How to paint a dated traditional wooden kitchen

So I was tidying up the other day and stumbled across some photos of when my husband and I first moved into our house nine years ago. Our house is a detached 1930s granite house in an Aberdeenshire village. It has a kitchen extension built by the previous owners. The decor at the time was very dated throughout the house; terracotta walls, mahogany woodwork, pine staircase, green carpets and a traditional maple shaker kitchen. But the kitchen was solid wood, good quality, made locally and as moving house is expensive enough as it is we decided to try and live with it. We lived with it for six years! Today I will show you the before, the interim and the after.

So this how we found it. Oucha. Yellow walls and orange wood. But a good cooker!

Below: looking into the kitchen extension from the main house (the garden was also a little over grown, look at the windows! And what on earth are those light shades?). Excuse the poor quality picture – it is a picture taken of a print.

I thought about a colour scheme to somehow tone down the yellowness of the room and decided on steel blue-grey for the walls to combine better with the natural wood. We replaced the cheap sticky vinyl flooring with (also pretty affordable and very practical) dark slate look laminate, which is in fact still our flooring today. I painted over the 1990s yellow floral tiles with some grey tile paint and ordered some colourful tile stickers online. We also replaced the wooden door knobs with brushed steel ones and stuck a chalkboard sheet on the cupboard door. Oh yes, and that silly breakfast table went of course.

Here is the interim phase! Slightly better than it was.

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Below: the dining area. Looking pretty neat, I think, and much fresher in greys than yellow. (Those wishbone chairs? I sold those…I know, aren’t they nice?)

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We must have grown rather fond of our silly old kitchen, because six years later, when we decided to change things again, we amazingly still didn’t rip it out. We just hate waste and rather ‘upcycle’ something. The kitchen worked fine for us, so why not just update it a bit more? We also felt sorry for the kitchen – we are such a sad bunch! After all, it wasn’t her fault that she had gone out of fashion, was it?

So we took off the wall hung cabinets and another unit on the other side, painted the ones left, spent some money on a fancy big fridge, a freestanding dresser, oak shelving, new tiles and a slate worktop.

Of course, I would be lying if I said it all happened as by magic overnight. For a while I seriously doubted our decision. The dust, the disruption…trying to keep a baby out of the mess. You get the picture.

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In the end it must have taken us a good few weeks to paint the cabinets, organise tradesmen and redecorate. But the result was worth the effort. Hello contemporary country kitchen!

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So how do you paint an old wooden kitchen?

1. Prep & prime

You really don’t have to go and strip the cabinet doors before painting. Giving it a good sand to create a key – is key. Then wash off the dust with sugar soap and get the primer out. This doesn’t need to go on too neatly, but the bigger your brush strokes are, the harder to sand them smooth afterwards. Buy good quality soft brushes and do the brush strokes in the same direction. With the shaker style doors you will also have the beveled edges and corners to deal with. It worked well for me to first do the inside (lower) square in one direction (making sure to take away any surplus paint from the corners with the tip of my brush), and then the middle panel and outside frame. Once it is dry, use fine sandpaper to create a nice smooth base for your gloss (or eggshell). You may need more than one coat of primer, and remember to sand in between coats and wipe off the dust.

2. Top coat

For the final colour we chose Farrow and Ball Off White eggshell (water based), used on the cabinets on the right. A nice colour that looks neither white nor cream and sometimes even a bit grey depending on the light. For the ones on the left we decided to get that same colour mixed up as an oil based paint at a decorator’s trade centre (Crown). Why? Because it really makes a difference! Now, three years later the water based paint is starting to show some wear, whereas the oil based paint is still perfect. It maybe isn’t the most eco friendly paint to use but for a high traffic area like a kitchen you really don’t want flaking paint after a year or so. Oil based paint is good to work with, goes on smoothly, but takes longer to dry and can still feel a bit sticky for days while it is hardening. So don’t touch it! And don’t try and sand it when it is not hard yet. I must admit I did not sand in between the top coats, as the paint stuck fine and I was scared to ruin the previous finish. It worked ok.

For a more detailed how-to you can find plenty tutorials online including this one

3. Hardware and other upgrades

We reused most of the brushed steel knobs and handles we put on previously, which looked great on the newly painted cabinets.

Other alterations we made were moving the sink away from the window to create more work surface next to the cooker. Lethenty Cabinetmakers did an excellent job refitting the cabinets, placing a new worktop, tap and big cooker hood, steel splash back and the nice floating natural oak shelves.

Last but not least we had the wall above the work top covered in pastel coloured craqueled glaze metro style tiles and the room painted in a soft pale grey-white.

Do we still love it? Yes! The pretty slate work top proved a little bit sensitive to lemon stains and knocks…but hey, it is a work top after all so we just have to be careful. The kitchen overall feels lighter, brighter and more modern – but still very unique because of the choices we have made. We could have ripped it all out, but it feels so much better giving the kitchen a new lease of life. And we saved some money too. What we’ll do in the future? Oh, we are always full of ideas and no doubt there will be changes again in years to come. But the kitchen stays for now.

Below: a bit more of a ‘lived in’ and messy real-life picture after two years! (and oh, look, we also broke through to the lounge in the meantime! But that dusty episode I will leave for a future post…)

 

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