Asked on Jun 02, 2015

Paint nice cabinets or leave as is?

by Merri

I posted a question about my cabinets a couple of months ago, but the picture I included was old with bad lighting and didn't show the updates we'd already made. So I thought I'd ask again with better pics! We bought our house about 3.5 years ago. It's a cute 1948 brick house and the kitchen had been updated already (I'm guessing probably 12-15 years ago). The cabinets are Thomasville brand and very nice, but just not my style - I'm a white kitchen girl. I wanted to paint kitchen cabinets before we moved in, but everyone discouraged me because they were "too nice to paint." I don't really know how long we will be in our house - could be 5 more years or could be forever! But I am trying to keep resale in mind. I'm just a bit nervous about ruining nice cabinets by painting them, especially since we'd be doing it ourselves and while we would take care to do a good job, we aren't professionals. I'd love your thoughts on painting vs not painting! Thanks so much! :)

  56 answers
  • DianeM DianeM on Jun 02, 2015
    I would paint them a nice white or cream color.
  • Michelle George-Dempsey Michelle George-Dempsey on Jun 02, 2015
    I think that the wood is lovely & rustic!! Theony thing I may change is the Hardware on all the wood cabinets to give it an "'instant' update"!! Other than that, you canpaint in the wood in a Cloud White (Benjamin Moore) & change the handlepulls to give it a modern look!! Especially with the light-coloured flooring! I think itwould be STUNNING!!!
  • Beverly Cady Cabaday Beverly Cady Cabaday on Jun 02, 2015
    Since there's nothing wrong with your cabinets (good condition), this is really a personal decision...what your style is, what you like.
  • Pamela Metsala Pamela Metsala on Jun 02, 2015
    Look at the baskets, is that's something you really like. That feeling (style) screams paint and rough the rest. It will make it yours, and much lighter in that room.
  • Charlotte Ray Charlotte Ray on Jun 02, 2015
    I just painted my oak cabinets a creamy white. My kitchen is so much brighter. Absolutely love them.
  • Danielle Brault Danielle Brault on Jun 02, 2015
    If you are worried about the wood, why not cover the fronts with plain white removable wallpaper. You can even use a light design if that is more to your liking. Would love to see updates once you make your choice.
  • Merri Merri on Jun 02, 2015
    Thank you all for your input - I should add that I like a cottage style kitchen, which is the look I'd like. We already have a white subway tile backsplash, although you can't really tell - darkening the grout to make tiles stand out more is also on the list!
  • Christina Dorrego Christina Dorrego on Jun 02, 2015
    Dark brown on the bottom, playing into the counter's colors. Then the palest color on top, again using the counter as your color guide. This will add drama, yet lighten the room-opening it up.
  • PainterNoni PainterNoni on Jun 02, 2015
    you might try pickling......try on a obscure piece first. this would lighten the wood, but it would be easier for a new owner to restain a darker color if wanted.
  • PainterNoni PainterNoni on Jun 02, 2015
    Or.........go ahead and paint them..........the granite counter tops are going to be outdated in a few years anyway.
    • Merri Merri on Jun 02, 2015
      Just curious, why do you think the granite will be outdated?
  • PainterNoni PainterNoni on Jun 02, 2015
    Granite is so obtrusive.......the colors generally overpower everything else. anytime anything becomes too popular, it will eventually date the kitchen. It is expensive, and isn't that easy to care for. It's too expensive too rip out, so many people will be turned off by such garish colors. right now people love Granite...because it's still in.......and looks upscale........but it is just getting too common.........there are too many other alternatives available. I personally would think twice before getting stuck with granite, unless it was a very muted, more neutral color.
    • Elaine Simmons Elaine Simmons on Jun 03, 2015
      @PainterNoni I had granite in our previous home and it was black..........horrid to keep looking nice! When we bought the house we are in, it had neutral Corian counter tops and it is so much easier to care for.
  • Shari Shari on Jun 02, 2015
    If you are a "white kitchen girl" (so am I!), I say paint them! If this were my kitchen, I would paint in a heartbeat. White kitchens are classic and never really go out of style...unlike wood tones which wax and wane in popularity. Essentially the "cottage style" is fairly classic too. I have some old magazines devoted to cottage style decorating and interestingly, the featured rooms do not really look dated, even though the magazines are around 10 years old. Most everything shown is still extremely popular today. What other styles of decorating can you say that about? Not many (if any)! If you are worried about "ruining" the cabinets with paint because you are not professionals, don't! Plenty of non-professionals are successfully painting their cabinets with stunning results. Just do your homework. Read as much as you can and/or watch video tutorials. Talk to the professionals at your local paint store, or if you know any professional painters, seek their advice. Don't take shortcuts when doing the prep work, buy the best quality paint you can afford, and most importantly, take your time. Once you are done, I am willing to bet you will be wondering why you didn't do it sooner! :)
  • B. Enne B. Enne on Jun 02, 2015
    If you want to paint them than do it ! :) I would personally leave them, because I like them as is, but it isn't my house. I actually believe the opposite of the last comment...wood cabinets are classic and stay in style...the popularity of white cabinets comes and goes, but you could always repaint them with another colour, if that were to happen. If you are really concerned about resale, consult with a real estate agent, or check listings in your areas to see what is popular there, and what the demographic is.
  • Kate Kate on Jun 02, 2015
    I, too, love white kitchens, and have yet to see anyone regret changing out or painting their dark or dated cabinets. (Really amateurish paint jobs with lousy prep, no grasp of paint technique, nor attention to detail excluded.) The way you asked your question and framed your dilemma tells me that, deep down, you already know YOUR answer to the question to paint or not. And that's the only one that should matter. Who is this "everyone" who told you not to paint? Will they be using your kitchen day in and day out? Is "everyone" going to take turns coming to your home to cook for you? Will they be the ones getting up to make the coffee, flipping on the kitchen lights and gasping, "I love her brown kitchen!" Every, single morning, for 8 years (until we moved), my heart did a little happy dance as I entered the kitchen we'd finally painted after 7 years. And I'd say to myself, "I LOVE my kitchen!" Same kitchen, same layout. Just new countertops and beautiful new hardwood floor, and that glorious, silken white on those high-end, good-wood cabinets. My husband actually apologized for being so resistant for so long! Neighbors and friends who'd cautioned me against painting were astonished at the improvement--even when they hadn't before recognized a need for improvement. Several never-ever-paint-wood types admitted they were now going to do their own kitchens. You have a beautiful kitchen. But it's not you. Imagine how beautiful it would be if it actually was you.
  • Debi53 Debi53 on Jun 02, 2015
    Without getting too philosophic, live your life for now. Decorate for now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Don't wait or worry about resale. No matter what you do, someone will tell you that you should have done it differently. Do what you love. You will be happy every time you walk into your kitchen. Just be sure to learn the proper prep & don't take any shortcuts. The prep is the most important part of a paint job. Best wishes!!
    • See 2 previous
    • Debi53 Debi53 on Jun 03, 2015
      @Shari You stated it beautifully.
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Jun 02, 2015
    They look like ash, and the same style can be bought today. The white pillar and the open basket area break the flow. Am not a fan of painting good wood, but painting them white would look nice - and, more importantly, make your time in the kitchen more pleasant.
    • Merri Merri on Jun 03, 2015
      Thanks for your input! The white pillar is actually were we removed a wall - there was a butler's pantry/breakfast nook next to the kitchen and we expanded the kitchen into that - removed the wall and made a bar area and then added the baskets below to fill the space and add more storage. :)
  • Bal910844 Bal910844 on Jun 03, 2015
    I would LOVE to see what you do...I have the EXACT same kitchen (down to cabinets and colors/stainless, etc. I love white kitchens but I am too scared to paint for that reason...everyone says they are too nice. I am finally at the point where I realize that they might be nice, but if I do not like my own kitchen, then they are not too nice for me! If I do, I am going to really do it the right way and research how to do it so it sticks (I did it once before to another kitchen and it chipped bad). Also I am terrible at picking color...what kind of white? Ugh. I hope you are successful with it!
    • Merri Merri on Jun 03, 2015
      Thanks! If I end up painting, I'll post an updated pic! :)
  • Pamela J. Sparling Pamela J. Sparling on Jun 03, 2015
    Paint and change hardware on doors.
  • Wanda.ll Wanda.ll on Jun 03, 2015
    I would not change the cabinets just add some colorful stuff( green, red, yellow, blue some color) Wood cabinets will be back in style in just a few years and you won't be able to get the white paint off to redo. An as far a granite yes it will be a thing of the past too. The only thing I know that has been a stable for many many years is tile/white or color grout and corian..So it is really up to you and your pocket book now.
    • Merri Merri on Jun 03, 2015
      I do have quite a bit of aqua items in there - mixer, valance, etc. There is also a colorful rug now that wasn't in there for the pic. Thanks for you comment!
  • Debbie Debbie on Jun 03, 2015
    I personally love the wood cabinets. You can add color to liven the space with accessories/rugs. It is however your kitchen. If you do decide to paint them. Do your homework and make sure the job is done correctly.
  • Colette Johnston Colette Johnston on Jun 03, 2015
    Merri, you have been wanting to paint these cabinets for a long time. The fact that you are asking this very question means that you still want to do it, but you just need a push. Don't listen to the naysayers, do what you want to do and don't worry about resale either. It took me a while to learn that I needed to treat my house as if I was going to be in it forever and enjoy it for me, not for someone who might live in it after me (or not). Our homes are our sanctuaries and we need to be happy within them. Oh, and don't worry about ruining the cabinets, if you use the right products that won't be an issue. Why don't you google some white kitchen images for inspiration. You will also come across blogs with instructions from people who have done it and this will give you more courage to GO FOR IT!!
  • Sharon Sharon on Jun 03, 2015
    Paint them! If you can afford to, most say hire a pro. My realtor says a bad paint job can ruin your resale. But if you've painted furniture and have had great results, then go for it. Prep is key to getting the look of factory cabinets. One tip I would strongly recommend is to add Floetrol to the paint. It helps the paint level out better. I did a few small furniture pieces to improve my technique first. Rather than list all the tips, here's a link to a great step by step by John Dee of This Old House.,,20315665,00.html Good luck! I know you'll be smiling every time you walk in your kitchen.
    • Kate Kate on Jun 03, 2015
      @Sharon -- Yes! Floetrol! The best product ever for conditioning latex and acrylic paint. (Penetrol for oil based paints) It's my secret weapon for a really professional finish....that, and light sanding with a very fine grit paper between paint coats.
  • Jeanette Lemke Jeanette Lemke on Jun 03, 2015
    Personally I like the wood. I think some contrast or color is what you are wanting. How about painting your walls a vibrant color and/or changing the light fixtures over the bar? The cabinets are a very attractive feature of this kitchen and changing wall color is going to be a lot less trouble.
  • Kathy Sorrentino Kathy Sorrentino on Jun 03, 2015
    i say if you're not sure if you're going to stay, leave them alone and get white cabinet in your forever home, if you are going to stay and paint them yourself read up on it, plenty of youtube how to's to get the best result and go for it
  • Grace Grace on Jun 03, 2015
    Ever thought about painting the top cabinets to match the walls and leaving the bottom alone? Just an idea and you get the best of both looks! :)
  • Linda Parrish Linda Parrish on Jun 03, 2015
    If you are keeping resale in mind, than I suggest leaving the cabinets as they are. They are gorgeous! If you prefer white cabinets than REMOVE the Thomasville cabinets, purchase some unfinished wood cabinets that you can paint right out of the box. Than you can recoup some of the replacement cost by selling the Thomasville cabinets.
  • Lani Priddy Lani Priddy on Jun 03, 2015
    I would keep the cabinets as is. A different wall color and a tile backsplash would do wonders.
    • Merri Merri on Jun 03, 2015
      Thanks for your input! We do have a white subway tile backsplash, you just can't tell in the pics. :)
  • Sherry wooten Sherry wooten on Jun 03, 2015
    I have cabinets that were nice in a 45 year old house, but just got through chalk painting them and it transformed the kitchen. It is modern and has added value for resale. I love them. I would suggest that if you paint yourself to clean them very good to degrease and sand them before painting.
  • Lynda Dexter Lynda Dexter on Jun 03, 2015
    I actually had cabinets like this in a rental home and I could not paint them so I did a project where I cut fabric that I liked a nice light color with a print tht matched my decore and I used fabric starch in the liquid form dipped the material into it and hung it on the fronts of the cabinet doors. When we left I pulled it off and wiped the cabinets with no damage. It made a huge difference in the lightness of the kitchen and if it got dirty I pulled it off washed it and rehung them with the starch.
  • Ruth Rios Ruth Rios on Jun 03, 2015
    By any means, do NOT paint over those cabinets, if you do, you would have to sand them all very carefully, before you paint and still paint will come off after a couple of years, if you just want to change the look try contact paper, or something temporary, change the doors or just try to sell the whole kitchen cabinets first and then buy new set white.
  • Linda Eaton Linda Eaton on Jun 03, 2015
    I say if you don't like them then do what makes you happy! In our last house we used the Rustoleum cabinet transformations kit in a creamy white on old oak cabinets and they turned out awesome and held up well for the year before we sold it. If I could do it again I wouldn't use the glaze but that's just me. I used General Finishes in Java on the island and it looked great. Rustoleum has great videos of the process on their website.
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  • Jill R. Wright Jill R. Wright on Jun 03, 2015
    I say paint them and I think white would look fantastic! There's enough info on the internet, hometalk, and at your home improvement store that when you get done they'll look like a professional did it and you and your husband will be very proud of what you've done.
  • Francy R Francy R on Jun 03, 2015
    I am all for painting cabinets no matter what style/type they are as long as they suit you and your taste (and I LOVE white cabinets).... BUT..... those cabinets are extremely nice and go so very, very well with your counter and the style/color of your kitchen. They are just plain beautiful! I would maybe leave them for a while and if in a couple of years you are still there, go ahead and paint them!!
  • I also say paint, they will brighten up and make your kitchen more up to date!
  • Patti Paints Patti Paints on Jun 03, 2015
    PAINT THEM! I used to make design choices thinking about what the next person might like or want, but no more. Do what makes you happy because you live there now, and as you said it might just end up being your forever home. Here is a great tutorial on a woman who did just what you’re contemplating. I think you’ll be running to the paint store once you read through all of it..... Btw, who’s to say if you sold your home the next person would want to paint the cabinets, everyones taste is different, cater to your own!
  • Charlie Charlie on Jun 03, 2015
    Myself, I like a bright white cabinet with a high gloss. It not only opens a room up, but bounces the light around.
  • Mic M Mic M on Jun 03, 2015
    White cabinets are beautiful to look at, but do have draw backs. Friend painted hers, and she had issue with dirt showing up(not every one uses handles) and needed to touch up from scrubbing so much. Plus cooking oils show up as streak marks. She said never again. Maybe pros should be called in.
  • Kim Kim on Jun 04, 2015
    I agree with Francy above. Those cabinets are beautiful and I wouldn't paint them (but I love wood). If they aren't your style, go ahead and paint them to make them attractive to you. You never know what the trend will be in cabinetry when/if you decide to sell your house.
  • Lda322488 Lda322488 on Jun 05, 2015
    I have painted kitchen cabinets, it is labor INTENSIVE and for my 1959 birch cabinets it improved the look of my kitchen, however for newer Thomasville cabinets it may cheapen the appearance especially for non professional painters. I wonder how white would match your counters, perhaps if you do decide to paint do a trial by painting the interior of one or two doors. Instead of painting I would take the money (painting supplies are more expensive than you think) and splurge on white wider blinds, curtains, or a bright painting. Good luck..
  • Cornelia Schott Cornelia Schott on Jun 05, 2015
    I would leave them alone. They work well with your flooring and appliances. Change handles for a different look if you would like, but you really don't even need to do that.
  • Janeen Janeen on Jun 06, 2015
    NOOOO!!!! (My opinion!) I want cabinets exactly like yours!!!! Maybe put a couple glass panels in to brighten it up?
  • Christina Dorrego Christina Dorrego on Jun 07, 2015
    Janeen has a good idea! glass panels will add light
  • I think painted a cream or light grey might make the floors pop more and brighten up the space.I painted my upper SW balanced beige and lower cabinets SW Black fox, they look super chic!
  • CK CK on Jun 09, 2015
    I too am a white kitchen girl. But honestly in this case, I'd suggest painting your walls instead of the cabinets. (And I DO love white cabinets.) :-) They look like they stand out too much because there's such a contrast from the current wall color and the color of the wood. Look into getting some sort of light (not too dark but not too light either) warm green color chips and see what you think of how they look. The cabinets on my monitor appear to have some reddish tint to them. Green and red are complementary colors and that's why I'm suggesting green walls. When you have less of a contrast, the color of the cabinets will look nicer IMO. If you're thinking of resale and not so much of what YOU really want, then you're probably safer keeping the wood tone.
  • Kathleen Sozzi Kathleen Sozzi on Jun 09, 2015
    Painting them yourself won't give the cabinets the factory finish you would want for resale value.......BUT ....if you decide you will live there longer than 5 years, then GO FOR IT!!! As pretty as the stain color is, a creamy white with a little distress would look gorgeous! Don't forget to wax the cabinets if you distress......... Be sure you really love white cuz this brand of cabinet only has veneers on the door fronts......can't sand them back to the original finish :-0
  • Charlotte Wood Eckel Charlotte Wood Eckel on Jun 10, 2015
    I have a white kitchen myself, and love it. However, your cabinets are in beautiful condition so why not try adding a subway tile backsplash with some glass tile insets and paint the walls. Glass inserts in a couple of upper cabinets is a great idea. That may give you the updated feel you want.
  • Mar1293249 Mar1293249 on Jun 10, 2015
    I painted my new cabinets which were same color as yours, and now I regret it because they look old. Yours look like new, I also would advice you paint the walls, maybe light blue or pink, and make some blue or red gingham curtains for a country look.
  • Virginia Hicks Tate Virginia Hicks Tate on Jun 12, 2015
    Instead of paint, why not try a whitewash? Use thinned paint or maybe a whiteish stain. I love painted cabinets but also have a problem with painting pretty wood. With a whitewash, best of both worlds!!
  • BootzB BootzB on Jun 16, 2015
    The cabinets are beautiful as is, I wouldn't paint them. If you paint, you cannot unpaint! An even, smooth professional paint application is hard to achieve. When looking at the photos of your kitchen, it occurred to me that the top of the cabinets look unfinished. They need a simple molding or even just a wood shelf mimicking the trim that you have under the upper cabinets, then you could display some collectible suitable to the age of the house or just things you love! I like the idea of glass doors, (behind which is a cohesive collection of dinnerware or something beautiful.) Just an fyi: I recently remodeled my kitchen in white cabinets with a chocolate glaze. I love the look, but every nick or chip in the paint shows. One time my vac handle crashed into the door front... ding! Another time I jabbed the drawer face when putting away a knife... gouge! And, trust me. no guest is more careful than I! (sometimes I cringe, lol) But ultimately it's your home so the decision is yours to make, lots of good suggestions here!
  • Kelly Jo Farrell Hill Kelly Jo Farrell Hill on Jun 22, 2015
    You live there now.....who knows what the trend will be in 5 or 10 years. Life is to short, enjoy the home you have. Choose an off white that picks up the counters.
  • Louise Doescher Louise Doescher on Mar 31, 2016
    Wood looks warm and rich. Painted cabinets seem to be a fad and are not reversible. Update or re-do with colorful curtains and accessories and wait for this fad to pass, is my thought. Add some color and maybe paint the walls, those are reversible if you don't like it. Keep the wood.
  • Ukm5487451 Ukm5487451 on Aug 08, 2016
    I like the cabinets the way they are, but, instead of white walls I would paint the walls either the lightest color in your counter top or maybe a light yellow. I can imagine daisies on the counter, maybe a picture of daisies and the rug. Then have a rug to tie it all together.There's too much contrast now. But that's me, I like everything to match and coordinate. It really has to be what you love. Good luck.
  • Cornelia Schott Cornelia Schott on Aug 09, 2016
    Focus on painting the walls you will be surprised with the change paint makes. I would not paint the cabinets. Good luck
  • Terri Guenthner Terri Guenthner on Aug 09, 2016
    Those cabinets are beautiful! Our cabinets were painted when we bought our house. I hate them. They are always chipped. I've refinished them so many times. You can't get the paint completely off so you always have to repaint them. I would be thrilled to have the cabinets you have. Keep them! You won't be sorry.
  • Monica Monica on Aug 11, 2016
    I'm struggling with the same problem in my kitchen. I have beautiful arched, raised panel oak cabinets. Although my kitchen is unfinished, I'm unhappy with the way the cabinets have aged (they're 13 yo). My eyes have continually wandered to white kitchens over the past several years. Your cabinets are pretty but would be equally beautiful in white; especially with your counter tops and appliances. I'd say go with your gut. It's your house and your kitchen. There's no right or wrong answer! Who knows? Maybe I'll paint my kitchen too. 😉
  • Vic Nagy Vic Nagy on Apr 15, 2023

    I also agree that painting them cloud-white would probably be your best choice. Most of the kitchen cabinet painting projects we do here in Toronto end up being painted white. Not only will it give the cabinets a fresh look, but it’ll brighten up the room. If you are interested in kitchen cabinet ideas