Project: Transforming builder grade cabinets to Old World (ASCP Old White with Dark Walnut glaze)

The Project: builder grade, oak cabinets installed when we built the house 14 years ago. They have one layer of stain and varnish to deal with and are in excellent condition, needing no repairs. If you have older cabinets, with more paint layers you may need to do more prep work (more sanding or a chemical stripper) then I did.

Here is our master bathroom (before) ~ nice but still a builder grade cabinet with a medium oak blah finish that is very dated:

Before working on paint colors know exactly what else you will be changing in the room. Eventually the counter, sinks and faucets will be replaced, the mirror framed, new lighting installed and paint color changed (for the Pinterest Idea Board look here). Overall, the room will be in the brown-tan, off-white creamy family (here’s the overall planning post).

Hardware was removed; drawers and doors were taken off and moved to the garage. All the cabinetry was first sanded (electric sander, 80 grit and then 120 grit) to remove the top, shiny coat and encourage paint adhesion.

The Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) states you don’t have to sand or prime but if you are re-doing cabinetry, either bathroom or kitchen, I would at least give them a good clean with detergent to remove oil, grease, or any residue before painting. I did do a test board that was sanded and another that was not sanded: the sanded side had better paint adhesion and a smoother, end appearance.

needs a cleaning!

To make these cabinets special, I’m adding wood appliques and some very nice hardware. These appliques were found at Lowes but you can also find them online in a wide variety of patterns and sizes:

To apply, two tiny holes are pre-drilled for small (brad) nails. Wood glue is applied on the back and then the small nails are tapped into place after the applique is properly aligned:

checking alignment

Three coats of ASCP in Old White was applied to the vanity, cabinet door fronts and drawers with a 1″ brush and a 4″ foam cabinet roller. Love it!

For the cabinet door appliques, I first painted the door with one coat of ASCP, and spraypainted the wood applique white before gluing and nailing it down. This made it easier on getting the second and third coat to look even.

The first day cabinet door backs, drawer fronts, and the vanity were painted. The second day I painted the cabinet fronts with three coats and applied their wood appliques.

Tip: when painting both sides of a project like doors, be aware when you flip it and the newly painted (but dried) side is down, it can be damaged. Make sure you have a clean and non-stick surface for it to rest upon when you paint the second side.  When I’ve used plastic garbage bags they also removed fresh, but dried, paint. Now, I use a plastic sleeve from a box that originally contained blinds, over the top of the sawhorse.

Quart cans of paint and stain are used to elevate cabinet doors so I can paint the edges and let them dry. You can use cans of vegetables/fruit from your cabinet too.

The drawer runners make these drawers stand slanted, so gallon cans hold the drawers in place so all painted edges can dry without falling over.

Tip: If you are uncertain as to your color choices on your cabinets, it’s always best to do a test board; this will save a lot of time and aggravation! Especially, if it is a project that would be a big pain to redo or is a very important feature to your house (we can all afford to experiment on a small table!).

After doing a test board, I decided to go with ASCP Old White and a glaze of McColkseys (same as Valspars) Buff glaze with the glaze applied with a ragged on/off method (used about 2 cups). This method was done on the cabinet door fronts, the drawer fronts, and the front board where the appliques were mounted on the vanity. Other flat surfaces were left ASCP Old White.

Ragging on is the application of glaze with a clean cloth (i.e. cut up t-shirt). This method works well across large flat surfaces. Depending on the color difference between undercoat and glaze, you can have a high or low contrast. The cloth is saturated with glaze (how much depends on how much color you want applied). I like it soaked but not dripping.

The rag is crinkled in a long tube and then rolled across the surface. I re-crinkle the rag about every 3 to 4 times of rolling and every other roll I change direction. This gives a random pattern.

Ragging on randomly applies paint to a surface

If you get too much glaze or want more exposure of the undercoat you can rag off. Take a clean cloth with no glaze and roll across the wet surface to remove glaze. You will need to keep using clean rags to keep removing; using one that has glaze on it will re-apply the glaze to the surface.

Here I use a clean rag to pat/blot off excess (pat down and lift straight up so pattern is not smeared) or I can use it by rolling it across the surface to remove paint (ragging off) which softens the overall pattern.

ragging off with a clean rag removes excess paint

For comparison, here is a ragged on, glazed door with Buff (left) and an ASCP Old White only (right) cabinet door comparison (click photo for a close up):

You could stop there if you like that look but I wanted to take it further. After the glaze was left to dry for the afternoon, the edges were distressed with an electric palm sander (Black and Decker Mouse) with 120 grit. I blew off the sanding dust with a hair dryer (set on cool) before moving to the next step of glazing with Cabots’ dark Walnut stain (project used about 1 half pint).

A coat of dark Walnut stain was wiped on and off (wear a glove if you don’t want to get your hand stained; I clean my hands with NEXT brush cleaner).  Or you could use a chip brush which I did on the door backs and vanity.

Saturate the rag or brush with some stain and then wipe on your cabinet door, paying careful attention to the distressed areas. Because this is a distressed finish, the stain can be applied in a criss-cross pattern or rubbed on in circles.

worked in circles over center panel

Wherever you have sanded down to bare wood, the stain will be asborbed. Aim for raised areas such as the edge of doors and drawers. Work in circles and straight lines to get the stain worked into the crevices. If you put on too much and it gets drippy, just wipe and blot off with a clean rag.

A stain glaze is asborbed by the undercoat paint more then a traditional, glaze medium; depending on the product it may have a faster drying time then a traditional glaze medium. It’s important you immediately get a feel for how quickly the glaze you are using dries. Different brands have different working times which can be further extended with other products.

The stain on the back of the cabinet doors and the base cabinet was simply wiped off with a clean rag used in a circular motion. The stain on the cabinet door fronts, I wiped off and Ragged Off using clean t-shirt rags. The ragging caused the stain to make a really neat, aged pattern!

Doors for overjohn cabinet

Why did I go with the Dark Walnut stain and not the dark wax? To use dark wax properly, the entire piece has to be coated with clear wax first then dark wax, making this project even more expensive ($28 a can of wax) and time consuming. I also find, for my taste, the dark wax can start looking dirty over certain colors.

I like the clean lines of a liquid product such as stain or glaze and the variety of colors to choose from (ASCP can be diluted into a glaze also). A similar door glazing project (using black glaze over gray paint) is shown for the downstairs bath. I guess it comes down to a personal choice but I prefer glaze over using wax for distressing cabinets.

I left the Dark Walnut stain to dry overnight and the next day (fourth on the project) I darkened the back of the cabinet doors so they would be more in keeping color-wise with the overall project when opened. After everything dried, Annie Sloan clear wax (for water protection) was put over the cabinet doors and drawers. All the hinge hardware was given an oil rubbed bronze spraypaint and left to dry overnight. The vanity was stained and also left to dry overnight.

cabinet door backs

The fifth day the vanity was was waxed and buffed. MISTAKE! When I brought the doors and drawers back in, I realized I had made a mistake on color. The vanity was more chocolate, the drawers and doors a bit lighter. To correct, I sanded them down lightly with 120 grit on my palm sander and applied more stain glaze. This set me back a day as I left them to dry again overnight.

Sixth day, the doors and drawers were waxed and buffed, the hardware installed and the door  and drawers put back in place. Wow!!! So happy with these new cabinets! (but totally disappointed with the photos which don’t show the loveliness as the flash washes out the color)

This was the first time I’ve worked with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on cabinets and here are my thoughts on the matter:

~ The paint dries incredibly fast with good adhesion, has little drip factor (in it’s original mixture it’s quite thick), and has very low to no odor. This makes it great for in-house projects and “get-it-done-in-a-day” projects.

~ This paint screams to be distressed. Over sanded wood that was quite smooth, when being brushed applied at full strength it did not go on smooth and clearly wanted to become distressed when being brush applied. The unsanded, test door immediately displayed craquelaure when paint was applied in the second coat.

~ It gives a flat, chalk feel and color to the paint; there is no shine unless you wax or coat it.

~ It sands amazingly well! This makes it ideal for distressing as over the counter latex paints peel when sanded.

~ I was concerned about how it would work with other products but it did well with the Cabot’s stain and the Buff glaze.

~ The chalky feel concerned me that it wouldn’t be protective for cabinets, but once it was glazed and waxed the surface is very protective.

~ The project went faster then using the enamel white paint in the kids bathroom so working in a team of two we were able to get them done with three coats of paint, front and back of doors, along with a glaze coat of ragging, a stain coat, and a wax coat in five days (not counting a mistake day).

~ It was brushed on over oak, the hardest grain pattern to conceal with paint. After two coats the undercoat of stain and oak grain were still visible. This is not a high conceal paint. If you want a solid, smooth coat, like I did on the kids bathroom cabinets, I would pass on this product for that purpose.

~ The paint produces the same amount of brush strokes as other paints, latex and enamel, when used without Penetrol. Because it dries so fast it is a bit harder to “feather out” brush marks.

After working with it, I do think it’s a do-able paint for the downstairs kitchen as long as I wax the doors twice. I’m excited that we’ll be able to trim costs and have me give the kitchen a professional finish without paying a professional. woohoo!

Updated ~ New hardware has been added

26 thoughts on “Project: Transforming builder grade cabinets to Old World (ASCP Old White with Dark Walnut glaze)

  1. Stephanye

    Hey! Where did you find the Annie Sloan paint and wax?! I went to lowes and they did not sell it. Thanks!’

    1. eurekasprings

      Hi Stephanye
      Annie Sloan paint line is a speciality paint that you won’t find at Lowes, Home Depot, Benjamin Moore etc… Right now it is sold only through individual distributors – here is a list of the U.S ones:

      It is an expensive paint. It sold in my area for $38 for a quart, compared to a gallon of paint you can buy at Lowes. However, if you are using it on furniture or cabinetry the extra cost is worth it as it adheres and sands far better then traditional latex paint.

      Hope this helps!

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    1. eurekasprings

      Thanks! This summer I’ll be re-doing the kitchen cabinets in a light cream with Annie Sloan paint and I’ll post that too when I get there.

      I’d love to see your bathroom project!

    1. eurekasprings

      By builder grade, I mean a cabinet put in by a builder that fits a standard height and size. Custom cabinets would have more customization in terms of size, trim, door style, and maybe with crown moulding etc…

      If I was doing this on laminate I would do several things different – 1.) Put on a first, priming coat. 2.) Not sand. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is supposed to work over laminate materials but I have never tried that – so take one door and experiment before proceeding.

      Good luck!

  3. Michele

    I love love this look. We will be redoing our kitchen with unfinished cabinets. I have been looking for ways to antique them and this is perfect. The only part I am confused about is whether or not you wipe off the stain once you apply it or if you leave it on? Thanks so much and again love your cabinet!

    1. eurekasprings

      On these cabinets I used a method called Ragging Off. You take a clean rag and twist it into a tube. Roll it over the wet glaze and it removes the glaze. This gives a really nice variation in the remaining glaze where some areas are darker then others.

      Another way you can do it is just wiping on and wiping off. I have another post about glazing cabinets here
      using that method.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Michele

    Thanks! Actually I was talking about the walnut stain. Did you just brush it on and leave it? Thanks again!!

    1. eurekasprings

      Hi Michele ~ Good questions 🙂

      The ASCP Old White is the first coat – painted on. The next layer was a glaze of Buff that was Ragged On (this technique applies paint by rolling the twisted rag over the surface).

      The last layer (the Walnut Stain) I put on with a chip brush and rubbed in with clean rags in a circular motion – this really gets the color deep into the wood. Afterwards, it was Ragged Off using a clean, twisted rag, rolled over the surface to remove the stain.

      Ragging techniques give an unevenness to the surface that is completely random (to make sure it IS random, change directions and re-twist the rag). It is why there the door fronts have a cloudy appearance in the intensity of the colors on the surface.

      An alternative way to remove the stain would be to wipe if off with clean rags, leaving some in the crevices and recesses, shown on the other link I gave.
      You can see the gray cabinets don’t have the cloudy fading on the surface but have a more uniform appearance on the door fronts.

      The door backs and the cabinet base just had stain rubbed on and off in a circular pattern using clean t-shirts.

      I’d recommend doing a test door to see how you like the look and do one with the ragging techniques and one with just wiping. If you don’t have an extra door, try to find a piece of not-smooth wood such as a piece of molding.

      Does this help? Ask away and I’ll try to be more specific.

      1. Michele

        Perfect!!! Just what I needed to know. Let me ask a question totally on another subject. I have a chandelier that I want to repurpose. Looking for a jumbo drum shade to no avail. Have you ever made one?

      2. eurekasprings

        Hi Michele
        I haven’t made a drum shade – but I would guess that you will need to keep the tension right or the fabric will eventually sag. This can be tricky on a round object.

        JMO but some crafty things are far too much trouble then they are worth. If you want a specific color or pattern (for example to match something) yeah go for it… but if you just need something basic, it would be cheaper and easier to buy it.

        For example, Garden Ridge has shades from $3 to $20 in all sorts of colors and patterns, and Lowes also has a good collection for a low price.

        Not trying to discourage you – go for it if you want it! 😀

  5. Michele

    Thanks! Actually found several helpful site….using embroidery hoops. If it turns out nicely, might just create a site for viewing. Look your blog and found several ideas I plan to use in my house. I do wish however that you would share how you made the box above the bathroom cabinet!

    1. eurekasprings

      Hi Michele
      Husband did that when I wasn’t looking so didn’t get any photos! LOL! I will sketch it out and scan that in when I get back from the holiday weeked.

  6. Emily Stoner

    How does this treatment hold up over time? Also does it chip easily? I was thinking about redo kitchen cabinets like this.

    1. eurekasprings

      Hi Emily

      In a master bathroom it has been fine. If it was in the kids bathroom I would have more concerns.

      Once it was waxed I’ve had no problems. However, if I took a nail head and tried to scratch it, I’m sure it would scratch like most paints will. I’ve had no chipping once the wax top coat was applied.

      I’m actually working on the kitchen now and will be using this in the kitchen. I think for it to be durable you MUST apply at least TWO coats of wax. Without that, the paint alone, will not be durable enough as a cabinet paint.

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