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  • Hometalk Team
  • New York, NY

Outdated To Outstanding Golden Oak Cabinets

10 Materials
2 Hours

Hi, I'm Rhonda, and today I’m going to show you a super cool trick that I found to update your golden oak or honey oak cabinets without painting! I know you've all got 'em. These dated oak cabinets that were very popular in the 80's and 90's but today...not so much

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

The technique I'm going to show you today is called toning and it doesn’t require any stripping or painting! Toning changes the tone of your cabinets by applying a coat of stain mix over your existing cabinets. It'll bring out the natural grain of the wood while beautifully darkening the color of your cabinets.

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

I am going to show you this technique on a lighter pickled oak cabinet. You might have these in darker or lighter tones, but I'm sure you recognize these cabinets in some form or another. And...it's time for these guys to go!

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

Today I'm using General Finishes water based wood stain in Espresso, and the General Finishes High Performance water based top coat. Espresso is a dark color that I love and is very popular right now, but if you'd like to go lighter, the General Finishes stains come in lots of colors.

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

Mix 1 part stain to 1 part top coat (in a 1:1 ratio). I like to mix well in these disposable plastic containers with lids, because the mixture stays a long time if you keep it sealed tightly.

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

I also like to add some paint extender which will delay the drying time of your stain, giving you more time to play with the stain once it goes on, to get the color you want. Add a squirt of extender directly into the stain/topcoat mixture, and mix well.

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

Before you start staining, you'll want to lightly sand down the surface of your cabinets, just to rough up the edges a bit so that the stain really gets into the wood. You don't need to do any heavy duty sanding. I used an 80 grit paper with a medium grit sanding block. When that was nicely sanded, I went over it with a 220 sandpaper as well. When the sanding is done, wipe down well with a cheese cloth to get rid of any residue.

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

I also use denatured alcohol and water (another 1:1 mixture) and cleaned off the cabinets well. This mixture is a great de-greaser, and will remove cooking oil from kitchen cabinets as well as hair products from bathroom cabinets too. Wipe down your cabinets well with this mixture, and when dry, you're ready to tone!

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

Apply the stain mixture with a sponge brush, brushing on like you would paint.

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

Cover the whole cabinet with stain. Keep going, you got this!

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

For the next step, you'll need a natural bristle brush with lots of "poof".

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

Lightly brush with your natural bristle brush, feathering out the stain while darkening the natural color of the cabinet. Keep brushing the stain until the stain is evenly coated across the cabinets.

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

Check out this awesome Before and After! What a difference a little bit of stain can make!

outdated to outstanding golden oak cabinets

Here's one of the larger cabinet doors post-face lift. I love it so much!

Bonus idea! Toning isn't limited to only cabinets! You can use toning on stairs, oak furniture, mantels, just about anything oak!

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 139 questions
  • Rhonda W
    on Mar 19, 2019

    I would like a "Driftwood" type color. General Finishes has a "Whitewash", would that work on Gokden Oak.

  • Carol Anne
    on Mar 25, 2019

    Is there any way to change the colour of very nice newer kitchen cabinetry that are very light maple or birch finish other than painting?

  • Ami
    7 days ago

    Can you do this on plywood

Join the conversation

3 of 116 comments
  • Nan
    on Feb 7, 2019

    I used General Finishes Gel stain to darken my oak bookcases. The only prep was dusting! Worked beautifully and since they don't get daily use I didn't do a top coat. I also used the stain on my dining table. I used a two-step process, adding the top coat last. There was some nicks in the finish that I didn't want to show so I used Citri-Strip to take off the old finish first My kitchen cabinets are oak but I had them stained in cherry when I had them refaced. It's a light color but doesn't have the golden look of traditional oak cabinets.

  • Tracey
    on Feb 8, 2019

    I have to do something to the huge kitchen, but it only has 1row of cabinets fridge, countertop, sink, all in a row, I'm lost

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