Tips & Tricks for Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Miss Mustard Seed proves that paint, patience and a little bit of elbow grease can transform a kitchen.

Miss Mustard Seed's Kitchen Eating Area
Rustic textures, white paint and antiques with plenty of patina combine for an airy farmhouse feel.

There are some rooms that need a total overhaul, because they are dated, damaged or downright ugly. There are other rooms that need a makeover simply because they don’t reflect the personality and style of the family dwelling there. Such was the case with this kitchen.

It had great bones, nice wood cabinets, upgraded counters and birch floors, but it needed an injection of charm and personality. And the most budget-friendly way to do that was paint.

The cabinets were primed and given a fresh coat of a custom-mixed white paint, which immediately freshened up the kitchen and gave it more of a cottage vibe. Swapping out the traditional-style nickel hardware with some reproduction glass pulls further customized the cabinets.

Miss Mustard Seed's Painted Kitchen Cabinets
Can’t find the perfect color from the fan deck of paint swatches? Miss Mustard Seed recommends mixing a custom color that suits your space and your taste.
Miss Mustard Seed's Painted Kitchen Cabinets
Several shades of white, such as the creamy hue on the walls and a crisp color on the cabinets and trim, give the kitchen dimension.

The entire look was finished off with antique accessories, like ironstone pitchers filled with wooden spoons, an old grocery scale and linen textiles. These were all relatively small changes that made a big difference in the overall look of this space.

Painting built-in cabinetry is one of the most economical ways to update your kitchen, but it can also be an intimidating step into do-it-yourself territory for a novice. Understandable, because it’s a big project that involves dismantling the busiest room in the house. There is plenty of photographic evidence, though, that proves painting cabinets is worth the time and the effort.

Miss Mustard Seed's Kitchen Island

Here are some tips to tackling the transformation:

  1. Those who are brand new to painting furniture and/or cabinetry should test the entire process from start to finish on one door. It’s a great exercise to learn what works and what doesn’t before diving into the entire project. This is also an important step when working with unfamiliar products.
  2. Paint the cabinets a section at a time. It’s easy to get carried away and remove all of those dated, builder-grade oak cabinet doors at one time, but having the entire kitchen ripped apart can add more pressure to the project. It can also cause an issue if space in the garage or work area is limited. You’d be amazed how much space cabinet doors can take up when they are laid out to dry! The project might take a little longer to complete, but there will be some semblance of order while the work is being carried out.
  3. Always take the time to properly prep and prime all surfaces. We want to get right to the fun stuff, right? Yes! But it’s not fun when the paint is bubbling up over greasy build-up or starts peeling just days after the cabinets are painted. Take the time to clean the cabinets with a grease cutting cleaner, sand them with 80-100 grit paper to rough up the surface, and prime them with a quality adhesion primer.
  4. Use quality paint and tools. The old adage, “You get what you pay for” definitely applies to paint! A quality paint will go on smoother, require fewer coats, will be more durable, and will level out to hide brush strokes and roller marks. It’s worth the splurge! While a paint sprayer isn’t a required tool, it makes the work go faster and the end result looks more professional. A project can be completed, though, with a well-made 2 ½” synthetic-bristled, angled sash brush and a small foam or microfiber roller made for painting trim.
  5. Give the cabinets time to cure properly before heavy use. It’s exciting to get those freshly-painted cabinet doors hung as soon as they are dry, and that can certainly be done, but be aware that almost all paints require 30 days to fully cure. During that time, the finish is more susceptible to gouges, scratches, and dings. Let your family know to treat the cabinets with care during that time or, if possible, just leave them to cure in an out-of-the-way place before putting them into daily use.

By putting some of these tips to use, your painted cabinets will look like they were done by a professional. Your wallet will definitely know the difference, though!

For more information on painting kitchen cabinets (and many other things), visit missmustardseed.com.

I’ll Have A (Beautiful) Blue Christmas

Marian Parsons, aka "Miss Mustard Seed," uses natural greenery and homemade pieces to keep her year-round color palette looking festive for Christmas.

Marian hangs a handmade pom-pom garland on a vintage upside-down screened door.

If you’re already starting to stress about the holidays, do away with an explosion of Christmas décor in your home and, instead, opt for a simpler and more relaxed look. Blogger Marian Parsons of Miss Mustard Seed skillfully exemplifies this concept in her former Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, home, which she filled with simple touches that infuse the home with the holiday spirit. “I don’t like to decorate for the holidays in a way that’s fussy or in your face,” says Marian. “I like to add hints of the season through fresh greenery and handmade touches.”

Marian mixed a custom shade of blue from colors in her milk paint line for this step-back hutch. Festive touches such as the wool pom-pom wreath and the small fir tree in a crock bring Christmas to the living room.

Dreaming of a Blue and White Christmas

You would think Marian, a highly admired paint enthusiast, has always possessed the skills to make her Christmas vision a reality, but like everyone else, she’s struggled with creating the right holiday look. “I’m a blue-and-white girl, and for a long time I felt like I didn’t have permission to stray from red and green for Christmas,” she says. “After several years, I started to see articles with surprising holiday palettes, and I finally felt the freedom to do something different.”

How Lovely Are Your Branches

Marian’s blue-and-white color palette remains prominent during Christmas, with natural accents used to bring a festive feel to the home’s year-round look. “I like to keep things simple and natural,” she says. “I love tucking fresh greenery into chandeliers and on top of tall pieces of furniture, as fresh greenery is always in style.”

The chippy finish of this antique cabinet adds character to family room.
Simple and pretty is how Marian describes her family room décor.

Varieties of juniper, pine, fir, spruce, eucalyptus and bay leaves make up Marian’s greenery supply. “I like to use a mix,” she says. “I find as many varieties as I can, because some are feathery, some have needles; and they can have a yellow, blue or green tint.” She prefers live greenery over faux, as it provides a more authentic look, and it’s “so much prettier up close.”

She also includes trees in a few of her rooms, to accompany the loose garlands and branches. As her ceilings are high in the family room, she gets as big a tree as she can find and decorates it with felt garlands, jingle bells and any other ornaments she chooses. In the living room, however, she has a small fir tree that is decorated in felt-star garlands and small handmade grain-sack ornaments.

Holiday baking is the kitchen’s theme during Christmas, with freshly baked cookies on the table and a “Gingerbread Baking Co.” sign by Ella Clare.

Handmade Holiday

Perhaps the sweetest parts of Marian’s home are the homemade touches that make her holiday look customized and personal. “I like pieces that are unique and that have a handmade feel to them,” she says.

This cloche contains a miniature vignette which includes a gingerbread house, an antique cast iron toy cow, fresh greenery and a bottle brush tree.

Every year, Marian makes gingerbread cookies and houses, and scatters them around the house for something that looks and smells good. Some of her houses are displayed in cloches or on cake stands, and some of her cookies are hung as garlands. Marian also loves to decorate with wool pom-poms. Some of them are hung as garlands, and others are tied around lamps or made into wreaths. “It’s a reference to snow balls,” she says.

Handmade accents add a personal touch to holiday decor.

Having a handmade touch doesn’t mean you have to make all the décor yourself. Marian enlisted the help of her friend Ann Drake from the blog On Sutton Place to bring charming touches to her home, including her stocking Advent calendar and grain-sack star ornaments. “I sent her all my grain-sack fabric scraps, and she made 24 stockings for me that I tied onto a piece of twine,” says Marian. There’s never a better time to get creative with friends than during the holidays.