Creating this blog post is almost surreal! It’s been a long time coming. Ever since we bought our house in May 2018, I knew I wanted to transform the kitchen. The honey colored oak cabinets just aren’t my style! And especially in this house, that doesn’t get much natural light, I felt that they made the main living area feel even darker.
Our original plan was for Chris to make new cabinet doors, and have them be white. Of course, I love white EVERYTHING! Chris does not share my affinity for white, because he doesn’t want things to look too sterile or hospital-like… which I totally get! But he loves me, and because I spend 10000% more time in the kitchen than he does, we agreed on white cabinets 😉 We didn’t want to just paint the existing cabinet doors, because 1) I wasn’t a huge fan of their design, and 2) painting cabinet doors in that design would be a PAIN.
We knew that remodeling the kitchen was going to be a fairly expensive endeavor, because on top of the new cabinet doors, I have grand plans of marble epoxy countertops, replacing the overhead light, a subway tile backsplash, new bar stools… the list goes on! We knew we’d probably have to do our projects in stages, and even still, we figured it’d be best to wait a few more months before we got started.
However, one day I was browsing Pinterest, and found this tutorial by In Between Chaos. She had refreshed her almost-exactly-like-mine oak cabinets with Briwax stain, and it looked marvelous! This got me thinking… Maybe we could transform our kitchen, and for less than $50!!
I absolutely love the look of dark wood cabinets, just not the lighter honey color we had! In fact, if you browse my Kitchen board on Pinterest, the majority of my cabinet-focused pins are not white. As you can tell from pretty much all our projects, I love a beautiful, rustic, dark wood, and my favorite thing is a bright space with lots of wood elements! When Chris and I build our dream house, the plan is to have a beautiful open kitchen with dark wood cabinets. The key in making it still appear bright and airy, is having lots of natural light.
I should’ve been taking my own advice here, because as I mentioned, natural light is not prevalent in our home. The kitchen opens up into the main living area, which is definitely brighter, but still only has two windows and never gets any direct sunlight. The kitchen itself has one small window, but light never really spills in. All of this to say, for some reason, I thought it’d be a good idea to stain all the cabinets a dark brown. I figured we’d brighten it up with marble countertops and a white tile backsplash, and we’d be good to go!
I talked to Chris about it, and he wisely said “I don’t think you’re going to like that, but go ahead”, so I happily purchased the Briwax in Dark Brown. It finally came in the mail, so I got right to work on the cabinets! I took a bunch of photos of the kitchen, right before diving into the stain! Ignore the really brown banana in the basket, haha 😂
I mean, it’s honestly not a bad kitchen!! It could be SO much worse, and I’m so thankful for it! It just really wasn’t my style.
Here were some of my inspiration photos:I really love these dark colors… completely different from the honey color we had!
I spent a good 4 hours staining just the bottom cabinets, and I was getting frustrated. When I first started applying the stain, it wasn’t getting as dark as I wanted. Like, at all. It hardly looked like I was doing anything! So I went back overtop and applied MORE stain. Honestly guys, I am ashamed to admit all of this. My dad is a professional painter, and I’ve stained dozens of projects. I should know better than this!! I knew it wasn’t looking very good. It was dark, but the stain was getting gloopy and sticky and it just looked a mess. Chris came home from work while I was deciding that I had made a big mistake, and said “I don’t think you’re doing this right” 😂 And I definitely wasn’t.
When I first started applying the stain, I was wiping it off like you’re supposed to. But since it wasn’t getting dark enough, I guess I thought that applying a big glop of stain and letting it sit there was going to be my best bet 😂 Honestly, who knows what I was thinking at this point. Chris showed me that I was wiping it off wrong (who knew you could even do that??), and his way was making the stain darker and more appealing.That slightly darker strip at the top of the cabinet is how it’s supposed to look when it gets wiped off.
And here is my mess of a cabinet door, with an un-stained door for comparison… Yeah, don’t ask me what I was thinking. 😂
At this point, it was all just a big mess. I had spent hours working on this, and now I had to go back and re-do everything. On top of that, I still had no idea what these cabinets were going to look like when I was done! I had blind faith that it’d turn out the way I pictured it in my head. That evening, Chris and I talked about it, and his opinion was that I should just forget trying to do the dark cabinets, and instead go back to the original plan of white cabinets. I liked the idea, but I knew that would cost a lot more money, and since I had practically ruined our kitchen the way it was, we needed to do something about it pretty soon 😉
In the end, we decided to replace the existing cabinets, and make everything white! Now that it’s all done, I can say that it was the BEST decision for this house!! In another house, the dark wood will be beautiful, but it would’ve only made this kitchen seem small and sad.
Here was our kitchen right after I had painted the frame of the cabinets. Oh what a mess!!
I knew that I wanted a shaker style cabinet door, and Chris absolutely delivered! He made them out of MDF, and I put about a million coats of primer/paint on them. They also required sanding multiple times, and all in all it was a PROCESS. It took a lot longer to complete them than we originally thought (we started at the end of April, and just finished last week!), but the wait was worth it. All those weeks of not having a dining room table because it was holding freshly painted cabinet doors, working in a kitchen without cabinet doors, and my hand cramping from holding a paint brush all day was totally worth it. Initially we thought we’d try spraying the paint on them, but that didn’t work very well. I used a roller for the majority of it, and a paintbrush for the inside corners!
Our house is a little crooked to begin with, so some of the doors don’t hang perfectly straight. Two of the doors got a little streaky when I was painting them, and I didn’t notice until after they were hung. Our home isn’t perfect, but I absolutely love it, and there’s no place I’d rather be! Chris did an amazing job, and I couldn’t be happier with the end result! SOOOO much better!! And can’t you just imagine the white marble countertops?? 😍
One way I wanted to incorporate the wood accents into the kitchen was by shiplapping the three sides of the island. We decided to do the faux version of shiplap, because the trim only sticks out 1/4″, and I wanted the boards to fit snugly inside without sticking out past the trim. This meant we could only use 1/4″ plywood for the boards, and there’s no room to make rabbets for real shiplap on something so small.
I really love the way it turned out! I didn’t want all the white to look too sterile, and warming it up with the wood really helps! We also did faux shiplap on the side of the pantry, but decided to paint that white. And someday we’ll swap out those barstools for something that matches better 🙂
I am so pleased with how the island turned out! Chris coated the boards with polyurethane, and it’s super smooth, so it doesn’t hurt your legs when you sit at the island.
It’s just insane how might brighter it feels!!
I love our handles!! We purchased these from Amazon in various sizes, and even got some for the bathrooms so they’d match! All together, we spent less than $60 on the handles. They don’t feel as heavy as some other more expensive handles would, but I couldn’t care less!
I also really love the faux shiplap on the side of the pantry… it just adds some more visual interest!
Of course, now we have to do some before and afters 🙂 On the tall pantry, and the cabinet beside the fridge, we changed up the door layout a bit. Originally, they both had the kind of doors where one needs to be closed first, otherwise there’s a thin piece of wood sticking out. I always thought that was super annoying, so we decided to just make two big doors instead of four smaller ones!
We also made all the cabinets wider and taller, to fit more with the shaker style. That was SUCH a good decision! It looks so much better!
Every day I walk into the kitchen and I just feel so happy with the transformation! Looking at the before pictures is crazy, because now I’m so used to it being white! The cabinets have been up for a few weeks, but it took us a little longer to get the shiplap up and do a few finishing touches around the kitchen. I’m thrilled that this project is complete, and I can finally cross it off my to-do list!! Now onto the other hundred things we have planned… 😉