm not sure what the downsides are.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:35 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Back to add that if the cabinets themselves are well constructed another option is to replace the doors with something more up to date but leave the cabinets in place. That plus new countertops would freshen it considerably.
posted by leslies at 7:42 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I painted cabinets similar to that (by myself) and it turned out pretty good, so with your professional painters, it would probably turn out better. If your options are to paint them or do nothing with them, I would definitely paint them. I don't know what else you are doing, but I wonder if you couldn't replace your cabinets on that budget. (I'm installing three kitchens in my house, so I've been pricing things lately, but prices might be different here.)

When I was asking questions like this, I spent a lot of time on Houzz and Pinterest bookmarking pictures like these:
Wood floors with white cabinets
Light-colored wood floors with medium-dark wood cabinets
Wood floors with very dark wood cabinets
Dark wood floors with white cabinets
Dark brown tile floors with lighter wood cabinets
Wood floors with both wood paneling and white cabinets

There are a ton of blogs, too. Here's a white kitchen spotlight and a series of kitchen design posts that include some wood-with-wood kitchens. Have fun!
posted by slidell at 10:43 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a 1910 cottage/bungalow with a small kitchen. When I bought it it had really fugly 1970s cabinets (no way original to the house). I painted them off-white and changed out the handles. Granted, there was nowhere to go but up with that room, but it made a huge difference and I love it. Plus it was quick and cheap.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:41 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't make a decision until you uncover the flooring. My gut feeling is to paint. Those cabinets do look dated and it'll be a very long wait for them to look retro cool! I have a lot of open shelving I installed during a Reno. It saved me a lot of cash but, yeah, it does take a person hell bent on order. That person is me.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:22 AM on May 6, 2014

Take the doors off of the cabinets, wait a week, then decide how to move forward.

Might save you quite a dime!
posted by oceanjesse at 3:40 AM on May 6, 2014

Search google images for "doors off of cabinets." You might not have to change much!
posted by oceanjesse at 3:42 AM on May 6, 2014

Wow, you've got 3 different face styles going there. That would drive me nuts.

I'm not a big fan of doors-off cabinets: 1) everything that is jumbled up inside them is now visible, adding to visible clutter, which I especially wouldn't want in a small kitchen, 2) cooking throws off a lot of oil all over a kitchen that will settle on everything that's exposed.

One option is to get new doors and drawer faces to match your soon-to-be-uncovered floor. Much cheaper than getting all-new cabinets. It might be kind of weird to have doors and drawer faces that don't match the face frames. Not sure how to deal with that.
posted by adamrice at 7:20 AM on May 6, 2014

Best answer: We took some pretty ugly cabinets, that were a fantastic, sturdy oak and painted them ultra gloss white. Here's a sideways picture here, with our natural, original oak flooring.

Our cabinets had flat fronts, so my sister and I added fingertip moulding to each of them to give them a retro-look.

You can do a straight up paint job and it will look like this.

Or just add simple, fat frames made of MDF strips that cover the decorative detail. We used Liquid Nails adhesive to afix our decorations on.

Then prime and paint. Admire. Pretty easy, VERY cheap and it goes very well with a Craftsman bungalow.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:41 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much guys. Leaning towards painting, possibly with Ruthless Bunny's idea of MDF strips to change the shape of the arches. I am also going to get some quotes on what it would cost to remove the upper cabinets also, to see how much more it would be and if I could squeeze the cost out of the budget. Thanks again!
posted by weathergal at 6:20 PM on May 6, 2014

I removed an entire kitchen's worth of cabinets myself and the molding above them. The only cost was the dump fee. Demo was super easy and I am a girly newb at home renovation. Even replacing the drywall in places and mudding wasn't really all that hard.

After looking at that video above of cabinets that look a lot like yours, yes yes YES paint those things. Those cabinets look great!
posted by Foam Pants at 2:02 PM on May 7, 2014

« Older Onions, begone!   |   When should I talk to the school about a teacher... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.