To paint a before picture, my old kitchen was pretty hideous. It wasn't original, but was upgraded in the early '90s by a flipper and had the ubiquitous black granite counters, brown wood cabinets, and ugly builder-grade tile. Add to that some interesting lighting choices made by the previous owner. In short, it needed help.
Sadly, a larger renovation was not in the cards. I knew I couldn't live with the kitchen the way it was, though, so it was time to get creative.
Along with adding a farm table and replacing the lighting and backsplash, I really needed to paint the cabinets. While I was debating cabinet color choices, I also got quotes for the paint job. Most of the quotes came in at $3000 or more. Ecks! But the idea of sanding, priming, and painting the cabinets on my own sounded way too far down the DIY rabbit hole.
What to do? My friend Azie — the owner of Verdigreen, an upcycled vintage décor shop in Montclair, NJ — promised me that chalk paint would solve all my problems. Not just any chalk paint, though — it had to be the stuff by Annie Sloan. I was skeptical. In my head chalk paint conjured up images of shabby chic and French country design (neither of which are my aesthetic).
But because hiring a pro wasn't an option, I did a little more research and did a test on one of my cabinet doors. It was pretty easy! I then got my feet wet painting a hall console to make sure I understood the process and to test out the wear and tear. After seeing the results, I decided to take the plunge and go for the kitchen. I was so happy with the results, I even painted and stenciled my kitchen floor with chalk paint!
What Is Chalk Paint?
First off, Annie Sloan has the copyright on the term "chalk paint" so other vendors use slight variations on the name, like chalked or chalky. When dry, this type of paint has a chalky finish. It's often distressed (with sandpaper) or used with wax, which seals the paint and creates a matte finish.
Read more: What Is Chalk Paint, Anyway? at Apartment Therapy
Why I Loved Painting My Kitchen With Chalk Paint
1. It's not actually chalky.
The "chalk" part of chalk paint refers to the finish, but the possibilities are actually endless. You can use wax to seal the paint and make it more durable. Plus, depending on how well you buff the wax, you can create quite a nice sheen, which has a great silky feeling.
Buy: Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan, $35 for 32 ounces at The Restored Home
2. It's non-toxic and has practically no VOCs.
For those of us who have little ones in the house and are concerned about what comes in contact with their hands and mouths, chalk paint by Annie Sloan is a great non-toxic option. It's water-based and doesn't have all those ugly awful-smelling chemicals that other paints use.
3. It calls for zero prep.
Seriously. This is what really sold me. Chalk paint is thick, which means you don't have to sand or prime, which saved me days of prep work. My cabinets were fairly clean already so all I had to do was wipe them down with a Clorox wipe. (Cabinets with more grease and grime could benefit from a degreaser.) After you're done with your two or three coats of paint, you then apply two to three coats of wax (to seal the wood, which is key in a kitchen). Note: This part of the process is comparatively easy and kind of cathartic in a Karate Kid — wax on, wax off — sort of way.
4. The colors are easy to mix.
Annie Sloan doesn't have hundreds of colors like other paint brands. It's more like a few dozen, which you're encouraged to mix together on your own to create other colors. It sounds scary but it's easy to do without the colors getting drab or muddy. I used Pure White for the top cabinets, but I wanted to change it up for the bottom so I mixed Provence and Chateau Grey — just 50/50 of each to lighten the green and it ended up being the exact color I wanted.
5. It's easy to clean up.
Like latex, Annie Sloan's chalk paint is water-based so it comes right off the brush. But unlike latex, the calcium carbonate content makes it thicker and much less drippy. I didn't have to worry about errant drips while I was working. I did have one accident where I spilled an entire can of paint on my dining room floor (1879 inlaid parquet!) but it was so easy to clean up with water.
6. You can work in pieces.
Because of the easy cleanup and lack of drips, it was super practical to tackle my kitchen in chunks. I would do a bank of three upper cabinets — taking the doors off, painting those on my dining table, and then doing the box on the wall. Tackling the project in small sections made it much more digestible. I would do a couple of coats at night when the kids had gone to bed. It took about six weeks to complete, working mostly in the evenings, but it felt much easier than taking off an entire week to sand, prime, prep, and paint.
7. It's easy to touch up.
You can use the same paint to touch up nicks and scratches and then wax right over that again! Just save the leftovers of whatever you mixed up the first time, as it can be hard to replicate months or years down the line.
8. You can use it on your floor too!
After painting the cabinets, the ugly floor just looked even uglier, so I knew I had to do something about it. I always love the look of a patterned cement tile, but that was a down-the-line investment. I realized that Annie Sloan made a specific chalk paint lacquer that you can use on floors as a sealant on top of the paint. I made my own stencil and set to work with chalk paint in Pure White and Graphite. It changed the look of the room drastically.
How are things holding up? The cabinets are doing great. There are a few scratches, but mostly because I waited too long to install the hardware, so we were using our hands to open the drawers. (I have my own hardware company — Nest Studio — which meant I was extra picky!) I love the floors and I think they should be fine for the next five years until we can afford a large-scale kitchen renovation. The dinginess actually doesn't look bad — it sort of has a bit of a patina that I don't mind.
Have you used chalk paint before? Would you use it on your kitchen cabinets?