Dark to Bright: On Painting the Kitchen

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

During these last two weeks of the Kitchen Cure we are encouraging you to think about doing some sort of project in your kitchen. Hang a shelf, or a picture, or replace a worn-out appliance. Here’s one example of a major project I did in my kitchen this past winter: A fresh paint job! Painting the kitchen is definitely a messy, time-consuming project, but with a little organization it can go by fast, and the results can be so rewarding.

What I Had

My old rental kitchen had a dark, dusty blue on the walls. It wasn’t a particularly hideous color, but the paint was old, and the paint job had been done in a very sloppy way. There were drips all over the edges of the cabinets, and it was splotchy in places. It also darkened the kitchen considerably. I do have some natural light in the kitchen, but it’s dimmed by the neighbor’s house and some trees, and I craved every bit of bright light in the wintertime.

So, last winter, out of a desire for something fresher, brighter, and cleaner, my husband and I painted the kitchen in one action-packed weekend.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

What I Did

1. Took everything off the countertops and cleaned the walls – The first thing I did was remove all the stuff from the countertops. I lightly washed down the walls behind the stove and countertop to get rid of any lingering grease.

2. Put down dropcloths and taped edges – Then we put down a dropcloth and secured it to the floor. (This wasn’t the best-done part; I did have some paint drips to scrub off later!) We also taped the edges where the cabinets met the walls.

3. Primed! – Then we primed, primed, primed away. Priming is especially important in the kitchen, where despite cleaning efforts there is often some grease and moisture on the walls. It’s important to prime the kitchen well to help the top coat of paint go on smoothly.

3. Painted the ceiling!! – This brings me to perhaps the most important part of painting our kitchen. The previous renters had painted the ceiling with glossy white paint. In spite of the fact that these previous renters were artists, they had done a lousy job with mundane tasks like these. The paint had gone on in thin swipes; you could see brush strokes and shadows underneath. Also, the glossy paint bounced light back in weird ways, creating extra shadows in the kitchen. Almost as an afterthought, my husband and I painted the ceiling before we did the walls. We used real ceiling paint (the kind that goes on purple and dries white! Very helpful.) and the results were astonishingly better.

The light glowed in the kitchen; it didn’t bounce around harshly. It felt cleaner, more spacious, more open. It was really amazing what a good ceiling paint job will do. It’s often the last thing you think of, but it can make a huge difference.

4. Chose a paint color – This took forever. I couldn’t decide what color to go with. Everyone said I should go with yellow, but this didn’t feel like a yellow kitchen. I tried beige, off-white, and green. Nothing worked. Finally I settled on this pale, cool grey that reads like white in some lights, violet in others, and pale ice blue in the evenings. It was perfect — a little old-fashioned, a little modern, and very soothing and clean.

Paint color: Moondance from Olympic Paint

5. Paint everything, with two coats – So we painted away, after the ceiling dried. Two coats, waiting about 6 hours between coats. After the paint had dried I used some white trim paint to touch up the trim here and there.

It took us about 2 1/2 days to do all of this. The nice thing about a kitchen is that it is relatively small. So while there is a lot of taping and prep (and cleanup afterwards!) the actual painting goes quickly.

Afterwards, I just luxuriated in the brightness of the new kitchen color. It is a lot of work to paint, but it is relatively simple and inexpensive, and really doesn’t involve more than a weekend of work and takeout food.

Have you ever painted a kitchen? Do you have particular notes or tips that made it easier? Things you wish you would have done differently?

(Images: Faith Durand)