I’ve been “itchin’ for a new kitchen” since before we officially owned the house, but am happy to say that after quite a few different product purchases, several botched ideas and test sections, I think we’ve finally come up with a plan of attack!
I’m somewhat traditional when it comes to kitchens. In my mind, they should always be a lovely, pristine white. But in a practical and frugal world we must be open to other ideas.
When we first viewed the house, we said what I would imagine most people said when they saw it: “Hmm…Those kitchen cabinets really have to go” and envisioned a modern kitchen with fabulous granite countertops and sparkling new appliances, like straight out of a magazine.
But… once we had moved in and started using them, we realized that our original craftsman style cabinets had better build quality than anything we were going to find these days within our price range, and the appliances, despite being many years old, were actually fairly high-end and still had many years of use left in them too. So, we decided to work with the existing cabinets and countertops to minimize our costs, not be wasteful of decent items and allow us to spend on other slightly more important upgrades (for example our new windows which were our biggest & most expensive home project yet – we had them installed about a year after we moved in but which I never included on this blog!).
As the cabinets were already a medium walnut colour, the easiest options were to:
a) Paint the cupboards. Hubby was not fond of this idea as he is actually partial to the patina of natural wood grain, plus I must admit that I have also been known to enhance rather than cover it up (see my side table refinishing project).
b) Stain the cupboards darker. This was not my ideal solution as I would rather have light cabinets, but I was not about to start messing around with any sort of bleaching needed to lighten the cabinets – I imagined I would most likely end up with a complete mess rather than a tasteful bit of work. Part of me does like the bold contrast of darker cabinets and I slowly warmed up to this idea.
After deciding on the general colour direction the biggest issue was what product to use for the refinishing. There were several non-paint options for our cabinets: We did a few tests with Minwax “Ebony” stain (a very dark brown – almost black – with minimal red/orange pigment), then because I had this odd notion that it wasn’t going to be dark ENOUGH, I looked into another option…
This led to a slightly botched initial attempt on our “telephone table” section with Minwax Polyshades (Classic Black Satin finish). Polyshades was supposed to be a stain and poly finish in-one, but it seemed a little too variable and hard to control for my liking. It was definitely black rather than a rich dark brown (as the stain would be) but if not mixed in VERY well, it apparently comes out as a more glossy finish rather than the “satin” that was promised on the container! At first we thought we would go with that, and I set myself upon the task of our test subject – thus the “botched” telephone table section… There were all kinds of frustrations with this but the biggest one aside from ending up very glossy was that it covered up the wood grain entirely on one section like some kind of laquer! Argh! Glad I did a “test” but annoyed I did such a large piece… Now it was back to the drawing board…
Note: To this day I have still not gone back to strip that finish off – it has proven at least to be durable, so I have just left it as-is for now.
After all this we went back to the original idea of Ebony stain and gave it another go – and this time the idea was going to stick…but apparently it was going to take about TWO YEARS before I would come up with a cleaning product that would help me get the cabinets “stripped” without destroying them (more on this in my next post on this topic) and before I would really get a chance to start making any progress on it!