Before & After: Boring ’90s Cabinets Get a Beautiful, Dramatic Makeover With Black Paint (for $300!)

published Mar 18, 2024
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white and blue kitchen with pale wood finish cabinets and brown tile floor before remodel
Credit: Leah Hodson

If you spend a lot of time in your kitchen, don’t hesitate to think of it as a “you” zone. Fill it with your favorite colors, candle scents, maybe potholders or dish towels that make you smile, or a sponge that makes you actually want to do dishes

When homeowner Leah Hodson (@thestanleydiary) moved into her home, during her third trimester of pregnancy and during COVID lockdown, she says she “desperately needed the kitchen to be [her] own space.” But initially, it didn’t really feel like it fit her style at all. 

“The kitchen reminded me of the one I had at my university halls, which made me determined to get rid of it the moment I could,” she says. “I loved the size and layout of the kitchen. I didn’t like everything else — especially the wall color. The blue walls … clashed with the wood grain vinyl.”

Number one on Leah’s needs-to-go list was the floors. “They were foul,” she says. So she started by re-tiling those, and her kitchen renovation took off from there. 

Credit: Leah Hodson
Credit: Leah Hodson

Vinyl tiles add pattern. 

Leah’s floor tiles are renter-friendly vinyl tiles from Amazon. “We’re often asked if it’s [ceramic] tiles, but it’s not!” Leah says. “The vinyl tiles are so easy to install and look so good too!”

Leah says she and her husband opted for vinyl “as we weren’t sure if we were up to the challenge of laying new flooring.” Her main takeaway from this first-time DIY is that you don’t have to use the adhesive that vinyl tiles come with. Tile adhesive is a bit more secure. “We used a similar vinyl tile in our upstairs bathroom in a different print and because we used tile adhesive instead of relying on the self-adhesive it comes with, it adheres better to the floor,” she explains. 

Credit: Leah Hodson

The cabinets got a coat of black paint. 

Leah and her husband took off all the cabinet doors, primed, and coated their cabinets with a Leyland-brand paint color-matched to Farrow & Ball’s Off-Black, which was a labor of love. “It takes a surprisingly long time to prime all doors and wait for paint to dry before painting another coat,” Leah says, but the time-intensive process was worth it. 

“By painting the cabinets black with white walls, it makes the cabinets pop and the space feel more modern,” Leah says, adding that “by keeping the units a simple color, it draws attention to the geometric flooring.” Leah also says painting the units instead of replacing them saved her and her husband thousands in their kitchen makeover. (Their project total was £250, or just over $300). 

Leah recommends Zinsser primer and a heavy hand with painter’s tape for any DIYers looking to paint their own kitchen cabinets. “Tape, tape, tape,” she says.

Credit: Leah Hodson
Credit: Leah Hodson

Black cabinets look great with any accessory.

Adding new hardware on the cabinets and replacing the overhead light fixture (installed by a professional electrician) were the final steps in the kitchen project. 

“I’m obsessed with brass, so I had to get rid of the chrome handles and switch them for brass, which adds a little warmth,” Leah says. (Leah got her pulls from eBay and she recommends it as a source for hardware!) “Proper handles are wonderful,” she says. 

In general, she loves adding fun accessories to the space. “I love that it’s so simple, which makes styling and decorating so fun,” Leah says. “Little pops of color can instantly change the space … I’m 100 percent happy and will gladly do a black kitchen again!”

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: Black Paint Transforms Dated ’90s Cabinets in a Daring Kitchen Redo