how to: milk paint oak cabinets

The cabinets at the cottage are finished! Admittedly the milk paint portion of the project wrapped up a month ago however we haven’t been able to find the right hardware to work with the routed edges of the oak cabinets.  I got tired of waiting for the ‘glamour shot’ and figured it was time to share the ‘in process’ shot.  There are other updates that the room is waiting for such as a new faucet, range hood, etc, etc.  Let’s focus on the paint finish today and how we got here…

Mora kitchen cabinets #mmsmp-6830

from here (photo from real estate listing)…

kitchen before

We’ve taken a step in the right direction as far as lightning up this old cottage kitchen and making it feel a bit more beachy.  The oak cabinets were not original to the house.  My guess is that there were old metal ones in here at one point.  But the oak ones were in decent shape and worthy of an update.

You may recall my post about prepping the cabinets for milk paint.  We thoroughly cleaned the cabinets with a citrus vinegar solution that you can make yourself.  The key is to not use an oily or intense chemical cleanser that the milk paint will resist.

citrus cleanser-5796

The cabinets were primed with Tough Coat, a MMSMP product.  It is a non-yellowing tough coat that provides extra durability against general wear and tear, water damage and food stains as a top coat.  It also works really, really well as a base coat or primer because milk paint adheres to it.  In this case, tough coat also blocked the oak tannins to prevent bleed through.  It has many benefits.

tough coat

After that I mixed Mora with bonding agent for best adhesion.  I decided to apply 3 coats on the thinner side (instead of 2 thick coats) as I did not want to get any crackling or chipping texture on the cabinets.  Thicker milk paint application tends to lend to the chipping aesthetic that we all love.

how to milk paint oak cabinets-5804

Mora is such a pretty color.  Here it looks gray.  In certain lighting it takes on a blue hue and sometimes even a hint of green.  It is perfect for a space like this with a lot of light that changes throughout the day.  We finished the cabinets by applying furniture wax with a mix of white wax in some areas.  We’re considering going over it with tough coat for a more durable finish but it seems the wax is holding up just fine.  I wiped a splatter of sauce off of the surface the other day and it left no marks on the wax finish.  No issue.

Mora kitchen cabinets #mmsmp-6833

Here’s what I learned throughout this process.  As I mentioned, I thoroughly cleaned the cabinet doors and primed them with tough coat prior to applying paint.  Tough coat was the best choice for a “primer” because it aided in blocking the oak tannins from bleeding through.  This is something to be concerned with when painting over oak.  However, tough coat is clear and the orange oak did take 3 coats of milk paint to completely cover.

Mora kitchen cabinets #mmsmp-6832

After working on the cabinet doors from start to finish, I stepped back to reconsider my options for the cabinet bases.  Could I eliminate a step?  When it came to the cabinet bases, I thought I had a better idea so I initially skipped the tough coat primer and used a flat white chalk-based paint as a primer instead.  My theory was that the chalky “primer” would eliminate the need for 3 coats of milk paint since I was priming with white.  I thought it would serve as a base coat primer AND block the orange bleed through in one step.  I was completely wrong.  The orange bled through the flat finish immediately and I had to go over it all with tough coat anyway to lock in the tannins.  It was experimental for sure and created an extra step for me after all!

In summary, here are the steps to follow for milk painting previously finished oak cabinets…

How to Milk Paint Oak Cabinets #mmsmp

To complete this project which consisted of 14 cabinets/drawers, I used less than 2 quarts of milk paint + bonding agent, wax and tough coat.  The product went far.  Essentially we gave these cabinets an entirely new look for under $100.  You can’t beat that!

Mora kitchen cabinets #mmsmp-6830

yes, that’s a light

Last week I shared some updates regarding vintage in the kitchen.  We didn’t stop at the furniture and accessories but took it to the lighting too.

flea market style kitchen

The funnel-like object over the dining table started the recycled lighting movement in the kitchen.  This piece has been lighting our meals for over a year now.  I still love its quirk and charm.  And we still have no idea as to what it could have possibly been in a former life.  We assume it belonged on a farm but have no idea.  The mystery continues.  I love to hear guesses.

vintage SERVE letters

Ryan installed a new light where one didn’t exist.  This is essentially a foyer area where the door opens into the room.  We needed lighting to define the space.  We found this galvanized piece at an antique store and both instantly thought “light”.  I know, it’s as if a light went off!  Anyway, it appears to be the top of a cupola and that’s exactly how it was found.  Ryan wired it to serve as a pendant in this space.

cuppola top turned pendant light

Across the room, we replaced the light above the sink.  I love this beautiful rusty structure.  This is a wind turbine/air vent that more than likely came from a barn or commercial building.  It is large and in charge.  Light peeks out of all of the openings casting pretty shadows on the ceiling at night.

wind turbine air vent turned light fixture

Just for fun, the before pictures…

There are still a number of updates and DIY projects to go in this room like making use of the pesky space above the cabinets and replacing the hood.  In the meantime, we’re enjoying the vintage aspects so much more than the dated builder grade choices.  It is fun to push the envelope.  Why not?

wind turbine air vent turned light fixture

More out of the ordinary kitchen projects:

vintage in the kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home.  That is certainly the case in our home.  We’ve never done a gut renovation to the space.  Instead we’ve tackled one DIY project at a time to make it feel more like “us”.  Regardless of all of the other projects we’re working on, we always seem to come back to the kitchen.  This winter Ryan redid the floors and closet doors.

vintage kitchen

When putting the room back together between every project, I find that more and more vintage accessories creep into the room which makes me very happy.  Occasionally we find something so unique or that it is deemed a keeper.  I’ve been hoarding some of these keepers for years just waiting for the right space.  Before I give you a tour of the vintage treasures in action, let’s check out a kitchen before and after from the same angle…for fun.

Milk Crate

I’ve had this milk crate for as long as I can remember.  It has been totally utilitarian.  It has served as a centerpiece filled with vases.  Now, turned on its side and mounted to the wall, it is a spice rack.  The openings are the perfect size for pint ball jars and smaller.

milk crate turned spice rack

Vintage quart ball jars work well as canisters on a rack in the pantry.

kitchen organization with ball jar canisters

Produce Scale

This scale is just divine in its vintage green paint glory.  I didn’t even have to think out of the box for its use.  Once again, it is a produce scale housing potatoes.  I love that the face says Philadelphia.

Potting Bench

The old potting bench is made from reclaimed wood and topped in zinc.  It is the perfect microwave cart with a drawer for linens and a shelf to corral cookbooks and cutting boards.  It frees up storage space elsewhere.  Plus, it’s so charming!

potting bench turned microwave cart

Copy Easel

The metal copy easel was a gift a few years back.  I find it to be totally practical as a cookbook stand.  It even has an arm that serves as a placeholder.

We’ve also added some fantastic recycled lighting. I’ll be sharing that soon.

How do you incorporate vintage into your kitchen?