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Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 | 34 comments

A Kitchen Refresh on the Cheap

A Kitchen Refresh on the Cheap

Do you have old dingy cabinets but not enough money to replace with new ones? In this post Kelly Millspaugh Thompson, owner of a local furniture refinishing business Stylish Patina, shows how you can give drab old cabinets a completely new look — and without spending an arm and a leg. Thanks for sharing this great idea, Kelly!

A client of mine from Del Ray wanted to brighten up their kitchen without fully renovating the space. We decided to paint the kitchen cabinets with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Paint really is a miracle worker! The beauty of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is that you don’t need to sand or prime the surface. Don’t tell anyone but we didn’t even take off the doors!

Here’s the before shot:

kitchen cabinets before

After the amazing after shot:

kitchen cabinets after chalk paint

The homeowner selected Old White as her color. This is a creamy white that adds warmth while still brightening the space. Now here are the steps for this kitchen refresh:

  1. Wipe down the cabinets with a warm rag to clean them.
  2. Apply 1 to 3 coats of paint depending on if you want the wood grain to show through or not.
  3. If you would like to distress your cabinets use 150 or 220 grit sand paper and gently rub the areas you would like to distress.
  4. Apply clear wax (Annie Sloan wax or Johnson’s furniture wax).
  5. Buff the cabinets to eliminate any extra wax.
  6. Swap out the knobs if you would like.

Ta-da an inexpensive kitchen refresh completed!

kitchen cabinets after chalk paint     kitchen cabinets after chalk paint

Cost: $50- $300 depending on how much paint you need and if you buy new knobs for the cabinets.
Time: 4 – 8 hours depending on size of kitchen and number or coats of paint.

You can purchase Annie Sloan products at Stifel & Capra, 260 West Broad Street, Falls Church, Va. 22046.

For more information contact Kelly at or visit her blog for other great refresh projects for your home at


  1. That is a very impressive distressing job!

  2. Looks nice. I like the distressed look in photos but don’t know if I would in real life!

    • An alternative to distressing would be to add a glaze – it’s a darker color that you add last and then almost immediately wipe off. It “settles” in the cracks and borders and gives an antiqued look without it having to be a chipped look

  3. We have those same cabinets & I’ve been despairing at the cost and effort to replace them, especially since Husband is perfectly happy with the layout of the kitchen & all the appliances are new. Seems a waste to replace them just yet – this may be the perfect solution. Thanks!

  4. Would this same technique apply to painting smooth, white cabinets?

    • Yes, you can use chalk paint on pretty much any wood surface.

    • Yes, you can purchase other colors. You can also make your own chalk paint with paint and plaster of paris if you want a custom color.

  5. This may be a silly question, I’ve recently been considering painting my oak cabinets white, but did you paint the insides and shelves of the cabinets, sides of drawers, etc? We have a large amount of cabinets, so I feel it would be a lot of work! Want to make sure I know what I’m doing before I do it!

    • I’d probably just paint the outside, which I think is what most people would do as well.

      • Hello, I as well have a large amount of cabinets, and would like to know if u painted the inside the doors and cabinets also , if so could u post A couple of pics to see please, i have the exact cabinets as yours and am undecided due to all the labor involved since I am handicapped n will take me much more time to complete.
        Thank you. ..

        • Instead of painting inside cover with fabric inside of door and back wall. Don’t recommend painting shelves unless you use an oil based paint.

    • I painted the inside of my kitchen cabinets as I didn’t like the age look and they don’t look like a redo either.

    • You could paint the drawer sides a different, contrasting color. Would be a good way to pick up or introduce another color in your kitchen.

  6. Will this chip easily? I’ve painted kitchen cabinets before with regular latex paint and it chipped and peeled at the slightest touch.

    • Is it possible you didn’t prime the cabinets before? This should adhere very well to your wood surface. Make sure it’s clean. You can also rough up with the surface with sandpaper to help it adhere better.

    • I have experience with painting cabinets that are used often, such as kitchen cabinets. I have used latex and oil based paints. latex painted cabinets become dirty and gummy. Oil based paints dry with a harder more durable finish and can be washed and the paint does not become gummy. Using oil based paint in the kitchen is worth the effort! I have not used chalk paint on cabinets but friends tell me they are pleased with the result.

  7. If you are just wanting to paint the cabinets, no distressing. Do u still u wax?

    • The wax is just a finishing product, completely optional.

    • I heard the wax is a sealant, so to speak. otherwise the chalk paint rubs off.

  8. Can You use chalk paint on that fake metal titles (plastic) looks like tin @ Home Depot?

    • Not sure, you might want to test it out first.

  9. Did you say, you DON’T have to do the distressed look? Meaning – you can still use the chalk paint, then apply the wax?

  10. My old kitchen cabinets have a shiny varnish on the wood. Do I have to prime this varnish off before I use chalk paint?

  11. Mine have shiny varnish too. Do I still need to prime this varnish??

  12. I have oak cabinets but the ends seem to be a laminate finish. Can you use the chalk paint on the laminate?

  13. Can chalk paint be found in the u.k ? I have looked but not found any locally yet or can I mail order it?

  14. How does the chalk paint clean up? I have 2 kids & a cat, always splatter & drips.

  15. Many of you have unanswered questions from this post and I would like to suggest you Google chalk paint and its many pros along with a few cons. I have read that the wax used to finish these projects sometimes yellows over time. You might want to look into an alternative to seal your chalk painted cabinets. There are many, many wonderful sites out there that will answer all your questions with just a simple Google search. Good luck!! :)

  16. I also noticed that a few folks asked if you should paint inside your cabinets. You certainly don’t have to, but it will be time well spent to do so. It is a lot more work, but the payoff is big. Your cabinets will look better and more professionally done. Every time you open your cabinets and see the beautiful insides, you will thank yourself for making the extra effort.

  17. the local Annie Sloan dealer here where I live sells not only the wax, but her brand of polyurethane as a sealer and protectant. I plan to paint my bathroom cabinets and use the poly over the paint. 2-3 coats of clear (I like satin finish) poly is very durable.

  18. Can you use chalk paint on mobile home cabinets… they are laminate

  19. I want to get a distressed look on my (old kitchen) cabinets, but there is no border or facing…just plain white wood. Very boring. Nothing to accent. How would I do this?

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