The creamy off-white uppers, aquamarine lowers, new countertop, sink and crystal pulls, transformed the Warners’ 1970s-style kitchen into a kitchen with a lot of pizzazz. MEGAN WARNER/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
The creamy off-white uppers, aquamarine lowers, new countertop, sink and crystal pulls, transformed the Warners’ 1970s-style kitchen into a kitchen with a lot of pizzazz. MEGAN WARNER/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP

Sometimes a drastic splash of color can transform a drab kitchen into an eye-appealing place to cook up a storm.

I learned that first hand when my wife, Karla, told me it was time to do something with our dark and very “dated” kitchen. The burnt orange Formica countertops, chipped white porcelain double sink and dark, wood grain, nondescript, particle board cupboards had to go. After living in our home for three decades, preparing thousands of meals and washing tens of thousands of dishes in our late-1970s style kitchen, I had to agree with my wife, it was time for a facelift.

When tackling a project like this, the first thing one must do is establish a budget. What can one afford? How can one get the most bang for one's buck? Extensive research is a definite must.

Obviously, the sink and the countertop had to go. We went with a lighter grey granite-looking counter and a stainless steel double sink. Going with relatively neutral colors for the countertop and sink provided for much more latitude when it came to the cupboards. 

Did my wife and daughter want to go with wood cupboards with a lighter stain to help brighten up the room? That's where the extensive research came into play. Karla and Megan spent countless hours looking at kitchens on the Internet. And we spent just about every weekend at building box stores looking at the myriad of cupboard styles and colors.

My wife and daughter seemed to steer away from the raised panel wood look in favor of brightly painted flat-surfaced cupboards. Aquamarine, creamy off-white and pink was the color scheme they kept coming back to.

A light suddenly lit up in my head. Having been in the building trades for more than a decade, I knew full well what it would take to rip out the 30-year-old cupboards and install new ones. And I also knew what the price tag would be as well to purchase the new upper and lower cabinets.

So why not just paint the old, drab cupboards? If it's just a different color (or colors) the two women in my life wanted, why not paint them? I knew it would be a ton less pain and strain on my back and a minimum hit on my checkbook. So I presented my idea to them.

Major skepticism would be an understatement. They didn't think I could make this work. I assured them that I could. And promised if they didn't like the way the project turned out, we'd go to plan-B — tearing out the old uppers and lowers and replacing them with new ones.

Preparation is the key

Once “the girls” settled on the colors, we purchased top of the line semi-gloss enamel, mixed to the appropriate colors, and a gallon of Kilz stain-blocking primer. I removed all the cupboard doors, took the hinges off the doors and removed the drawers.

Every single inch of wood (and particle board) was first washed with an oil soap to remove the majority of the dirt and grime that had built up over 30-some years of use. Then everything was sanded down with 100-grit sandpaper and then rubbed down with fine steel wool. A sticky tack rag was then utilized to make sure the surfaces were completely dust free.

I decided to apply two coats of primer. Actually, the fact that a few stains were showing through after the first coat, is the reason why I put on a second coat of Kilz.

I let the primer coats cure for a couple of days. I did this project in August when the humidity was quite low and put all my painted pieces in the sun to bake to a hard finish.

Three coats of cover

My wife and daughter wanted to be part of this project. And they had been, as all the drawers had to be cleaned out before they could be painted. But they wanted to help with the painting too. So I purchased three super-fine sponge rollers, three trays and I showed them how to apply a very fine, smooth layer of paint. There is a trick to rolling a smooth surface without producing any lap marks. It's called a very light touch.

I had Karla and Megan practice on a couple of scratch pieces. They were fast learners. We applied one coat of creamy off-white enamel on the upper cupboard doors and one coat of aquamarine blue on the lower cupboard doors and drawer fronts. Then the painted pieces were left to dry and harden in the sun. Everything was gathered up later in the day and stored in the garage for the next day.

The process was repeated the following day. That afternoon the girls thought we were done with the painting. I informed them we had to do this one more time. After a third coat and another day of drying, the new crystal pulls were installed, the hinges screwed back on and the doors hung.

The door and cupboard fronts and cabinet sides were also painted in the same manner with five coats all together.

The girls of my life now had brand new looking cupboards, a new countertop and stainless steel sink. A couple of antique wall lights, hung under the upper cupboards, an antique blue wrought iron shelf hung above a new white gas range and our kitchen facelift was complete.

Leftover paint

When we made our paint purchase, the girls had visions of incorporating hot pink in the kitchen color scheme. But after doing some experimenting, it was decided to go with just the two colors. So we had a gallon of hot pink paint left. Megan decided to paint our white wicker chairs on our screen porch pink and the table aquamarine. I had some reservations about this until it was completed. After it was done, I have to admit the pink, blue and yellow motif has breathed new life into our screened porch.

Can anyone say art deco?