The 5 Things You Must Know Before Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

November 17, 2020
A fresh coat of paint in rich, unexpected hues gives these kitchens an energetic lift and puts a stylish spin on contemporary-meets-country. And once again we’ve tapped trusted expert Maximilian Piragnoli, owner of MTP Fine Painting, to weigh in with essential pointers for achieving perfect painted kitchen cabinets. Boring white cabinets, begone!

Go for the Pros

Hire a professional who has specific experience with kitchen cabinets. Ask to see examples of their work—some painters even have sample cabinet doors to show clients.
Matte finishes throughout—from the inky charcoal cabinetry to the terracotta floors—add warmth and create an enveloping effect in this Ashe Leandro kitchen. Paint: Off-Black by Farrow & Ball, .Shade Degges

Be Mindful of Paint Type

Make sure the paint is rated for trim or trim enamel, which stands up to wear and tear better than standard wall paint. Water-based acrylic paints are safer and have less odor than solvent-based paints, a particular bonus when the work is being done on-site in a client’s home.
In this Thom Filicia-designed kitchen, dominated by rough-hewn materials and natural textures, a vibrant cobalt is electrifying and totally unexpected. Paint: Champion Cobalt by Benjamin Moore.Eric Piasecki/OTTO

Prep Thoroughly

Cleaning is crucial! Use products such as TSP or Simple Green that are strong enough to remove grease and grime but won’t damage cabinet surfaces. Lay down painter’s plastic and builder’s paper to fully protect floors, walls, ceilings, counters, even the insides of the cabinets.
A vibrant mustard hue wakes up the shiplap cabinetry in this Carter Kay-designed kitchen, creating a bold, color-blocked effect. Paint: Concord Ivory by Benjamin Moore.Emily Followill

Sand, prime, repair and repeat

It’s critical for top-coat adhesion and for achieving a beautiful, flawless finish, especially on older cabinets that may have scratches and dents. Alcohol-based primers such as B-I-N offer quick drying times, but some acrylic options, like Stix, give coverage that’s just as good. After repairs and patching, sand again and do a second coat of primer.
Applied sparingly to the open cabinetry and trim, a dark olive paint anchors this airy, ecclectic space by Jersey Ice Cream Co. Paint: Devonshire Green by Benjamin Moore.Nicole Franzen

Apply generously

Depending on the cabinet material, two, three or sometimes four coats of paint are required. Check for dust as you work—tack cloths are great for picking up stray particles. Applying paint with a sprayer will give you a more immaculate finish than a brush or foam roller will. Once you’ve finished, it’s best to wait about a week for the paint to cure before refilling the cabinets and using the kitchen full-time again.
Awash in a moody blue and dressed down with raw plaster and rustic floors, this kitchen by S.R. Gambrel strikes the perfect balance between rustic and elegant. Paint: Marlboro Blue by Benjamin Moore.Eric Piasecki/OTTO