How to paint oak cabinets

So excited to bring you our new DIY kitchen and teach you how to paint oak cabinets!
My apologies for reposting, a few posts did not make it over from the word press transfer, I am working hard and transferring over all the wonderful comments you left for us!
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There was nothing wrong with our kitchen when we first purchased our home 8 years ago. The layout was very functional, the cabinets were sturdy, and the tile and appliances did their job but it was so not me. Builder-grade oak cabinets, white 4×4  tiles with white grout you couldn’t get clean.
 I spend the most amount of time in our kitchen, I wanted it to be a place that made me happy.
 Fortunately for me, I have a super handy husband that gets just as excited over a can of paint as I do. I was a little worried though, kitchens can become so dated, whatever we did I needed it to be as close to timeless as possible and on a budget.

So here is my before picture right before we moved in. Over the years I kept a binder with pictures of my dream kitchens and drooled over model homes with eat-in islands and gourmet stovetops.

I love white kitchens, and consider them to be a classic.  I also love the look of cottage kitchens; I needed to come to a happy medium. Overall, in the end, we achieved a pretty traditional kitchen with a twinge of French and cottage.

We began replacing our white appliances with stainless steel appliances.   They were all found on Craigslist by my fabulous hubby saving us thousands of dollars!
We replaced the floor with natural stone the following year. When Home Expo went out of business I scored the Chandi and pendant lights for 75% off. I had been hovering over them for 2 years but wouldn’t spend the money on them.
The most exciting part of our kitchen renovation took place about two years later, the painting of the kitchen cabinets!!!
 Here is the step by step tutorial for you and a supply list:

Oil-based primer

Sherwin Williams Summer White Kitchen Paint

Glaze: Ralph Lauren faux technique glaze in smoke

Heavy-duty cleaner

Assorted Sandpaper

3M Sanding Sponge

Wood Filler

Painters Masking Tape

Painter’s Acrylic Latex Caulk

All-Purpose Tack Cloth

Plastic Drop Cloth

Foam Mini Roller

Angle Trim Brush

Putty Knife


Remove all of your doors

Prep the room covering everything you don’t want to be painted

Remove all the hardware and hinges.

If your cabinets have gaps or dings fill them with wood filler.

Empty all your cabinets

Degrease all the doors, draws, and frames. Tsp is a great degreaser as is vinegar and hot water.

Sand everything I used an electric sander with a medium grit (80 or 100).

Prime with an oil-based primer. Foam rollers will give you the look as though your cabinets have been sprayed.

Lightly sand

 Caulk away, it will hide all imperfections.

Here is the exciting part, Paint your desired color using a foam roller or spray them.

NOTE: Latex paint will adhere perfectly to oil-based primer. Latex primer over oil paint will not work at all.

Let it dry, buff out any drips and give it another coat.

 Reinstall cabinet doors and drawers, replace the hinges, and hardware.


Update old dated cabinets on a huge budget!

 Colors used:

Kitchen cabinets: Sherwin Williams Summer White

Glaze: Ralph Lauren faux technique glaze in smoke
Kitchen island: Glidden, onyx black
If you missed other parts of kitchen transformation you can find them here:

How to add glass to a wood cabinet

If you would like to see how our cabinets have been holding up, you can read all about it here! 

Thanks for stopping in and have a great day!

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  1. I was wondering why you weren’t showing up on my dashboard anymore. I guess it happened when you switched to WordPress. I’ll be sure to follow you through email.

    Love your kitchen! I like the idea of having the glass inserts. Especially when you have such beautiful dishes! : )

  2. WOW!! Looks great! I’m ready to start my kitchen this summer and i LOVE how yours came out. could you tell me the color paint you used and the step by step glazing process and what product you used? Did you glaze after you re hung the doors? Did you glaze the whole door or just the edges?

    1. I love this. I have been so afraid to paint my cabinets, but now I am going to try. What a difference. Thanks for Sharing.

  3. Hi:

    So glad that I found you again. I was a constant reader and went away for a few weeks and boom you were gone. Looking forward to your up lifting reads from here on.. welcome to my world again. Thanks,Sue

  4. Hello: I love you house. It looks amazing. I’m curious about your kitchen cupboard paint color. I can see that your island is Onyx Black but I can’t find the color for the rest of the cupboards. Could you possible email me. I have a very similar kitchen and would love to try to recreate your style.

    Thanks a ton 🙂


  5. I too am a great admirer of your beautiful kitchen. I’m moving to a smaller home that has decent cabinetry, but definitely needs paint. Others who left comments have asked for the paint color and stain you used for your cabinets which I would also like to know. And, the color you used for your island. Congratulations on a beautiful transformation! Thank You! ~~ Elizabeth

  6. I came over because of Susan, at BNOTP. This is a wonderful job of remodeling. It is wonderful to have an interested husband to collaborate with. Kudos to both of you.

  7. Absolutely stunning. I have the same oak kitchen cupboards & jut know they have to go white so thanks for the inspiration.
    Dee at the Carlton

  8. I am in love… stunning!! Were your shelves and cabinet interior white to start with? Mine are not… do you think that this should also be painted (obviously for any glass front cabinets, but others)? Anyone feel free to weigh in…
    The thought of this task is overwhelming. How much work was the glazing?

  9. I have recently bought a home with real oak cabinets. I would like to follow the same steps that you did to achieve the same French Country look. Did you apply a wood grain filler, or is your wood grain still visible? It looks as though the grain isn’t visible, but I’m not sure what it looks like in person.

    You should be super proud. Your kitchen is beyond beautiful! I hope I can recreate the same look in my kitchen!

  10. I was also wondering what product you used for the paint color as well as glazing. Can you still see wood grain up close? Your kitchen is stunning!

  11. Your kitchen is fabulous, you have done an amazing job. We have tired everything to get a black or dark, dark brown color on our old oak kitchen cupboard and can’t find the right product or color. Should we use paint of stain? We have dark maple hardwood mirage flooring that has an orange base, but lots of dark brown and black throughout. I would be very happy with black cupboards. What should I use and should we put a lacquer on them when they are done. Thank you so much for your advise.

    Kind Regards,

  12. My sister-in-law turned me onto your remodel. l “LOVE” your kitchen. We had been looking at home stores and checking out cabinets but they all were financially out of our price range. We kept dreaming though. But after looking at your remodel, my dream may come true. How wonderful you must feel when you look at what you both accomplished.

  13. This is flat-out THE MOST BEAUTIFUL kitchen transformation I’ve ever seen! I painted my orange-oak kitchen cabinets about a year ago, and I’m so happy with them. But THIS. This looks like something out of an HGTV episode of “Kitchen Cousins.” Great job!!! Every single detail is exquisite. 🙂

  14. Pingback: Working Kitchen
  15. Hello! I just found your site and I am soooo imoressed! My husband and I were going to redo the kitchen and had planned on buying all new cabinets, but you have inspired me to DYI and possibly be able to do all the projects we would like to comlete with the budget we had for the kitchen alone! Thank you so much for the inspiration. I was wondering, do yo have any how to videos? 🙂

  16. Looks perfect! Did you also use a foam roller to paint the cabinets or just to prime? Does the grain of the oak show through at all? Thanks!

  17. I do trust all of the concepts you have offered in your post. They are really convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very short for beginners. May you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.|

  18. Been there, did that, bought the t-shirt! When I was all done, a professional painter saw it and gave a suggestion: use outdoor paint. It will cover better and is meant to be tough with water and scuffing. Wish I had known this earlier, as it took three coats before I was happy with coverage that the latex enamel provided, a good, national brand. (I covered a dark walnut stain with an ivory.) Love your dramatic transformation!

  19. For those considering a kitchen makeover: Oak cabinets can look just fine! Despite what some designers and home renovation shows (who exist to make a profit) tell you, don’t feel like you have to follow the latest trend to have a nice kitchen. Go with what you like and feels right for your home. Oak cabinets can give a warm, earthy and cozy vibe to a kitchen as opposed to say, an all-white kitchen (which can look drab and sterile over time). For a more eco-friendly approach, consider giving your existing kitchen a fresh look instead of a full-on replacement. You can add pizzazz with new drawer pulls and handles. Replace broken hinges and door glides with durable hardware. Save space and hassle with organizers like lazy Susans, divider trays for your drawers, and slide-out recycling and trash bins. Sand and refinish, or (if you have a veneer) reface worn surfaces of wood cabinets.

  20. Can you tell me a little about using caulk on your cabinets. What and how did you keep it looking nice? And at what point in the project did you use it? I can’t even use caulk around a sink and keep it looking nice. Also do you have anything posted about the products and steps used to refinish the oak cabinets?

  21. opps your site does show the steps etc. I was going back and forth on other cabinet projects, sorry.

    But I do have the question about the caulking process.


  22. Just wondering how the paint on the cupboards is holding up? I see this project quite frequently, and am tempted, but worry the cupboard doors used the most will wear down (ie paint wears away or gets sticky) Has that happened to you at all?

    1. Hi Kathy- Our most used cabinets had some chipping where we opened/closed them. I simply touched those areas up every 6 months or so with paint. I never did seal the cabinets because I was afraid of yellowing but the products have come a long way since then, I would ask Home Depot or the paint store. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks

  23. Beautiful kitchen but I am confused. The cabinets look white but you say a glaze was used? No topcoat but you touchup the paint on worn areas every six months……………an the glaze as well?

    1. Hi Marty, I only glazed the corners of the cabinets as well as the moldings of the panels. I did not glaze the whole cabinet. Hope that makes sense, let me know if you have more questions, happy to help 🙂

  24. The before photos blow me away every time I see them, Kristin! Your kitchen is so beautiful now…it matches the family!! XO So happy you are part of our awesome new team!

  25. Your kitchen is beyond beautiful. Our kitchen has the standard grade A oak cabinets and I would love a white kitchen but the budget is not going to work for new cabinets. My only concern with painting is that the wood grain is going to show through. Did you have this problem or did you use a wood filler? Your post is inspiring me to paint but I just want to do a good job and not miss anything. Thanks in advance!!

    1. Hi Lauren, we did not have grain show through at al, no wood filler used. We did use a oil based primer which I believe helped a lot!

  26. I love the remodel! We are moving into a home with oak cabinets and I can’t wait to paint them over! I am wondering what type of countertop you have and what the name of it is. Thank you!

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