We Bought a Farmhouse

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Our Naiveté During A Kitchen Cabinet Makeover (Part One)

So, I've been dreaming (like actually, dreaming ... at bedtime) of white kitchen cabinets for going on five years now. I love spending time in the kitchen, and having a crisp, white backdrop for colorful dinnerware and gadgets makes me all kinds of giddy in the most grown-up way possible. Once our offer was accepted on the house, Josh and I both agreed that tackling our kitchen cabinets was Priority No. 1. Originally, we had decided to order and install brand new cabinets, but when we saw the excellent quality of the cabinets that came with our house, and taking into consideration all the other major renovations we had coming our way in the near future, we decided to save the money and paint the cabinets we had. We took five days off of work during our move, and we thought to ourselves, "Oh, five days? If we spend 8-10 hours each day on just the cabinets, we can totally have them painted by the time we go back to work, right?" 

Umm, wrong. 

Like ... so, so wrong.

It's been eight weeks, and we still haven't put all the doors back on. 

But anyhoo, let's back it up. 

This is what our cabinets looked like the day after we closed on the house:

Josh had taken all the doors and drawers out because we knew we'd be tackling the painting right after moving day. Our kitchen, while pretty open and spacious, doesn't have a lot of natural light, so the dark maple cabinets felt so heavy and suffocating in the space. The cabinets also had this very ornate and fancy moulding at the top:

As much as I hate it now looking back, I honestly went back and forth on it after moving in. I knew it was expensive moulding at Home Depot, so I was torn. I feel like I should like it? Do I like it? I think I kind of like it? No, I don't, it needs to come down like yesterday. So down it came. Thankfully, we were able to reuse it as a surface to paint our doors on (I'll touch on that in part two). 

I knew going into this project what it entailed. I knew there were a lot of prep steps before I even picked up a brush. I knew we had to prime first and then paint. I knew it would take a lot of time. But I totally didn't realize it would take as much time as it did. 

I think this was due, in part, to the fact that I underestimated the size of our kitchen. When the cabinetry was really dark and the space is dark, the room felt smaller. I counted our doors and drawers and knew how many we had, but I didn't realize how high that number was until I started the process.

I don't have photos of the steps we took to prep our cabinets because, for the most part, I was miserable and dropping F-Bombs and was so not in the mood to be documenting anything (I'm being a little dramatic. I wasn't really like this until the very end). What I can tell you, however, is that we took all the necessary steps everyone recommended, and I felt like it wasn't all crucial.

Instead of using harsh chemicals to deep clean our cabinets like most people recommended, I opted for Tack Cloth and a 5-In-1 Painter's tool. I started with the painter's tool to get all the gunk out of the crevices of the doors and cabinets. Everything I read about this step warned me that I'd be overwhelmed by how much crud would come out of the crevices, especially the doors. I scraped those suckers pretty well, and I only got small amounts of dirt. I tack clothed everything, and while my cloths were darker after each one, they weren't all that bad. I got lucky because our cabinets were really not that dirty. I was so glad I opted to skip deep cleaning with chemicals. I'm sure it would have cleaned them a little bit better, but, after sanding down everything anyway, I really don't think it would have been necessary at all. 

And that brings me to the sanding! This was, by and far, the worst step because not only do you have to sand, you have to clean up the sand residue. The tutorials online make it seem so easy. Oh, just grab your vacuum!, they say. Super fast and easy! Well, my friends, unless you have a Dyson, that will be an epic fail. Our average person vacuum really didn't help much. It got some of the debris, but left behind about 60% of it. So, I had to sand everything (all the cabinets, doors and drawers) and then clean up the sand with dampened paper towels to really get everything off the cabinet surfaces. It was awful. That alone took me about 12-14 hours to do all the cabinets, doors and drawers.

Then, finally, we could start priming. Once we swiped that first stroke of primer on, and we saw the impact the color had on the cabinets, it was making every painful second worth it, ten times over.

We decided early on that when we started this project, we were going to start with the cabinets attached to the walls first, so that while we finished painting our doors and drawers, we could at least start to store things in the cabinets to have a somewhat functioning kitchen. 

After the first coat of primer, I felt that we needed to do another one:

The cabinets were dark enough that even with primer, they still looked dark and I wasn't comfortable enough putting on the first coat of paint. Two primer coats was perfect for my comfort level because they evened out the surface a lot more to where I felt comfortable that the paint would apply evenly.

The day it was finally time to paint, I'm pretty sure I peed a little out of excitement. The first coat of paint didn't go on until about two weeks after we started this whole process and I needed to see even the faintest of lights at the end of the tunnel. For the paint, after extensive research, we decided on Simply White by Benjamin Moore. All the colors we're using in our house are Benjamin Moore, actually. Of all the paint brands out there, this is the one whose colors just speak to me the most. I liked Simply White because it was crisp and clean, but also, had the tiniest (and I mean TINIEST) hint of warmth to it. It's not the starkest of whites, but looks very bright and doesn't pull too gray or yellow. I've personally dubbed it "Friendly White," but I'm also crazy, sooooo ...

I was really impressed with the paint we used. Because we were painting the entire cabinet, and dishes and other  heavy kitcheny things would be resting on them, we needed to use an oil-based paint to ensure it would harden, wouldn't stay tacky, and that it would last through the years and be easy to clean. We went with the Advance formula from Ben Moore, and it went on so easily, and for the most part, it self-leveled. For the areas where we needed to do cut-ins (around the corners of the boxes, for example), you can still see some brush lines if you look for them, but for the most part, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. AND, it didn't smell as bad as I thought. I pictured myself being sent to the emergency room via an ambulance after passing out at home from the fumes, but compared to my memories of paint from about ten years ago, this stuff was nothin'. We did end up needing two coats of paint, as well. Because we were using a white, it needed to be perfect. And with one coat of paint over two coats of primer you could still, STILL see some of the maple color peeking through, or there was some unevenness in tone. So, a second coat it was. And that was the right call. The second coat evened out everything, and sealed everything over with a blanket of white perfection. Here's an example of the bottom cabinets with only one coat of primer, and the top cabinets complete:

But then, of course, you have to let them cure. I originally thought to myself, "Oh, they'll need a day or two, then we can put all our pretty, pretty plates away and have a somewhat functioning kitchen. Yay!" No, no yay's just yet. Oil-based paint is supposed to cure faster than latex paint. However, because we were putting heavy items on them, the overwhelming majority of people online recommended letting them cure for at least two weeks. Greeeeeeat. So we didn't actually put things in our cabinets until a month after starting the project.

But, it's all good because that meant more pizza takeout, because oh darn, our kitchen is still a mess and we can't cook. That made for one very happy Sam.

And that, my friends, is our cabinet painting experience/naivete, part one. Part two, I'll share my mental breakdown over painting doors and drawers, and how it was all worth it in the end. Then hopefully I'll be able to reveal the new, painted cabinets. Good times, yes? Yes.


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