One of the first big projects we did to our house was update the kitchen. Our friends thought we were a little crazy to mess with a perfectly good one year old kitchen, but it just wasn’t our style and so we decided to go for it anyway.
Among a few functional changes like squaring off the island, adding extra counter space and removing the upper cabinets, the biggest impact was painting the previously honey-toned cabinets white.
(This photo is of a house in our neighborhood that was listed for sale a while back but it is the exact layout and very similar coloring as our original kitchen. You can see our actual before kitchen here).
We were warned that white cabinets – though pretty – were hard to keep clean. The warnings didn’t stop us, though, as it seemed every inspiration picture we liked had a common thread of white painted cabinetry.
Here we are, nine years later, and I can wholeheartedly say that painting the cabinets white was absolutely the way to go.
In fact, we are such fans of white cabinets that a few years after the kitchen remodel, we spruced up the laundry room cabinets with white paint as well.
What a huge difference the white cabinets made to this previously depressing room. Because the wood cabinets were floating high on the wall, the dark color felt heavy and looming. The white feels much lighter and feels balanced with the white appliances and dresser anchoring the bottom of the room.
Last year, we finally took the plunge and painted out our master bedroom cabinets as well.
I have a dream to redo this whole bathroom (see my design board here), but that was not in the budget so rather than wait any longer, we just made a few simple updates.
In each instance, painting the cabinets made a huge impact and instantly updated each room. The clean and bright style of white cabinetry feels much more in line with our simple/classic/slightly modern aesthetic and even though warned they would be high-maintenance, we really haven’t found that to be the case.
In the kitchen, we used oil-based paint for a smooth and durable finish. This was over 8 years ago when you could still buy oil-based paint at the hardware store and before the innovation of newer high-wearing, low VOC paint formulas. The benefit of oil paint and why we ultimately decided to go with it is the hard finish it achieves. The durability is especially useful for high-traffic areas like the kitchen and I can say that it has worn well. The downsides: long dry time, toxic fumes and how the paint yellows with age.
In the laundry and bathroom, we used latex paint. Neither are high-use spaces and so we were less concerned with the durability.
If you are looking to paint your cabinets – especially if in a high-traffic zone like a kitchen – try using a water-soluble alkyd paint (basically a mix between oil based and latex like this). This will give you the quality hardening effect with the benefits of low VOC, easy clean-up and fast dry times. We used a nice quality brush, good paint quality and an additive that made the paint flow better and settle smoothly.
Paint in a satin finish is recommended to ensure that it is wipeable (very important in a kitchen where spills and drips are inevitable).
So, how do you know if white cabinetry is right for you?
Well, my simple answer is if you love the look then go for it :)