We’re breaking down the steps and all of the products we used to completely transform the kitchen in our Chicago condo with a fresh coat of cabinet paint!
This post is in partnership with Valspar, a paint brand that believes everyone should love where they live. Valspar is available at Lowe’s – either in-store or through curbside pickup! Find your perfect color at Valspar.com.
The cabinets in our little Chicago condo are fairly well-made. The doors and drawers are solid wood and feature timeless lines that will remain stylish forever. The color, however? That’s an entirely different story. Before their recent refinish, they were a dark red tone that we never loved and simply isn’t what most modern homebuyers are looking for…
Condo Kitchen | Before
…So we took matters into our own hands and painted them ourselves in the color Lamb’s Ear (CI145) by Valspar. Lamb’s Ear has a gentle, barely perceptible pink undertone that helped to neutralize the red tones of the dark countertops. It might seem counter-intuitive, but from a color theory perspective, colors with similar undertones balance each other out and neither one stands out as prominently. This perfect shade helped to brighten the space and keep things feeling open and airy, while remaining cohesive and fresh.
Condo Kitchen | After
Tools & Supplies Needed
- liquid sandpaper
- disposable gloves
- eye + ear protection
- disposable rags
- paper cups (to elevate doors)
- cabinet hardware template (optional)
- cabinet hardware (optional)
1| Number Doors and Drawers and Remove Them
The first step of the refinishing process is to number each door and cabinet box so they can all be installed back in their original locations. We wrote the numbers inside the hinge cutouts of the doors, then covered them with painters tape. For the drawer fronts, we removed them from the drawer boxes and numbered the insides of the fronts. Each cabinet box is also labeled with the corresponding number with painter’s tape. This compact kitchen had 20+ doors and drawer fronts, so it keeping them all neat and tidy was crucial!
2| Scrape Loose Paint and Clean Thoroughly With TSP Solution
Next, we cleaned our cabinets as thoroughly as possible. Our cabinets were previously stained but if they had been painted, the first step would have been to scrape any loose or flaking paint to establish a solid base. We used a TSP solution (per instructions on the box) and a sponge to remove dirt, soil and kitchen grease.
Remember to pay very close attention to cabinets near cooking surfaces. We had to clean the doors above the stove multiple times to remove built up cooking grease. For cabinets with intricate details like ours, we used a pick to remove soil from tight grooves. Don’t forget to clean the backs and sides!
3| Wipe with Liquid Sandpaper
This was our first time using liquid sandpaper to prep surfaces and we were very impressed with the results! Since we used Valspar’s Cabinet & Furniture Oil-Enriched Enamel, which, depending on the surface doesn’t require sanding or primer(!), this was a quick and clean way to de-gloss our surfaces for proper adhesion.
Keep in mind that a little bit of liquid goes a long way. While wearing gloves, we used small pieces of (clean) old socks and t-shirts to apply the liquid, then removed any remaining residue with a damp cloth. Much like with the last step, we made sure to get the backs since those got painted first.
4| Paint Cabinet Boxes with Roller and Brush
Once all of our surfaces were cleaned and de-glossed, we were ready to paint the boxes. This particular kitchen has relatively few exposed panels and sides, so painting the boxes and faces by hand with a mini roller and brush as opposed to spraying was the quickest and tidiest solution.
As I mentioned earlier, our friends at Valspar suggested their Cabinet & Furniture Oil-Enriched Enamel in a satin finish for this project. The paint has all of the easy application and soap-and-water cleanup properties of a traditional latex paint but resists fading, scratching and scuffing. It also self-levels to provide a strong factory-like finish. We could not be more impressed with the quality of this paint and it was the perfect choice for this project! The cabinets look brand new and like they were always intended to be this color.
5| Prep Paint ‘Booth’ and Arrange Doors
Before we could begin spraying, we needed to protect all of our susceptible surfaces. We taped all of the seams to completely eliminate gaps and the ‘paint booth’ was ready for action. Then we arranged half of the doors neatly on the floor with space to walk carefully between the rows and allow for good spraying angles.
The doors were propped up on leftover paper and plastic cups that we had on hand to keep the them off the floor and allow for good side coverage. Since we had so many doors and fronts to spray, we divided them into two ‘batches’ and laid out cardboard in another room where one batch could dry while the other was being sprayed.
6| Spray Doors and Drawer Fronts
For this large project where finish quality was incredibly important, we invested in a new paint sprayer that came highly recommended by multiple friends and thousands of online reviews. It was a fraction of the price of having them professionally painted, so totally worth the investment. We saved thousands of dollars by doing this ourselves!
One of the key features of the sprayer is that it draws directly from the paint can which allows for spraying at any angle. This was incredibly helpful in our relatively tight space and allowed us to fit more doors into each ‘batch’. We started by spraying the backs and sides of the doors since they’d only receive one coat.
Tip: Remember to wear eye protection and a respirator when using a paint sprayer!
We let the backs cure for 24 hours, then returned the next day to paint the first coat on the fronts. 24 hours after that, we came back for the second front coat. Prior to each coat, we gave everything a thorough inspection for drips, runs or rough spots and gently smoothed any imperfections with 220 grit sandpaper. In total, the backs received one coat, and the fronts received two coats, which helped us achieve perfect, level coverage.
We can’t underestimate how beautifully our Valspar cabinet & furniture paint self-levels and dries. There were a couple of moments where I thought I’d laid the paint on too thick, but when I returned a few minutes later, the finish was level and flawless! The paint and sprayer combination had us feeling like professionals!
7| Reattach Hinges and Doors
Careful is the name of the game for this step! After curing time and a thorough inspection of each door and drawer front, we reattached them to their respective hinges and drawer boxes.
This was also a great time to double check for door alignment and level to ensure that everything lined up perfectly prior to the final step. Hinge adjustment can be a tricky game, final results will be even more impactful if the time is taken to get it just right.
8| Add Hardware (Optional)
Prior to our refinish, these cabinets and drawers lived without any hardware, but it was time for that to change! We found these subtle little brass knobs that provided a nearly tone-on-tone feel and they hit the mark just right.
Since we needed to drill holes for this first-time install, we used our handy cabinet hardware template to line things up consistently on each door.
The Big Finish!
Wow. Wow. WOW! We are so impressed with the quality of this paint. Valspar absolutely nailed this formula. It covers beautifully, self-levels in ways we didn’t think were possible and looks dang good doing it! Combined with our new paint sprayer, we think folks will be hard-pressed to tell that this was a DIY project.
The cabinets finally look the way we wish they always did. While we’ve never been in love with the granite countertops, the new color has us thinking differently! What a pair, what a pair.
Have you tackled a cabinet refinish yourself? This was our first time painting kitchen cabinets, but to say we’re incredibly proud of the results is an understatement. Of course, we owe huge thanks to our friends at Valspar for helping out with this project! All Valspar products are available at your local Lowe’s. As always, thanks to all of you for supporting the brands that support our small business! Stay tuned for the big kitchen reveal!
Valspar Colors In This Post | Cabinets: Lamb’s Ear CI145 (satin) | Walls: Cozy White 3008-10C (eggshell) | Trim: Ultra White (semi-gloss)