Finished Kitchen Cabinet Milk Paint Project

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And by try, I do mean to redo all of your hard work two more times until it becomes perfect. Because no one wants streaky paint. Right? In this post, I will share how our Finished Kitchen cabinets went from a drab golden oak to a stunningly bright kitchen with paint!

kitchen cabinet doors removed and on table to be cleaned and sanded

Published June 13, 2022
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Golden Oak Upper Cabinets

golden oak kitchen cabinet uppers before finished

Our house was built in 1996, right at the height of using Oak cabinets and a beautiful golden oak stain. However, after almost three decades, the yellow undertones have not helped these beauties. The golden cabinets now look orange. Literally, orange. We have so many other projects that have a higher importance than redoing our fully functional and usable kitchen. So, instead of being impulsive and gutting the place, I was given permission to paint the cabinets and bring them into the 21st century.

In early 2022, I was able to complete the lower cabinets using General Finishes Milk Paint in the color Patina Green. As I went with a color, and milk paint is hyperpigmented, so primer is not typically necessary. The lowers got two coats of Patina Green and two coats of topcoat for extra protection. Check out the entire process by clicking the link below!

First things first

unfinished upper kitchen cabinet

When beginning any painting project, having the right tools is very necessary. Sanding, cleaning, removing hardware, stools, rags, brushes and rollers are all really necessary. The first step is to label and then remove the doors and hardware. If you have a whole kitchen full of doors that are the same size, labeling them is very important as the hinges typically are set to a specific spot.

upper kitchen doors with tape labels

As we were buying new pulls, the old brass ones were just removed and thrown away. Plus, these old pulls were tarnished and starting to flake in spots.

pulls removed from door fronts

Scrub and Clean

Once the doors are removed, the next step is to clean the cabinets really well. When we first moved into this house in fall 2019, it was dirty and we scrubbed it from floor to ceiling. It was nasty. Even after two years, these cabinets still deserved a good scrub. Crud cutter is a great product, and so are scrubber pads; something to cut through the grime that is typically in a kitchen. Once the cabinets are cleaned, wipe any excess water off and wipe them with a clean rag to make sure all of the soap and stuff is off. Then, wipe them with a dry towel and let them rest for a day or so before painting.

soap and water with a sponge to clean cabinets

Sanding Time for a Finished Kitchen

Sanding, while using Milk Paint, is important as it helps to cut through the typical shiny poly and helps the paint adhere to the surface. Before you paint, sand all surfaces really well. You do not have to get down to bare wood, just give them a good scruff.

I have found that using a sanding block helps to create a smoother look while keeping the sandpaper even. The sanding block is tapered at one edge which then helps to get into smaller areas.

Once the sanding has been done, clean the dust off of the cabinets using Denatured Alcohol and a clean rag. Then, let the cabinets sit for a few hours to dry again. This product does dry quick, but just to make sure let them rest. Sometimes, if you are doing a large area, once you are done you can typically begin painting.

denatured alcohol for finished kitchen project to clean cabinets

To prime or not to prime?

Priming while using a lighter color is really important. When you paint over wood that has been stained, the tannins bleed through. You can do two or two hundred coats of paint, but without primer, that wood color will still bleed through. With Milk Paint, there typically is no need to prime. So, in this kitchen I did an experiment.

On one side I painted the General Finishes Milk Paint Snow White and on the other side I used primer before painting. Below are the two separate cabinet sides. The left has no primer, and the right has primer. The side with primer for sure covered the orange oak much better and required less coats of paint.

I do not like the brush strokes in the paint.

G.F. Milk Paint used with paintbrush

I broke down and used a roller with the Milk Paint hoping the streaking would go away. But then the finish was like orange peel and that was just unpleasant in a kitchen cabinet.

rolled G.F. Milk Paint rolled on over brushed paint

However, once the cabinets were fully painted, it looked pretty good! If you notice the backsplash, I went a little crazy and bought peel-&-stick shelf paper and was testing out the pattern. It was just too busy and did NOT go with the countertops so it was removed after about thirty days.

finished kitchen cabinets with uppers painted white

Grossly underestimated timeline to this Finished Kitchen

Redoing these cabinet uppers took all together way longer than originally anticipated. At first, when doing the lowers, I was excited to use my favorite General Finishes Milk Paint in the color of Snow White. However, once the painting began I ran into a few issues. This paint was thick. Thick like peanut butter. Hindsight is a glorious thing, and looking back I wish I would have learned to thin the paint out.

Once the first layer was done, I was super unhappy. As I have always used a 2-inch paintbrush with G.F. Milk paint, I used this same technique. Milk paint tends to dry smooth and with a simple brush of sandpaper to hit the high spots, the end result is perfection. Maybe this can was bad? Maybe I was supposed to thin it out? Whatever the case, the uppers were streaky and uneven. A second coat of paint was for sure needed.

Relocating Cabinets

Below is a before and after of the microwave cabinet! However, this cabinet will have a different use soon as our microwave died during this process. We do not like the countertop style and were hoping for a new microwave as the one that came with the house was well over twenty years old. So, once done, this cabinet will become a cookbook shelf and Tyler designed a shelf over the stove to house our new over the range microwave that has a vent hood fan.

See that hood vent? It is the original with the house and is so gross. Plus, it is almond colored and stained and does not work well anymore. Time for an upgrade! In addition to the over the range microwave, the cabinet over the stove is being relocated to over the freezer.

old vent hood with cabinets painted

Working on the doors

As the cabinets dried, I went to work on the doors. The process is the same, you remove the hardware and clean them with good soap and a scrubby. Once they were done, the doors need to dry before you use Denatured Alcohol to clean any dust residue off. The upper doors were so much more gross than the lowers, so there were many that needed the assist of a steel wool pad.

The water was absolutely disgusting, and all of these doors took a few times to wash before they were satisfactorily clean. Once dry, I gave the doors all a good sanding and then cleaned the dust off and cleaned again with Denatured Alcohol. The next day I got to start painting!

Paint the doors

With the doors, I learned from my cabinet experience and painted each with KILZ primer before they were painted. Using a 2-inch brush worked out perfect and the angled brush helped get into all of the small lines that were then on the cabinet door details.

primed doors for finished kitchen

After the primer was completely dry, the doors got two coats of Dutch Boy Cabinet & Door & Trim Enamel Paint in glossy white. This paint is what I ended up using instead of the General Finishes Milk Paint to finish the uppers as I was super not impressed with my can of Snow White. This paint, with a 2-inch brush, gave the perfect finish to these doors. Once they were dry, after to coats, they sat for a day to cure before they were installed.

finished kitchen cabinets painted with white door & trim enamel

In addition to using this Cabinet Enamel paint on the doors, all of the cabinets were repainted with one coat for a unified look. As this was an enamel paint, a topcoat was not needed.

brushed cabinet & door paint on finished kitchen cabinets

The last step to the Finished Kitchen was to paint the walls and give them a refresh. This was by far, the most rewarding as it was an amazing change. Below shows the fresh paint on the right with the old dingy paint on the left. This alone made the room so clean and looks huge! The paint color was the same from the living room and dining room as we had a lot left and it carried well into the kitchen. To check out what the living room looks like, click the link below to see how we updated the greige walls to clean and fresh!

painting walls in finished kitchen

A Finally Finished Kitchen

Tyler built a shelf above our new microwave that fits my stunning pasta drying rack on it perfectly! To finish the kitchen, the doors needed to be installed and the hardware added. Tyler has been working so hard at work and has not had time to do the crown molding on the tops of the cabinets, so that is still unfinished. However, it will sit as the crown is not important to the finished kitchen yet. All of the new pulls were my Christmas gift from Tyler, they are all copper and also have this simple twist in them. The reason we went with the copper pulls, was because the lower cabinets are Patina Green and that is the color that copper turns when it oxidizes, therefore, our color theme will be copper accents.

finished kitchen upper cabinets

But for all intents and purposes, this kitchen is done! Just pardon the clutter, it is a lived in Finished Kitchen.

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Published by Monica's Scratch Kitchen

I have not always had the skills to cook and bake from scratch. As a young wife, I bought every meal frozen or boxed and presented it to my husband with a flourish, believing myself a decadent cook. As our budget shrunk, and our family grew, I looked for ways to stretch our money to nourish our kids with the best for their hungry appetites. Hoping to find recipes and meals that they would love to eat. Through the last 5 years, I have learned so many cooking and baking lessons, and experienced many wins and failures. Come along with me on this journey as I share my recipes that work, how to make them on the cheap, and my tips and tricks to get my kids to eat homemade deliciousness! I will also share updates to our house that we have done in the last year since our move. With one income, we do most of the work ourselves and with amazing family and friends to help out, cutting costs but keeping style and money in the bank! I am a wife and mother of 3 boys and 1 princess. When I was a kid, I remember being asked what I wanted to be or do when I grew up. My response was, "a mom", and I am proud to grow up and be a mom to 4 amazing kids! Samuel is 11, Matthew is 8, Levi is 4, and Elliana is almost 2. We have been blessed to have kids who love to explore foods, to try new recipes, and enjoy helping us around the house. With 4 kids, you better believe they help clean! My husband Tyler and I have been married almost 13 years. We love our kids, we love outdoors, camping, canoeing, grilling, watching movies, and just hanging out making memories. A few years ago I gifted Tyler with his own "menu" book, where we write meals and foods we have loved to eat. Weekly our family decides what our meals will be and I make up a grocery list with what we need. It literally is my favorite chore! I love to shop, so shopping for food on a budget is my biggest win! Thank you for taking the time and visiting my site, Subscribe so you do not miss a post! Keep coming back to hear about new recipes, updates on our home, fun times with our kids, and how to make homemade deliciousness! ~Monica

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