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DIY Two Tone Kitchen Cabinet Makeover (Including The Mistakes I Made)
Disclosure: Some of the links listed in this article are affiliate links, which means if you buy something from my link I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! I only link products I have used. Please read my Full Disclosure Policy here.
When we bought our ranch house a little over three years ago I knew that we were going to need to do some updating. It wasn’t a complete “fixer upper” per say, but it looked like it came straight out of 1980, which really wasn’t my particular taste. (Hey now! Don’t think that I don’t love the 80’s at all- some great music came out of that era!).
One of the rooms that I really wanted to update was the kitchen. It wasn’t completely terrible since I have definitely seen worse, but it was just very outdated. It had laminate countertops that were so old they were coming apart due to water damage, the cabinets were a plain wood color, which also wasn’t my style, and the flooring was outdated white square tiles that showed every little speck of dirt.
I Googled and asked how much an average kitchen makeover costs and one of the first results said thousands- I sighed and got a little discouraged. That wasn’t an option for us, so I did some more searching, particularly on Pinterest on how to update a kitchen on a budget. I found different ideas of various DIY two tone kitchen makeovers that appealed to me and once I had a price in mind I first began working on the cabinets.
**Please excuse some of the pictures on this post- they were taken with my old phone that was about on the edge of death. I promise this will be the only blog post with terrible grainy pictures.
How the kitchen cabinets looked before the makeover.
Here is a picture of the cabinet doors above the stove before being trimmed.
A close up of the old laminate counter top, as you can tell it is curved in and out in the edges due to water damage (eek!)
Here is a picture of the old backsplash (again- eek!)
Choosing Two Tone Chalk Paint Colors
The first step in my DIY kitchen cabninet makeover was to pick the paint I wanted to use. I knew that I wanted to use a paint that I didn’t have to prime with (thinking it would save so much time- read on about that). One of the paint types that came up was chalk paint, which has become really popular in more recent years I have noticed. You do not have to prime the object that you are painting beforehand, which made it seem like a lifesaver in regards to time spent painting.
I looked around for the perfect chalk paint to use; I knew that for a lot of the chalk paint types you usually have to find a retailer for it and at that time the retailers near me were very limited on who carried any type of chalk paint.
One kind that I found was called Rustoleum Chalk Paint. I did Google that specific type of paint to look at reviews and I was impressed with the reviews.
Starting out I knew that I wanted to do a two tone kitchen. Now, I do realize that it is really “trendy” and some people hate it, but I generally love the look of two tone cabinets and it was too pricey to buy all new cabinets for us. I ended up choosing the gray (called Country Gray) for the bottom cabinets and white (Linen White) on top cabinets.
I absolutely love the look of all white kitchen cabinets, but I was worried about having to constantly clean them, especially since I have little kids- and not to mention the fact that I am a very sloppy cook.
Not only am I a sloppy cook, but I am apparently a sloppy painter too if you can’t tell by the look of these paint cans. From left to right is the *Linen White, the top coat called *Matte Clear, and the *Country Gray.
The Process of Prepping and Painting The Cabinets
Here are the steps that I took to paint the cabinets (the absolute longest part of the entire process)- Also, beware, this was not done all in one day. I was busy with kids, work, and everything else that has to be done around the house while I was doing this remodel.
Unfortunately, I did this project just over a year ago, and I didn’t take many pictures of the process of actually painting the doors, but I did get a few other photos of the process.
Step 1) I used a drill to take down all of the doors on the cabinets and took off all of the hardware. This step you need to be VERY careful if you are doing it by yourself. Some of the doors can be very heavy and I learned the hard (and expensive way). As I was taking down one of the doors above the stove it slipped from my hand and smashed down on the top of the stove! Yes, as I said I learned the hard way- I should have moved the stove before taking the door down, but I didn’t. It completely shattered the top of the stove, so we decided that since we were updating the kitchen we might as well update the appliances as well.
Here is a picture of the shattered stove top after the door fell on it.
Step 2) After murdering my stove, I began cleaning all of the doors and cabinets in order to get all of the grime and grease off of them before painting. I used a warm bucket of water and blue Dawn dish soap. Embarrassing enough, I don’t think the cabinets have ever been cleaned that well!
Step 3) The next step is completely optional for the appearance of the cabinets. I decided to add trim to the front doors of the cabinets. Basically, I wanted the doors to “pop” and give the kitchen a little more of a trendy look. I went to Menards and got small trim to add to the doors. My partner did all of the measurings and cutting for this part, and he did a much better job than I could have.
Next, I used wood glue to help hold down the trim, but since some of the trim was bought a little bent it wasn’t sticking very well. I ended up using some small nails in order to hold down the trim. You can see the nails from the outside if you are close up, but I honestly couldn’t do it another way. This was a very tricky part, and a professional contractor could probably have done it easily.
Step 4) After cleaning all of the cabinets and doors and letting them dry I began the process of looking over all of the doors and since some of them were in pretty bad shape I did use some sandpaper to make sure certain spots were even and smooth. I also used wood glue to fill in any uneven spots, and then wiped them down again to make sure everything was clean.
Step 5) We needed some space saving ideas for my small kitchen and decided that we wanted an over the stove microwave to free up some of the counter space. I did actually hire a contractor to come trim down the doors as it seemed a little too complicated for us to complete. My brother is a licensed electrician so he came and wired the microwave. This is what the best things we did to the kitchen, to be honest! It not only saves space, but it looks so much better than a microwave taking up space on a countertop.
Step 6) Finally after all of that I started the actual painting process. Because my kitchen space is small I put all of the doors of the cabinets out in my garage on top of boxes or whatever else I could find to sit them on along with a soft/clean rag to make sure they didn’t get scratched.
Step 7) Although the paint directions say only two coats were enough, I did do three coats for the white. I wanted it to be very white, and the third coat completed that look.
- Here I made another mistake; we have an island/moveable cabinet (although it doesn’t fit in the middle of the kitchen) that I was planning on painting white. I thought I had kept all of the doors (white and gray) separate, but somehow two of the small doors got mixed up. So basically I painted one of the doors white and the other gray, and it was supposed to be the other way around since it wouldn’t fit where it was supposed to go. I was so angry. I had to take time to sand down (I used both an electric and paper) to get most of the paint off of the two doors and I had to repaint and seal them both. UGH!
Step 8) Now came the sealing after painting; when you use chalk paint you are supposed to use some type of sealer, in order to help protect the paint. Typically, chalk paint sealer is a wax, or in this case with the Rustoleum chalk paint you can use what is called *Rustoleum Matte Clear, which isn’t a wax (it’s polyurethane), so I decided to use this sealer.
- Another issue came up; as I was sealing the white on the top doors I started noticing some yellow coming through on the backs between the cracks. I honestly started to freak out! Why on earth was it starting to yellow in certain areas? I was so confused, so I immediately starting Googling and found that it is not uncommon for certain colors to start to yellow if you use polyurethane. GREAT! What did I do then? Well I waited a day and luckily only a little bit of yellow came through and thankfully it was only on the inside of the doors. To this day, there has been no more yellowing, but that miniature heart attack was no fun. I read some stories online about an entire product being ruined because of the yellowing, so I am so glad it didn’t go that far.
- In the meantime when the doors were drying in between coats I tried to keep busy. So I spray painted the hardware, along with taking care of the kids, worked out when they were napping, etc. This was probably a four-five day process if I remember correctly by the time I got all of the doors taken down, painted, sealed, and put back on. It felt like I was constantly doing something during this process. To say I was exhausted by the end would be an understatement.
Here is a photo of the two tones when I had all of the doors taken down. As you can see, I did not paint inside of the cabinets, that would have taken an eternity and day if I had done that.
That was the complete cabinet painting process, and like I said before it was the most exhausting and time consuming part of the entire thing.
Finishing the Rest of the Kitchen
Next up was figuring out what kind of new countertop we wanted. I really loved the look of the butcher top countertops, but I was unsure on how the actual wood would hold up in the long run.
After doing some research on how to complete butcher top from scratch we decided to just go talk with Lowes and see if they could help us. Low and behold as we were looking through counter top options I saw a laminate countertop that resembled butcher top called *Wilsonart called Old Mill Oak.
Here is a close up of the Wilsonart countertop we chose.
It looked so authentic in my opinion, even though it is technically laminate. We decided to go with that and after picking our new white sink we gave Lowes our measurements so they could cut out the sink part. They ended up cutting the sink space a little small and we had to get out our own small saw and cut around to make the sink fit better. I was upset about that, and probably should have called them to come fix it themselves especially for the amount of money we spent, but I didn’t for whatever reason.
Here is the sink we decided to buy at Lowes. At only $99 I think it looks great, and as I am writing this one year later I still really like this sink!
We thought that we were going to keep our backsplash and I ended up painting it white. I wasted time painting it thinking we were going to keep it. Later we decided to actually take it down and get new backsplash. It didn’t look terrible after I painted it white, but it looked like it wasn’t going to last long after I painted it. We ended up getting backsplash called *Fascade in the color silver, and it was pretty easy to install.
Here is a picture of the backsplash and the new light fixture we put up above the sink.
The last thing that I did was to complete the new floor. I had researched which flooring option would be best for us, and since our kids are maniacs and I am a sloppy cook I decided that we probably should not get laminate flooring. I chose Shaw vinyl plank flooring (Dublin Pine to be exact) at Menards as it holds up well with children and lots of traffic. It is also easy to clean and easy to install. I installed it myself by watching Youtube videos, and we finished it off with quarter round.
Is it my dream kitchen? No, but I do like how it turned out. I have had to do a few touch-ups since completing this project in October of 2016, but overall, the paint has worked ok.
Mistakes That You Don’t Have To Make
There you have it; my DIY (mostly) kitchen renovation. I definitely made some mistakes that I don’t think other people should have to make when doing DIY kitchen renovations. I will admit I did spend more money than I originally thought I would spend, but the new appliances took up most of that cost.
Of course, it seems like almost nothing goes as planned, but I think with a few of these tips you could find yourself with less of a headache when doing this type of project.
- Move all items that could break before taking down cabinet doors (hence the death of my stove). It was also a good idea to wait to put in the new counters and floors because it a door would have fallen on them and made marks I would have been livid!
- Hire a contractor if you can’t complete a certain project or ask a talented friend or family member. Trimming of the cabinet doors was tricky and I knew if we screwed it up there would be no going back. We paid the contractor about $110 to trim two doors and it was well worth it!
- Double check your work (refer back to me messing up two doors after painting and sealing). A good idea would be to keep doors on certain cabinets completely separate or write down the where they go on the back of the doors with a piece of paper so you don’t get mixed up.
- Lastly, if you are using chalk paint pick your sealer carefully. The sealer I chose worked good on the gray, but not so much on the white since it did yellow a bit. If I could go back I would have picked a wax topping for the sealer instead of polyurethane.
That’s it! Have you ever ran into some issues while doing a DIY renovation? If so, what was it and how did you move past it?
*Disclosure: Some of the links listed in this article are affiliate links, which means if you buy something from my link I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! I only link products I have used. Please read my Full Disclosure Policy here.